Wednesday, April 29, 2009

pan seared tilapia over vegetable ragout

well, it's fish week here at casa de opk. tilapia is on sale at kroger 2.99 a pound, i got a bunch of mushrooms on a "buy these quick before they rot" sale, and i was feeling adventurous. so, out of a cooking light recipe came my variation on a theme.

and boy, this was fantastic. i used tilapia instead of cod, since they're both firm white fishes. or is it fish? i can't remember the plural of fish. oh well. and since i got creminis cheap, i used those instead of shitake. because while we espouse fine cooking, we also espouse being able to afford rent. i'm just saying.

serves 4 - 1 filet, and 1C ragout.

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup diced prosciutto (about 2 ounces)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups thinly sliced cremini (baby bellas) mushroom caps (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped leek
  • 3 cups diced plum tomato (about 1 pound)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • 4 (6-ounce) tilapia filets
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Heat 1/2 teaspoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Add the prosciutto; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in garlic; remove from pan. Set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and leek; sauté 8 minutes. Stir in tomato, salt, and pepper. Gradually add the spinach to pan, and stir until spinach is wilted (about 3 minutes). Stir in the prosciutto mixture and basil. Remove from pan; cover and keep warm.

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in pan over medium-high heat. Dredge filets in flour. Add filets to pan; sauté 3 minutes on each side. Cover and cook 2 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Divide spinach mixture among 4 plates; top with filets.

Friday, April 24, 2009

the best banana bread ever made. no seriously.

okay, so everyone's got their favorite type of banana bread. whether you like yours cakey, or bread like, or dense, or light, or heavy on the banana, or not so much, this recipe will satisfy all of you.

i'm lying.

this bread is dense, with a heavy moist crumb, bordering on a fudge cake, and is full of banana. it's got a crunchy topping of coarse sugar, demerara being one of the best options. demerara is also known as turbinado here in the states, and i think sugar in the raw is an acceptable substitute. you just want to find a very coarse raw sugar to strew overtop. this recipe doubles, triple and quadruples amazingly well, so don't just make a small batch.

and the best part is, this is a family recipe that i've doctored to suit me, making it truly a catherine original. oh yes. i'll be signing copies later.


5Tblspoons butter, softened slightly
1/2C granulated sugar
1/2C brown sugar
1 large egg
2 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2C mashed very ripe bananas *see note
1 3/4C all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2C fat free 1/2 n 1/2
4tsp. raw, demerara or turbinado sugar
1/3C chopped walnuts (optional)

preheat oven to 350º F. grease bottom only of a 9x5x3 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. add granulated sugar, and brown sugar, and mix well. add egg, egg whites, and vanilla. beat until well blended. add mashed banana and beat on high for 30 seconds.

in a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. add 1/2 flour mixture to butter mix, mixing after each addition. then add 1/2 n 1/2, mix, and add remaining flour mixture. mix until just blended. mix in walnuts if using.

pour batter evenly into prepared loaf pan. sprinkle 4 tsp. of sugar evenly over top. bake until browned, and toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. for me, this runs anywhere from 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. this really depends on what size loaf pan you end up using, as this recipe is pretty flexible.

cool bread in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. turn out onto wire rack, and cool completely. and by "completely" i mean, until it's cool enough to handle, and slice large pieces off of.

this bread is amazing the next day, as it gets denser and moister. my guess is that it would last about 3 days unrefrigerated, but none has ever made it that long.

** bananas are very easily gotten to the mushy stage by freezing overnight in a ziplock baggie, and then thawed all the next day in the fridge. you oughta be ready to make banana bread the next morning. pour the bananas straight out of the bag, liquid and all. this might be one of the secrets to having the best banana bread ever.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

coffee in a cake... or something.

we unpacked more cookbooks today. i feel like i'm finding old friends in a town i've never been to. okay, so that's pretty much our life right now. except i've been here before. but these cookbook discoveries are slowly filling my freezer. and excuse the odd light. i pretty much only bake after 10 pm. c'est la vie.

you need to make this right now, because life is too short to not have coffee in your cake.

adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe.

Cafe Au Lait Bars

3 large eggs
1 1/2C sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tblspoons - oh yeah. lots of buttah.) unsalted butter, melted
2C all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4C instant coffee crystals OR 3 Tblspoons instant espresso powder
1/4 cup heavy cream (next batch, i'm trying fat free half n half. it seems to sub well for me.)

Pre-heat your oven to 325ºF and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.

In a mixing bowl, beat the three eggs until thick and light. Add the sugar, and beat until stiff and glossy... which for me just looked more thick, lightly colored, and pudding textured. i never did get stiff out of these. add the vanilla and melted butter until the batter is thick. Then add the flour and salt, mixing well. Remove 1 1/2 cups of the batter and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix coffee or espresso powder and cream together and then add to the remaining batter. Mix well, and then pour this batter into the 9 x 13 inch pan, spreading out the batter with a knife, or an offset spatula covering entire bottom of pan. i felt really officially "chef-y" with my spatula.

Then take the batter you set aside and place that on top of the coffee-laced batter. use your spatula again, since this is a bit thicker than the coffee batter.

Use a knife to draw pretty swirls. or not so pretty swirls. whichever.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. i think my oven bakes cool, because this took me 35. you want the edges pulling a fraction of an inch away, and the center to not jiggle.

Remove from oven and allow to cool before cutting. or mostly cool.

Proceed to drink coffee, and eat these bars. and post the recipe at 3 in the morning because you might have eaten too many.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

mocha oatmeal chippers

well, in my quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, i think i've stumbled on a contender. loosely based on a king arthur flour recipe, these cookies are a perfect grownup chocolate chip cookie. you can add nuts, which i didn't, but the added coffee, and 2 types of chocolate make these pretty special.

Mocha Oatmeal Chippers
makes about 6 1/2 , 4 1/2, or 2 1/2 ish dozen, depending on size of scoop.

2 1/2C rolled oats, finely ground
8oz. (1 1/3C) semisweet, bittersweet or milk chocolate - i prefer mine bittersweet.
1C (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1C brown sugar
1C granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 Tblspoon vanilla
2C unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 Tblspoon instant coffee
1C (1/2- 12 oz. bag) semi sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2C chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease, or line with parchment, 2 baking sheets.
Grind the oats, and the 8oz. of chocolate together in a food processor. Mixture should have finely ground oats, and finely diced chunks of chocolate. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, instant coffee, and reserved oat/chocolate mix. Add to dry ingredient, and stir to combine. Stir in chocolate chips (and nuts, if using.)
Use a tablespoon cookie scoop for 6 1/2 dozen, a soup spoon for 4 1/2 dozen, or a 1/4C measuring cup for 2 1/2ish dozen. Leave 2 inches of room between, since these babies spread.

Bake 10-12 minutes, 10 for soft and chewy, 12 for more crispy. For the big ones, go for 12-14 ish minutes, but definitely check around 11 minutes for doneness. You don't want these hard.

Remove from oven to rack, and let cool.

Fight your husband for the cooled cookies, and enjoy with a nice cup of milk. Or a big cup of coffee for extra juice!

Friday, April 17, 2009

thursday with dorie... and local eggs.

so i've recently moved to a seriously hippie town in east georgia. where there are like 12 co-ops and local markets. not including the farmers market that is set to start up in may. so needless to say, my access to fresh local produce (and eggs and milk) is a lot better than it was before.

i went up to the co-op the other night, and got some eggs. eggs that were laid that day, gathered, and sent to the co-op, where i could purchase them. while they were less than 24 hours old. and the milk? well, i got some milk from a local dairy. un-homogenized. with yummy bits of cream floating on the top.

baking has become a lot more appealing.

i had some blueberries in the freezer from the big sales earlier this year. so in light of the fact that i have baking: from my home to yours by dorie greenspan checked out from the library indefinitely, i decided to have a thursday with dorie.

the recipe of choice was blueberry- brown sugar plain cake. and man oh man. there is nothing plain about this bad boy. this has been breakfast of choice for my daughter and i, and snack of choice for me. so good!

Blueberry Brown Sugar Plain Cake

1 1/3C all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional - i used a whole tsp. because i'm crazy like that)
1/8 tsp + a pinch of salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 stick unsalted butter ( 8Tbls.) at room temp.
1C packed light brown sugar
1/2C whole milk
1 pint blueberries, fresh preferred, or frozen (unthawed!)

confectioners sugar for dusting

Center a rack in the oven, and preheat the oven to 375º F. Generously butter an 11x7 baking pan, pyrex is my drug of choice in this one, and place on a baking sheet. - which i forgot to do. didn't seem to make a difference.

Whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together in a bowl, and set aside.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attached, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm, glossy peaks form. Gently scrape the whites into a clean bowl, and set aside (if using a stand mixer.) If you have a paddle attachment, fit the stand mixer with it. No need to clean the bowl. Put the butter and sugar in the mixing bowl, or if using a hand mixer, in another large bowl, and beat on medium speed until creamy. Add egg yolks and beat 2 minutes more. Reduce speed to low, and add half the dry ingredients. Add the milk as soon as the first 1/2 of dry ingredients is incorporated, then add the other half after the milk is mixed in. Switch to a spatula, and fold the egg whites in, in 4 batches. Work gently! Since the cake batter is heavy, they will deflate some, just use a light hand. Once whites are in, fold in blueberries, and scrape batter into pan.

Bake cake 35-40 minutes, or until golden and a thin knife inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack, and let cool in pan for 30 minutes, before dusting with confectioners sugar.

Brew some coffee, and try not to eat the whole pan yourself.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

at long last

so i've been taking a little bloggy break, with a serious move in the works. and now, this blog is no longer appropriately titled! because now, i have my own kitchen!

and so to commemorate my move into a new house, my first dish was a classic. kraft boxed macaroni and cheese.
but once we unpacked some kitchen utensils, i got to make a yummy recipe i've seen making a few rounds this month.

it's a david lebovitz popover recipe that somehow turned into the best mix of french toast and muffins i've ever eaten. chewy, eggy, sweet, and crunchy from the cinnamon sugar.

Cinnamon Puffs - adapted from a NYTimes recipe by David Lebovitz

For the puffs:

Softened unsalted butter, for greasing the pan

2 tablespoons butter, melted

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup whole milk, skim seems to work well too.

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup flour

For the sugar coating:

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons butter, melted.

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Liberally grease a nonstick popover pan, or a muffin pan with 1/2-cup indentations, with softened butter.

2. For the puffs, put the 2 tablespoons melted butter, eggs, milk, salt and sugar in a blender and whiz for a few seconds.

3. Add the flour and whiz for 5 to 8 seconds, just until smooth.

4. Divide the batter among 9 greased molds, filling each 1/2 to 2/3 full.

5. Bake for 35 minutes, until the puffs are deep brown.

6. Remove from the oven, wait a few minutes until cool enough to handle, then remove the puffs from the pans. You may need a small knife to help pry them out.

7. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Thoroughly brush each puff all over with melted butter, then dredge in sugar and cinnamon mixture to coat completely. Let cool on a baking rack. Makes 9 puffs.

mac n cheese

ingredients... this IS mis en place ya'll.
oven preheating to 400
4 minutes into the cooking
18 minutes in! very gratifying to watch...
crusty, and very hot.
not exactly easy to dig out. use lots of butter to grease the pans!!
freshly coated...
i had to try one... mmmm...!