Saturday, July 30, 2011

Banana Walnut Muffins

If you are a lover of muffins, I also suggest you try this recipe for Chocolate Chip Muffins!

My own original recipe - warm, filling, sweet, moist and pure deliciousness.  Omit the walnuts or subsitute with pecans for a fun variation.  Best served warm with a cup of hot tea!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp Penzey's Baking Spice (or substitute w/ 1/4 tsp Cinnamon)
4 overripe bananas
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cups (1/2 stick) usalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
lemon zest from 1/2 of a small lemon (approx 1 tsp)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and lightly butter 2 muffin tins (or use paper liners)

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and Baking spice (or cinnamon); set aside.

Mash 2 of the bananas with a fork or whisk in a small bowl, so they still have a bit of texture.

With an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, whip the remaining bananas and sugar together for a good 3 minutes.  Add the melted butter, eggs, vanilla and lemon zest and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.

Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Fold in the nuts and mashed bananas with a rubber spatula.  Spoon the batter into the muffin tins to fill them approx. 3/4 way.  Give them a rap on the counter to get out any air bubbles.  Top each muffin with a light sprinkling of brown sugar and Baking Spice (or cinnamon)

Bake until a toothpick stuck in the muffins comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes before turning the muffins out.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Crisped Roasted Potatoes

This Thomas Keller recipe calls for marble potatoes, which are basically really small potatoes.  I purchased average-sized Yukon Gold potatoes so they took longer to cook and the "smashing" took a bit more bravado than a small potato would call for.  Otherwise, these were positively delicious.

2 1/2 pounds potatoes, washed and dried 
About 1/4 cup canola oil + a little extra for frying
4 thyme sprigs, plus a few sprigs for garnish
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
12 unpeeled garlic cloves

Ignore the chives...these are for a variation on this recipe I opted not to make

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Toss the potatoes with oil to coat, the thyme, and salt to taste in a large bowl.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large ovenproof frying pan.   Spread the potatoes in the pan, transfer to the oven, and roast for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size, until the potatoes are completely tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife.

Drain the potatoes, discard the thyme sprigs and garlic, and transfer the hot potatoes to a bowl to cool.  Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle place each on a board, one-at-a-time, and crush lightly (with the heel of your hand or a meat mallet); the sides should split, but try to keep the potato whole.  (Be SURE the potatoes are cooled.  I was rushing and ended up burning my hand while trying like a mad woman to pound hot-potatoes.)

Heat some canola oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until hot.  Add the potatoes and garlic cloves and saute, turning to brown both sides.  Remove any excess oil in the pan, then swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to glaze the potatoes.  

Serve garnished with thyme sprigs and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pan-Roasted Halibut

Shown here with Crisped Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans Sauteed with Baby Bellas.

Mike spent a week in Myrtle Beach, helping his parents get settled into their new home.  I decided to make him a special dinner for his return, so I pulled out my Thomas Keller Ad Hoc at Home cookbook.  We have an excellent local fish market, where I bought a perfect piece of fish (*note that halibut can be pricy - mine was $25/lb.)  The concept for this dish is easy (lightly brown a piece of fish on each side, set the fish quickly in the oven) but the process takes a light hand.  Be concious of your pan temperature and use an oven thermometer if you have one.  Amazing how a beautiful piece of fish simply prepared can have so much flavor!

(Serves 6)
2 pounds halibut filet, cut into 12 rectangular pieces
Kosher salt
Canola oil
Extra virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel (aka Super-fancy French sea salt.  Must be purchased at a Whole Foods, Bristol Farms or other gourmet market. Careful with this stuff - a little goes a LONG way)

Remove fish from the fridge and let stand for 15 minutes.

Position racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Check the halibut to be sure all bones were removed.  Season on both sides with salt.  Add some canola oil to two large ovenproof frying pans and heat over high heat until it shimmers.  (If you don't have two pans, cook the fish in batches and transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet, then finish in the oven.)  Add 6 pieces of halibut to each pan, presentation (nicer) side down, lower the heat to medium-high, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the bottom of the fish is golden.  Lower the heat to medium-low and cook 2 more minutes.

Transfer the pans to the oven and cook for about 2 minutes, until just cooked through.
Remove the pans from the oven, flip the fish over, and "kiss" the second side for about 30 seconds.

According to Thomas Keller you should never use tongs and "squeeze" food; also, that when fish is ready it will pull away from the pan and be easy to flip.  Not only did I use tongs, but I had to pry the fish away from the pan.  Although this doesn't look pretty and tidy like the photos in his book - it tasted phenomenal.  I'll keep working on my form, but my point is don't stress if your food is ugly.  Taste is top priority.

Transfer to a platter, and serve with a drizzle of oilve oil and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.  Careful not to over-salt!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Limoncello Mint Spritzer

Compliments of my lovely and talented friend, Sondra - this is a delicate and light pre or post-dinner drink.  Perfect for the Summertime.  A touch girly, but this point is open for debate.

1 cup ice (crushed, preferrably)
1 oz Limoncello
2 oz White Wine (preferrably Sauvignon Blanc, or another light, dry, citrus-flavored wine)
1 1/2 oz Soda Water
2-3 Mint Leaves (torn in half)

Add Limoncello and Mint leaves to glass.  Muddle with a muddler or wooden spoon, to release flavor.

Add white wine and ice.  Stir gently.  Top with soda and a few extra mint leaves and delight in the delicate flavor.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Braised Chicken with Moroccan Spices

I got this recipe from my friend, Maria, who found it on bon appetit.  The ingredients are a little pricy (namely the shallots and dates and seasonings), but make this once and you will be a fan for life.  A perfect recipe for guests or family; in Top 5 best recipes ever posted!

3 1/2 pounds chicken breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks (I couldn't find these pre-cut, so I bought a whole chicken then split and quartered it) 
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds shallots (about 11 large), peeled
3 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
12 dates, pitted, halved
1/4 cup almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 box couscous (follow instructions, but account for approximately 1 cup extra chicken broth for cous cous)

See my Roast Chicken post for insructions on how to properly split a chicken; and from there, split your halves in half to create 2 breasts and 2 leg-and-thighs (my chicken was large, so I split the breasts for a total of six pieces).  I find using kitchen scissors to help trim off any extra skin simplifies this process.

Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt, pepper and flour.  Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.  Add half of chicken pieces to pot and cook until browned on all sides, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes.  Transfer chicken to baking sheet or platter; repeat with remaining chicken.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot and discard.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add shallots to pot; satue until golden, about 6 minutes.

Add cinnamon sticks, ginger, cumin, tumeric, and cayenne.  Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Increase heat to high; add broth and 3 tablespoons lemon juice.  Brint to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until shallots begin to soften, about 18 minutes.  

Place chicken pieces atop shallots in pot.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until juices run clear when thickest part of drumstick is pierced with knife, about 25 minutes.  In the meantime, prepare cous cous following instructions on box.

Transfer chicken and shallots to platter; tent with foil.  Boil juices in pot until slightly thickened.  Stir in dates and remaining 2 tablepoons lemon juice.  Reduce heat and simmer gently until dates are heated through, about 2 minutes.

Pour sauce and dates over chicken.  Sprinkle with almonds and cilantor, and serve.

Serve with enough couscous to soak up the sauce.
Serves 6.  Dig in!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chicken, Lemon and Dill with Orzo

Shown with Green Beans Sauteed in Olive Oil with Baby Bellas.  Also pairs perfectly with Martha's Tomato and Fennel Salad.

Another Martha Stewart Recipe.  This one has traditionally Greek flavors and a lovely, filling casserole-type quality.  Reheats easily.  Tastes aaaamazing with an added little teaspoon of truffle oil drizzled on top.

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 pound chicken tenderloins, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound orzo
2 cups crumbled feta (4 ounces)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a saucepan, bring broth, 3/4 cup water, butter, salt and pepper to a boil. In a 3-quart baking dish, combine chicken, orzo, feta, dill, lemon zest and juice.  Pour broth mixture over orzo and stir once to incorporate.  

Bake until orzo is tender and cooking liquid is creamy, 40 minutes.  Sprinkle Parmesan on top and let stand 5 minutes befor serving.

For a vegetarian version, omit the chicken and us vegetable broth.