Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lavender Lemon Scones

I don't have a whole lot to say, but these scones were outstanding. Normally I have pretty good self-control when it comes to food, but I ate three (or was it four?) of these babies in one sitting. They're just very light, and yummy.

I feel like scones are supposed to puff up a little more than mine did. Which, now that I'm typing out the recipe, I realize I accidentally left out the baking powder. Fortunately the texture wasn't dense at all.

My coworkers approved of these.

Lavender Lemon Scones

Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit
Yield: 16 servings

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. dried lavender buds
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. buttermilk, divided
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (the zest of one lemon)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. sanding or granulated sugar (I used 1 Tbsp. granulated)
1-1/2 cups store-bought lemon curd (I left this out)

Preheat oven to 425. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk 3 cups flour and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Add butter; mix with a pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Whisk 1 cup buttermilk, lemon zest, and vanilla in a small bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until shaggy dough forms. (Can I just say I like the term "shaggy dough"?)

Transfer to a lightly floured surface; knead until dough forms, about 5 turns. Pat into a 10x6" rectangle. Halve dough lengthwise into two squares. Cut each half crosswise into 4 squares. Cut each square diagonally in half into 2 triangles. Divide between baking sheets. Brush with 2 Tbsp. buttermilk. Sprinkle with sanding sugar.
Bake until scones are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 13-15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature (warm is best!), with lemon curd if desired.

Nutrition info is available on Bon Appetit's site; calories and sugar will definitely be lower if you leave out the lemon curd like I did.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Harvest Galette (with Gruyere, Acorn Squash, and Caramelized Onions)

While reading through the November issue of Cooking Light, the crust from this Walnut Crusted Apple Pie intrigued me. I liked the idea of using walnuts for part of the fat and, of course, for a yummy, nutty flavor. And when I came across this Buckwheat Harvest Tart, thought I’d take the filling from the harvest tart and the crust from the apple pie.

But it called for vodka which I didn’t have and didn’t feel like buying, so instead I used a combination of water, apple cider vinegar, and red wine vinegar, based on reviews and other sources. And left out the brown sugar since this is a savory dish. And added thyme. And used whole wheat flour. Well, I must have made too many substitutions, because the resulting dough tasted nasty. Not even just not good. But downright bad.

And it was crumbly and rock-hard.

Fortuitously, I happened to have a roll of Pillsbury pie dough left over from last week’s chicken pot pie. While that tasted great—and I was grateful that it just happened to be hanging out in my fridge—I think this galette's filling is deserving of a nice, hearty, whole wheat crust.

So in the recipe below I’m including the crust from a galette from Naturally Ella which I have succeeded in making. In fact, do yourself a favor and make her galette some time because it is superb!

As is this galette. I'm not even sure how to describe the explosion of flavors, because I don't think my words will do it justice. My mouth is still trying to figure out what just happened. The end result was well worth the failed crust attempt, the pricey gruyere, the long time it took to make this baby, and the giant mess that resulted in my kitchen.

Sadly, it looks a bit like it's made of plastic
Harvest Galette

Adapted from Eats Well with Others and Naturally Ella
Yield: 4-6 servings

Crust Ingredients
1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. butter, chilled
2 oz. reduced fat cream cheese, chilled
1/4 to 1/2 cup of ice water

Filling Ingredients
1 small acorn squash
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, thinly sliced and rinsed well
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, coarsely chopped (I used baby spinach)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (I was afraid and left this out, adding a tiny sprinkle of cayenne in its place)
1 small yellow onion
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 eggs (or 3 eggs and 1 egg white)
1 cup (4 oz.) grated gruyere

In a food processor (or a medium bowl) combine flour and salt for crust. Pulse (or cut) in butter. Once butter is mostly into small chunks, pulse (or cut) in cream cheese. Once butter and cream cheese are in pea-sized pieces, pulse in 1/4 cup of water until dough begins to come together (adding extra water, a Tablespoon at a time, as needed). Remove from food processor and shape into a disc (without handling the dough too much). Wrap in plastic and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees; line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and stringiness. Then cut into wedges (I used each groove in the squash as a cut line, ending up with about 9 wedges). Drizzle 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil over the squash and use your hands to make sure each wedge is nicely coated. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Bake 20-25 minutes, until squash begins to brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 (or turn it off and re-preheat it when you start mixing everything together below).

In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for about 1 minute, then add the leeks and saute another minute. Add the chard (or spinach) and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until chard is wilted, about 5 minutes. Pour into a colander and allow to cool.

Peel and halve the onion, then thinly slice it. Return your skillet to the burner over medium heat with another 1/2 Tbsp. oil. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Allow to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is caramelized. When the onions are golden and caramelized, stir in the balsamic vinegar and remove from heat.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, peel the skin off with your hands, then cut the wedges into smallish cubes. Transfer to a small bowl and toss with an additional 1/4 tsp. each salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together three of the eggs. When the leeks and chard are cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess liquid from it and add to the large bowl with the eggs. Whisk together, then whisk in 3/4 of the cheese, the caramelized onions, and a few grinds of pepper. Gently stir in 3/4 of the squash.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out your galette dough into a 12- to 14-inch circle and transfer to a round pizza pan lined with parchment paper. Spread the filling over the crust, leaving a two-inch border all the way around. Scatter remaining squash over the top, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Fold up the crust dough, overlapping as you go around (see picture). Beat remaining egg (or egg white) and brush over the crust.

Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes, until egg is set and crust is browned. After removing from oven, allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving. My crust didn't seem to be browning as quickly as the filling, so I ended up covering the middle with foil about 40 minutes into the baking time.

  • Even with the store-bought crust, this galette was stellar. I think it'd better with the homemade whole wheat crust above, but you could certainly use a store-bought one and be just fine.
  • I'd be interested in trying this again with Swiss chard. The store didn't have any, and I didn't feel like making a special trip to a different store for one ingredient, so that's why I used spinach.
  • I didn't miss the red pepper flakes. This was plenty flavorful, though if you like your food spicy, I can imagine the red pepper flakes would be a welcome addition.
  • It reheated well. I zapped leftovers for a couple minutes in the microwave (70% power), then stuck in the oven (350) for 5 minutes to crisp up the crust.
  • This galette deserves a better name than "Harvest Galette." Any suggestions?
From MyFitnessPal, using homemade crust,
for 4 servings rather than 6. Changing it to 6
servings would make it 450 calories per serving.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Slew of New Spices

My boss recently introduced me to the wonderful world of Penzeys Spices and, with gift cards from him and my parents, I've got a whole bunch of fun new spices to play with! Let me introduce to the new members of my spice cabinet (I'm pasting descriptions directly from

Cardamom (ground) - An extremely flavorful and ancient spice native to India, cardamom's use has spread throughout the world, with nearly every culture having its own distinctive use for the flavorful seeds.

Chipotle (ground) - Ripe, red jalapeƱo peppers that have been slowly wood-smoked, chipotle peppers are rich, smoky and hot (but not searing). Throughout Mexico and Central America, chipotle peppers, also known as moritas, are regarded as a versatile and necessary addition to many dishes.

Coriander (ground) - The seed of the same plant that gives us cilantro, coriander has a light, lemony flavor that combines especially well with ginger.

Forward! - Like the seasoned-salts of old but with the salt left behind, Penzeys Forward! puts great taste into the palm of your hand to be sprinkled wherever there is a need for great flavor. Ingredients: special extra bold black pepper, onion, paprika, garlic, turmeric, spice extractives (including oleoresin of celery, rosemary, black pepper, thyme, basil, paprika).

Fox Point Seasoning - Bursting with the rich flavor of freeze-dried shallots, chives and scallions, this is one of our top-selling blends. The rich flavor makes it perfect for poultry, eggs and vegetables. Hand-mixed from: salt, shallots, chives, garlic, onion and green peppercorns.

Garam Masala (Punjabi Style) - Garam masala is an all-purpose blend called for in many Indian dishes. Very good on fish, and traditional on cauliflower. Also nice on lamb, pork, poultry and potatoes. Hand-mixed from: Moroccan coriander, Tellicherry black peppercorns, cardamom, Korintje cassia cinnamon, kalonji, caraway, cloves, ginger and nutmeg.

Old World Seasoning - Hand-mixed from: paprika, salt, sugar, celery, garlic, onion, black pepper, parsley, dill, caraway, turmeric, dill, bay leaf, marjoram, thyme, savory, basil, rosemary.

Paprika Smoked Spanish Style - Rich, colorful Spanish Paprika, naturally smoked over traditional oak fires. Awesome flavor and perfect color, good on just about everything.

Rocky Mountain Seasoning - Hand-mixed from: bell peppers, Parmesan cheese [part-skim milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, cellulose powder, potassium sorbate], salt, sesame, poppy, shallots, arrowroot, white pepper.

Shallot-Pepper Seasoning - Hand-mixed from: coarse salt, Tellicherry black pepper, shallots, tarragon and bay leaves.

Sicilian Salad Seasoning - Hand-mixed from: Romano cheese [made from sheep's and cow's milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes, disodium phosphate], salt, toasted onion, red bell pepper, tomato, sweet paprika, white onion, pepper, sweet basil, thyme, rosemary, cayenne pepper.

Tsardust Memories - Warm and spicy-sweet, this blend is awesome with ground beef - burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, casseroles... Excellent in hearty soups and stews, and one of the best things ever on pork chops - try it on the grill. Whatever you make, serve it with crusty bread. It's all good. Hand-mixed from: salt, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, marjoram.

All these new spices necessitated a spice cabinet rearrangement.
Before and after.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Food Goals for 2013

I've never been big on New Year's resolutions (and it's probably too late for those anyway), so instead I will share some food goals. Since cooking is one of my main creative outlets, I like to keep things fresh in my cooking rhythms. This year I want to be a bit more intentional about my food goals for the year, especially as I tackle the time commitment that is graduate school along with my pretty demanding full-time job.

2013 Food Goals
Note: a week and a half after publishing these goals I thought of more. So I'll keep adding to the list throughout the year as I feel so inclined.
  1. Learn to like lentils. They have so many nutritional benefits, they're easy on the budget, and they appear to be pretty versatile. I had lentils a few times as a kid and was underwhelmed, but I haven't really given them a chance as an adult.
  2. Cook eggplant, whether I end up liking it or not. I had a bad eggplant experience in junior high, but it deserves another chance.
  3. Expand my repertoire of international foods. This goal is fairly broad, but there are a lot of cuisines out there. For Christmas I got some some spices which should prove useful in Indian and Russian foods, and the Green Mango Cafe and Bakery Cookbook which has oodles of yummy-sounding Cambodian and other Southeast Asian recipes!
  4. Begin using at least one new whole grain on a semi-regular basis. I've gotten comfortable with quinoa, farro, and brown rice, but there are so many whole grains out there begging to find a home in my kitchen.
  5. Prepare and eat something with prickly pear--either the fruit or the cactus part. I've lived among them long enough, it's high time I ate one. (goal added 1-26-2013)
  6. Crepes. They're gonna happen. (goal added 1-26-2013)
Some food milestones I reached last year:
  1. Made risotto and discovered it's actually not that hard.
  2. Discovered that I enjoy kidney beans and white beans, even though I thought I didn't like any beans except black beans and chili (red) beans. And black-eyed peas, thanks to my house church.
  3. Bought, used, and am enjoying lavender.
  4. Cooked crocodile (with much supervision from my mom).
  5. Made a balsamic reduction.
  6. Discovered you can make pizza for breakfast.
How about you? Do you have any food goals for this year, or any specific food goals you met last year?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Quinoa and Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Blue Cheese

This may not count as a real recipe post because 1) I didn't measure anything or even pay attention to amounts, 2) I didn't take any pictures, and 3) I don't remember what my third reason was.

But since it's been awhile since I posted something not pertaining to airline nightmares and unwelcome overnights in Fiji, I thought I'd post something food-related. Besides, I'm supposed to be writing a reflection essay right now, so what better time to write about food instead of conflict?

I haven't done meal planning in several weeks, which means my grocery shopping has been sporadic and poorly planned. Which means I am left with random stuff that requires some creativity to put together into a meal.

Enter tonight's dinner.

It started with some leftover sweet potatoes which I roasted last weekend, then cooked up some quinoa and toasted a handful of almonds. Then I put it all in a bowl with some blue cheese and seasonings.

And you know what? It was pretty good!

Quinoa and Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Blue Cheese

Yield: 2 servings

1-2 sweet potatoes, cubed (peeling is optional)
Olive oil
Dried rosemary, dried thyme, salt and pepper, paprika, brown sugar, and cinnamon - all to taste (I used very little brown sugar and cinnamon and went a little heavier on the herbs)
1/2 cup dry quinoa
Handful of almonds (or other nuts of choice)
1-2 Tbsp. blue cheese crumbles (Feta or Gorgonzola would also be good)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar (or other vinegar of choice)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Toss the sweet potatoes in olive oil and seasonings. You want enough olive oil to help the seasoning stick and to keep the potatoes from drying out, but not so much that your potatoes end up being real oily. Start with less olive oil than you think you need--you can always add more! Spread the sweet potatoes on the pan and roast for 20-30 minutes, until toasted and tender, stirring halfway through.

Rinse quinoa and cook according to package directions, using 3/4 cup water and adding a sprinkle of salt.

Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Pour in a handful of almonds and toast for several minutes, stirring/shaking frequently, until nuts are toasted and fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. Remove from heat; coarsely chop.

Whisk together 1 Tbsp. olive oil and red wine vinegar.

In a bowl, combine all the elements of your meal--quinoa, sweet potatoes, almonds, and blue cheese. Drizzle on half of the oil and vinegar mixture; taste; add more if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Yummy! Since my sweet potatoes were left over, this meal came together in about 15-20 minutes--enough time to think of it and cook the quinoa. While I was making it I found myself wishing I had some kind of leafy greens to add, but the end result didn't taste like it was missing anything.