Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pomegranate Tea Bread

With the texture of a banana bread and the decadent topping of a cake, this tea bread turned out delicious!

My head was spinning with ideas to use a nice quantity of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. It's delicious to drink, but the opportunity to experiment is too tantalizing to pass up. I surfed through many recipes for inspiration, but came up with mostly those that called for pomegranate seeds so I needed to fend for myself and hope I could come up with something decent.
I used the pomegranate juice in place of other ingredients. Without it I would have added more milk to the batter, and a bit more butter to the topping. The pomegranate flavor is not super strong (a result I was prepared for), but it lends a little special something to it that you can't quite put your finger on. I cut small square servings, but you can certainly make them larger if you want to.


Pomegranate Tea Bread
makes about 24 small servings

topping:

1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped dried cherries
2 Tbs melted unsalted butter
2 Tbs pomegranate juice (POM Wonderful 100% is perfect)

batter:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbs baking powder
1 Tbs baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbs melted unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly butter and flour a 9x13 baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients: 1/4 cup brown sugar, nuts, dried cherries, cinnamon, 2 Tbs each butter and pomegranate juice. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, baking soda and powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt, milk, pomegranate juice, eggs, and vanilla extract. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined. The mixture will be light and riddled with air bubbles.



Scrape into the baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes. Remove and add the topping mixture. Bake for another 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing and serving.


Give give this a try- if you can stop yourself from drinking all the juice straight from the bottle. I had to confiscate it from Ray to get this made!

~::~

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Grilled Tuna and Asparagus


Easy, fast, and delicious. Three of my favorite things.

These tuna steaks are from Trader Joe's, frozen and marinated in cilantro, garlic, and a few other yummy things. Along with some fresh asparagus and yukon potatoes.

I par-cooked the potatoes before slicing them in half, drizzling with macadamia nut oil, salt & pepper, and threading on skewers.


The asparagus gets a good drizzle of macadamia oil and rubbed in (good for dry hands) and a very generous amount of salt and pepper.

Everything goes on the grill for 2-3 minutes per side.


I've always liked Mendocino Mustard's Hot & Sweet on seared tuna. I recommend it if you can find it in your grocery store. Plus a bit of parm and lemon juice for the vegetables.


This Dona Paula Malbec, a BevMo purchase, is delicious and went really well with the meal.


~::~

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Flying to the East

What are your plans this Memorial Day weekend?



I'm flying to the East Coast (Allentown, PA by way of Newark) for a family wedding. My cousin M. is marrying her fiance on Saturday afternoon. This is Mom's side of the family, and there are A LOT of us. We all know how to eat, drink, dance, and celebrate- it's going to be great!


See you next week!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Semolina Pizza Dough

I made Broccoli Calzones this weekend, and realized that I have never posted the dough I use most often for pizza and calzones. It comes out great every time, with a nice texture and flavor. Since there's only two of us I usually halve the recipe. It makes the right amount for two with a little pizza/calzone left over. I've provided the calculations for both, saving you a bit of time ;-)

Semolina Pizza Dough
(full recipe, feeds two couples as a main course on a Friday night)

1 1/2 cups warm water
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (I like to use toasted walnut oil, the flavor is amazing. Any nut oil or regular extra virgin will do)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cup semolina flour (aka durum flour or pasta flour)
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp SAF yeast


Semolina Pizza Dough
(half recipe, feeds one couple with a bit of leftovers)

3/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup+ 1 Tbs+ 1/2 tsp whole wheat flour
5 Tbs+ 1 tsp semolina flour
1/2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp SAF yeast

~::~

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Suite Apple Granola, Version 5.09


In January 2008, I posted one of the first recipes I crafted myself: Suite Apple Granola.
About a year ago, I posted an update to that recipe.
I make (and consume) it a lot, so it's in a constant state of evolution.
Time for another revision!
This is the best one yet.
I stay true to the original with little tweaks; the biggest changes are the addition of pecans and the substitution of applesauce for the oil. The applesauce makes a very wet mixture which browns up nice and crisp, and decreases the fat content of the final recipe. I really prefer it this way. I had to use oil again for my last batch because I was out of applesauce and I was disappointed with the results. Applesauce is here to stay!

Granola, version 5.09
A note on the extracts: I've never played with flavored extracts before this, but I like the extra flavor as a result of a tiny bit of these artificial liquids. I love the coconut-almond combination, but try anything you like. I used to use a maple extract, that was good too.

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 single-serve container (4 oz) plain unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbs honey (or maple syrup)
a few dashes of cinnamon
a splash of coconut extract
a splash of almond extract

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, add the dry ingredients and toss with your hands to combine. Add the cinammon and stir gently with a spatula. Add the applesauce and honey, folding together until evenly coated. Add the coconut and almond extracts to taste (just a tiny bit) and mix gently. Dump out on to a baking pan and smooth out.

Bake for 90 minutes, tossing twice. Let cool completely before storing an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

~::~

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pie for Mama

I love my mom so much.
She is the most wonderful woman I know, the personification of everything I want to be. I never called her 'Mama' as a child, but as an adult it slips in from time to time as a term of adoration. For Mother's Day this year, I wanted to both serve and impress her with something sweet for her special tea on Sunday.

My dad orchestrated an amazing brunch with french toast, cheese eggs, and fresh fruit (and he doesn't cook), and I said I would bring the baked sweet for our regular afternoon repast. I made my choice early in the week but kept it a surprise. I tell Mom everything, so it's always tough to keep something a secret for any amount of time. There is a certain amount of anxiety too, because she is the best baker I know- to offer something blah is not acceptable to me. The family wouldn't mind, but I would.

My choice? This lovely blueberry pie. It was perfect- delicious and beautiful, worthy of gracing my family's tea table.


I was filled with pride, as if my own child had performed well for her. The pie crust was flaky and buttery, the filling luscious and sweet. I am finally starting to overcome my fear of pie-making; they really are not difficult to make well. Please don't buy your pie crust ready-made, try this first. Trust me! Bought crust will seem grotesque in comparison.


I used frozen blueberries for the pie and I'm so glad I did. The end result is the same, and fresh blueberries are too precious to do anything but eat out of hand. Please pay attention to the notes for having the dough ingredients very cold. This is the secret to a delicious crust- plus that last secret ingredient :-)



Blueberry Pie
adapted from Cook's Illustrated, makes one 9-inch pie

Pie Dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
12 Tbs very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup very cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/4 cup very cold water
1/4 cup very cold vodka

Filling
30 oz frozen blueberries (about 3 cups)
1 tart apple, peeled and grated
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice
3/4 cup baker's sugar
2 Tbs minute tapioca, ground with a mortar and pestle
pinch of table salt

1 large egg, beaten with a drop of water

For the dough:
Using a food processor, mix 1 1/2 cups of the flour, salt, and sugar with 2 quick pulses. Add the butter and shortening and process until uneven clumps form, about 20 seconds. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula and add the remaining cup of flour. After 4 to 6 quick pulses to combine, empty the mixture into a big bowl. Drizzle the vodka and water on top and fold to combine with the spatula. The dough will be slightly tacky and incorporated. Divide the dough into 2 even balls and flatten into a disk shape. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes.

When you are ready, roll out one disk into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured work surface. With delicate fingers, fold the dough in half and then in quarters and quickly move to your pie dish. Unfold and gently mold the dough to the pie plate; there should be a bit of overhang on the sides. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes while making the blueberry filling.



Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to the lowest position and preheat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the filling:
Place half of the frozen blueberries in a saucepan over medium heat. Mash the berries with a potato masher to release the juices. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes until the mixture has reduced and thickened.

Meanwhile, place the grated apple in a clean towel and wring dry. Transfer the apple to a bowl and add the rest of the frozen berries, lemon zest and juice, sugar, tapioca and salt. Add the cooked berries and stir to combine. The hot mixture will thaw the frozen berries. Pour the mixture into the dough-lined pie plate and smooth the top.

To bake:
Roll out the second dough disk on a floured work surface, to about 11 inches or so. Using an apple corer or tiny cookie cutter, cut 5 small holes in the middle of the circle.

With a gentle hand, transfer the dough to the berry filling. Trim the overhang of dough and fold the dough under itself so that the fold is flush with the outer rim of the pie plate. Press the edges to seal. Brush the exposed dough with the egg wash.

Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 and bake 30-40 minutes more. Monitor the pie; if it starts looking too brown, cover with aluminum foil so it stops browning but the filling continues to cook.



Transfer to a wire rack to cool, at least 2 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature.

~::~


This pie served nice slices to the seven of us at tea, leaving about three slices left to be enjoyed the following day. I'm so proud that I was able to give this delicious pie treat to my mom and my family. I'm excited to make this pie for my in-law family on the Fourth of July.

~:::~

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Brunch





And a little taste of something to come. I am very excited about this one......

~::~

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Cat Blogging

While in Arizona, my good friend A. came to feed and check on Padma for us. She doesn't do too well on her own for very long. I missed my little friend too! She didn't leave my side for two days when we got home.

Some things will never change, she's still a crazy wannabe snacker.

We can't indulge her (her caboose is already a bit on the chunky side), but she doesn't stop trying.



~::~

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Learning Experience


Don't you hate it when an experiment in the kitchen doesn't quite work?
~::~

I don't mean miserable failure- that is rare. But when a recipe isn't totally satisfying, I try to focus on the positive. It's a learning experience. I had just such an experience with this pizza.

Spinach and cheese are a winning combination, and Grandma's spanakopita fresh in my memory gave me an appetite for more of those flavors. Combine with a yummy pizza dough, and I didn't think I could go wrong.


Looks good right?


The finished product was too dry. My conclusion is that this topping dries out too much in the oven. The flavors are there, but lacking moisture.

The spinach, feta, and mozzarella mixture would be perfect as a calzone, with the filling protected by the top blanket of dough.

I'm pretty positive it will be great, but I'll let you know once I have confirmation.

~:::~

Monday, May 11, 2009

First of the Season


I can't resist the first fresh corn this spring at Whole Foods.

A little early for tomatoes, but these are really delicious too.


~::~

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mr. and Mrs. Mallard Pay a Visit


We've had a few minor catastrophes lately, but also a few visitors. Among them were this sweet couple of ducks.


They look like husband and wife, no?


I hope we are generous hosts, we did treat them to a little breakfast- fresh cranberry muffin!

~::~