It’s hard to introduce a recipe that is perfect. And with a dish that is so simple to prepare, that contains so few ingredients, and is so utterly delicious… well, I feel kind of guilty that it’s taken me this long to share it with everyone.
I’ve made this recipe for caramelized shallots (which is another great find from Smitten Kitchen) a number of times and it always goes over well with guests. It’s not just the butter that make this one a hit, but, rather, the sauce that forms when it has been stewing with sugar and red wine vinegar.
The one frustrating part of making this is peeling all the shallots. If anyone has a great technique for doing this, it would be much appreciated.
But do not fear… all of the work peeling them pays off. It goes terrifically with grilled meat or fish. And make note to serve this with a loaf of bread. Everyone will want something to use to soak up the sauce.
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 pounds fresh shallots, peeled, with roots intact
3 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Melt the butter in a 12-inch ovenproof* saute pan, add the shallots and sugar, and toss to coat. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the shallots start to brown. Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper and toss well.
Place the saute pan in the oven and roast for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the shallots, until they are tender. Season, to taste, sprinkle with parsley, and serve hot.
When a new ingredient comes my way, I become slightly obsessed. I want to play around with it, see what it can do. Sometimes my experiments are a success, other times they are a complete failure. Usually it’s because I’ve over-salted it or used an herb or spice that it should never be paired with.
When I saw that we were getting wheat berries in our CSA box last week, I was beyond thrilled. As much as I’ve read about them, I have never eaten a wheat berry. And, thus, I had never cooked with them either.
Normally, when I work with a new ingredient, I don’t do any research into how to prepare it. I like to see how it all plays out. But I feared that if I did that with the wheat berries, I would be highly disappointed.
What I’ve learned over the past week is that wheat berries work wonderfully as bases for salads. I have enjoyed doing a variety of things with them, but my favorite has to be this take on a Waldorf salad from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook
Traditionally, Waldorf salad consists of celery, apple, grapes, and walnuts that have been lightly coated with mayonnaise. A lot of people are turned off by this last ingredient, but I think it gives the dish nice body. Those who are still skeptical, however, will be happy to know that the recipe featured below is sans mayonnaise and is instead dressed with a mixture of cider vinegar and apple juice.
One might also notice the fall flavors in this dish and I was torn about posting it in the middle (or is it almost the end already?) of summer. But as much as I adore the subtlety of the foods of our current season, I’ve missed the depth of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. If you feel the same way, this dish will definitely hit the spot.
Before I leave you with this lovely dish, I just wanted to let you all know that I have created a Facebook page
as a way to keep everyone posted with anything happening on the site. Click here to view the page
and feel free to give it a “Like”.
Wheat Berry Waldorf Salad
2 cups uncooked wheat berries
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 medium apples, cored and chopped
1 cup seedless raisins
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Put wheat berries into a large bowl, cover with at least 2 inches of water and set aside to let soak for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Drain well.
Put 7 cups water into a medium pot and bring to a boil. Add wheat berries, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 50 minutes, or until cooked through. (Wheat berries retain a firm, chewy texture when cooked.) Drain and set aside to let cool.
Transfer wheat berries to a large bowl. Add walnuts, apples, raisins, parsley, vinegar, apple juice, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, olive oil and lemon juice and mix everything together thoroughly.
Per serving (about 6oz/170g-wt.): 400 calories (140 from fat), 15g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 11g protein, 61g total carbohydrate (9g dietary fiber, 19g sugar), 0mg cholesterol, 150mg sodium
I’m aware that this is the second cake in less than two weeks, but I couldn’t help myself. It started with a container of beautiful plump blueberries that arrived in our CSA box the other week. I scoured the Internet and issues of Bon Appetit to see if there were any recipes that jumped out at me. There were some fantastic finds, like grilled salmon steaks with blueberry sauce and mini blueberry tarts (both of which I plan on making in the future).
But as I looked through all of these options, my thoughts kept returning to one of my favorite childhood recipes: Low-Fat Blueberry Pound Cake.
Now, I’m not a fan of “low fat” foods because, for the most part, Eric and I make rather healthy choices in what we eat. So, when it comes to making dessert, it should be the real deal; which means butter… lots and lots of butter.
Growing up, however, my mom was always quick to show me that there are other ways to make something taste good without loading it with fat; that using egg whites and yogurt or apple sauce can make a wonderfully moist cake.
This pound cake recipe was a staple in our household. My mom has baked it countless times. It’s one of those desserts that never gets old.
As this was the first time I was making it myself, I was a bit nervous that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations or that I would do something to botch it. Thankfully, I can report, that was not the case.
What I find so remarkable about this cake is the consistency. At first glance, it appears to be your typical, dry pound cake. But as soon as you have a bite, you realize it is just the opposite. In fact, the added egg white gives it the texture of a souffle.
I have no doubt that this will be a hit with guests. And, if you’re like me and don’t care about a little added fat, it is fantastic with a scoop of ice cream on top.
Low Fat Blueberry Pound Cake
(adapted by Margie Samuels from Cooking Light Magazine)
Yields: 16 slices (290 calories per slice)
2 cups sugar
½ cup light butter or margarine, softened
½ block (8-oz. block) low-fat cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 carton (8-oz.) low-fat lemon yogurt
2 tsps. vanilla
½ cup powdered sugar
4 tsps. lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl on the medium speed of a mixer until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs and egg white, one at a time, beating well after each. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, level with a knife.
Combine 2 tablespoons of the flour with the blueberries in a small bowl. Toss the berries with the flour, and set aside.
Combine the remaining flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture alternately with the lemon yogurt, beginning and ending with the flour.
Finally, fold in the blueberries and vanilla.
Pour the batter into a 10-inch tube pan coated with cooking spray.
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until golden and baked through.
For glaze: combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Drizzle this glaze over warm cake.
Besides being a pescatarian, I’m not a picky eater. I can’t think of a single ingredient that I dislike enough that I won’t eat it (though, I’m sure that will change one of these days). This is definitely a result of my upbringing, which was filled with a wide variety of culinary treats. And, as my parents can attest, very rarely did I not finish what I was given.
There isn’t a lot that Eric won’t eat either. He especially enjoys foods that contain a lot of acid; anything with vinegar or lemon juice are favorites. Which is why I’m constantly surprised when he says that he doesn’t like an ingredient because the flavor is too “overpowering”. These include, but are not limited to, olives and capers. That’s not to say that he doesn’t like these on their own, but when I put them in a dish, he’s not impressed.
For the life of me I can’t figure out why this is. I have now made it my goal to secretly incorporate them into dishes (although, now it’s not much of a secret). When I saw this Artichoke-Olive Crostini, which contains both olives and capers, I knew I had found the perfect recipe to start introducing him to these ingredients.
I first made this a few weeks ago for my sister’s surprise 30th birthday party. It had been on my list of things to make ever since I came across it over at Smitten Kitchen
. Deb’s site is wonderful for many reasons, but I think she has a particular gift for making fantastic dishes to serve at parties and BBQs.
And this crostini did not disappoint. In fact, even those in attendance who said they normally don’t enjoy olives or capers went for seconds and thirds.
This past weekend I decided to make it for Eric. As he took his first bite, I held my breath, waiting to see what his reaction would be. It took a moment for him to process what he was eating, but as soon as he finished his first piece, he reached for another. I’d say it was a success.
As an added bonus, Deb also suggests in her post that any leftover tapenade is terrific when mixed with pasta, and that it can be served hot or as a cold salad. This would be a great way to spruce up the old pasta salad the next time you go to a BBQ.
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 cup large green pitted olives
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can of artichoke hearts, drained
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 large slices of crusty bread
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a food processor, process the garlic, olives, capers, artichoke hearts and olive oil to a coarse paste.
2. Toast the bread on the oven rack for 6 minutes, or until crisp and browned. Spread the olive paste thickly over the toasts and serve.
Do ahead: The olive paste can be refrigerated for 2 days. Let it return to room temperature before using.
Some people find baking to be relaxing, but until recently I felt the complete opposite. You see, I can be a pretty messy cook. Part of it has to do with the lack of good counter space in our kitchen, but a lot of it is me. My style of cooking is this: take a bunch of ingredients, lay them on the kitchen table, and then come up with a recipe.
But baking is all about precision and that means being organized in the kitchen.
What I enjoy most about writing a food blog is doing things that take me out of my comfort zone. I try to find recipes that teach me about a new aspect of cooking. And so, I’ve spent the past year making a conscious effort to bake more.
This particular cake, which comes from Gourmet Magazine via the fantastic food blog, Smitten Kitchen, is a recipe anyone can make. We had some beautiful raspberries from our CSA and I searched the internet for something to do with them. What I found were either baked goods that I had already done (scones and muffins) or incredibly complex cakes that contained ingredients I didn’t feel like purchasing.
I was pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of this recipe. And, compared to the last buttermilk cake
I made, this was relatively healthy. It also happens to be one of the fluffiest, most flavorful cakes I’ve ever eaten. Thankfully, Eric’s father came over the night I made it and helped us work through this bad boy. Otherwise, I would have consumed the whole thing myself.
This is one of those desserts that will not disappoint. I can pretty much guarantee it.
Note: I did not see the direction that said to “scatter the raspberries on top”. This is somewhat of a key step. The raspberries will sink into the batter as it bakes, so when I pressed them in, the berries sank to the bottom instead of resting in the center.
Raspberry and Buttermilk Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 oz)
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.
At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.
Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar.
Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.
When one thinks of ways to relax, most people can agree that sitting on a beach with a cocktail puts us in the right frame of mind. But some of us don’t have access to such things (the beach, that is) and we must resort to using our imagination. It helps, of course, to come up with a fun libation to take the edge off after a long week at work.
The problem that I tend to have is finding a fresh, fruity (though not overly sweet) cocktail that isn’t going to leave me with the feeling that my teeth are rotting. When I came across this recipe for Pinaepple-Ginger Agua Fresca, I knew I had found the perfect base for my drink.
A popular beverage in Mexico, agua fresca, which literally means “fresh (cold) water”, is a mixture of water, fruit puree, and sugar. It is light and thirst-quenching, making it a great beverage to serve at a BBQ. It also pairs nicely with a variety of liquor (which I was happy to test for this post), including vodka, rum, and, my personal favorite, tequila.
I found this recipe to be particularly wonderful because it includes fresh ginger. This added a lovely kick that gave the beverage some depth. There are two suggestions that I want to make regarding this recipe: 1) use more ginger (two tablespoons isn’t nearly enough) and 2) leave the pureed bits in with the liquid. Towards the end of the process, the directions say to strain the mixture. I found that a lot of the flavor left the drink when I did this, so I poured the puree back in.
An added touch of agave nectar doesn’t hurt either. It doesn’t need much, but it helps sweeten it up slightly.
But no matter how you prepare it, you can’t go wrong with this beverage. Its refreshing, tropical flavor will put you right there on the beach… even if you’re in the middle of a bustling city.
Pineapple-Ginger Agua Fresca
(Notes from Bon Appetit: Agua fresca (Spanish for “fresh water”) is a Mexican drink infused with fruits, seeds, or flowers. This one combines the sweetness of pineapple with the spice of fresh ginger. Want to kick the party up a notch? Add a little vodka or tequila. Garnish with pineapple spears.)
Additional note from A Thought For Food: In case you missed the note above, I’d suggest including more ginger… a lot more ginger. And I left the majority of the puree in the mixture because I enjoy having things to chew on (is that strange?)
5 cups 1-inch cubes peeled ripe pineapple (from 1 large pineapple)
4 cups water, divided
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons (or more) grated peeled fresh ginger
Fresh basil leaves, chopped (optional)
Agave nectar, to taste (optional)
Choose a golden yellow pineapple that smells sweet and yields very slightly to the touch.
Puree pineapple, 1 cup water, and sugar in blender in batches until smooth. Pour into 8-cup measuring cup. Mix in 3 cups water and 2 teaspoons ginger. Cover; chill until cold, about 4 hours. Strain pineapple mixture into pitcher, pressing on solids in strainer. Add more ginger to taste. Fill tall glasses with ice. Pour agua fresca over.
If you choose to dazzle it up a bit, add a bit of your alcohol of choice (vodka, rum, tequila… all three), a little agave nectar and some basil leaves.
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