Archive for the ‘Recipe Tests’ Category
This weekend I began experimenting and testing for the Pete & Gerry’s Heirloom Eggs Crepe Contest. I would have preferred to start earlier, but it’s difficult to find time when you have a full-time job and a million other projects going on simultaneously. Ideally, you would come up with a perfected recipe before making it for photos but, unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of time because the deadline for the contest is August 31! The Association of Food Bloggers will announce the winner.
Anyway, I started with a dessert crepe of Nutella and poached pear. I loved the concept—silky hazelnut chocolate spread rolled up with Barlett pears poached in apple juice, cinnamon, and a drop of vanilla. Doesn’t that sound heavenly? To make it more interesting, I added pear liqueur to the Nutella to enhance the pear flavor.
It never occurred to me that Nutella could seize. Because of the added ingredients in Nutella, I thought it would be stable enough to handle the liqueur. But no. It seized up on me and shrunk tight like World War II-era school paste. I had to put the bowl of Nutella on top of a pot of simmering water and stir, but it was so stiff that it stubbornly refused to melt. So I had to add some half-and-half and keep stirring. Finally, it smoothed out again. Obviously, this was a problem I would have to work out if I was going to use this recipe.
After spreading some Nutella over a crepe, I laid some poached pears, which I had sliced, over it and rolled it up. I piped some of the Nutella concoction over the top and sprinkled it with toasted almond slices.
As scrumptious as it was—what chocolate dish isn’t?—the pear was so delicate in flavor that the Nutella completely overwhelmed it, even with the liqueur. My tasters all agreed. I was disappointed because I really wanted this combination to work. But, alas, we have to accept it when our brilliant, amazing, fool-proof ideas don’t work.
Next, I tried my Peruvian concept. This worked out better, and having made my filling ahead of time, it was quick and easy to put together. Even the filling itself was quick and easy, and it can be refrigerated for several days. It was delicious on its own and I’m having it for lunch this week. I’ll hold off on the other dessert crepe for next time. For now, here’s my recipe for savory Peruvian Quinoa Crepes. I haven’t perfected my crepe recipe yet, so I don’t want to jump the gun and print that. For now, use any crepe recipe.
Peruvian Quinoa Crepes
1 quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced red pepper
1 small chile, minced
1 cup diced potato (purple, if you can find them, or Yukon gold)
1 1/2 cup diced calabaza or butternut squash
3/4 cup diced tomato
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds, toasted*
1/4 cup minced cilantro
6 (10-inch) crepes (recipe to come)
1 avocado, diced
Cilantro sprigs for garnish
1. After you rinse the quinoa, drain well. Heat a medium saucepan; add the quinoa and toast over medium heat until quinoa is dry and starts to brown. Pour in the vegetable broth or water; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Fluff the quinoa and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a wide skillet. Add onion, red pepper, and chile and saute until vegetables have softened. Add the potato, squash, tomato, garlic powder, and salt. Mix well and continue cooking until all vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir frequently. Mix in the almonds and cilantro and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
3. Lay a crepe flat. Place 1 cup filling on one side of the crepe and roll it up. Place on a plate, sprinkle some paprika over it, and garnish with a few pieces of avocado and a cilantro sprig. Repeat with remaining crepes and filling.
* Spread the almonds out in a small frying pan and toast, shaking often, over medium heat until lightly browned. Or spread them out on a baking sheet and place them in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes; check frequently.
This is another recipe I entered in the Food52 avocado contest. The original tartlet shells were a little too sweet to go with the avocado cream or to serve them as hors d’oeuvres, but with some minor adjustments, I thought it came out pretty tasty.
Avocado Cream Tartlets
Makes 16 small tartlets.
Vegetable oil for brushing
½ cup walnuts, ground
½ cup steel-cut oats, ground
½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons maple syrup
¼ cup coconut or canola oil
Pinch sea salt
2 ripe Haas avocados
3 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoon honey
Pinch cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), chopped
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil 16 small tartlet molds with oil.
2. Make shells: Combine all shell ingredients in a medium bowl until a moist dough forms. Press equal amounts into the bottoms and up the sides of the molds.
Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely. Remove from the molds.
3. Remove the skin and pits from the avocados and place in a food processor. Add the lime juice, honey, cayenne, and salt and process until smooth.
4. Spoon the avocado cream into the tartlet shells. For a more attractive appearance, place the cream in a pastry bag and pipe it into the shells.
Sprinkle the pepitas over the top. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
In my quest to diversify my breakfasts, I keep trying new versions of standard breakfast fare: different kinds of smoothies, whole-grain pancakes, and low-carb or gluten-free muffins. The goal is to keep everything as healthy as possible. So I have been experimenting quite a bit. Sometimes the recipes work out, sometimes they don’t.
This one did. I found a recipe somewhere for sweet potato muffins and I decided to make my own version. These muffins are light and not very sweet, making them perfect for breakfast. Barley gives it a nice chewy texture and the addition of almond milk and whole wheat flour make it a healthy alternative to standard muffins (if you can make your own almond milk, as I did for this recipe, all the better). You can serve them with preserves or sorghum molasses or honey spread on top, whipped cream, or cream cheese for added sweetness.
Breakfast Sweet Potato-Barley Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
¾ cup barley
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp kosher salt
¾ cup mashed bananas
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
¼ almond milk
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sorghum molasses or honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup dried cranberries or other fruit
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
2. Soak the barley in a bowl of water for about 20 minutes; drain and rinse. Place the barley in a pot with enough water to cover the barley by about an inch. Cook for about 15 or until tender but still firm. Drain well. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, and salt. In a large bowl, combine the mashed bananas and sweet potatoes, almond milk, coconut oil, egg, sorghum molasses, and vanilla.
4. Add the cooked barley to the wet ingredients and mix well.
5. Add the flour mixture and dried fruit to the sweet potatoes mixture and fold it in just until all the dry ingredients are moistened.
6. Distribute the batter evenly into the muffin cups; it’s okay if the cups are overfilled. Bake for 2 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Place the tin on a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes; turn the muffins out onto the rack. If they stick, run a knife around the muffins. Let cool completely.
7. Serve with fruit preserves or butter. Store in a plastic bag or tin.
Hi, kids. I’m having a hectic week working on two different cookbooks at two different stages. First, let me talk about the first book. What, No Meat? is finally close to being finished. Not just yet, but close. My publisher, Rogue Books (an imprint of Bedazzled Ink) fell way behind schedule and even though I contracted with them last summer, I’m only now seeing the proof. The fact that it took so long in and of itself doesn’t upset me. What upsets me is that we missed the Christmas shopping season. Christmas is THE prime buying season for cookbooks because people buy them as gifts. I take partial responsibility for this because this is Bedazzled’s first cookbook and I knew about the Christmas season thing, yet didn’t say anything. Honestly, I didn’t think I needed to say anything because I kept thinking that it would be out by that time. By the time it dawned on me that it wouldn’t, it was too late to say anything. Don’t get me wrong, I did keep checking in from time to time, but I should have been more aggressive about it.
Hi, kids. It’s been a really rough week for me. I’ve had to deal with a broken sink, bad news from various friends and, worst of all, a malicious virus on my computer. It’s the Malware Defense, and if any of you have had to deal with it, you know how heinous it is. My entire week was taken up with combating this vicious thing and in the end, I had to wipe out my computer and reload my OS. It’s going to take me days to reload all my programs. A couple of programs I lost altogether because I no longer have the installation disks. <huge sigh> The people who created this obviously have knowledge and skill—why can’t they use their powers for good? I hope the proper karma is in store for the people who sit around and come up with this stuff. People like that are a waste of humanity.
Anyway, on with the show.
Hi, gang. This week, I spent a lot of time testing recipes that required coconut. The recipes are mostly Indonesian and African, and call for shredded coconut, chunks of coconut, and coconut milk. It’s not that I was jonesing for Southeast Asian or African food, or even coconut—it was a decision of practicality. I decided that if I was going to go to the trouble of cracking open a coconut and working to get the meat out, I’d might as well do two coconuts at once and have enough for all the recipes that require it. So that’s what I did. Now I have some in the refrigerator and put a container of it it in the freezer.
Hi, gang. Still working on getting that KHEN interview audio track up here. DJ Andi downloaded it to a CD for me, but when you take something off a CD, it’s a “cda” file, which nothing but a CD or DVD player can read. (I’m so not up on this audio technology stuff.) I can upload the file to the WordPress server, but it won’t recognize the file and I can’t seem to convert the file to something else. If anyone out there knows how I can get around this, I’d appreciate a suggestion from you.
Hi, all. This past month has been a constant sampling of new and differennt foods and beverages (well, they’re new to me). Just this past week alone, I tried two jars of salsa that I picked up in Virginia. They were locally made and there was nothing in them but fresh produce and some cane sugar. One of them was a vidalia onion-peach salsa that was absolutely fantastic. The other was a summer garden salsa, with all sorts of minced veggies in it. It was such a treat to eat something that wasn’t filled with preservatives and all kinds of things that I can’t pronounce, and I was glad to support a small business.
Hi, gang. This week I experienced one of those things recipe developers hate: a recipe disaster. It came with my first attempt at dolmas, Greek-style stuffed grape leaves. They completely fell apart and I had a big mess in the pot. On researching this tragedy, I noted two things: 1) I hadn’t rolled them the right way and 2) they need to be packed tightly in the pot.
Now, I’ve made things that needed to be rolled. I’ve wrapped spring rolls in rice paper; burritos in tortillas; manicotti in pasta; rice in banana leaves; and those of you who have been reading this blog know that I’ve wrapped tamales in corn husks (story here). All of these require the roll-and-tuck method. But there is a particular technique to rolling grape leaves. The reason for this, I imagine, is because grape leaves are oddly shaped. They are not perfectly square or round, so they have to be handled a certain way.
I was placing the filling on the left side, then trying to roll the leaf, using the roll-and-tuck method, as if it were a square. I learned that you have to place the filling across the center of the leaf, right above the stem, fold the left side over the filling, then the right, then the left, then the right, then rolling it forward over the rest of the leaf.
The other secret is to use a pot that will allow you to pack in the dolmades tightly and to weigh them down with something. While I did weigh them down with a plate, they were not as tightly packed as they should have been and probably jiggled around a little. So, for attempt number two, I will be more informed. (I should have looked it up before…duh!)
Here is a great website with step-by-step instructions on making dolmades: Greek Recipes with May Lerios.
TIP: Don’t skimp on the quality of the grape leaves. I went to a local Russian market for mine. They had several brands on the shelf and I opted for the cheapest one, figuring grape leaves are grape leaves. Right? Wrong. What I got were basically grape-leaf irregulars. Who knew there was such a thing? They were scraggly, ripped, and all different sizes. I tried piecing together scraps to make whole ones but that was a bust. I was going to go buy more when I realized something: I had my own grape leaves in my backyard!
If you’re fortunate enough to have a grapevine growing in your yard (and, believe me, because of the large Italian and Greek communities in NY, it’s not that unusual), you can put all those beautiful, luscious leaves to use. If you do have access to fresh leaves, here’s what you do.
Pick the largest, nicest looking leaves you can find and rinse them off. Cut out the stems. Bring a pot of water to a boil; place the leaves in the water, shut off the heat, and let them sit for 5 minutes. Drain and let them cool. You’re ready to use them.
Store-bought leaves are available packed in jars, in tins, and vacuum-packed. Good, quality brands should give you more or less same-sized leaves. But whether you’re using store-bought or fresh leaves, keep in mind that they are extremely fragile and will rip easily, so handle them gently.
I also need to perfect my filling recipe. Needed a little something. Or, maybe they just got water-logged when they unraveled and sat in the broth/water mixture I was using. Hmm, we’ll see. If anyone has any pointers, feel free to leave a comment.
Have a wonderful week and I hope that next time, I’ll have a success to share instead of a flop. Peace.
Hi, gang. I’ve been a cooking fool lately. I am determined to finish the testing of the recipes for my cookbook-in-progress within the next few months. I don’t have a full-time job, so if not now, when?
Part of this testing is about stepping outside of my comfort zone and cooking with ingredients and methods that I am not accustomed to (i.e., that I grew up with). And since I’ve been working on this book since 2002, I’ve been doing that for quite some time. So, I really think nothing of taking an ingredient and using it in an usual way.
Let me explain…