Saturday, March 8, 2014

homemade mayonnaise

Hear me out on this. 
The ingredients in store-bought mayonnaise: soybean oil, water, whole eggs and egg yolks, vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice, calcium disodium EDTA (used to protect quality ha), natural flavors 
the ingredients in homemade mayonnaise: egg yolks, olive oil, lemon juice, salt. Sorry I forgot to add the natural flavors, so we'll just skip that.
the time it takes to make homemade mayonnaise: 10-15 minutes. But time doesn't count if it's worth it. 
     I don't see why so many Americans have shun using mayonnaise lately. All it really is, is eggs and olive oil. So many nutritionists boast of the benefits of each individually, but put them together and it's apparently the devil's condiment.
      Anyways, I like mayonnaise. I've been caught multiple times (before) dipping my fried potatoes in mayonnaise (my mother still makes fun of me for it). And then I just stopped using it. Poof. It was gone. I was convinced it really was the devil's food. Then a year later, when some more sense kicked into me, I realized what mayonnaise really is, and questioned why I'd stopped having it. Then, once upon a time, I read the ingredients in the stores "real mayonnaise' and somehow the "natural flavors" it promised just didn't do it for me. So naturally, I make my own, and it really is simple.

homemade mayonnaise
1 egg yolk (I eat it raw and I really don't care)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil (extra virgin if you please)
pinch of salt

in a glass bowl (I think you can also use metal) whisk the yolk and lemon juice.
measure out the olive oil in a container with a spout (or something you can slowly drizzle out from)while whisking constantly, very SLOWLY drizzle in the olive oil, drop by drop, making sure each drop is well whisked in before adding the next (this is basically the most tedious part of this whole thing. It doesn't take too long, trust me. Just be sure to do it slowly so the mixture emulsifies. 
Once fully incorporated, add a pinch of salt, give it a taste, and add some more if needed.
It may taste slightly lemony, but it's really a good contrast to all that richness.
It thickens as it chills. Store it in the fridge(keeps for a few days) or use it to make some broccoli slaw

broccoli slaw

     After a week of brownies, ice cream sandwiches, biscuits, croissants, chocolate caramel tarts (I was convinced one a day wouldn't hurt), I got bored. For some reason, this fruit and vegetable loving person inside of me had given up to baked goods and a plethora of sweets. You see, I have this issue. I tend to get obsessed with things and find it hard to land anywhere in the middle. I dream of having two houses in New York: a tiny apartment and a large penthouse with a rooftop. I either dress extremely simply, or very over the top. I like to be very happy, or very sad, otherwise, everything bores me. So when I started baking more as I had more free time, sweets became my best friend. Truth be told, I'm over that now. And I figured it was the best time to try out raw broccoli (which I dislike) because I needed it.
Taking up a large spot on my list of food aversions are raw vegetables. I make acceptions for carrots, celery (sometimes) and snap peas. I absolutely hated raw broccoli. And one of my goals when cooking is to make something in a way where it will convert me from disliking it. I mean, I want to be able to like every food, or else I do get bored. 
    Anyways, this rarely works ha. But this time, oh it worked all right. 
Now before you stop reading, while you cringe at the thought of broccoli especially in its raw state, don't stop reading. When fresh, and cut into small pieces, it's crunchy and crisp and extremely addicting. The buttermilk dressing and cranberries add a nice sweetness. The almonds add a great toastiness and crunch. And the onions add that savoriness and spice. This isn't one of those slaws you would get at a fast food restaurant, drenched in a watery-like mayonnaise and excessively sweet. It's crisp and refreshing, and the dressing is tasted, but doesn't cover the beautiful broccoli. And seeing that I just said "beautiful broccoli", I think I'm gonna go now. 

broccoli slaw
adapted from The Smitten Kitchen
makes 3-4 cups (depending on size of broccoli)

1 large head of broccoli
1/2 cup chopped, toasted almonds
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup red onion diced

Buttermilk Dressing
1/4 cup well shaken buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used homemade)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped shallot (or red onion)
large pinch of salt
pinch of black pepper

separate the florets from the stems of the broccoli (don't toss away the stems). Thinly slice the broccoli florets until small but not falling-apart-crumbly. Peel the stems to remove the tough outer layer, and slice them as well into small strips. 
add in the almonds, cranberries, and onion.

mix all the dressing ingredients until well combined. Pour it over the broccoli mix. Stir well. 

at this point, taste the slaw and see if it needs salt (it probably will). Season to taste. 

I prefer it served cold.
can be kept in the fridge for about a week. 

I really really need to remind myself to take pictures while I'm making these things. But then again, I say things like "beautiful broccoli" so I don't really know what goes on in my head. Anyways enjoy munching on this slaw. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

braised kale

I never liked kale. I tried sautéing it my first time, and ended up with tough, fibrous leaves I barely choked down. The next stage was kale chips. I thought I liked them at first. Towards the end I was just lying to myself. I moved on to juicing. That one is a possibility, namely because I don't have to face the dreaded tough texture of it. Finally, I don't know what I was thinking, I began to eat raw kale salads. This was during my (2 week) vegan/fruitarian stage, ha that's another story. But I went through life (eh two years) pretending like I liked kale. I never liked kale. 
      Then one day, I had a meal at Huckleberry. That meal included braised greens, one of which was kale. It was tender, rich, and I loved it. A week later, I found myself craving it dearly. It wasn't the kale that I was craving. It was the richness, greatly balanced by all those greens, some sausage bits in it, and a nice kick from spices and red pepper flakes. And I decided to give it a try and make it. I had not much to lose. I bought three bunches of kale from the farmers market (which, usually, would rot in my fridge). And that afternoon, a miracle was made. It was the first time I thoroughly enjoyed eating kale, and I was happy. 
     I don't know why I've been wanting to make so much southern food lately. The idea and (indirect) memories just get to me. Either way, if you think you hate kale, make this dish. The leaves are extremely tender, with a very slight chew, so not to be mushy. It's rich, but not much is added to achieve that richness. The red pepper flakes compliment it nicely. The sausage is optional (I didn't use it the first time and still loved it), but it adds a nice chew and flavor.

Braised Kale

any type of ground protein you have (I used about half a cup of ground turkey but a a link of pork sausage would be nice)
4-5 tablespoons of olive oil
one large onion (I've had success with two leeks, but prefer onions)
2-3 tablespoons of flour (depending on how thick you like it)
4 cups vegetable/chicken stock(prefer homemade. I've never made it with store-bought, and don't plan to) 
3 normal sized or 1 ginormous bunch of curly kale (I think other varieties would work as well)
1/4-1/2 a teaspoon of red pepper flakes (based on how spicy you like it, adjust to taste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste 

Start off by de-stemming and washing your kale. Cut it into 1-2 inch pieces (not too small, they cook down)
Slice your onion into half moons.
Heat a large pot with olive oil (one tablespoon if using pork, two if using turkey). Add in the meat, season if needed, and cook until brown (about 5-6 minutes). Take it out of the pot but leave the oil in it.
If pot needs more oil, add another tablespoon and throw the onions in. Cook them on medium heat until slightly brown and soft. The slower you do this, the more caramelized the onions will be, and the richer/sweeter flavor they'll have.
Next, add in two-three tablespoons of olive oil, and two-three tablespoons of flour (the greater amount if you want a slightly thicker/richer dish). Mix and make sure there are no lumps. Cook for a few seconds, then add in a few ladles of the stock. Stir and make sure everything is well mixed. Add in the red pepper flakes, black pepper, and salt to taste (don't add too much, especially if the sausage is well seasoned).
Add in the kale (it will look like a lot. Try to fit it into the pot. If not, put in as much as you can and cover. It'll wilt down quickly and you can add the rest). Stir the kale in, mixing it thoroughly with the sauce and onions. At this point, you can taste it and adjust the seasonings. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover, and let braise slowly, on low heat, for 30-40 minutes. Check to make sure the liquid hasn't cooked down. When the time is up, taste the kale and adjust seasonings once more. If kale seems too tough, you can add more stock or even water, and let it simmer a bit more. 

The final product should be thick, with a good amount of sauce. The flour adds richness, forming a gravy, which most braised kale recipes didn't have. What I love about it is that it doesn't taste like the stereotypical kale "health food". It's thick and rich, but not too heavy. And it was so good that I didn't even stop and think how similar it tasted to the one I had at Huckleberry. WOW I've never done that before. 

I'll add pictures soon.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

buttermilk biscuits

     Why, you make ask, am I posting a recipe for biscuits on this blog? The only biscuits I ever ate when I was smaller were ones from a fast food chain that I will never go to ever again. I mean, you couldn't really call them biscuits, because a southern grandma wasn't making them, I'm sure. So I guess you can't call these biscuits either? Um no ok I take that back.
    I'll be the first to say that I get real picky when looking for a recipe for really classic dishes, that I intend to keep classic, and not mess with. Biscuits are high on that list. When I think of biscuits, I think of southern grandmas in the kitchen early Sunday morning, cutting butter into flour, adding buttermilk and baking a warm fluffy batch of them for their family. How could you really try to mess with that? So I didn't. I spent all of last night looking through biscuit recipes, pictures and techniques, trying to find the perfect recipe, which would yield tall, fluffy biscuits, with crispy tops and bottoms but pillowy sides and insides, and with many layers. I needed direction. I needed detailed instructions on how to get the best biscuits I could. And I needed a classic method. One that I could imagine myself doing in front of a southern grandma. And I found that recipe, which surprisingly, had the least amount of butter in it...
    I love it when food doesn't require too many ingredients, or too much of butter, cream, cheese.. just to make it taste good. And with these biscuits, you do use a small amount of butter, but it's how you treat the biscuits that really makes them great, and not dry at all.

Tips for Best Biscuits
1) very cold ingredients (and dough). Don't handle dough too much.
2) use real buttermilk (not a mixture of milk and vinegar)
3) preheating the skillet (will ensure crisp bottoms) If you want softer bottoms, don't preheat.
4) folding the dough (will result in layers in the biscuits)
5) don't twist cutter (twisting the cutter will seal the edges of the biscuits, and they will not rise, becoming dense and heavy, sigh)
6) high temperature (results in crispy exterior and soft, pillowy insides)

Buttermilk Biscuits
adapted from Deep South Dish (although I wish I could say it was my grandma's recipe...)

yields 8 medium, 6 large biscuits (if making sandwiches, make the latter)
I wouldn't recommend subbing in whole wheat flour, as it may result in dense and heavy biscuits. You could probably use lard in place of butter which I heard is good. You could sub in two cups of self rising flour, in place of the flour, salt and baking powder all together. In the south, they use this flour called White Lily flour. I don't know too much about it but if you have that around, use that

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (I used less than this and thought it needed more)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) (4 tablespoons) of VERY cold/frozen unsalted butter
3/4 cup very cold buttermilk
2 tablespoons of butter, melted (optional but recommended)

Night before making biscuits

--Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium/large bowl, and place it in the freezer.
--If you decide to use frozen butter, dice it into sugar-cube size cubes, and place that in the freezer as well, in a separate bowl. (I used frozen butter but found it slightly hard to work with. My hands were freezing and the butter was too hard to cut into the flour. However, it still works but you need some elbow grease. The colder the ingredients (especially butter) the flakier the biscuits)

Making biscuits
--Preheat oven to 500 degrees (trust me, just do it)
--Measure out the buttermilk and place it in the freezer, just to chill for about 5 minutes
-Take the flour mixture out of the freezer and add in the cubed butter.
--If the butter wasn't frozen, work a bit quicker (either way, try to work as quick as possible)
using a pastry cutter (I used my hands) cut the butter into the flour until the butter is the size of peas (don't completely incorporate the butter. You still want some small whole pieces of butter, so the biscuits become flaky)
--Once incorporated, add in the buttermilk, and mix until slight combined (it's ok if some flour isn't combined)
--Dump onto the counter. Try to incorporate the flour into the dough (DO NOT knead the dough too much)
--Place a greased, round cast iron skillet (or baking tray with parchment) in the oven (must allow to preheat for 5 minutes)
--Form dough into a rectangle. Fold the short sides in, on top of one another (letter fold).
--Turn the dough, shape into rectangle, fold again.
--Repeat this fold one more time (a total of three folds)
--Next, pat the dough down to about an inch thickness.
--Using a 2 or 3 inch round cutter or cup, cut rounds out of the dough (Simple press and lift)
--Slightly knead the scraps back together and form more biscuits (I got two more, for a total of 8)
--Get the pan out of the oven and place the biscuits in the pan (If using cast iron, if you want soft edged biscuits, place them touching one another. If you want crispy edges, place them apart. Tops and bottoms will still have a lot of crisp, however)
--Place the pan into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes (up to 12 if larger)

--Melt one-two tablespoons of butter.
--At the eight minute mark, take the biscuits out of the oven and brush with half the butter.
--Place them back in for about two more minutes.
--Once they are done, get them out and brush with remaining butter.
--Eat while warm.

Friday, February 28, 2014

are you sure it's friday

freshly squeezed orange juice? with oranges freshly picked from out tree? on a friday where I'm home all day? are you sure it's not saturday morning...

fresh pasta

    I don't have pasta really often. I like to think of it as one of my "special foods". It's one of those things that if I'm eating, I'll take all morning to make it fresh by hand. I'll make the tomato sauce/pesto fresh, with everything homemade. Sometimes I'll even shape the pasta by hand. All these things add up to making the final dish so much more satisfying and gratifying. I don't like to think of pasta as something I can throw in from a box and make a quick weeknight meal. It's usually on the weekends (unless I make some fresh and freeze/dry the extra for later).
    I don't use any Kitchen-Aid or automatic pasta machine. I use the crank ones where you do it by hand. If I had bigger counter space I wouldn't even mind rolling out the pasta with a rolling pin.
    This is a very basic pasta dough recipe. The egg to flour ratio isn't large at all, in comparison to many other recipes. It's not a rich dough. For some reason, I always feel bad when I use up too many eggs in one dish, especially when I use only yolks or only whites (most pasta recipes call for only yolks). But I like this recipe. It's simple, doesn't make too much (although it can be sized up), and isn't hard to make. However, I would love to make a nice rich eggy dough one day.
    By the way, I make this dough by hand, on the counter. I don't use a food processor or anything, and I cringe every time I see so-called Italian chefs on tv making this in a food processor. Just make it on the counter. Trust me, it doesn't make a big mess and it's easy to clean. You should make your own food, a machine shouldn't do it for you. Really feel what it's like to cook.

Basic Pasta Dough
Can be used to make any shape pasta, as well as ravioli. This amount might be enough to make lasagna, though I'm not sure. If anyone has any success with it, let me know.

One cup flour (I've had success with using all whole wheat, though I prefer all-purpose. The whole wheat is a bit too grainy for me. You can try a mix of both, possibly pulsing the whole wheat in a food processor a bit)
One egg
Two tablespoons of water (if needed, depending on air)
1/2 teaspoon salt

--Combine the flour and salt on the counter, and make it into a rough circle
--Form a well in the center
--Break the egg and drop it inside the well
--Beat the egg with a fork until well beaten (being careful not to break the walls of the flour well, so the egg doesn't run out)
--Next, you can slowly start to incorporate in the flour, little by little being careful not to break the well.
--Once it starts to form a thicker consistency, ditch the fork and use your hands.
--Incorporate all the flour into the egg. This will take time. It may seem like there's too much flour, but trust me, just keep kneading and have patience.
--If the dough seems a bit dry, add in some of the water, until everything is incorporated.
--The final dough will be very well held together, but shouldn't be sticky (if too sticky add some flour)
--Knead the dough on the counter for a few minutes, until well combined and smooth.
--Cover with plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for at least half an hour (you can leave it in for a few hours. It can also be frozen, but I don't know how long)
--Take it out of the fridge and let it reach room temperature (20-30 minutes) so it can be easily worked with.
--Once out, knead it a bit more and roll it out (either by hand or with a pasta machine).
--Shape it in any way you like.
--It can be cooked right away, dried, or frozen and kept for later use.
--If fresh (not frozen or dried), it only takes about 5-10 minutes to cook (depending on the shape)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

breakfast apple crisp


     Every Friday and Saturday night, I start looking through many recipes, blogs, etc. to find a recipe to make for breakfast the next morning. Weekends are my sanctuary, where I have time to cook long breakfasts and meals, and bake until I can't bake any longer. Then of course I have many leftovers to get me through the (first half) of the week. I do wish sometimes I could wake up on a weekday and make pancakes, and serve them with freshly squeezed orange juice. But it pains me to say I don't have time. And when I really think about it, I don't mind saving those meals for weekends only, because they truly do become special, and while I'm eating them, I don't think "It's just another breakfast".
     This apple crisp is one of those meals (unless you have two hours for breakfast during the week). It requires slight preparation, though not hard at all. It just takes a long time to cook is all. And I really love meals that require actual time and effort. It seems as though every cooking show I watch is advertising ways to speed things up to get you out of the kitchen as soon as possible. You don't see that often now a days. Everything is for our convenience. Canned/packaged/frozen foods, gadgets to do things we can easily do by hand, and don't get me started on microwaveable meals. Everything is done to save time. But we never think about what we're really doing with all that time anyways. We save time, to save more time. It's refreshing to see anyone making food by hand, the way our grandparents used to do. And it really does taste better to do things by hand, because you know that what you're eating really is made by someone who cares about what they do. And I need that in everything.
peeling apples has never been this much fun

peeled and cored


crumbly bake

it's not burnt it's crispy

Apple Crisp
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4
    This crisp isn't too sweet, especially when served with a nice dollop of yogurt (greek or regular) on top, which I highly recommend. It can just as well be served as a dessert (try adding an extra tablespoon or two of sugar in the topping) and serve it with ice cream or slightly sweetened or unsweetened whipped cream (I wouldn't hate you if you added a drizzle of caramel or dulce de leche on top either).

3 medium apples (or 2 large) (tart would be best, I used golden apples)
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon brown sugar (use half a tablespoon if using sweet apples)

2 tablespoons oat flour (grind 2 tablespoons oats in food processor)
2 tablespoons almond meal (same process)
1/4 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons coconut oil (melted)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons turbinado or raw cane sugar (can adjust based on preference. This amount is already reduced and I wouldn't go any lower)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
a large handful of almonds (slightly chopped)

Core and peel apples.
Cut them into about half inch cubes
add the cornstarch and brown sugar and mix to combine
Set aside

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
--Mix the oat flour, almond meal, and whole wheat flours together.
--Add the salt, cinnamon and sugar, and mix to combine.
--Add in the almonds and mix.
--Finally, drizzle in the melted coconut oil and olive oil and mix until fully incorporated (you can use your hands).
--Pour in the apple mixture into a baking dish (see below) (you could grease it if you want, not necessary) and even it out, making sure there aren't many empty spaces.
--Top it evenly with the crumble topping
--Put it in the oven and bake for 55 minutes to an hour (check after the 50 minute mark).
--If you want the top to be darker, place it under the broiler for a few seconds. Keep an eye on it as it can burn very quickly, as you can see from my um, pictures (however I actually enjoyed the slight toasty flavor, no really!)
--Serve warm or cold or room temperature (it's great in every form) with a

I used this dish. I'm sure it would work in other baking dishes about the same size.
I'm guessing it's 9 inches across? My baking dishes never seem to have measurements on them. I am often forced to approximate, pour and see if it fits.