Sunday, February 22, 2015

Squash stuffed with Quinoa

I have come to like quinoa quite a lot.  It is an easy grain to work with and maintains a light fluffy property when working with it.  I only wish that is was cheaper than it is, but I still must buy it from time to time to get my fix.  I have used it in pancakes, stuffed in squash, and as a salad.  Since it is a grain, it is filling, but you can add a meat if you feel like you want some protein.  This particulary recipe is based off one from The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook.  There are a lot of great recipes in this book, though I have only attempted a couple of them.  More will certainly be tried when we have a better chance at fresh vegetables...meaning spring.  One of the things that gives this recipe such excellent flavor is the boiling of quinoa in black tea.  If you are thinking you want more flavor for your grains this is a great way to add flavor.  I sometimes add stock to my rice or other variations of adding flavor to the grain as you are cooking it so it absorbs that flavor as the grain is cooked.  Experiment and enjoy!

Quinoa Stuffed Squash
2 winter squash (small spaghetti, acorn, etc.), cut into halves and removed the seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 black tea bag
3 scallions, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup red quinoa
1/4 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup pecan, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 450F. Cut a little off the squash if they don't lie properly, so that they will stay flat while in the oven and the filling won't spill out.  Put the squash halves on a rimmed baking sheet and brush lightly with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle the cavities with brown sugar, half the salt and the pepper.  Bake for 30 minutes or until fork tender.

While the squash are roasting, bring two cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Remove from heat and steep the black tea bag for 3 minutes.  Remove tea bag.  In another medium saucepan, heat the other 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat.  Add the scallions, garlic and cook for about 2 minutes or until tender.  Add the quinoa, brewed tea, thyme and 3/4 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and liquid has been absorbed.  Stir in the butter and pecans.

Divide the quinoa into 4 among the squash halves.  Tent loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until very tender.

Serves 4

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Orange-Scented Walnut Cake

For the month of February, I have decided to cook recipes from the cookbook Bitter by Jennifer McLagan.  I was interested to see what fruits and vegetables she called bitter.  Some are more bitter than others and she talks a lot about how bitter has been bred out of many foods, but in reality we only need a little bit of bitter to start our appetites.  I am not quite done reading this book yet, but here is a recipe adapted from the cookbook.

The thing I find ironic is that I never thought that I liked bitter foods, but after reading the cookbook I have found that many of the contrasts that I like to eat are bitter foods (maybe only subtlety bitter).  For example, I tried grapefruit again last year and this time I didn't find it very bitter.  Of course I tried the pink or red variety which much of the bitter has been bred out.  I, however, love arugula.  I discovered this lettuce more than 10 years ago when I lived in Germany.  I tried it once and ever since I have looked for it.  It is one of my favorite topping on pizza (not wilted, but added after baking).  One other bitter food that I have come to love (also while I lived in Germany) is Brussel sprouts.  Of course, roasting them with oil and balsamic vinegar brings out the sweetness of the vegetable so many people have come to eat them in this manner.  So join me in my journey in trying bitter foods this month.

This walnut cake is moist and not very sweet.

Orange-Scented Walnut Cake
6 ounces walnut pieces
2 slices wheat or other oat bread
5.5 ounces unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon cardamom
pinch of salt
2 small oranges, zested (with a little of the pith)
pinch cream of tartar
cocoa powder to dust the top

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Butter a 9 inch springform pan.  Then cut a round of parchment to line the bottom.  (The butter helps it stick as well as greases the edges.)   Spread the walnuts and 2 slices of bread on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes.  Check after about 5 minutes and flip the bread if it is starting to dry on one side.  The nuts should be lightly toasted and you should be able to smell them.  Remove from oven and let them cool.   Reduce the temperature on the oven to 325 F.

Put the butter in a stand mixer with paddle attachment.  Set aside 3 tablespoons of the sugar and add the rest to the butter.  Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the toasted bread and walnuts to a food processor and pulse until finely ground (as this will be the flour for the recipe).

Add the egg yolks, one at a time with beating in between each addition, to the creamed butter and sugar mixture.  Stir in the ground walnuts and bread mixture.  Add the cardamom and salt.  Finely grate the zest of the orange including a little of the pith.  (You can juice the orange and drink it or use the juice in another recipe.)

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy.  Add the cream of tartar and continue to whisk until white.  Add the reserved three tablespoons of sugar, one at a time, whisking in between to incorporate.  Add a large spoonful or two to the butter/walnut mixture.  Tip the batter into the egg whites and fold until mixed.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake for aout 45 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for 5 minutes and then release from the springform pan.  Let cool completely and dust with cocoa powder.  This cake improves with some time and is better if you can wait a day before eating.  It also goes good with coffee (per my coworkers testimonies).

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Honey Corn Bread

I really like a well made, not dry corn bread.  I came across this recipe in Cook This Now.  It combines honey which I love in cornbread with a 50% mixture of white and whole wheat flour along with the corn meal.  This combination gives the cornbread a wonderful flavor while at the same time making it a little more healthier for you than all white flour.   I make this corn bread in winter to go along with my white chicken chili.  Serve them together and you will have a great meal in no time.

Honey Corn Bread
1 cup yellow corn meal
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup white flour
3/4 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1/2 milk
1/3 cup honey
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4-6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  In a medium bowl combine the cornmeal, flours, baking powder and salt.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, honey, eggs and baking soda.  Place a 9x9 inch pan with the unsalted butter into the oven to melt.  Once nearly melted, fold wet ingredients into the dry ones just until combined. Remove the pan from the oven and pour the combined batter into the pan and place back in the oven.  Bake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  This should take about 30 minutes.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Baked Stuffed Butternut Squash

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been a little obsessed with squashes lately.  The last post for butternut squash was just the beginning.  Here is another recipe for a stuffed butternut squash.  It is based off a recipe from Scandinavian Cooking, but I didn't have the right ingredients for the stuffing.  I really wanted to make the butternut squash so I figured I could come up with something for stuffing from my cupboards and refrigerator and use up some ingredients as well.  So here is my creation.

Stuffed Butternut Squash
1 medium butternut squash
4 oz. neufchatel cheese
1 oz. emmentaler cheese, finely grated
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise.  Scrape out seeds.  Place the halves onto a baking sheet.  Mix the stuffing: mix together the neufchatel and emmentaler cheeses.  Add the 1/4 cup of toasted hazelnuts.  Divide into two and stuff each butternut squash half with the cheese and hazelnut mixture.  Drizzle the olive oil and maple syrup over the two halves.  Season with pepper (and salt if desired).  Bake for about 45 minutes or until cooked throughout.  Check after about 35 minutes and cover if the cheese mixture is becoming too dark.  Serve hot.  This also reheats well, so make a lot so you can eat it now and later.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Butternut Squash soup with meatballs

This was one among many recipes I decided to focus on in my new Scandinavian Cooking.  I had previously posted that I wanted to try to cook as many recipes from this book as possible, but I would like to amend that goal.  Since I received several new cookbooks for Christmas and would like to cook from all of them, I am going to pick a new cookbook each month on which to focus my energy to ensure I give them a good test and not just a couple of recipes.  Since my cookbook collection is quite extensive this will be a good way to get to know more of them and keep the variety in which I love to cook.  Since I know many of my cookbooks well, I can usually name the book that has the ideas, flavors or guidelines (aka recipes) that I want to create or use as a basis for something else.

This recipe does come from Scandinavian Cooking which I will continue to focus on through the month, but I look forward to cracking into some of the other cookbooks that I have on my shelf for the flavors that I have been craving.  Recently, I have been loving squashes which I never really liked as a child.  This is just one of many recipes I have been making with them.  This one throws in meatballs which I like as something different than just a vegetable soup, which I love as well.

Squash Soup with Meatballs
1 butternut squash (on the small to medium side), peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion (yellow), diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 parsnip
1 can coconut milk (14 oz.)
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lemon (juiced)

1 pound ground lamb
4 oz. neufchatel cheese
2 teaspoons green curry paste
1 teaspoon salt

Put a soup pot on high with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Quickly fry the pumpkin, onion, garlic and parsnip.  Once quickly fried, add the coconut milk, about 2.5 cups of water, and salt (1 teaspoon).  Turn the heat down and simmer until the vegetables are soft.  Mix the soup with an immersion stick blender.  Season with the pepper and lemon juice.  Mix the meatball ingredients together.  Shape into meatballs and add them to the soup.  Simmer until down, which should be about 10 minutes, but will vary depending on the size of the meatballs.  Serve hot.  I also love to eat with fresh crusty sourdough, but any crusty bread will do.  Makes about 4 servings.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Lucia Bread (Saffron Rolls)

If you know a little about Swedish culture around Christmas, then you probably have heard of St. Lucia Day.  These saffron rolls are baked and eaten for St. Lucia Day.  It is technically on December 13th, but I baked these for my brunch on the 14th.  They were pretty easy to make and turned out very nicely.  A word to the warning though is that they stale very quickly and should be eaten on the same day as they are made.    You can add more raisins to the dough if you like, but I just used them on top as the decoration.  (This recipe is based on a recipe in The Great Scandinavian BakingBook by Beatrice Ojakangas.)  The picture above also shows Danish Rye Butter Buns.
Lucia Bread (Swedish Saffron Rolls)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (between 105-115 F)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup cream
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands ground in a mortar and pestle
2 eggs
48 raisins (or more if desired)
4 cups flour

Glaze for bread rolls:  (Beat together)
1 egg

In a mixing bowl for a counter top mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Add a little of the sugar (about a tablespoon to feed the yeast).  Let stand for about 5 minutes or until foamy.  Add the rest of the sugar, butter, cream, saffron, and eggs.  Beat well.  Stir in the flour, about 1 cup at a time until the dough is smooth and slightly shiny.  All the flour should be mixed in at this point.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours).  When you remove the dough from the refrigerator, divide dough into 24 pieces to then form into a S shape (see pictures).  (There are other shape variations you can make as well.  You can also divide into three and make one large loaf.)  Place a raisin on each end.  Brush with the glaze for the bread rolls and place in a warm place until doubled.  Preheat oven to 375F and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Swedish Meatballs

If there was one thing I can associate with growing up eating Swedish food, it has to be Swedish meatballs.  My grandma used to make them frequently.  After she no longer made them, my mom started making them.  She even has made them several times when she came to visit...with extras so I could freeze them for later.  So with being spoiled that so many people made them, I had never made them before the Scandinavian brunch that I had.   I would quite please with the results and resolve to make them more often.

Having enjoyed cooking Scandinavian foods, I am going to try and cook a bunch from one cookbook this year.  This means that I won't have quite the variety as I usually do, but I will still be cooking other things as well.  Last year my goal was to post 52 times throughout the year, but I made.  To revise that goal a bit will be to post regularly instead of sporadically.  So my two goals are to explore one cookbook in depth and to post once a week.

Swedish Meatballs
2 pounds ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1/3 cup instant potato flakes
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 bunch parsley
2 teaspoons onion powder

Mix all the ingredients together until well combined.  Roll into 1.5 inch meatballs.  Seal with water if they are not sticking together very well.  Fry in olive oil or butter or a combination of both.  These reheat well in the oven.

Serve with ligonberries and cream sauce.  Makes about 4 dozen.