Monthly Archives: February 2011

Spiced Carrot Croquettes with Yogurt-Sriracha Sauce

If this recipe sounds vaguely familiar to you, then it might be because these croquettes have a similar method to my favorite Smoked Salmon Fish Cakes.  Say, what? – you may ask.  It’s true – this is a great example of a recipe that works. Over many renditions I finally arrived at a pan-fried cake/patty/croquette recipe which I love. It’s light, crispy and packed with the main ingredient. It’s a winner, and I’m sticking to it.

In this version, the star ingredient is carrot. Its sweetness is nicely balanced by the spice and heat of chile, coriander and cumin. Flecked with green onion and cilantro, the croquettes are light and airy with a satisfying bite. A coating of panko crumbs ensures a crisp exterior, begging for a dip in the sriracha laced yogurt sauce, which is a perfect cooling foil to the warm croquettes.

Spiced Carrot Croquettes with Yogurt Sriracha Sauce
Makes 16 – 1 1/2 inch croquettes

Carrot croquettes:
8 large carrots, peeled, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs, divided
2 green onions, ends trimmed, white and green parts minced
1 small red jalapeno or serrano chile pepper, stemmed and seeded, minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Greek-style whole milk yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Vegetable oil for frying

Yogurt-Sriracha Sauce:
1 cup Greek-style whole milk yogurt
1/2 tablespoon sriracha sauce
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of salt, to taste

Steam carrots until very soft, 30-40 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and mash. (There should be about 2 cups.)
Place 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl; set aside. Add 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, green onion, chile pepper, cilantro, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper to the carrots. Stir to combine, and then stir in the yogurt and lemon juice. Using a soup spoon, scoop out a spoonful of the carrots. Lightly form into a 1 1/2 inch patty. Gently roll in reserved breadcrumbs to coat. Place on a platter. Repeat with remaining carrots. (Croquettes may be prepared to this point up to 3 hours before cooking. Loosely cover with plastic and refrigerate.)
Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add croquettes in batches. Fry until golden brown, turning once, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat with remaining carrots.
To make the sauce, whisk all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Transfer croquettes to a serving plate. Serve with the yogurt sauce and lemon wedges. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Pear and Prune Crumble with Armagnac Cream

I almost didn’t post this recipe for Pear and Prune Crumble, since there are other similar recipes on TasteFood. Then I gave it some more thought: Crumbles are homey and rustic, easy to prepare and flexible with ingredients. They can be dressed up or simplified and are a surefire crowd pleaser. That’s worth sharing as an example – again.

A year round dessert, the crumble is forgiving. It effortlessly absorbs the season’s best fruit, tossed with some sugar and spice, then crowned with a streusel topping. Its nuance rests in the choice of fruit and spice. Summer begs for berries and stone fruit and a wisp of spice. Fall beckons apples, cranberries and bolder mulling spices. In the winter I prefer the prolific pear. Sturdy and gently perfumed, the pear provides a soft spoken backdrop for the filling, which I like to punctuate with intensely flavored prunes. As the crumble bakes, the prunes break down adding a rich and winey flavor, further amplified by a heady trio of spices – cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg.

To this particular recipe I also added frozen wild blueberries, which  I happened to have in my freezer and wanted to use up (as I said, crumbles are forgiving.) I served this dessert topped with Armagnac Spiked Whipped Cream which adds an appropriately warm and fortifiying kick to a winter crumble.

Pear and Prune Crumble with Hazelnut Streusel and Armagnac Cream

Serves 8-10

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

For the filling:
8 ripe but firm Bartlett pears, cored peeled, cut in 1 inch chunks
20 prunes, pitted and halved
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup frozen wild blueberries (optional)

Armagnac Spiked Whipped Cream (recipe below)

Prepare the topping:
Whisk together all the ingredients except the butter and hazelnuts in a large bowl. Add butter and work into the topping, using your fingertips, until the it resembles coarse meal. Stir in hazelnuts. Cover and refrigerate until use.

Prepare the crumble:
Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.) Butter a rectangular baking dish.
Place all of the filling ingredients (except the blueberries) in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Pour into the baking dish. Scatter blueberries over the fruit if using. Spoon the topping evenly over the fruit. Bake in the oven until pears are soft and topping is golden brown, about 50 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature with Armagnac Spiked Whipped Cream.

Armagnac Spiked Whipped Cream
Makes 2 cups (recipe may be halved)

2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Armagnac

Beat cream in bowl of electric mixer with a wire whisk until thickened. Add sugar and armagnac. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until use. (May be made up to 4 hours in advance.)

Porcini Cheese Fondue

It perplexes me when the subject of cheese fondue comes up, and it’s often accompanied by a snide reference to the seventies. I find it sad that this quintessential alpine dish is relegated to a by-gone era evoking images of shag rugs, unfortunate hair and textured bell-bottoms. Certainly this was not intended when the rural inhabitants of Swiss and French mountainous villages devised a warming winter dish incorporating their local cheese and winter staples.

I may be biased. I was never a fan of the seventies, even when I lived in them. Conversely, I am a huge fan of Switzerland. After all, I lived there for 10 years following my stint at cooking school in Paris. My husband and I were married in Switzerland, and our children were born there. As a result, Switzerland holds a special place in our hearts and will always be considered home to our family.

The best way to a country’s soul is to experience its cuisine. As an expat in Geneva it was a delicious pleasure to embrace Swiss specialties, namely chocolate and cheese. We’ll leave the chocolate for another post. As for the cheese, we enjoyed it in all of its forms, and the Swiss tradition of melting it in deep pots with wine and spirits quickly became a favorite. When we eventually moved from Geneva to London, and then on to Copenhagen, I became more reliant on making my own version of fondue for wintry family dinners to satisfy our wistful cravings.

This recipe has been tweaked and fine-tuned over the years, influenced by taste and available ingredients. In addition to serving it with the usual bread, I like to pass around bowls of parboiled baby potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli florets for dipping.

Porcini Cheese Fondue

The extra ingredient in this cheese fondue is porcini mushrooms, which I highly recommend adding. They will simmer in the cheese imparting a rich umami flavor to the fondue. If you prefer a simple cheese fondue, omit the porcini. Serves 4.

3 tablespoons Calvados or Poire William brandy
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for serving
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 pound high quality alpine cheese such as Gruyère, Emmental, Comté. (I use 2/3 Gruyere and 1/3 Emmental), grated
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water until reconstituted, drained, squeezed dry and coarsely chopped
1 loaf peasant bread, cut in 3/4 inch cubes

Note: Have all of your ingredients ready before you begin. Once you start, the fondue will come together quickly, and during this time it must be constantly stirred. The fondue must not come to a boil during this time.

Combine Calvados, cornstarch, salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and nutmeg in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the cornstarch. Set aside.
Add wine and garlic to a large heavy saucepan or fondue pot. Heat over medium heat until tiny bubbles form, giving the wine a fizzy appearance without bringing to a boil. Add cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly until each handful is melted before adding the next – do not let the fondue boil.
Once cheese is added, continue stirring one minute – do not let the fondue boil.
Stir in cornstarch. Continue stirring until mixture thickens to fondue consistency. (I find that some cornstarch brands thicken more easily than others. If your fondue remains thin, add 1 more tablespoon cornstarch diluted with 2 tablespoons white wine.) If using porcini, stir the mushrooms into the cheese at this point. Remove from heat. Pour cheese into a warm fondue pot if necessary. Serve immediately.

Serve with extra ground pepper, bread and parboiled vegetables such as small potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli florets.

Red Hot and Low-Sodium Chicken Wings

Red Hot and Low-Sodium Chicken Wings

This week, I jumped on board a food blog event hosted by Jessica, who has the wonderful blog SodiumGirl. The challenge? To create a favorite salty recipe with low-sodium content. While this obviously prohibited the use of salt, it also required the use of products with no more than 40 mg of sodium per serving. I was eager to give this a try, but a little apprehensive, since I love salt.

It was quite eye opening as I rummaged through my refrigerator and pantry in search of ingredients containing no more than 40 mg of sodium per serving. I am not only referring to staples such as mustard, cheese, sriracha, ketchup, mayonnaise, even Greek style yogurt.  As I scrolled a database for more nutritional references, I discovered that many proteins have a generous amount of natural sodium. My goal, then, was to select a protein with a relatively low amount of salt and devise a recipe around it using low or no-sodium ingredients.

Happily, dark chicken meat came in at a respectable sodium level, with drumsticks and thighs packing 46 mg per serving. This got me thinking about one of my favorite salty foods best associated with bars and football games: spicy wings. So, I decided to try and make a low sodium version of spicy wings.

An important factor in making this recipe is the use of lots of spices. I rubbed the chicken with a blend of paprika, coriander, cumin and cayenne and let the wings marinate for several hours. Then I roasted them in a hot oven for an hour, basting them with a spicy sauce which was a simplified cross between a buffalo wing and a BBQ sauce. Normally a generous squirt of sriracha would play a role in a recipe like this, but weighing in at 100 mg per serving, I improvised. Instead, I  whipped up a basting sauce with Tabasco, tomato paste and brown sugar. The results were excellent. The wings were crunchy, sticky and spicy – just the kind of finger-licking appetizer I imagined, minus any salt. And you know what?  I didn’t miss the salt at all.

Red Hot and Low-Sodium Chicken Wings

I use drummettes, which are the largest part of the chicken wing, because I prefer their relative meatiness. Serves 4 as an appetizer.

3 pounds chicken wings or drumettes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2-4 tablespoons Tabasco (to taste)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Spiced Sour Cream Sauce:
1 cup sour cream
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Dash of Tabasco
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro sprigs

Prepare the wings:
Whisk oil, paprika, cumin, coriander, cayenne and black pepper together in a large bowl. Add drummettes and toss to evenly coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours. 30 minutes before roasting, remove chicken from refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 425 F. (210 C.) Arrange drummettes on a oven grill pan. Roast 20 minutes. Turn chicken. Roast 20 minutes more.
While the chicken is roasting, make the basting sauce. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and whisk in tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar and lemon juice. Keep warm.
Remove chicken from oven and brush with tomato sauce. Return to oven and roast 10 minutes. Remove chicken and turn. Brush again with tomato sauce. Return to oven and roast until golden brown and cooked through, about 10 more minutes. Serve warm with Spiced Sour Cream Sauce for dipping.

Prepare the sauce:
Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.

Home-Cured Pork Belly and a Recipe for Caramelized Bacon Chips

I was tempted to call this post The Girl and the Pig, because, you see, I am hooked on bacon. More specifically, I am hooked on my own home-cured bacon. Prompted by the latest Charcutepalooza challenge, I cured 6 pounds of pork belly with a savory rub of salt, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves and garlic. Sounds like a simple blend, yet when left to marinate and cure over a week, this basic recipe yielded swoon-worthy results.  For my first attempt, I pointedly avoided using lots of sugar or smoking the bacon. I wanted a savory result undistracted by excessive sweetness or the aroma of smoke: I wanted to taste the real deal, and it was worth it.

What to do with 6 pounds of home-cured bacon? (Oh, to be so lucky to have that problem.)  So far, I’ve eaten quite a bit, frozen half and given some away. Normally, I use bacon as an ingredient in salads, stews and pasta dishes, but this bacon is so good, I only want to eat it straight up, fried in a skillet or baked in the oven. So, in the spirit of simplicity, I decided to caramelize bacon chips, roasting them in the oven with spices and the previously forsaken sugar.  Sweet, salty, crispy and spicy – the results were utterly decadent. Now the question begs:  Is this a dessert, snack, condiment or food group? I say all of the above.

Caramelized Bacon Chips

If you can stand it, let the bacon chips thoroughly cool once removed from the oven. They will continue to crispen as they cool.

1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
12 ounces thinly sliced bacon, cut in 2 inch strips

Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.)  Pour sugar onto a small plate. Dredge bacon in sugar, making sure that a good amount sticks. Lay bacon in a single layer on a grill pan. Sprinkle with cayenne and cinnamon.  Bake in oven until deep golden brown, without burning, turning once with a spatula, 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer bacon to a plate lined with parchment paper. Cool completely.

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and now partnering with Food52. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie. 


A Recipe for Inspiration: Food Photography Shoot-Out

This week I was a lucky attendee of a Food Photography Shoot-Out hosted by White on Rice Couple in Los Angeles. Todd and Diane graciously opened their studio to a small group of food bloggers seeking to perfect their craft of phtotography.

It takes a village…and a good camera…and a few props.

We were inspired and well fed. We listened and observed, and then we got busy taking photos. Lots and lots of photos. There was so much to absorb. As I look at my photographs I am pleased with the results, yet itching to improve them. And I think I know how, thanks to what I learned.

I like the whimsy of these macarons. The green one is definitely a show off – but, wait, who’s been nibbling the red?

This cake deserves all the light and brightness it can muster, however, I can’t resist a few shadows. I think someone called this a “girlie” shot.

Nice mood, but I think the cheese needs to breathe – and I’m not just referring to bringing it to room temperature.

I had so much fun. And on top of that, I was able to meet other bloggers face to face. Great food and great company. Now I am off to the farmers’ market to take a few more pictures. Thanks again, Todd and Diane, for your generosity and inspiration. And a special thanks to LC for the technical support!

Kale Slaw

Yep, that’s kale slaw – not cole slaw. The star of this little bowl of goodness is healthy, nutrient-rich kale. Not only is kale considered a “superfood” it’s delicious and versatile to use. Try it raw in salads, braised with garlic and olive oil, blanched in soups, or crisp-roasted in the oven. Whichever method you choose, kale is a keeper. In this version of a slaw, sturdy lacinato kale replaces the usual cabbage. Accompanied by carrot shavings, sweet red pepper and chile, the kale is tossed with a cumin-infused Dijon vinaigrette. This a satisfying side dish which tastes great and looks pretty, too.

Kale Slaw
Makes 4 servings

I like the flavor of lacinato kale, an heirloom kale variety from Tuscany. It’s dark blue-green leaves retain their firmness in this slaw recipe. Feel free to substitute or combine other kinds of kale for a variety of color and texture.

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch lacinato or Tuscan kale, tough ribs removed, leaves thinly sliced
1 large carrot, grated
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, membranes removed, cut in 1/2 inch slivers
1-2 red fresno or serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, membranes removed, minced
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill sprigs
1/4 cup cilantro or Italian parsley leaves

Combine lemon juice, mustard, cumin, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in oil in a steady stream to emulsify. Set aside.
Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle half of the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to thoroughly coat. Add additional vinaigrette to taste. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour and up to 4 hours. Serve with additional dill, cilantro or parsley sprigs as garnish.

Pear Clafouti

I was recently served a pear clafouti for dessert at a dinner party. Never a fan of egg-y desserts, I have avoided eating clafoutis and flans – pointedly ignoring them in favor of other fruit filled desserts without the baked custard. As I bit into my clafouti, I suddenly realized that I all of this time I have been making a grave mistake. This clafouti was airy and luscious, rippling with pear and scented with vanilla. It was the perfect end to a dinner: not overly sweet, elegant and light. What had I been thinking?

So, the other night I made a clafouti. At first I was tempted to improvise, but I decided it might be wise to follow an appealing recipe first. (After all, I didn’t want to jeopardize my new-found interest with a less than perfect result.) After a quick perusal, I took inspiration from a recipe by Ina Garten. What I liked about her version was the use of heavy cream instead of milk and the infusion of the custard with lemon and pear brandy. Rich, bright and spiked: How could I resist? The following is my adaptation:

Pear Clafouti with Lemon
Serves 8.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Finely grated zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Pear Brandy
4 firm but ripe pears, peeled and cored

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon pear brandy
1 tablespoon sifted confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.) Butter a 10 inch tart pan or ceramic baking dish.
Beat sugar and eggs in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Mix in cream, flour, lemon zest, salt and pear brandy. Set aside.
Thinly slice the pears. Arrange slices in a circular pattern in the tart pan. Pour custard over the pears. Bake in the oven until the filling is golden brown and set, about 35 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

To make the whipped cream, beat the cream in bowl of electric mixer with whisk attachment until traces of the whisk are apparent in the cream. Add the brandy and sugar. Continue to beat until soft peaks form.

Roasted Chicken with Cardamom and Yogurt

Roasted Chicken with Cardamom and Yogurt

Did you know that cardamom is referred to as the Queen of Spices? It makes sense, then, that this regal spice will behave like proper royalty, restrained yet in charge, when teamed with a slick of spices in a potent paste for roast chicken. As the chicken marinates for some hours, the heady aromas of garlic and ginger will waft about and you may think that cardamom’s perfume is all but lost. Don’t be fooled. These bold flavors are all swagger, and will be suitably tamed and smoothed with roasting. As their sharpness mellows, the elegant cardamom will gracefully step forward, shining through in the finished flavor of the meat and crispy skin.

Roasted Chicken with Cardamom and Yogurt

Butterflying the chicken ensures quick and even roasting. The yoghurt will tenderize the meat and contribute to the browning of the skin.  Serves 4-6.

6 cardamom pods, seeds removed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup whole milk greek style yogurt
1 tablespoon ground fresh ginger
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 3-4 pound chicken, butterflied

Grind cardamom seeds and peppercorns in a mortar with pestle to a powder. Add cumin, coriander, salt and garlic and smash together. Add olive oil to form a paste. Stir in yogurt, ginger and lemon juice.  Smear spices between skin and breast and all over the chicken, front and back. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours. 3o minutes before roasting, remove chicken from refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 425 F. (210 C.) Place chicken breast-side up in a baking pan or cast iron pan. Bake in oven until thoroughly cooked, 45  minutes – 1 hour. Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes. Carve and serve.