Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Portuguese Sweet French Toast

I've been debating with myself about posting this recipe.  Not because it's bad--in fact it's the best French Toast I've ever had, which is why in the end I decided to post it.  But in order to make it, you'll need to have Portuguese Sweetbread, which is not particularly accessible to most people.  Portuguese Sweetbread (see picture below) is a round artisan-style bread, with a very deep brown, soft crust and a whitish-yellow interior.  The texture is soft and spongy, and the flavor is sweet, with hints of lemon and orange and vanilla.  It's amazing.  And not just for French Toast--also for things like paninis with ham and swiss cheese. 
Portuguese Sweetbread

So check your local bakery to see if they have it.  If not, then here's what you'll need to do:

Step One: Go to your local bookstore or library and get the book "The Bread Baker's Apprentice," by Peter Reinhart.  Spend a day or three reading through it, because even though it's a cookbook, it's an amazing read.  Or maybe just to me.  Anyway...

Step Two: Starting early in the morning, make Peter's recipe for Portuguese Sweetbread, following the directions explicitly. Do not, under any circumstances, get annoyed that your bread is not rising as quickly as it should and therefore just move on to the next step.  Trust me on this one.

Step Three: Go to bed.  Making Portuguese Sweetbread takes a full day. 

Step Four: In the morning, slice nice thick slices of the bread, around 3/4"-1" thick.  Make the recipe below.

Step Five: Eat, then die.  There is nothing more you can do with life after this.

Portuguese Sweet French Toast

4-5 slices Portuguese Sweetbread, cut 3/4-1" thick
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cardamom
Vegetable oil, or even better--leftover bacon grease, for frying
Butter, for slathering
Pure Maple Syrup, warmed

Heat a griddle or frying pan over medium heat.  In a shallow bowl or pie plate whisk the eggs, milk, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom until frothy and well-combined.  Place bread in egg mixture and let sit to absorb the liquid for about 30 seconds before flipping to the other side and doing the same thing.  Meanwhile, grease the griddle with oil or bacon fat.  Place the soaked bread on the griddle and put in another one to soak.  Cook for about 2 minutes per side, until the bread is soft and spongy again and is nicely browned. 

Remove from heat and put on serving plate.  Immediately butter the top side of the french toast.  Pour real maple syrup and serve.  Enjoy!

Serves 2, in case you want to share.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Blueberry Scones

 So a few weeks ago I posted the recipe for scones, and said that I had already posted the recipe for my blueberry scones.  This week I looked and noticed that the blueberry scone recipe is not here!  Something I have to amend immediately!

This recipe is from America's Test Kitchen and is absolutely amazing.  Also, they use a great technique for cutting in butter that both saves time and improves texture, and I've applied it to lots of other recipes since then. 

These scones are buttery and flaky and sweet and oh-so-good.  I'm drooling just thinking about them.  If you, like my ridiculous children, prefer them plain you can make them that way, but they're really better with some berries.  I've also made them with blackberries and raspberries with great success. 

Blueberry Scones
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

8 T (1 stick) butter, very cold (frozen is good)
1 1/2 cups blueberries, either fresh or frozen
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
2 cups flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp grated citrus zest, either lemon, lime, or orange (or a combination)
2 T melted butter
1 T sugar

If using fresh blueberries, check them over for stems, etc., then put them in the freezer until ready to use.

Using a box grater, grate the cold/frozen butter into a bowl.  Place in freezer until ready to use.

In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and sour cream/yogurt.  Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 425F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat, or lightly grease.

In a large bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and zest with a whisk.  Add frozen butter to the bowl and toss with fingers until thoroughly coated.  Add milk mixture to flour mixture, combining with a spatula until just combined.  Dough will be loose and may not have fully come together.  This is fine.

Transfer dough to a liberally floured surface.  Knead a few times until the dough comes together and isn't so sticky.  You may use another 1/2-1 cup flour at this time, which is fine.  Roll dough into a 12-inch square.  Fold down the top third of the dough, then fold up the bottom third, so the dough is folded like a business letter.  Then do the same thing with the sides of the dough, so you have a 4-inch cube.  Transfer dough to a floured plate and freeze for 5 minutes.

Transfer cold dough to floured work surface and again roll into a 12-inch square.  Sprinkle blueberries over the surface, pressing them slightly into the dough.  Using a bench scraper or thin metal spatula, loosen dough and roll up cinnamon-roll style into a tight log.  Lay roll seam-side down and squash the top with your hands to make it rectangular instead of round.  Cut into 4 equal squares, then cross-cut each square into two triangles.  (I frequently cut the big log into 5 instead of 4, and it works fine, it just makes smaller scones.)

Place the triangles on prepared baking sheet.  Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.***  Bake at 425F for 18-25 minutes, until tops and bottoms are browned.  Transfer to rack and let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8-10 scones.

***You can also refrigerate or freeze these at this point.  Put the entire baking sheet in the refrigerator or freezer.  After refrigerating overnight, follow the same baking directions as above.  For frozen scones, heat oven to 375 and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Even bedhead is better when you're eating a scone.

Polynesian Grilled Steak and Pineapple

I'm always looking for new grilling recipes, and sometimes I find them buried under piles of my old recipes.  This is such a recipe.  I took what Cooking Light gave me and tweaked it, and added to it a bit, and came up with something that made me feel like I should be in the middle of the Pacific instead of the Mid-Atlantic.  I served it over rice, and with grilled asparagus, which I could put as a separate post (and maybe I will someday!). But for now, you can skewer asparagus into little "rafts" by laying four of them side by side, with their "heads" (the yummy end) up, and putting skewers through their "necks" and "knees," so to speak.  Then brush with oil (try sesame oil mixed with soy sauce and a bit of ginger for an Asian flavor!) and grill over low heat for a few minutes per side.  To Die For!

But now, on to the real recipe...

Polynesian Grilled Steak and Pineapple

1 pineapple, skin and core removed and cut into 8 spears
1/3 cup soy sauce (I use the low-sodium, sometimes marked "lite")
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 T minced peeled fresh ginger
1 T honey
1 T minced garlic
1 1/2 pounds flank steak, skirt steak, or similar steak
Additional honey for drizzling, optional

Take one pineapple spear and puree it in either a blender or food processor.  Pour it into a bowl or large ziplock bag.  Add soy sauce, green onions, ginger, 1 T honey, and garlic.  Shake or stir until well mixed, then add steak.  Marinate for 1-4 hours, turning over half way through.

Prepare your grill and heat to medium high.  Remove steak from the bag but DON'T throw away the marinade.  Grill 3 minutes per side on medium-high heat, then 3 minutes per side on medium-low heat, pouring 1/3 of the remaining marinade on top of the steak each time you flip it.  Meanwhile, grill the pineapple spears over medium-low heat, turning every 3-4 minutes, until tender.  They will probably take a few minutes less to cook as the steak.  

Remove everything from the grill and arrange on a serving platter.  Drizzle honey over the pineapple, if desired.  Let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting across the grain into thin slices.  Serve over rice.
Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bangers and Mash

England isn't exactly known for it's stellar cuisine, but it does have some amazing homey favorites.  And they all seem to have fantastic names.  Toad in a Hole is my favorite, but I also love Bangers and Mash.  And what's better, it tastes great. Hard to lose there. 
Bangers are sausages, not the Jimmy Dean variety but more the six-inch-long, 1-inch diameter variety.  Lots of grocery stores sell them in the meat department (behind the counter), or you can quite easily make your own, which is what I'm going to do in this recipe.  If you do happen to find some nice Cumberland Sausages, you can use those and skip ahead to the baking directions.

Bangers and Mash with Onions
Adapted from Jamie Oliver 

1 lb ground pork meat (or lamb, or beef, or whatever you'd like)
3 T bread crumbs
1 egg
2 tsp dry sage, divided
1/2 tsp dry thyme
1/2 tsp dry savory or tarragon (I prefer tarragon)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
1 stem fresh rosemary, leaves picked (or 1 tsp dried rosemary)
4 lbs russet potatoes
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
2 T butter
2 medium red onions
3 T red wine or balsamic vinegar (I prefer balsamic)
1 chicken or beef bullion cube
1 1/2 cups water
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F and spray a small baking sheet with cooking spray.  In a medium bowl combine the ground meat, bread crumbs, egg, 1 tsp sage, thyme, savory or tarragon, pepper, and salt.  Mix well with hands, then divide into two.  Form each half into a sausage on the baking sheet, approximately 8 inches long.  Arrange the garlic on top of the sausages, then sprinkle with rosemary leaves.  Drizzle with olive oil, then bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the potatoes (if desired), chop into cubes and boil in salted water until tender.  When tender, drain, return to pot, and add milk or butter milk and butter and mash until smooth.  If you'd like, you can throw in a teaspoon of minced garlic.  Cover and put on a low burner until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the onions.  Place onions in a lightly oiled frying pan over medium heat.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When onions are tender and beginning to brown, remove cover and turn heat to medium-high, stirring until browned.  Add vinegar and let boil until vinegar is mostly evaporated, then add bullion cube and water.  Let boil until it reaches a gravy-like consistency.

To assemble, put a large mound of mashed potatoes on a serving plate.  Cut sausage in half, then cut in half through the length, and place pieces on top of the potatoes.  Top with onions and serve.
Serves 4.

Key Lime Pie

Don't let its plain appearance fool you--this pie is to die for!

Happy Pi Day!  Pi is the number you get when you take the circumference of a circle and divide it by the diameter, or roughly 3.14.  And today is March 14, 3.14.  So Happy Pi Day!
In honor of Pi Day, we eat pie.  This year I made strawberry rhubarb, key lime, and pumpkin (for my kids, who think its the best thing ever).  Since I've already posted the strawberry rhubarb, and everyone knows how to make pumpkin pie, I'll post the key lime recipe.  It's fantastic anyway.  I was surprised to find I hadn't put it here already. 

As a sidenote, if you want your pie to be green, you need to put food coloring in it. I recommend doing that when you're mixing the yolks with the sweetened condensed milk.  Remember that yellow yolks will change the color of the pie, so maybe add a bit of blue to balance that out. I prefer to leave mine it's natural color. 

Key Lime Pie

1 sleeve graham crackers (10 crackers), turned into crumbs (I prefer a food processor for this)
2 T sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

3 large eggs, separated
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 T grated lime rind
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 4-8 limes)
1 T lemon juice
2 T sugar

For the crust: Combine the cracker crumbs and sugar in a medium bowl.  Add the butter and toss with a fork until everything is evenly coated.  Press into a 9-inch pie dish and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

For the filling:  Preheat the oven to 325F.  Whisk egg yolks, then add the sweetened condensed milk, lime rind, lime juice, and lemon juice and whisk until smooth.  In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until foamy, then add 2 T sugar.  Continue to beat until soft peaks form.  Don't over beat!
Using a whisk, carefully fold the whites into the yolk mixture, then pour into the crust.  Bake at 325F for 20-30 minutes, or until the whole pie has puffed up evenly and the edges of the filling are cracked.  Cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then refrigerate until fully cooled, about 4 hours.  Serve with whipped cream if desired.

This is my strawberry rhubarb pie, but I just had to show you the Pi in my Pie.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring Salad, aka Baby Greens with Strawberries, Oranges, and Carmelized Pecans

I hate naming salads.  It seems like you either have to come up with a snappy name (like "Spring Salad") or put every ingredient in the name (like "Baby Greens with Strawberries, Oranges, and Carmelized Pecans).  So I went with both.  Go figure.  Anyway, this week in the Washington DC area we've been having Spring.  It's been lovely.  65-70 degrees every day, strong March winds, and lots of daffodils and crocuses and hyacinths blooming in the lawns and borders of everyone's gardens.  It's been lovely.  Which is why I threw the dinner plan out the window to make something more fitting for the weather.  Sometimes you just have to do that.  It felt wonderful!  So I went to the store and picked up a rotisserie chicken and some strawberries and salad greens, and baked a loaf of artisan bread.  It was delicious.  This is what Spring tastes like.  Winter, consider yourself banished.

Spring Salad

3/4 cup pecans
2 T sugar
8 cups baby greens or spring mix lettuces
4 large or 8 medium strawberries, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 mandarin or clementine oranges, peeled, cut in half horizontally, and sectioned (you should have half-sections when you're done)
A small handful of Craisins
2 T herbed chevre (goat cheese), crumbled
Poppy seed dressing
Leftover grilled or Rotisserie Chicken (optional)

Lay out a sheet of parchment or wax paper.  In a small nonstick skillet melt the sugar over medium-low heat.  For a few minutes it will look like it's not doing anything, then all the sudden it will turn liquid, then will start to brown.  Just as it's become liquid but before it's brown, toss the pecans into the melted sugar.  Using a spatula, stir until the pecans are coated in the brown carmelly sugar.  Pour out onto the wax or parchment paper and let cool for about 15 minutes (you can put it in the fridge to speed it up).
Meanwhile, toss the greens in a serving bowl.  Add the strawberries, oranges, chicken (if using), craisins, and chevre.  Break up the cooled carmelized pecans and sprinkle on top.  Serve with poppy seed dressing.

Serves 4 as a dinner salad, 6-8 as a side salad.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Kofta is something we had a lot in the middle east.  It is, for lack of a better comparison, kind of like an Arabic version of hamburgers.  It's traditionally made with spiced lamb meat, but you can substitute ground beef if you can't find lamb.  Also, you can press the meat around skewers and grill it into kabobs instead of patties if you'd like.  Either way, it's delicious!


1 lb ground lamb (or beef)
1/2 medium onion, grated or finely chopped
3 T chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
4 pitas
1/2 a cucumber, diced
1 tomato, diced

Grilled Kofta patties.  You can see the onion and parsley.
In a medium bowl combine lamb, onion, parsley, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Use your hands to mix it well.  Form into 6-8 oval-shaped patties.  Grill over medium-high heat about 4 minutes per side, or pan fry for the same amount of time, or until meat is cooked through (lamb can be a little undercooked and still fine, so don't overcook it!).

While the lamb is cooking, wrap pitas in damp paper towels and microwave for 1 minute.  This will make them soft and pliable.
To serve, slice pita in half to create pocket bread.  Place one piece of lamb in each pita half, add a spoonful of hummus, and top with cucumbers and tomatoes.
Serves 4.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Navajo Tacos

Camera phone picture. Sorry.

These are something that takes me straight back to my childhood.  I grew up in Utah, and whenever we would go to the county or state fair there would always be a booth where the Navajo people were selling these tacos.  You can also use any dough recipe you'd like, or buy frozen dough like Rhodes and use that. The base is either refried beans or chili, whichever you prefer. The toppings vary, and you can put on pretty much whatever you want. They're so good!  If you have leftover fried bread, slather on some honey butter and serve it for dessert.

Navajo Tacos
(also called Indian Fry Bread)

1 can refried beans or chili
Shredded cheese
Shredded lettuce
Sour Cream
Chopped black olives
Chopped green onions
Whatever else you desire!
Fry Dough:
1 1/4 cup warm water
1 T yeast
1 T sugar
1 T salt
3 cups flour
Oil for frying (I use either canola or peanut oil)

Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add sugar, salt, and flour and mix until dough comes together.  Let rest in bowl for 20-30 minutes, or until a bit risen.  Divide into 8 balls.  Cover and set aside until ready to fry.
Heat 1 inch of oil in a deep-dish pan over medium-high heat.  When oil is hot (test it by putting a tiny bit of dough in.  If it bubbles and pops and browns within a minute, it's hot enough), stretch one ball of dough into a flat pancake shape.  It doesn't need to be perfectly round or flat.  Gently place flattened dough into oil and cook until lightly browned, flipping once so both sides get browned.  It should take about 2-3 minutes total to cook.  If it takes longer, your oil isn't hot enough.  If you cook it faster than that, you might have a doughy middle.  The dough should puff up as it cooks.  Cook as many at a time as can easily fit into your pan.  When they're cooked, remove with tongs and place on a paper-towel lined plate to drain.  Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

To serve, spread some refried beans or chili on the top of a piece of fry bread.  Add cheese, then whatever other toppings you desire.  Enjoy!
Serves 6-8. 

Black Bean and Corn Salad

Unfortunately I didn't have a red pepper to put in.  It's better with it.

I had this at a church activity several years ago and immediately asked for the recipe.  It can be scooped up with tortilla chips or served on lettuce leaves as a salad.  It's light and fresh and delicious!

Black Bean and Corn Salad

2 cups corn, fresh or frozen, cooked and cooled
1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 ripe avocado
1 orange
1 lime
1/4 cup oil
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco)
1/2 tsp salt

In a medium bowl combine corn, black beans, bell pepper, red onion, and cilantro.  Set aside.
Using a zester, grate peel from orange and lime; place in a small bowl.  Squeeze juice from orange and lime and add to bowl.  Add oil, hot pepper sauce and salt; stir to combine.  Add to black bean mixture and toss to coat.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Before serving, peel and dice avocado.  Add to salad mixture and stir gently to combine. 
Serves 8.

Coconut Cream Pie

This is the kind of pie that you make for really special occasions. This time it was my mother-in-law's birthday.  The dinner was good, but the pie was divine!  Creamy, smooth, coconut-rich filling, topped with lighter-than-air whipped cream and sprinkled with toasted coconut on top.  The flavor was impeccable, and it was much better than any birthday cake I've ever tasted.  Try it.  There's no going back to cake after this.

Coconut Cream Pie
Recipe by America's Test Kitchen

Crust Ingredients:
5 T shredded coconut
10 graham crackers (1 package), broken into rough pieces
2 T sugar
5 T butter, melted

Filling Ingredients:
1 14-oz can coconut milk, well-stirred
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2/3 cup sugar, divided
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 T butter, cut into 4 pieces

Whipped Cream Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 T sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Crust Instructions:
Preheat oven to 325F.  Spread the 5 T coconut in a pie plate and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 9 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Watch it carefully, because it will brown very suddenly.  Reserve 1 T toasted coconut for topping the pie.  

In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers, sugar, and 4 T toasted coconut until you have fine crumbs.  Transfer to a medium bowl and add melted butter.  Toss with a fork until evenly coated.  Pour crumbs in the pie plate and press to the sides and bottom using a measuring cup or the back of a large spoon.  Bake at 325F for 22 minutes.  Cool crust while making filling.

Filling Instructions:
Bring the coconut milk, milk, 1/2 cup shredded coconut, and 1/3 cup sugar to a simmer in a medium pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  When the mixture reaches a simmer, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl to break them up, then whisk in the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the cornstarch until no lumps remain.  Gradually whisk some of the simmering liquid into the egg yolk mixture to temper it, then whisk the entire yolk mixture back into the saucepan.  Turn heat to medium and whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble, about 30 seconds.  Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.  Pour the filling into the crumb crust, press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling, and refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 3 hours.

Whipped Cream Instructions:
In a large mixing bowl, whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla on high until the cream is smooth, thick and doubled in volume.  Immediately spread or pipe onto the cooled pie, and sprinkle reserved 1 T toasted coconut on top.

Serves 8.