Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Banana Bread

Everyone needs a good banana bread recipe. This one is tried and true. It's healthier than many, with only a quarter cup of butter (or coconut oil) - but it does have a cup of sugar in it's not exactly health food.

Sometimes I make my banana bread plain and simple, other times I'll throw in a cup or so of some additional ingredient. I always try and save a banana to slice horizontally and place on top before baking.

Additional ingredient ideas:

-shredded coconut
-walnuts or pecans (toast them slightly before adding them to the batter for a nuttier flavor)
-quartered strawberries
-dried fruit such as apricots, blueberries, raisins, prunes, cherries....
-chocolate chips
-peanut butter chips for those who like peanut butter and banana sandwiches!
-grated zucchini or carrot
-a shot of rum
-a handfull of seeds such as flax, sunflower, pumpkin....

The loaf in the photo above was baked with 1/2 c shredded coconut and 1/2 c bran flakes added, with a little coconut sprinkled on top.

Banana Bread

3-4 very ripe bananas and one extra to slice and place on top
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c (half a stick) of unsalted butter, melted - or coconut oil, warmed to liquid state
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup or thereabouts of your mix in

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or oil a loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a potato masher or fork until well mashed. Some lumps are fine. Whisk in the eggs, melted butter, vanilla and salt and stir to combine well. If you are adding a wet mix in such as grated zucchini you can add it now. Add the flour and baking soda and stir until combined. At this point you can add in your dry mix in. Don't over stir.

Pour the batter in to the greased loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes. Time will vary slightly depending on the length and width of your pan. You want the bread to be golden brown and if you stick a tooth pick or knife in the center it shouldn't be wet when you pull it out.

Let cool for at least 15 minutes before removing. To remove, run a knife around the edges and tap the pan sideways on the counter with your hand ready to catch the bread.

Enjoy and let me know what kind of additions you like to add!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Farro with butternut and delicata squash, hazelnuts, spicy pickled raisins and pepitas

This is great fall and winter side dish or meal in itself. The spicy pickled raisins add a nice punch but you could leave them out or add them unpickled and the finished dish will still be great.

Ingredients (serves 6)

1.5 c farro
1 butternut squash
2 delicata squash
1 T chopped sage leaves
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 T chopped thyme
1 c hazelnuts
1/2 c pickled raisins
1/2 c pepitas
juice of 1-2 lemons
handful chopped parsley
olive oil

Put farro in a pot and cover with water by at least 3-4 inches. Boil for 20-40 minutes until al dente. Farro can vary a lot on the cooking time; you want it to be somewhat soft when you bite down on it but not mushy. Drain and set aside.

Peel and seed butternut squash. Cut into 1 inch cubes. Slice delicata squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. There is no need to peel this squash. Cut into half moon slices, 1/4 inch thick. Toss both squash with the shallot, garlic, thyme, sage, a couple tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread on one or two oiled baking sheets so they are not too crowded. If it's two crowded, they won't brown. Bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes, until golden, stirring halfway to keep squash on outside of sheets from burning.

While squash is roasting, toast hazelnuts in another pan at the same time for 5-10 minutes, until a little darker in color and they start smelling fragrant. Let cool slightly. You can rub them with a dish towel to remove the skin but this is not necessary. Roughly chop and set aside.

Once squash is baked, toss everything together in a large bowl with lemon juice, chopped parsley and more olive oil (2-4 tablespoons, depending on taste.) Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temp.

Quick and spicy pickled raisins

Ingredients (makes 2-3 times what you will need for above recipe)

1 c golden raisins
1/2 c champagne or white wine vinegar
1/2 c water
1/2 serrano chile, sliced in to 1/8 inch thick coins
1 T sugar
1 t salt

Put raisins in a mason jar, old pickle jar or two old jam jars. Say jam jars five times fast. In a small saucepan, heat vinegar, water, chiles, sugar and salt. Once it comes to a boil and the salt and sugar disolve, pour over raisins. Let cool before using. Will keep in the fridge for a few weeks. You can use the chiles too as a spicy condiment - they're great on tacos.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fig, Pear and Frangipane Tart

Cooking and baking are about learning techniques and understanding flavor profiles. The idea of flavor profiles can be broken down into two parts: what tastes good together (for example, seafood and lemon or tomatoes and basil) and learning what's in season and therefore tastes good right now. The more you experiement in the kitchen, try new things at restaurants, visit your local farmer's market, watch your favorite cooking shows and read cooking/food blogs, the more knowledge you accumulate. The goal is to start using all this knowledge and start cooking intuitively. If you've made a stew, roasted a chicken or put together a vinaigrette a few times, you start to rely on your knowledge and depend less on recipes. If you know what's in season, you learn to adapt recipes to ingredients that will taste the best right now.

Fig season is technically over, but they are still all over markets here and perfectly ripe. (I think the warm October we experienced in Southern California has something to do with it.) Autumn pears are starting to come in as well. Pears, figs and nuts go well together. Especially in a tart. What I love about this combo is that it's both elegant and comforting. I've served this at formal parties and causal get togethers.

I wanted to make an autumn dessert using these ingredients so I adapted my summer tart recipe Berry Frangipane Tart by simply changing the fruit and baking the tart with the fruit, instead of keeping it raw. If you learn the technique in making a tart, you can adapt it to any season and any occasion.

I've made a few of these over the last couple weeks and you can see some of my different fruit arrangements (and iphone photo editing experiments.) There's no wrong way to make a tart, unless you make it upside down - and then it's just called a cobbler. The basic technique is par baking a tart shell (half baking it so the bottom doesn't get soggy when you add the almond cream) and then spreading it with a layer of frangipane and fruit and baking it together. If you're worried about rolling out the dough, just double the recipe and you have plenty of room for error and can peice together broken scraps with your fingers. I totally do this. Before the second and longer baking, I usually sprinkle the top with raw or turbinado sugar to give it a golden color and a little crunch. The frangipan firms up around the fruit creating a custardy bed holding everything together.

Other seasonal items that would be great in a tart right now are apples, persimmon, nuts, chocolate, pumpkins, squash, dates, even grapes. I made a delicious grape tart recently, unfortunately I forgot to take photos. I just picked a bunch of big seedless red grapes of the stem, washed and dried them, and piled them on the frangipane cream, baking everything for about 45 minutes. Served with a glass of port and Stilton and you have another winning food pairing. All these tarts will vary on baking time. After 30 minutes, check periodically. You want the fruit tender, and starting to brown, but you don't want the crust to burn. It's not complicated - trust your instinct.

I served the tart in the first photo with vanilla ice cream, a brush of dark chocolate sauce and a few drops of reduced balsamic vinegar, another great pairing with figs and pears....

Before the second baking...

Getting ready to plate for a dinner party...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Plumterine Cake

I have been sampling a lot of plums, pluots, peaches and nectarines at the farmer's markets lately. People say don't go to the market hungry. Those people clearly don't shop at farmer's markets. In fact, there are different rules there. Go hungry, eat standing up, forget about washing everything before you eat it and let juices drip all over your arms and t-shirt. It's all good.

Some current favorites: Italian prunes, which are deep purple with a yellow interior are juicy and sweet. I've had great white and gold nectarines. Pluots, which are plum/apricot hybrids with stronger plum than apricot characteristics, and can be pale green, yellow, orange, berry-hued and speckled have me particularly obsessed right now. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia describing different varieties of pluots that would make the driest of dry mouths in the Sahara desert start to water:

-Dapple Dandy: large size with mottled pale green to yellow, red-spotted skin, red or pink juicy flesh, firm flesh, moderately late ripening
-Early Dapple: good flavor, medium-sized, mottled green over red skin with pink flesh, early ripening
-Flavor Finale: medium to large size, purple-red skin with amber-red flesh, exceptional complex flavor, late ripening
-Flavor King: Fruit punch flavor, medium size, with burgundy skin and red super sweet juicy flesh, moderately late ripening, flesh is hard until fully ripe
-Flavor Royal: very sweet, medium-sized, dark purple with crimson flesh, very early ripening
-Geo Pride: medium size, red-skin and yellow flesh, balanced acid-sugar, predominately sweet with unique plum/apricot flavor, moderately late ripening
-Raspberry Jewel: medium, dark red skin, brilliant red, honey-sweet flesh

Pluots are in most grocery stores right now, but if you can make it to a farmer's market you'll have a lot more fun sampling different local varieties. Talking to the growers about their favorites can also be really interesting. Make friends. And seriously, go hungry. Just don't go hungry to Costco. The "samples" in those paper cups will rot you from the inside out. Get your toilet paper/booze/contact lenses and get out.

This recipe is adapted from a 2009 Gourmet Magazine recipe by Maggie Ruggiero, called Nectarine Golden Cake
and can be made with any stone fruit (nectarines, peaches, plums, pluots and cherries.) It's insanely easy if you have a standing mixer. I made one the other morning - it went from idea to cooling on the kitchen counter in under an hour and was a great day time/coffee cake. I made another last night for dessert that was great warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I used only pluots for the first and made the second with pluots, golden nectarines and Italian prunes (these are fresh, not dried - you can see them in the photos, they're the dark purple fruits.) I liked both, but the second had a little more nuance and visual appeal.

I thought of different names for this cake. Necterplum Cake, Pluoterine Cake, Stone Fruit Cake, Stone Cold Foxy Cake (I know, tangents again.) It really doesn't matter what you call it, as long as you make it and eat it.

Plumterine/Stone Cold Foxy Lady Cake

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
roughly four stone fruits, cut into 1/2" wedges, skin on
nutmeg (optional)
1/4 c turbinado or other coarse sugar

Butter an 8 or 9 inch cake pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In the standing mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated. Mix in lemon zest, vanilla, almond extract and salt. At a lower speed, mix flour and baking powder in to batter until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and then press fruit wedges in to batter in a fan pattern, fairly close together. You can be as neat or messy as you want. No one is looking, but if it's pretty go show someone. Squish them in - you want the cake to be full of fruit. See the picture. Grate some fresh nutmeg on top if you have it and sprinkle the turbinado sugar evenly over everything.
Bake 45-50 minutes until golden and starting to pull away from the pan slightly at the edges. It should spring back when lightly touched. Let it cool in the pan at least ten minutes before removing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

chilled cucumber, mint and avocado soup

If you're trying to eat "clean" this soup is about as clean as it gets. Cucumber, avocado, mint, lemon, a little red onion, lemon juice, water and Greek yogurt. It's cool, sophisticated, straight forward and makes you feel good about yourself. Everything you want in a friend, but in a soup.

Chilled Cucumber Mint Avocado Soup

I used seedless Persian cucumbers, which are small and tender, but you can use any kind. If they're large, cut them down the center after peeling and use a teaspoon to scrape out the seeds.

2 lbs cucumber, peeled and chopped in to 2" sections
1 ripe avoacdo, flesh only
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 jalepeño, seeded and deveined, coarsely chopped
2 small cloves garlic, peeled and minced
8 mint leaves
juice of 2 lemons
1.5 c plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
1 c water

Place all ingredients in a food processor, Vita-mix or blender. Blend for 2 minutes or until very smooth. You may need to add more water to get the consistency you want, but go slowly, you don't want a watery soup. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt if it needs it. Chill in the fridge for a couple hours or overnight. Serve cold, finished with cracked pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serves about 6

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Corn Chowder

Summer travels have brought me to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Everyone calls Wisconsin the cheese state, but as much as I love cheese, I am all about the corn. My days here have been filled with 4th of July celebrations, bright blue skies, summer meals, brat tastings (sausages, not unwieldy children,) driving through corn fields searching out produce stands and swimming in the lake.

This is a quick and easy soup that tastes like summer. I garnish it with bacon, chives and some fresh lime, but you could always add some cheese....


Summer Corn Chowder

6 ears of corn
2 Tbs unsalted butter or olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large leek, white and light green parts, chopped and well rinsed
2 stalks celery, cleaned and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large bell pepper (red or yellow,) seeded and chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2" peices
2 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1-2 c cream (depending on your taste)
1 bunch of scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1/4 c roughly chopped parsley

to garnish:
bacon, crumbled
chives, finely chopped
olive oil
lime wedges

Shuck the corn and use a knife to slice the kernels off the cobs.

In a large pot sautée the onion, garlic, leeks and celery in the butter or olive oil. Add a heavy pinch of kosher salt and let it cook for about 5 minutes until soft, being careful not to let it brown. Add the carrot, bell pepper, potatoes, stock and thyme. Cover and bring to a low simmer for about 30 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are almost tender. If the liquid level gets too low, add a cup of water, milk or more stock. Add the corn kernels and continue simmering for 5 more minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Remove thyme.

At this point you can stick an immersion blender in the pot and pulse it for 30 seconds or so to slightly blend things together, but you want it to remain a little chunky. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can do this in a regular blender. Just do it in a couple batches, and again, you don't want to purée it, you want some chunks.

Add the cream, scallions and parsley. Season to taste with salt and fresh black pepper.

Serve in bowls garnished with bacon, chives, parsley, a drizzle of olive oil and lime wedges. Or cheese.

Serves about 8

Friday, July 6, 2012

Quinoa Breakfast Bowls

I'm writing this post on a glorious summer day in Aspen, Colorado. I'm here working for a week, cooking in the mountains and loving every minute of it. I'm staying in a little house on the banks of the Roaring Fork river with all kinds of wild life (baby deer! bears!!) to play staring games with. As much as I love LA, it's a welcome change and it's fun to adapt my cooking to the hearty, healthy mountain vibe that Aspen exudes.

This isn't really a recipe, but a blueprint for a tasty way to start your morning. Instead of oatmeal, I've been making big batches of quinoa and topping them with various breakfast (and non-breakfast) things every morning. Quinoa has more protein than oatmeal (eight grams in one cup) and is a good source of iron, magnesium and folate. But enough science - it tastes great, kind of nutty and although it looks like a grain, it's actually a seed. I've been using black quinoa and the regular yellow one, but there's also red quinoa - if I'm missing any cool colors, let me know. I prefer the black and red because they're a little heartier and toothsome. The yellow is pretty mild and a little soft for my taste, but they're all basically interchangeable.

On to the breakfast bowl. Cooking quinoa is easy. I don't measure anything. Some people think you have to cook it with the right proportion of water as you would with rice. You don't. Just give it a good rinse under running water to take anyway any bitterness, put it in a pot (one cup of raw quinoa should make about three or four servings once cooked) and cover it with cold water by about two inches. Add a pinch of salt, a teaspoon or so of butter or olive/flax/coconut oil if you wish, bring it to a boil and then turn the heat to low and let it simmer. I find yellow quinoa takes about 12-15 minutes and the red and black take 15-20 minutes. You can tell it's done by taking a little bite. It shouldn't taste raw, but you want it to have a little crunch to it. When it's ready, take it off the heat, strain off whatever water is left in the pot, and you're ready to go.

Quinoa is great in salads, veggies patties, as a substitute for rice or in this case, breakfast cereal. In the bowl above, I added organic berries, toasted coconut (unsweetened, which I toast in a pan on the stove or in a 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes - careful, it burns quickly,) almond milk and a little agave. You could add nuts, bananas, peaches, Greek yogurt, milk, cream, coconut milk, soy milk, even maple syrup or cinnamon. Or go savory and add bacon, a fried or boiled egg, some greens, chopped veggies, a piece of wild salmon.... Whatever you like. It's breakfast - it's personal - start your day off how YOU like it, and don't forget to take a moment to enjoy it.

Yhea, that's a bear.

Quinoa, bananas, strawberries, Greek yogurt, pecans and maple syrup

Little mule deer stopping in to say good morning

Quinoa, 6 minute egg with chopped veggies and herbs

I cross this to get in to town and go to the farmer's market. I may or may not pretend I'm Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Quinoa, wild salmon, crispy prosciutto, sautéed local kale and arugula

View from a hike I took, fueled by my morning mountain quinoa breakfast bowl :)