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Crepe Expectations

October 14, 2010
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This post features a breakfast that Wilson and I made over the summer. It’s a breakfast that perfectly fits into the personality of summer or spring. These crêpes are cheerful and light – filled with generous amounts of whipped cream and fresh strawberries. While we love pancakes, crêpes have a way of showcasing the toppings in a different way than pancakes do. In the fall or winter, pears or sautéed apples would also be wonderful.

Crêpes are a pretty romantic breakfast. I’ve heard men instructed to fix crepes for a woman he’s trying to woo. Although I don’t like the idea of bribing your significant other with food, I will admit that crêpes are a pretty persuasive option. They’re more delicate than most foods, and it’s good to see a man unafraid of his softer side. No one will be enchanted by a man who has to have his steak or bacon – too hyper-masculine… too meat head! Anyway, we didn’t really fix crêpes to be romantic.  We just thought they would taste good!

 

This was Wilson’s first time having crêpes and he loved them. Although traditionally crepes are made on a special “crêpe-maker” which is basically a flat, rimless skillet where the batter can be fanned out, we just used an ordinary skillet. They were remarkably easy to make – and trust me, very easy to eat.

I made the crêpes themselves while Wilson whipped the cream and sliced the strawberries. This was a really enjoyable dish to make together, requiring lots of teamwork and tasting. We nibbled on strawberries, dunked them in whipped cream and rolled up the first crêpes for a taste-test – all before actually sitting down to our breakfast.

The strawberries are a bright, tart contrast to the richness of the crêpes and whipped cream. The crêpes themselves are delectable, and serve as tender, slightly sweet parcels for all of the berries and cream your heart could desire.  Enjoy them for a romantic breakfast or when you just want something tasty that will put a little flush in your cheeks!

 

Crêpes

Adapted from David Lebovitz

  • 3 /4 cup whole milk
  • 2 T butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 /4 t coarse salt
  • 3 /4 cup flour
  1. Pour the milk, melted butter, eggs, sugar, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk together. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate the batter for at least 1 hour. (The batter can be made in advance and refrigerated overnight).
  2. When you’re ready to make the crêpes, let the batter come to room temperature, then whisk it to think it out a bit.
  3. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium to high heat. When a few drops of water sprinkled on the pan sizzle, pour 1 /4 cup of batter and quickly tilt the pan so the batter covers the bottom. Cook the crêpe for about 45 seconds, until the edges begin to darken. Use a flexible spatula to flip it over, then cook for another 45 seconds on the reverse side.
  4. Serve with whipped heavy cream (slightly sweetened) and fresh sliced strawberries.

 

Butter Chicken, Two Ways

September 24, 2010
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Many foods are loved because it’s what we loved to eat as children – pizza, ice cream, and pancakes. These foods carry all sorts of nostalgia and through eating, you feel that you are harkening back to that earlier moment in time. Then there are foods that are new and thrilling. You simply can’t get enough of them, and they spark a more adventurous sort of hunger. I don’t know if I would have recognized this classification food without one of my newest and greatest food loves – Butter Chicken. This dish is Indian and originates from the Punjab region. It has a luscious and spicy sauce that is cream and tomato based. Spices like garlic, ginger, chili, and garam masala sing in your mouth when you eat it. Done well, the chicken is moist and succulent. The sauce should be incredibly thick and decadent. But none of these details matter very much. Butter chicken is awe-inspiringly delicious and I can’t adequately describe in words how it tastes.

Wilson and I go to an Indian restaurant near campus, called Shere Punjab, quite frequently. By “frequently,” I mean that we go about once a week and then enjoy leftovers another night of the week. The rest of the time we daydream about it. As a testament to how much I am obsessed with Butter Chicken, you should know that despite our frequent visits to Shere, we made it out mission to learn how to make Butter Chicken, so that we could have it whenever we wanted. Granted, authentic Indian food is difficult to achieve. I simply don’t have all the necessary spices and equipment at my disposal. Nevertheless, I set out to incorporate Butter Chicken in my cooking repertoire.

This involved quite a saga of kitchen experiences. Ultimately, Wilson and I discovered two recipes that we found comparable in taste to what we get at Shere.  The first involved using Mark Bittman’s “Indian Tomato Sauce” and incorporating boneless skinless chicken breasts into the cooking process. The second recipe calls for bone-on, skin-on chicken and comes from an article discussing authentic Butter Chicken on NPR’s website. For both methods, we marinated the chicken overnight in yogurt. This technique works like a charm and makes the chicken noticeably more tender than normal. It’s really difficult to say which recipe we preferred. Both made tremendous leftovers, and in fact, I would suggest that you make either of the recipes ahead so the flavors have time to mingle.  We like to serve Butter Chicken over traditional rice or egg noodles — both recipes yield a lot of sauce, so you’ll want something to soak it all up.

These recipes don’t technically serve more than four people. But somehow Wilson and I ended up with about 6 servings total per recipe. We also made one recipe after the next. It was plenty to appease our appetites for Butter Chicken for at least a little while.

Butter Chicken

Adapted from npr.org, “Making Butter Chicken with Dad”

Serves 4-5

For the Chicken:

  • 1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 T peeled, grated ginger
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 2 T garam masala
  • ¼ cup canned tomato puree
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T melted butter
  • 8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (make slits in the chicken to allow the marinade to penetrate)
  • Salt, to taste

For the sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 T peeled, grated ginger
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 serrano chile, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large bowl, mix together the yogurt, ginger, garlic, garam masala, tomato puree, salt, lemon juice and butter. Add the chicken and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour(preferably overnight..

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken in a single layer in a roasting pan. Pour all remaining marinade over the chicken. Roast 20 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the juices run clear.

Remove the chicken from the oven and place all the pieces on a platter. Reserve the cooked marinade in a bowl.

To make the sauce, in a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic. Saute for about 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly. Use the back of a spatula to mash the tomatoes as you go. Continue until the tomatoes are completely mashed and soft, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved marinade. Add the salt, chili pepper, and chicken and mix well. Simmer covered for about 10 minutes. Add the cream and simmer for another minute. Serve hot.

image courtesy of npr.org

Indian-Style Tomato Sauce (Makhani) – with Chicken

Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Serves 4, with leftovers

  • 1 cup whole milk yogurt
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped into about 1 inch pieces
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Cayenne, to taste
  • 2 t garam masala
  • ½ t chili powder
  • Large pinch sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups chopped ripe tomato
  • 1-32oz can tomato sauce
  • ½ cup cream
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Marinade the chicken pieces in the yogurt overnight.

Put the butter in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the  chicken, onion, garlic, ginger, and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garam masala, chili powder, and sugar and sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook and stir until the spices become fragrant, a minute or two more.

Add the tomato and tomato sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato starts to release to release its liquid, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and the cilantro and keep cooking and stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.

Turn the heat down so that the sauce bubbles gently and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato breaks up and the mixture comes together and thickens, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Banana Bread Boy

August 31, 2010

Alicia and I love our breads, especially when they are as flavorful and moist as our most recent foray into the realm of banana breads. The trick with banana breads is to use plenty of bananas. This, while it should be self-evident, cannot be repeated enough. Many banana bread recipes call for two to three bananas, which is pretty paltry. We made one like that a few months ago, and it left a lot (of bananas) to be desired. We wanted our bread to burst with banana, and the high proportion of fruit kept the bread moist for over a week. In fact, the banana bread gained flavor as it sat and the bananas became more assertive. And, as it is of course a banana bread, why not go bananas! We put in five, for delectable results.

Look at that crumb!

As I’m sure you’ve all learned from your parents, the best bananas for a bread are very much on the ripe side. We let ours sit a few days past prime ripeness, when the peel became predominantly brown, which signifies a soft and sweet piece of fruit. After mashing them and adding some other ingredients, including some shredded coconut and dark chocolate, the flavors really developed. The coconut added a great textural contrast to the soft bread, and of course the dark chocolate was delicious. We chopped up about twenty Dove squares, and, as an added delight, were fortunate enough to read some fine advice written on the packaging, donated by their (apparently predominantly female) fan-base.  For instance, Lisa, from Morristown, New Jersey, wants me to “wear that perfect dress tonight!” Her advice, sadly, went unheeded.

But the banana bread was one of the best I’ve ever had, and it offered me great comfort when Alicia went home for a few days and I was stuck without access to a kitchen. The banana bread was always moist and tasted like fresh bananas, and that extra chocolate certainly helped too. I’ve become a real banana bread boy!

Look at that plum!

We found the recipe on David Lebovitz’s site.

Banana Loaf Cake
One 9-inch cake

Adapted from Perfect Light Desserts by Nick Malgieri and David Joachim

  • 2 1/2 cups flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 4 or 5 large very ripe banana-mash, then measure)
  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped bittersweet dark chocolate (20 Dove squares)
  • One 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan, sprayed with vegetable cooking spray coated with fine, dry breadcrumbs or a dusting of

1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

2. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs to break them up, then whisk in the sugar and the brown sugar. Whisk in the butter and vanilla, followed by the mashed bananas. Add the coconut and chocolate.

4. Sift the flour mixture over the banana mixture and thoroughly fold it in. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

5. Bake the cake for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean.

6. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then unmold it and cool completely on a rack.

Summer Bruschetta

August 17, 2010
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After a long, hot summer day, it’s not difficult to understand why a simple and light main course would be in order for dinner.  Wilson and I have been playing tennis a lot in the late afternoon so that by the time it’s dark, we’re quite tired and want nothing more than to kick back and settle into a relaxing evening. For some reason, the idea hadn’t occurred to me earlier this summer to make bruschetta. They’re wonderful little open-faced sandwiches and generally regarded as an appetizer.  But being the mavericks that we are, Wilson and I decided to just fix a lot of them, have a salad alongside, and deem them a meal.

The bruschetta turned out perfectly refreshing but also decadent and very flavorful. The first step was to roast quartered plum tomatoes seasoned with rosemary. In the oven, they become caramelized with a deeply concentrated and sweet flavor.  They would turn almost any pizza, pasta, or sandwich into a success. Then, we sliced some multigrain baguette and put the bread into the oven to become slightly brown and crisp while the tomatoes cooled. The finished toasts were topped majestically with ricotta, then proscuitto, the roasted tomatoes, and the tiny torn leaves from Wilson’s basil plant. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the whole thing added the perfect amount of acidity to allow the other flavors to brighten and intensify.

This was such an easy meal to prepare and a joy to eat. We sat on the sofa assembling our bruschetta and watching Top Chef, a show we look forward to every week.  I think this is a dish we’ll definitely make again – the flavors worked brilliantly together. But more importantly, it’s an example of the food that Wilson and I love for it’s simplicity and its spotlight on fresh ingredients that work on their own to create a delicious meal we can share together.

Bruschetta with Rosemary, Roasted Plum Tomatoes, Ricotta and Prosciutto

  • 6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 large plum tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), quartered lengthwise
  • 12 1/2-inch-thick diagonally cut baguette slices (each 3 to 4 inches long)
  • 12 tablespoons ricotta cheese, divided
  • 6 thin prosciutto slices, cut in half crosswise
  • fresh basil leaves, torn
  • lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 425°F. Stir 6 tablespoons oil, garlic, rosemary, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in large bowl to blend. Add tomato quarters and stir to coat. Let stand 5 minutes. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Lift tomatoes from marinade and arrange, cut side down, on prepared baking sheet (reserve marinade for toasts).

Roast tomatoes until skin is browned and blistered and tomatoes are very tender, about 35 minutes. Cool tomatoes on sheet. Maintain oven temperature.

Meanwhile, arrange bread slices on another rimmed baking sheet. Brush top of each with reserved marinade (including garlic and rosemary bits).

Roast bread until top is golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool toasts on sheet.

Spread 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese on each toast; sprinkle with pepper. Fold prosciutto halves over and place on ricotta. Arrange 2 tomato quarters atop prosciutto. Finally, top the proscuitto with the torn basil, a good squeeze of lemon juice, and serve.

Big Apple Pancake

August 6, 2010
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Wilson and I never forfeit an opportunity to have a special brunch on the weekends. But one thing that’s so great about breakfast is that the food can be incredibly good without being terribly difficult or time consuming to prepare. Enter this big apple pancake. It’s sort of like eating a pancake but also sort of like digging straight into a hot apple pie.

All the pancake requires is roasting apples in butter for a short while and then topping with batter before returning the skillet to the oven. The pancake gets incredibly puffy in the oven and deflates shortly after it’s removed. Nevertheless, it’s quite beautiful in its own homey and slightly mangled way. We call that kind of food “rustic” in our kitchen. Looks aside, this breakfast has plenty in the realm of personality and flavor. The baked apples are as good as you can imagine and the pancake component surprisingly light.

We served the pancake with a dusting of powdered sugar and real maple syrup. I mentioned the dish to my mom and she piped in with the suggestion: “You should try adding whiskey to the maple syrup next time – whiskey and apples go great together!” A little older, a little wiser, I guess. I can’t wait to make it again!

Big Apple Pancake

(from Epicurious)

Serves 4

  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 3 large sweet apple such as Gala or Golden Delicious, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-wide wedges
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Confectioners sugar for dusting

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.

Melt 2T butter in skillet over moderate heat. Add apple wedges to skillet and cook in the oven, turning over once, until beginning to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

While apple is cooking, add remaining 2T melted butter, milk, flour, eggs, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt to a bowl and mix until smooth.

Pour batter over apple and transfer skillet to oven. Bake until pancake is puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve immediately.