Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Persian Chickpea and Chicken Dumplings

Another quick one from me...guess who finally downloaded her pics?! This recipe was in the New York Times last week and we tried it over the weekend. Kind of a cross between matzo balls and meatballs. Really tasty! As Mike and Elaine can tell you, the Einspruchs are suckers for anything involving chickpeas! And cardamom?! Unusual and very yummy.

Persian Chickpea and Chicken Dumplings


4 medium onions, peeled and quartered

1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast

8 ounces (about 2 1/4 cups) chickpea flour

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cardamom, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon cumin

4 quarts chicken soup

Handful each of finely chopped basil, parsley, mint and cilantro

1. Using a food processor with a steel blade, pulse onions until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Pulse chicken until it has the consistency of ground meat.

2. Combine onions and chickpea flour in a bowl and mix well with hands. Add chicken, oil, salt, pepper, turmeric, cardamom and cumin. Mix well, adding a bit of water if needed, to make a dough about the consistency of meatballs. Refrigerate until well-chilled, about 3 hours.

3. Dip hands in cold water and divide mixture into 16 portions. Shape into balls about 2 inches in diameter. Bring soup to boil. Gently add dumplings one at a time and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, toss together basil, parsley, mint and cilantro.

4. Ladle soup and dumplings into serving bowls, and sprinkle with mixed herbs.

Brown Rice Casserole

Hi everyone...my Mont Blanc is coming, I promise, and then a new recipe but I wanted to post this because it's one of my favorites. It's probably one of Robert's least favorites but oh well! My sister-in-law discovered it a few years back in one of the Greens cookbooks...her husband calls it the "Kibbutz Special"! It's basically mush but I'm a mush fan I guess. Anyway, enjoy. I didn't follow the recipe exactly last week...used that amount of rice but more veggies probably and definitely more cheese (I like extra-sharp Cheddar). And I used the whole block of tofu as I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do with the other half. Makes great leftovers.

Brown Rice Casserole


4 cups brown rice (1 1/2 cups raw)
Half block of tofu (8 to 9 ounces) firm
1 large onion
2 medium carrots
2 stalks celery
1 yellow pepper
2 medium zucchini or other summer squash
6 ounces mushrooms, wiped clean
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mushroom broth, vegetable stock, or water
6 ounces grated cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh herbs: parsley or cilantro, thyme, marjoram, for garnish

1. If you don't have any leftover cooked rice, begin by cooking 1 1/2 cups of brown rice. Set the tofu on a slanted board or pan to drain, and prepare the vegetables.

2. Chop the onion, carrots, celery, pepper, and zucchini into pieces that are roughly 1/2-inch square. Quarter the mushrooms if they are small, and cut them into sixths or eigths if they are large. Return to the tofu, and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.

3. Heat the olive oil and the butter, and fry the onion over medium heat until iit is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and salt. Stir until blended and cook for 1 minute; then add the carrots, celery, and pepper. Add 1/2 cup of the liquid, cover the pan, and braise the vegetables until they have begun to soften, about 5 minutes. Then add the zucchini and the mushrooms and cook another 7 to 10 minutes. The vegetables should be nearly, but not completely, cooked. If the pan gets dry while they are cooking, add a little more liquid.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the vegetables with the rice and the cheese. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Gently mix in the tofu, and put the whole mixture into a casserole that has been lightly oiled or buttered, and add a little more liquid to moisten. Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 1/2 hour. Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes. Serve garnished with the fresh herbs.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Jer: Mont Blanc

Shame on me for taking so long to begin what I knew would be quite the adventure in the kitchen. Had I started when Elaine posted this months ago I would have been able to enjoy this wonderful dessert several times during this intensely hot summer. To be honest, the words caramel, brittle, nougatine and piping just scared me given how weak my pastry chef skills are. I defintely was challenged in the kitchen but the result was an amazing flavor punch dessert which all four of us at dinner tonight just went crazy over. A while back I had toyed with the idea of purchasing an ice cream maker. Now I know I don’t have to buy one as there is a wonderful alternative called Mont Blanc, as well as the Italian semifreddo which I will now need to attempt.

I used almonds instead of hazelnuts and didn’t create a shell and a filling. All the flavors were so nice that I wanted every bite to have a little of it all instead of just those bites with the nougatine center. So I folded all the almond brittle nougatine into the mouse and put a healthy serving into each of eight ramekins. Also, I allowed the syrup that I mixed into my egg whites to caramelize a bit which provided a deep sweet taste to the mousse and a beautiful coffee color.

The mont blanc was truly wonderful and everyone devoured their serving. Big wow factor with guests as Kate mentioned. Next time I will also fold in some roughly chopped dark chocolate and enjoy a French version of my favorite jamoca almond fudge from Baskin Robins!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

No More Crunchy Risotto!

My inspiration for this dish? How to get rid of this sad bag of frozen chopped spinach I had in the freezer for too long. Risotto is a big fear of mine since it always turns out mushy on the outside and crunchy on the inside for me. But it actually came out really yummy. I've been trying to get more greens into Sam's diet so I thought I'd try it. I served it with sauteed chicken breast.

I couldn't stop thinking about how perfect Kate's dish of sausage and cinnamon risotto was. Maybe it was the pot I've been using or the heat I was cooking it on. I tried using a similar pan. She used a Le Creuset braising pan. So all I have close to that is an All-Clad saucier pan. I was nervous that the heat was either too low or too high. I was lucky this time. Hopefully, my next batch will be just as good as this one.

Spinach Risotto
5 c. chicken broth
2 T. olive oil ( I used butter instead)
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 strips bacon/pancetta
1 c. Arborio rice
1 bunch of fresh spinach or 1 box of frozen spinach(squeeze all liquid out once thawed)
1/2 c. parmesan, grated
1/8 t. ground nutmeg

Bring chicken broth to simmer during the entire process.
Saute onion and bacon until bacon is translucent.
Add rice and stir until grains are chalky on outside.
Add one ladle of chicken broth. Stir until all liquid has been absorbed. Keep heat at a simmer throughout the cooking process.
Continue adding ladle by ladle. Then the rice is soft on the outside but hard in the middle, add spinach.
Continue adding broth until risotto is done. (20-40 min) Season with s+p. Turn off heat. Add in parmesan and nutmeg.

Do you guys have tips on making risotto? I'm all ears! Cath, I'm actually looking forward to eating these as leftovers. What a great meal to start the fall season. I can't stop posting. I've missed sharing with you guys and know that you are all making more than just a box of Mac and Cheese at home like I had been for my first trimester. Looking forward to reading your postings.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Poilane's Butter Cookie

After buying a bag of Poilane's butter cookies in Paris, I ran to the computer to find the recipe. And guess what? The NY Times got it out of Mr. Poilane and shared it with all of us. Its by far, my favorite butter cookie recipe so far. It was Sam's birthday this past weekend, so I decided to dress them up a bit.

Poilane’s Butter Cookies (Adapted from Lionel Poilâne)
Time: 45 minutes, plus 4 hours' chilling

5 ounces unsalted French or premium American butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Put butter in the bowl of a mixer and, working on low speed, beat until smooth. Add sugar and continue to beat until it is blended into the butter. Add egg and beat, still on low speed, until it too is incorporated. Add flour and mix only until it disappears; do not over mix.

2. Transfer dough to a work surface and knead it 6 to 8 times, until it just comes together. Divide dough in half, shape each half into a 4-inch disk, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 4 hours.

3. Position racks to divide oven into thirds and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Working with one disk at a time, roll dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is between 1/8- and 1/4-inch thick. Using a 1 1/2- inch round cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can. Place cookies on lined sheets. (Gather scraps into a disk, chill them, then roll out and cut.) Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes or until set; they should not take on much color. Cool on a rack.

Royal Icing: I just use a couple egg whites. Whip to a soft peak, and add about 1 lb of powdered sugar. You can add almond extract, vanilla extract (which makes the white a little off white) or just a couple drops of lemon juice. If you drip a ribbon of icing on top of the icing's surface, the ribbon should disappear after you count to 3. This will create the perfect consistency for filling in a cookie. To create lines, thicken with more powdered sugar. I use leftover icing, thicken it and pipe decorations (flowers, cars, dots, etc) onto parchment paper, let it dry overnight and they peel right off ready to put on top of cakes and cupcakes.

Kate: Mont Blanc

I ended up following the recipe from the book. It was such a long time between reading Elaine’s original post and starting the recipe that I didn’t notice the difference in technique.
There was no piping involved in this recipe, you had to partially freeze it then dig out the inner, unset mousse leaving a rim around the edge. What you dug out became the ‘surprise’ and covering mousse.
My walnut brittle didn’t set by the time the mousse was partially set which resulted in caramel centre rather than brittle. So I didn’t process just chopped the nuts a little so they were chunky rather than ground. I was disappointed about the brittle thinking I lost on texture, which I suspect I did, but my guests didn’t notice and all loved the caramel/coffee centre. Following Elaine’s method would have avoided brittle-caramel issue.
The rest of the method I followed was straightforward and the digging out and reinserting was easier than I imagined.
Unfortunately I removed it from the freezer too early and by the time I brought it to the table to dish out it had really softened around then edges. I was again quite disappointed especially having come so far to make such a silly mistake but it didn’t appear to bother anyone. Next time I would take it out a couple of minutes before serving instead of ten.
The book suggests serving with candied peel that was the perfect match and helped divert attraction form my not so firm edges. (The recipe is one that Elaine posted with Soufflé a l’orange)
Elaine this was one of the tastiest desserts and has huge 'wow' factor with guests.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Elaine: Mont Blanc

Some of you are avoiding this recipe as I have for the past month. However, just dive into this because its not as complicated as you might think. It's nice to challenge myself in the kitchen again. I've been in a rut the past couple weeks until today. I've really missed trying new recipes and techniques.

My favorite part of this recipe is by far the caramel colored nougatine mousse. I froze some extra nougatine mousse in its own ramekin. The pairing of espresso and the almond praline is definitely finger lickin' good . My sink is towering over with bowls, spatulas, whisk attachments and sticky piping bags. A freaking disaster area but this Mont Blanc is so worth the clean-up.

Tips for those of you who haven't gotten to this recipe yet:
1) Cream of Tartar definitely helped prevent crystalization of sugar during the browning of sugar for nougatine. It also helped during the sugar syrup for the egg white step.
2) The way I tell whether the syrup is thick enough for the egg white process is spooning a drop into a clear glass of water. If it forms a gelatinous string as it falls to the bottom of the glass.
3) I would set some mousse aside to cover the top of the hole that you create when you fill the mousse with praline filling.
4) I used instant espresso vs instant coffee because thats all I had in the pantry.
5) Some of my chunks of praline were too big and clogged up my piping tip. I would definitely just run it thru a food processor one more time. It became pretty messy every time I had to de-clog my piping bag. But I didn't mind licking the nougatine mousse off my hands.

The caramel colored ramekin is filled with the extra almond nougatine I had left. This recipe made 10 ramekins that will be waiting for us in the freezer whenever surprise guests come over. Hope you all enjoy this dessert as much as I did. Looking forward to the next recipe.