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Cashew Crusted Halibut

Having the grandparents around to help with the baby frees up a lot more time for cooking. Thanks to a generous trip to Costco, we enjoyed a delicious Easter dinner of cashew-encrusted halibut, organic broccoli sauteed in toasted sesame oil and mashed potatoes. We slightly adapted this recipe and David cooked the fillets to a crunchy golden perfection.

Cashew Crusted Halibut
4-8 oz. Alaskan halibut Fillets (skinless)
2 eggs
1/4 C. water

Breading
1 3/4 C. Japanese “Panko” breadcrumbs
1 C. roasted cashews
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
1 C. all-purpose flour

Crush the cashews in a food processor. Combine all breading ingredients in a bowl. Make egg wash with 2 eggs and 1/4 cup of water. Season Halibut with salt and pepper then dust with flour, dip in egg wash, and then in the breading. Sauté in canola oil over medium heat until golden on each side, then drain briefly on paper towels. Finish in a pre-heated 350-degree oven until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.

A good resource for other ways to cook halibut can be found here.


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February’s Recipe: Senegal Stew

The new recipe we tried this month was Senegal Stew. I had been reading Organic and Chic and found a recipe with millet, which I had heard of, but never tasted. It is a healthy, whole grain, and a staple in many parts of the world. However, in the U.S. we mostly know it as a component in bird and cattle feed.

The other reason I chose this stew (besides the fact that I liked how exotic it sounded), was that the other main ingredients – yams and/or sweet potato, rutabaga, cabbage, carrots and chickpeas – seemed to make it an appropriate choice for February, the bonus being that it calls for a little peanut butter, which my husband loves.

Surprisingly, I found the meal to be rather average. The millet takes as long to cook as rice, plus the grains need to be dry roasted first, for best results. Personally, for the size and texture, I prefer couscous, which is much faster to cook, or quinoa which has a better texture. The stew itself was mild and sweeter than I expected. David thought it was very good, and Chloe enjoyed some of it, too. I have some leftover uncooked millet, so I might try adding it to bread or another recipe, to give it another try.

Related posts: January’s recipe, 2010 goals


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Garden Fresh Tomato Basil Soup

Compared to last year, we’re having much better luck with tomatoes in the garden this year. We’ve got one each of Roma, Marzano, and Early Girl, plus a few volunteer cherries, which I believe are Sun Gold. Mostly we eat the tomatoes sliced (except the cherries, which we just pop in our mouths), sometimes with salad dressing, topped with a bit of feta and herbs, or simply a dash of salt and pepper.

David spent a portion of the afternoon working in our barely accessible crawl space putting up insulation, and when he came out he said he couldn’t wait to see what delicious meal I was going to cook up for dinner (hint, hint). So, considering the fact we haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while, there wasn’t much to work with except the garden.

In a big pot, I sauteed a yellow onion in olive oil until somewhat clear, then threw in maybe 4-6 cups of chopped tomatoes, 2 cups of chicken stock and a loose handful of chopped basil. It simmered about 30 minutes or so, before I added salt and pepper and pureed it in a blender.  Then I strained it through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lingering tomato skins. Before serving I added a dollop of heavy cream and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Paired with just-baked cornbread (packaged Trader Joe’s is my easy favorite), it was good to the last drop.


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My Life in France


A photograph from our 2002 trip to France

I’ve been reading Julia Child’s My Life in France. Its timing was perfect because I’ve really been longing for another trip to Paris. It has been 7 years since we were there last. Way too long.

I can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of Julia Child. She seemed to be on TV a lot when I was a kid, and I didn’t have the appreciation for cooking and food that I do now.  Plus there was something about her voice and mannerism. My mom, a very good cook and who has worked in restaurants most of her life, would turn on Julia’s cooking shows sometimes and I’d sit and watch with her.

Anyway, I’m enjoying the book. Some of it is rather dry, just day to day events, but there are wonderful descriptions of the people and places she experienced during her time in Paris and then Marseille. And the food! It is so clear how passionate she was about French cooking – the countless hours she would put in to making a recipe perfect, because, in this, she was a true perfectionist. Her enthusiasm is inspiring, and makes me think that a delicious souffle or buerre blanc might be in our future.

Naturally, next on my reading list will be Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (unless I see the movie first), about how author Julie Powell spent a year cooking each one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking and then blogging about it. I’m also now curious about “Mastering the art…” as is everyone else. Apparently the cookbook will make its debut at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. I find it a shame that Julia Child isn’t alive to see this, but that just seems to be the way of things.


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On the grill

It has been so hot here lately that cooking inside seems like torture. Last night David picked some fresh plums off our neighbors tree and made an awesome dinner on the grill – pork skewers with sweet chili sauce and grilled plums. Then we added a side of quinoa that I had made earlier. What a delicious summer evening treat!


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Fast food cupcakes by Bakerella

….

Aren’t these hamburger shaped cupcakes fantastic? And check out those sugar cookie french fries! Bakerella has an awesome tutorial complete with download and print packaging templates. If I thought they’d get eaten around here I would definitely give it a try for Father’s Day. Which makes me wonder… does anyone know of a tutorial for fly fishing themed cupcakes?
Via Twig & Thistle


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The most AMAZING buttermilk chocolate cake EVER

buttermilk chocolate cake

Okay, I am not kidding here, but I just made the most AMAZING buttermilk chocolate cake EVER! And truly, it was not hard at all. I originally saw the recipe in Marcy’s copy of February’s Portland Monthly magazine, and thought I should write it down, but I forgot. Then, while David was waiting that extra hour for me to finish with my dentist appointment, he came across it again and thoughtfully asked the receptionist to photocopy it for me. (Such a sweetheart!)

Since we were having a friend over for dinner, I thought I’d use that as an excuse to try out this new recipe. And it was… magic! Moist, rich, chocolaty, not too sweet and with just the right amount of depth and complexity. And did I mention beautiful? Gorgeously dark with a semi-matte, creamy ganache frosting. I’m never going to buy chocolate container frosting ever again. Now I know the secret – and so do you!

Chocolate Buttermilk Layer Cake

Once you pour the hot coffee into the batter, don’t be alarmed by its thinness.
“It’s definitely the thinnest cake batter I’ve ever worked with,” [Portland Baker
Melissa] McKinney says. As for the frosting, there’s no need to use fancy chocolate,
she says. “I just use semi-sweet chocolate chips and it comes out perfect.”

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted)*
1 1/3 cups canola oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups freshly brewed, extra-strong hot coffee*
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
24 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray, and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

2. Place flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix on low to combine. Keeping the mixer on low , add oil, buttermilk, then eggs one at a time. Add hot coffee in a thin stream, pouring down the side of the bowl. Add vanilla and mix until batter is smooth. Divide into pans and back until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool in pans for at least 20 minutes.

3. To make the chocolate ganache frosting, create a double boiler by filling a saucepan with 2 inches of water and bringing it to a boil. Place chocolate chips and cream in a stainless steel mixing bowl (I used glass) and set on top of simmering water, Allow mixture to melt–do not stir right away, When chocolate has melted, stir it with a whisk. Allow to cool at room temperature.

4. Remove cakes from pans. Place one layer of cake on a serving plate. Trim the top with a serrated knife to make it even (although I didn’t find this necessary). Place a scoop of ganache in the middle and smooth it out to the edges using a palette knife or spatula. Trim the top off the other layer and place the untrimmed side down on the top of the frosted layer, pressing gently. Spoon more ganache on the top and smooth it around the sides, adding more ganache as needed to cover. If you need to apply a second coat of ganache, put the cake in the refridgerator for no more than 15 minutes to set before adding a second coat (although I found myself with a surplus of frosting). Makes a single 9-inch layer cake.

My notes: For the cocoa powder I used Droste cocoa from Holland, which is like gold around here, but I really wanted to make it extra special. I also didn’t bother to sift it. For the chocolate frosting I used Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. And instead of the extra strong coffee, I pulled four extra long shots of espresso, enough to make the full 1 1/2 cups.

Postscript: In response to a comment below, I thought I’d add this paragraph from the article for those interested:

So what gives this recipe such staying power? It’s the oil, says McKinney. “Oil makes a moister cake, and allows it to last a week, whereas a layer cake made with butter becomes dry the next day.”  Plus, the hot coffee elevates the cocoa’s depth and complexity. The cake is versatile as well: The batter can be stored in the fridge for several days; stout can be used in place of coffee, it can even be made vegan (McKinney suggests using egg replacement and vanilla soy milk.) And the layers can be filled with whipped cream and fresh berries instead of ganache.

*Update* See this post on halving the recipe, with updated shape and photos!

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Similar Posts You Might Like:

*UPDATE* to AMAZING Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

5 Impressive Cake Frosting Techniques + Tutorials

 


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Easy Italian Dessert Recipe – Zabaglione

zabaglione

Tonight we made zabaglione, a frothy, creamy, custard-like Italian dessert. I wish I had gotten a better photo, but there was barely a spoonful left by the time I got around to it. All it takes are two, maybe three ingredients, a little preparation and presto! a fast and delicious dessert in no time. Perfect for those last minute emergencies, like surprise company, when you’re low on supplies, or whenever your sweet tooth gets the best of you. This recipe is based on one from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.

Ingredients:

4 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Marsala (Optional)

Directions:

Whip the yolks and sugar together with a whisk or an electric mixer (my preference) over a double boiler. I just put a smaller pot into a bigger pot filled with gently simmering water. I added maybe a teaspoon or two of Marsala, but the directions from the cookbook said you can add up to 1/2 cup. The Marsala can be omitted when serving to children. Continue to beat the mixture, about 10 minutes, until it swells and forms soft, almost elastic mounds. Pour into dessert cups and serve warm. Makes two servings.

Our Italian friend, Alex, says that he doesn’t cook his version of zabaglione, that he simply beats the yolks and sugar until it becomes soft, foamy and thick. He also doesn’t add Marsala because he doesn’t like the taste. We ate our desserts warm, spooned out of ceramic cups, but it would also be perfect poured over fresh fruit or simple cakes.


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Easy & Elegant with Puff Pastry

potato medley puff pastry

I made a super fast and yummy vegetarian lunch today using just two packaged products from the freezer – Trader Joe’s Potato Medley and a sheet of puff pastry. I am a big fan of puff pastry. It simply makes everything seemingly more fancy and “gourmet.”

This is all I used:

potato medley puff pastry

Here’s how: First pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and set out a sheet of puff pastry to defrost for 10 minutes (follow the directions for specific brands). Cut the sheet into quarters and then cut another square shape in the center of each quarter, about 1 inch from the edges, which allows the sides to rise up better while baking. Once cut, transfer the pastry to a baking sheet covered with parchment.

Meanwhile, heat the potato medley in a skillet, about 6-8 minutes, and then spoon the “filling” into the center of the pastry squares. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Once the pastry looks golden, remove it from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. This keeps the pastry crispy. As a finishing touch, drizzle a little olive oil, top with feta, and add sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Voila! My husband loved it.

Variations: Basically, anything can be used to top puff pastry. Fruit, mixed vegetables, pizza toppings… anything that tastes good and bakes well. My favorite summer mix is to use fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden, cut in half, combined with sliced black olives and a little dill or italian seasoning. This I drizzle with olive oil before baking and then with feta or crumbled goat cheese and a splash of balsamic vinegar. The reddish orange and black makes a dramatic presentation and the flavors really complement each other.

Another variation I’ve tried is topping the pastry with cut apple slices fried in butter and cinnamon. Normally I would have added brown sugar to the mix, too, but it was a birthday treat for a co-worker who was diabetic. Delicious and sugar-free!

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