Monday, April 30, 2012

Lemony Zucchini and Corn Quinoa

My sister tagged this recipe on her Pinterest page a few weeks ago, and right away I knew I had to make it. I always keep a jar of quinoa on hand in case there's nothing to eat around the house, because with just a few condiments, it can go with almost any random odds and ends you can scrape up. Plus it sounded very similar to a recipe I'd made last year, and I ate that for weeks!

I reduced the butter in the dressing, added zucchini and stir fried it with the corn in a little bit of olive oil. In the end it came out delicious, just be warned, it makes a LOT. So either invite friends or get ready to eat quinoa all week (not a bad proposition when THIS is the quinoa in question).

Lemony Zucchini and Corn Quinoa

Lemony Zucchini and Corn Quinoa
Adapted from Just a Taste

4 ears corn, shucked (or a 12oz bag of frozen corn...I won't judge)
1 Tbsp grated fresh lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, just juice the lemon you just zested
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 cups uncooked quinoa
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 scallions, chopped
2 zucchini, cubed
3 or 4 oven dried tomatoes, optional

- Shave the kernels off of your ears of corn or defrost the bag of frozen if that's what you're using. The original recipe calls for boiling ears of corn, but if I have fresh corn, I really like just using it as is. It's sweet, has great texture and the time it will spend in the pan will be more then enough to cook it.
- Prepare the dressing by whisking together the lemon zest, lemon juice, melted butter, honey, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Rinse the uncooked quinoa in a sieve under cold water until the water runs clear.
- Rinse the uncooked quinoa (I normally don't, and it's just fine) and cook it per the package directions.
- While the quinoa is cooking, add the olive oil into a pan set over medium-high heat and once it's hot, toss in the corn and the zucchini. Cook the veggies, stirring occasionally, just until the zucchini starts to get tender and then remove from heat.
- Add the quinoa into the pan with the veggies, add the scallions, pour the dressing over everything and toss until everything is evenly coated. If you have a few oven dried tomatoes on hand, chop them up and mix them in as well. Season with salt and pepper and serve.


On a somewhat unrelated note, I'll be going to California in a few days to attend the 2012 Camp Blogaway! This is my first event like this and I'm really excited to meet other people that get just as dorky about food as I do. Up until now the only person to "get it" has been my friend Joy and I'm hoping to relax, enjoy the mountain air, take a million pictures, talk to every single person there, and maybe even make a new friend or two. See you all when I get back!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Eggs Poached in Avocado Halves

Want an easy, delicious, healthy, and pretty item for your brunch table? Or maybe just something quick and easy to make a special breakfast for yourself? Of course you do. Nothing beats breakfast, especially if the recipe we're discussing consists of little more than two, yes two, ingredients.


I got the idea for this recipe from an email I got from Chef Ina Pinkney's marketing team. I was invited to join them for a brunch designed around avocados from Mexico, but it was during the week and during work hours, so I couldn't make it. They were still nice enough to email me a couple of recipes from that brunch and this one just sounded genius, so I whipped it up for a brunch. Yum!

If your eggs aren't small enough, or if you didn't scoop out enough room in your avocado halves, this will get a bit messy. Also, unless you don't like runny eggs (I love them), be sure to not over-steam your eggs. If you want a bit of a kick, you can also add a dash of Sriracha or Tabasco on top. Either way, they're delicious.

Poached Avocado Eggs
* This picture was taken by my cousin, as I was to busy running around and forgot to take one. Thanks hun!

Eggs Poached in Avocado Halves
Inspired by Chef Ina Pinkney, of Ina’s Restaurant in Chicago

2 large avocados
4 small eggs
sea salt
freshly cracked pepper
garlic powder

- Cut an avocado in half and remove pit. You could cut a thin slice from the bottom of each avocado half to create a flat surface, but I didn't bother as I was going to wedge enough of them into a basket to make sure they all stayed upright.
- Carefully scoop out about half of the avocado flesh without breaking through the flesh at the base. Season with salt, pepper, and a light sprinkle of garlic powder.
- Crack one egg into each avocado half. If you only have large eggs, you may want to crack the egg into a separate bowl, transfer the yolk into the avocado half, and add just enough of the egg white to fill up the shell. This will be messy, but that's okay, plus you can make a small side omelet with the leftover whites.
- Season the egg with salt, pepper and a bit more of the garlic powder.
- Place avocado halves into a steamer basket, cover and let steam until eggs are done, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer each avocado half to a serving plate. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of paprika if you like.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Blackberry Goat Cheese Tart

I have a new favorite brunch recipe and it's all thanks to Lent. The Saturday before Easter I was hosting brunch and two of my guests have given up desserts. Never mind that only one of them actually observed Lent and that the other was just jumping on the bandwagon as a dieting tactic, but out the window went my ideas for double stuffed french toast and Belgian sugar waffles. Instead I made the menu savory, but I still couldn't get over the lack of a tart.

Goat Cheese and Blackberry Tart Crop

I had bookmarked this recipe a few weeks back and when I saw pretty blackberries at the store on sale, the idea was locked in. After getting approval for honey from the previously mentioned usurpers, I only tweaked the recipe a little bit to fit what I had and piled on as many berries as would fit on top.

Goat Cheese and Blackberry Tart w Spoon

It came out amazing. I love how easily the crust came together and how flaky and tender it turned out to be in the end. I would imagine adding just a dash of sugar would make the crust work for any sweet tart you may want to whip up in the future. The fact that the tart is best cool was perfect as I could make it the night before and simply add the toppings when guests showed up. And this mini "extra" tart was a lovely breakfast that I shared with my dad the following morning when he came by to help me out with some things around the house. Try it, it's delicious.

Goat Cheese and Blackberry Tart

Blackberry Goat Cheese Tart
Adapted from Always With Butter

1 cup flour
pinch of salt
7 Tbsp butter, room temp
3 oz cream cheese, room temp

6 oz goat cheese
4 oz cream cheese
2 eggs
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

12 oz blackberries (or more)
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp thyme leaves

- Combine everything in a food processor and pulse a few times until the dough is uniform. Turn out onto a piece of saran wrap, shape into a flat disk and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. It will be a very soft dough at this point so you definitely need to chill it to make it workable.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. The original instructions tell you to grease a 12x8" tart pan, but I used my 9" round one and didn't grease it and everything still came out beautifully.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough and fit into your tart pan, trimming the edges. Stick it into the freezer. I had some extra dough left over, so I re-rolled it and made an extra mini-tart for later.

- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and beat until the mixture is smooth and uniform. Pour into the pan, smooth the top and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Once the top is just slightly puffy and golden you should be all set.
- Let the tart cool completely, top with berries (as many as you like), a drizzle of honey over the top, and shower with the rest of the thyme leaves. Try to share.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Brioche topped w/Onion Jam & Beet Cured Salmon

A few days ago some friends and I had dinner at Storefront Company, a new restaurant in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. The meal was amazing, the blood orange martinis were delicious, but the best and most memorable for me was the appetizer. It was mini brioche puffs topped with fennel jam, which in turn held up a very thin bright red slice of beet cured salmon. I think there was some sort of fennel pollen foam on there too. I came to the restaurant before my friends and as I sat at the bar waiting for them, I watched as the kitchen staff assembled these beauties, laying out each and every element with surgical precision. The dish stuck in my head and kept nagging me until I was determined to recreate it at home myself. What came out of that was not exactly the same, but my 5 taste testers couldn't care less and the two dozen trial run samples were gone in an afternoon.

The process took me two days, mainly because the brioche recipe I learned at the French Pastry School last summer takes two days, plus the salmon takes 24 hours to cure, but in the end, all the fuss, all the preparation was absolutely worth it, so if you have guests coming that you want to impress, I'd say plan ahead and make this.

First up is the brioche. I like this recipe because while it takes time and you need to coddle the dough a little bit, in the end it has never failed me.

Mini Brioche

Recipe from French Pastry School

50 g milk, room temperature (whole is best)
5 g sugar
60 g bread flour

340 g bread flour
8 g Fleur de Sel or salt
35 g sugar
220 g eggs
200 g unsalted butter, room temperature

- In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a hook, combine the milk, yeast, and sugar. Sprinkle the 60g of flour over the liquid to cover it evenly and let the yeast proof.
- When the yeast is ready you're going to notice little cracks in the flour as the gases from the yeast try to escape. When you see this, add the rest of the flour, the salt, the sugar, and the eggs and knead the mixture with the hook on medium speed until the dough comes together and pulls away from the walls (about 10 min).
- Slowly add the soft butter to the dough in thirds, waiting until it's completely incorporated before adding more. Once everything has been kneaded in, cover the bowl loosely with saran wrap and a towel, set in a warm spot and let it rise for an hour or until it has doubled in volume.
- Punch down the dough, recover with the saran and the towel and place in the fridge for 2 hours to rise again.
- Punch down the dough once more, recover again and place in the fridge overnight for the final rise.
- The next day, shape the brioche into desired shape(s) and brush with a lightly beaten egg. I rolled it into walnut sized balls and put each one into a mini-muffin tin.
- Let the dough rest once more for about 1 hour in a warm spot and then bake at 400F for about 15-20 min. or until nice and golden on top. If you're making a loaf, you may need to bake it longer.

Mini Brioche Loaf

While the brioche is going through it's first rest, start on the onion jam.

Onion Jam

2 lbs yellow or vidalia onions, thinly sliced
3 Tbsps olive oil
2 Tbsps brown sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup chicken stock

- Pour the olive oil and all the sliced onions into a large, deep pan set over medium heat and cook the onions until they're translucent (about 15 min).
- Add all the other ingredients and continue cooking, stirring often, until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the onions appear dry (at least 20 min).
- Scrape everything into a jar and let cool before storing in the fridge. Sealed tightly, it will keep about a week or so...if you don't eat it all.

While the onion jam is cooling, deflate the brioche for it's 2nd rise in the fridge and start on the salmon. Getting the salmon started is child's play, just make sure you start with the freshest, prettiest piece of salmon possible and everything else is fool-proof.

Beet Cured Salmon Wrapped

Beet Cured Salmon
Adapted from Cook Almost Anything

1 lb piece of salmon, without skin
1 large or 2 small beets
1/3 cup of salt
1/3 cup of sugar
zest of one lemon
1 Tbsp freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp vodka

- Wash and thoroughly dry your piece of salmon with a paper towel. Cut it in half right along the "spine". I left the skin on my piece, but if I had taken it off, I'd have a more even cure, so I'd recommend removing the skin.
- In a blender or a food processor, combine all the other ingredients and blend to a pulp.
- Line a container only slightly bigger then the two pieces of salmon with saran wrap, place 1/3 of the pulp on the bottom, lay out the salmon on top and completely cover the salmon with the remaining pulp. You want the fish to be completely covered.
- Cover with more saran wrap and place something heavy on top to weigh it down. I didn't really have anything that would work so I used a box of Mac 'n Cheese and three cans of soup. As you see, almost anything will work as long as the pressure is even and firm.

Beet Cured Salmon

- Set the whole kit in the fridge and don't touch it for 24 hours. When ready, rinse the pulp off of the salmon and dry it again, slice thinly with a sharp knife. The salmon is good on it's own or as part of my brioche concoction.

Beet Cured Salmon Sliced

When you're ready to assemble, simply slice off the tops of the brioche balls, top with a bit of the onion jam and drape a slice of salmon on top. Try to keep your fingers out of the way as people snatch up and devour these:

P.S. This last picture comes compliments of my cousin. I was too busy running around, serving brunch and refilling drinks, so I "borrowed" her picture so you could see the finished product. Hope you don't mind :D

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Step 1: Get more coffee.

I'd like to interrupt regularly scheduled programming to introduce you to the BEST IDEA I'VE EVER HAD! (Don't worry, there will be a recipe for a lovely Lemonhead cake at the very end, but stick with me, this will be good!) See? Preview. Mmmmm.

Lemon Head Cake Slices

First though, read this article or the rest will seem crazy. Done? Good.

So, today I was IM'ing with my sister and my friend Joy, reading the above article on NPR, and (ahem) finishing off my latte when a genius idea came to me! It started innocently enough.

I kind of want a live bilby for a pet," I said to Irina and Joy. "I'll call him Billy the Bilby".


Fueled by their lack of enthusiasm, or possibly their abundance of actual work, I started thinking and IM'ing (be warned, the following is full of genius and exclamation marks):

"So um, this bilby would make the best pet EVER.
Why? He's a marsupial.
Meaning? I can hide stuff in his pouch, basically making it a pet purse.
Yes, I said it. PET AS PURSE!
We can breed them in different colors!
Save a dying species AND GET RICH!
Must include picture of the MAJESTIC pet that looks like a cross between a bunny, a rat and a kangaroo in promo material to get people to buy in on this idea."

At this point my sister told me she had to work and Joy said something about being sued in the future because someone's purse scratched their eyes out. My sweet bilby? Never! She then said something about it looking like a mutant.

"This is like a FRANKENBUNNY accessory!" I typed, "If Dr. Frankenstein had a wife, she'd buy one of these in every color."

Propelled by my own ingenuity I typed:
"Just imagine training it to carry the TV remote IN. IT'S. POUCH! That way it can still bring you a beer in it's front paws!"
"Bonus feature? He'll eat bugs so they don't bug you! Can YOUR purse do that?"

There may have been a few negative remarks from Joy after that but all in all, I think I won the argument as no one has so far come up with a single reason why this would be a bad plan (humanitarian issues will be dealt with at a future date).

So, reason I share this anecdote with you: I'm looking for investors/supporters to get this idea off the ground. If you truly want to be a part of this life altering endeavor, I strongly urge you to .....

.... Send Anna (me) more coffee!

Oh yeah, and I promised you cake.

Lemon Head Cake

Light Lemonhead Cake
Adapted from: Souvlaki For The Soul. I kicked up the lime and the result tasted like a moist tender reincarnation of a lemonhead candy. In other words? Awesome...though not as awesome as a bilby.

1 cup Greek yogurt, I used low-fat, but obviously fat will taste good too :D
1/3 cup of olive oil, I used Persian Lime olive oil from The Olive Tap
1 cup sugar
zest of all the limes you're going to juice (3 did it for me)
1/4 cup lime juice
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups of sifted plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lime oil (optional)

- Pre-heat your oven to 350F.
- Grease a 9" spring-form baking pan or two mini loaf pans with a bit of olive oil or butter.
- In a large bowl mix all the wet ingredients until well combined.
- Dump the dry ingredients over wet and fold in with a spatula just until combined. Don't overdo it or the batter will be too dense.
- Pour into the baking tin(s) and cook for about 45-50 mins. The cake is ready when it has browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool in the pan for a few minutes and then invert onto a plate. You can either make some basic icing to top it (just mix some powdered sugar and lime juice or milk) or leave it plain. It tastes amazing along side a cup of tea.

P.S. So today we were discussing just how exactly did a male bunny end up being the bringer of painted chicken eggs and how exactly both of those things were tied to Easter and I came across a Mental Floss article on the subject (LOVE this magazine by the way). The best part though came from one of the readers who shared the following story:

"I grew up on a farm with chickens, so I knew where eggs came from: chicken butts. So when I was told the Easter Bunny laid eggs, I figured the eggs came from his butt. In anticipation of the holiday, I prepared for the holiday by making a nest for the Easter Bunny, sort of the way I would also hang a stocking for Santa. The nest would be a place where the Easter Bunny laid me some Easter eggs. But then, when the Easter Bunny left me such gifts as a BB gun and a box kite, I imagined him pooping me such toys from his butt. I felt sorry for him, imagine how much that must hurt."

You're welcome.