Sunday, March 11, 2012

Strawberry Cupcakes

These are the ever-popular Sprinkles cupcakes, and you can find the recipe anywhere on the interwebs, so I have no qualms about reposting it here. The cake is perfect: dense, not fluffy, and not very sweet. The frosting is too sweet on its own, but on the cupcakes, it's ideal. Pro tip: you really have to beat the crap out of the butter and make sure it's super-fluffy before adding the wet ingredients; then, when you add the berry puree, beat again, on high, for several minutes. If it looks like it's all congealed and nasty, be patient. It /will/ come together.

For cupcakes:
  1. I pureed a cup of washed strawberries, then set it aside. I put out the milk, eggs, and butter to get to room temperature.
  2. I turned the oven to 350 and put liners in my muffin pan.
  3. I whisked together 1 1/2 C flour, 1 t baking powder, and 1/4 t salt. In a liquid measuring cup, I put 1/4 C whole milk, 1 t vanilla, and 1/3 C of the berry puree (or maybe a bit more).
  4. With a stand mixer, I creamed 1 stick of unsalted butter for a LONG time until very fluffy. Then I added 1 C sugar and beat again until very fluffy. I turned the speed to medium and slowly added 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites, one at a time, stopping to scrape the bowl a few times.
  5. With the mixer on low, I added 1/2 the flour mixture. When it was incorporated, I added the milk. Same drill with the rest of the flour. 
  6. I divided the batter into my muffin cups, and baked for 25 minutes on the dot.
For frosting:
  1.  I creamed 2 sticks of cold butter with a pinch of salt until very light and fluffy. Then I slowly added 1 1/2 C of confectioner's sugar.
  2. Then I /very slowly/ added in 1 t of vanilla and about 1/4 C of the berry puree. Then I added a bit more berries, and a bit more, until it tasted super strawberry-ish. I kept the mixer running until it was all incorporated and airy, but it isn't light like a buttercream frosting.
  3. Then I frosted the cooled cupcakes and ate about 5 of them.

Grilled Pork Chop with Butternut Hominy

Ha! I tricked you! No recipe here. I brined and grilled some boneless, center cut pork chops. I also grilled some asparagus, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. The real beauty of this dish is the perfectly balanced hominy with butternut squash and goat cheese, but I stole that recipe from my all-time favorite food blog, Thursday Night Smackdown and I refuse to steal her thunder. Go. Read her. Worship her. And make her food.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lemon-Rosemary Cobb Salad

I totally lifted this recipe from Bobby Flay, and it is one of the two ways I will eat steak. I monkeyed around with it a bit, and I never really measure stuff, and it's become a family favorite.

  1. I use that really thin steak for this, but if you actually like red meat, you can use any steak you like. Marinate it overnight in tons of garlic, salt, fresh rosemary, and olive oil. Grill it to your liking, but use a hot flame to get a nice char on the outside. Let it rest a few minutes, then slice or chop. Before you turn off the grill, halve two lemons and grill them for about 5 minutes, or until the sugars on the cut ends begin to caramelize. Save for dressing.
  2. Roughly chop the other salad ingredients: romaine lettuce, avocado, green onions, crisp bacon, and tomatoes. Crumble some good bleu cheese. If you like hard-boiled eggs, add them. I think they're disgusting, so I don't. Bobby Flay grills the scallions, and uses prosciutto instead of bacon, in case you wondered. I don't bother.
  3. Assemble the salad: a traditional Cobb places the ingredients in rows over the lettuce, as in my picture. I like it that way, too, so that every bite combines different flavors.
  4. Make the dressing: blend the juice of one grilled lemon, about 1/2 C olive oil, salt, pepper, and a T of minced garlic (Bobby Flay uses a few cloves of roasted garlic, which is delicious, but I usually forget to prepare in advance), plus some more fresh rosemary. Taste and adjust with more grilled lemon or olive oil. There is so much creamy stuff on this salad (cheese, avocado, bacon) that I err on the side of tartness--I usually use at least a lemon and a half in the dressing. Drizzle over salad.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Simple Ratatouille

I love Thomas Keller's recipe for Confit Biyaldi, which was the basis for the ratatouille Remy makes in the Pixar movie of the same name. It takes forever to make, though, and requires veggies that are all the same width, which never seems possible in South Florida. Luckily, I found that if I cook the veggies in the same pot, it comes out with pretty much the same flavors--as long as I add the secret ingredient.

Serves about 8.

  1. I cut the following veggies into rough 3/4" chunks: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers (red, orange, and yellow), sweet onion. In a Dutch oven, I sauteed the onion in a hefty amount of olive oil (about 1/4 C) until soft, then added the rest of the veggies, a pinch of red pepper flake, and some salt. I cooked the veggies, stirring occasionally, until they were softened, about 10 minutes.
  2. I added 2/3 of a large can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes (the sweetness of these tomatoes is key to this dish, and worth the extra money) and a handful each of chopped fresh parsley and torn fresh basil.
  3. I cooked the ratatouille for another 15 minutes, tasted, re-seasoned, and added a swirl of good balsamic vinegar. That last addition makes all the difference in the world.
  4. This time, I served the ratatouille over egg noodles, but it's amazing as is, and makes for fantastic cold or room-temperature leftovers.

Orecchiette w/ Garlic Shrimp

This was quick and easy and delicious--and potentially lethal. Make sure everyone around you is eating the same thing.

Serves 4, with leftovers.

  1. I put on a big pot of salted water to boil, and while it was heating up shelled and sliced 2 lbs of jumbo shrimp (I cut each shrimp into about 3 pieces). I tossed the shrimp with salt, pepper, and a heaping spoonful of minced garlic. When the water boiled, I threw in about 2/3 lb of orecchiette and let them cook for about 8 minutes before I started my sauce.
  2. I heated about 3 T of olive oil in a saute pan with a pinch of red pepper flake. I added the shrimp and stirred occasionally until they were pink and cooked through. Then I threw in one of those tiny bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and let some of it evaporate. I stirred in a few handfuls of baby spinach, a handful of chopped parsley, and tasted for seasoning.
  3. I reserved 1/4 C of the pasta water, drained the pasta, and tossed it in the sauce. I added a little of the pasta water to moisten it, but didn't use the whole 1/4 C. I may also have topped it with some grated Parmesan, but I honestly don't remember.

Ricotta Gnocchi Pillows w/ Spring Veggies

These are very simple gnocchi to make, but they make for a substantial meal. Toss with any simple, fresh sauce to let their delicate flavor shine through.

Fed 2 adults and a child, with leftovers.

  1. I roasted a peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash (tossed in oil, salt, pepper, and sage) in a 425' oven while I did everything else.

  2. In a frying pan, I crisped 6 slices of bacon, which were cut into 1" squares. I removed the bacon and added a diced sweet onion, and let them caramelize while I stirred together the gnocchi batter. Then I added a cup of frozen peas and warmed them, and spooned all the veggies into a serving bowl before wiping the pan clean.

  3. For the gnocchi, I combined a couple of eggs, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg, about a cup of grated Parmesan, and 1 lb ricotta. I gently stirred in 1 1/2 C flour, then covered my counter and hands in more flour (the dough is very wet and sticky). I scooped out half the mixture onto the counter and rolled gently into a 1" thick snake, then cut 1" pillows with a floured knife. I put the gnocchi on a floured sheet pan, and did the same with the rest of the batter. I put the tray in the freezer while I waited for a large pot of salted water to boil.

  4. My water was boiling, so I dropped half the gnocchi in, a few at a time. When they rose to the surface, I cooked them about 5 minutes more (these are big, wet gnocchi and need extra cooking time). At this point, I also put 1/2 a stick of butter in the veggie pan for about 6 minutes, until brown.

  5. When the gnocchi were done, I tossed them in the browned butter and then scooped them in a serving dish. I repeated the process with the rest of the gnocchi, then topped it all with the veggies. I drizzled over the remaining butter and topped it all with some more freshly grated Parmesan.