Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fresh Apple Cinnamon Scones

As soon as the cooler mornings of fall come around, I want nothing more than to get in my kitchen and bake something comforting to enjoy with a cup of coffee and a blanket.  Pumpkin bread usually gets the ceremonial first turn, but after that I'm up for all the new recipes I can find!

Scones are a perennial fall favorite for several reasons.  They're easy to whip up and can be adjusted to fit whatever flavor combination, season, or mood you might be in.  They can be sweet or savory, sturdy and slightly crumbly, or tender and soft, much like a biscuit.  But my favorite thing about making scones is making the dough, cutting it into triangles, and freezing it before baking.  Just wrap each unbaked scone individually and add about five minutes to the baking time.  It's the perfect way to have a warm, freshly-baked fall treat, even on a work morning!

These scones will absolutely go into the regular fall rotation.  In an effort to keep my breakfasts a bit healthier, I made a few adjustments like replacing some of the white flour with whole wheat and eliminating the cinnamon chips to reduce the sugar content.  I actually prefer the hearty nature of whole wheat flour with apples and, to be honest, I still found the scones to be plenty sweet, especially since I made them with Honeycrisp apples.  

Just like every recipe I've ever tried from King Arthur Flour, the comments were spot on.  My whole house smelled like the most perfect fall day while they were baking.  (Just writing this makes me want to go pull one out of the freezer and put it in the oven right now!)  The scones were soft and tender, even with the whole wheat flour.  With a small pat of butter, a hot cup of coffee, and a blanket, they were everything I love about fall.

With crisp, fresh apples and plenty of cinnamon, these soft and tender scones are the perfect way to begin any fall day--even a weekday!

Fresh Apple Cinnamon Scones
adapted from King Arthur Flour


For the scones:
1 1/4 c. whole-wheat flour (King Arthur preferred)
1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour (King Arthur preferred)
1/3 c. granulated sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
8 TBSP (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
3/4 c. chopped fresh apple, cut into 1/2-in. pieces, either peeled or unpeeled
2 eggs
1 TBSP vanilla extract
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce

For the topping:
3 TBSP coarse raw sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 TBSP milk, for brushing

1.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  Using your hands, a biscuit cutter, or two knives, work in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.  The crumbs may not be completely even; some larger chunks of butter may remain unincorporated.  Stir in the apples.

2.  In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and applesauce.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until everything is moistened and holds together.  The dough may appear dry at first, but it will come together.

3.  If freezing, form the dough into a circle about 1-in. thick.  Cut into eight equal wedges, brush the tops of each scone with milk, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar topping, wrap each scone individually in plastic wrap, and freeze.  

4.  If baking that day, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Sprinkle a bit of flour on the parchment.  Scrape the dough onto the pan and form into a circle about 1 in. thick.   Run a bench scraper or knife under cold water and cut the dough into eight equal wedges.  Carefully pull the wedges apart to separate the scones, leaving about 1/2 in. space between them.   Place in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered.

5.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425° F and make the topping by stirring together the raw sugar and cinnamon.

6.  Brush the tops of the scones with milk and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar topping.  Bake the scones 20-25 minutes.  If baking from frozen, add about five minutes to the time.  The scones are done when they are golden brown and the edges no longer look wet or unbaked when pulled apart.

7.  Remove the scones from the oven and cool briefly on the pan.  Serve warm.  Any leftovers may be cooled completely, wrapped in plastic wrap, and stored at room temperature up to three days. 

Yield: 8 scones

Friday, October 16, 2015

Braised Eggs with Beef, Smoked Eggplant, and Tomato

So I have a culinary bucket list.  It's about a mile long and changes/grows constantly.  

I know, #firstworldproblems.

No matter how many iterations of the list I might have, one thing never changes--the fact that Sammi Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi's Ottolenghi and Rick Bayless' Topolobampo are tops on my list.  I've given up on deciding which one gets top billing because I just can't decide.  There's so much to love about all three chefs from the way they stay true to themselves, their commitment to authentic and interesting ingredients, their work ethic, and their social consciousness, among so many other qualities.  

But experiencing these chefs' talents at their flagship restaurants would require trips to London and Chicago, respectively.  With no such trips currently planned, I had to take matters into my own hands and cook for myself sing one of Tamimi and Ottolenghi's recipes.  As usual, I was not disappointed.

I'm a huge fan of eggplant and with its season coming to an end, I knew it was time to make one of their many eggplant (Or aubergine, as they would say--don't you love that?!?) dishes.  While browsing recipes, I came across this one and I knew my search had ended.  I love their Shakshuka recipe and this seemed to be, in a roundabout way, a kind of ramped up version.  Plus, it gave me the chance to roast an eggplant on my gas stove.  As someone who grew up primarily with electric appliances, this is very, very exciting.  You guys, I get to put food directly on the fire.  Right. on. it.  It's pretty great. 

My goodness was this delicious.  The eggplant was silky and rich and gave the whole dish the fire-roasted flavor I love.  The spices were warm and pungent and very, very present.  With a perfectly-braised egg complete with a runny yolk and lemony, nutty tahini, this dish was a complete and total knockout.  If I can create something so outstanding from their recipe, I can't wait until the day I get to experience this kind of food straight from the Ottolenghi kitchen.

Rich, smoky eggplant combines with tomato, garlic, onion, beef, and spices to create a silky base for perfectly cooked eggs, complete with runny yolks.  With garnishes of nutty tahini, bright sumac and parsley, and a luxurious drizzle of olive oil, this dish was everything I was hoping for.

Braised Eggs with Beef, Smoked Eggplant, and Tomato
from Sammi Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi via their website
(some ingredient amounts converted from metric measurements)

4 small eggplants (about 2.5 lbs. total)
3 TBSP tahini
2 TBSP lemon juice
7 garlic cloves, minced and divided
1 TBSP water
1 1/4 tsp. salt, divided, plus more to taste
1 TBSP olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. chile flakes
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. tomato paste
1/2 to 3/4 lb. ground beef (depending on preference)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp. finely chopped preserved lemon (If you can't find preserved lemon, you may use a fresh, minced lemon slice, rind and all.)
4 eggs
3/4 tsp. sumac
1 TBSP chopped parsley
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1.  Pierce the eggplant with a sharp knife in a few places and place directly over an open stovetop flame.  Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes, turning a few times with metal tongs until the outside is completely burnt and the eggplant begins to collapse on itself.  Alternately, set your oven's broiler on high and place the pierced eggplant on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Broil for approximately an hour, turning every 20 minutes.  Remove the eggplant from the heat, cut a single slit from top to bottom, and place in a colander to allow the juices to drain.  Once cool enough to handle, scoop the soft, roasted flesh from the eggplant, taking care to stay clear of the skin.  Set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, prepare the tahini sauce by mixing together the tahini, lemon juice, water, 1 clove of minced garlic, and 1/4 tsp. salt.  If the sauce is too stiff, add more water until it reaches a thick, rich consistency.

3.  Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, chile flakes, cinnamon, cumin, and tomato paste.  Sauté until onions soften a bit and gain some color, about 6 minutes.  Add the beef, 1 tsp salt, and black pepper, to taste, and brown well, 5-6 minutes.

4.  Mix in the tomatoes, preserved lemon, and roasted eggplant flesh cook for 5 minutes.  Add up to 1/4 c. water if the sauce is too thick (I added about 2 TBSP).  

5.  Reduce the heat to low and make four small wells in the mix and break an egg into each.  Cook the eggs until the whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny, about 10 minutes.  (You may qicken the process by covering the pan, but the yolks will look cloudy.)

6.  Remove from the heat, dot with dollops of tahini sauce, sprinkle with sumac, and finish with parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.  Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Middle Eatern Spiced Turkey-Zucchini Sliders

It's finally (FINALLY!) college football season.  Can I get an AMEN?

I love, love, love college football season...always have, always will.  Every August-November, my Saturday soundtrack is College Gameday, lots of football, and cheering and laughing with friends.  I just can't get enough.

This past Saturday, I had my first get football, food, and fun get together with a small group of friends.  It's still much too warm for the ultimate football food, chili, but I took that as a great reason to try out a new recipe.  As I was perusing Josie's blog, I found these mini burgers and knew they would be perfect.  They use zucchini, one of late summer's greatest vegetables, they're easy to make, they're healthy, and they're perfectly sized to be finger food.  After all, who wants to leave the living room to eat when the game's on?

Just as Josie and her adorable, intelligent, sweet daughter Caroline promised, these were a hit with everyone.  Served with roasted mixed potatoes, plenty of veggies and hummus, and, of course, beverages, they were the ultimate warm-weather football watching food.  I'm thinking they'll be making a reappearance very soon...

Sweet summer zucchini gives ground turkey a much needed moisture boost in these healthy, handheld sliders.  Topped with a tangy, creamy Middle Eastern yogurt sauce and placed atop a sweet Hawaiian roll, they're perfect for warm weather get togethers.

Middle Eastern Spiced Turkey-Zucchini Sliders
adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi, Jerusalem
seen on Pink Parsley


For the sauce:
1/2 c. low fat sour cream
2/3 c. plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 TBSP Sumac

For the burgers:
1 large zucchini, coarsely shredded (about 2 c.)
1 to 1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
3 green onions, chopped
2 TBSP chopped fresh mint
2 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. Cayenne pepper
4 TBSP canola oil
16-18 Hawaiian sweet rolls or slider buns

1.  Make the sauce by whisking all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Set aside if making burgers immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  (Can be made the night before.)

2.  Preheat oven to 425° F.  If desired, prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.

3.  Wrap the zucchini in a lint-free kitchen towel and wring out over the sink to remove as much moisture as possible.

4.  To form the burger patties, combine all ingredients except the oil in a large bowl.  Mix together with your hands until thoroughly combined but not overworked.  Form into 16-18 small patties, each weighing approximately 1.5 oz.  (I used a standard-sized kitchen scoop to scoop loose balls of burger mixture and got exactly 16 patties.) 

5.  Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add 2 TBSP of the oil.  Carefully add about half the patties to the pan and cook two minutes on each side.  When done, remove and place on the baking sheet.  Add the remaining oil and repeat with the other half of the patties.

6.  When all the patties are on the baking sheet, place in the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes.

Yield: 16-18 sliders

Monday, September 14, 2015

Meatless Monday--Brussels Sprouts, Cranberry, and Quinoa Salad

It's that glorious time of year when the mornings and evenings are getting cooler and you can just feel that fall is on its way.  The days are still pretty warm though, so no matter how much you want to make a big pot of soup, it's just not time.  Yet.

But don't let that stop you from bringing some of fall's best flavors in to recipes that are still on the lighter side.  There's no doubt roasted Brussels sprouts are one of the greatest foods ever, but equally as tasty as the leafy green component in a protein-packed quinoa salad.  Add some rich and crunchy hazelnuts, sweet, chewy dried cranberries, and a silky smooth orange-cinnamon vinaigrette, and you've got one heck of a late summer/early fall dish.

Crispy raw Brussels sprouts, sweet, chewy dried cranberries, and protein-packed quinoa combine for the ultimate late summer/early fall vegan salad.

Brussels Sprouts, Cranberry, and Quinoa Salad
adapted from Gimme Some Oven

3/4 c. quinoa, rinsed
2/3 c. hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and thinly sliced
1 c. dried cranberries

For the vinaigrette:
1 tsp. orange zest
1/4 c. freshly-squeezed orange juice
1/4 c. olive oil
3 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Combine quinoa with 1 1/2 c. water and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce to a simmer, and let cook 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.  Set aside to cool slightly.

2.  Toast hazelnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat.  Cool to room temperature and chop coarsely.

3.  Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette by combining all ingredients in a lidded jar.  Shake vigorously to combine.

4.  Put quinoa, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, and hazelnuts in a large bowl.  Add about 3/4 of the dressing and toss to combine.  Taste, adjust seasoning, and add more dressing, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Blackberry-Brown Sugar Quick Bread

So here it is, the week after Labor Day, and I'm posting a recipe with blackberries.  I know.  I'm supposed to be talking about apples and caramel and pumpkin spice everything.  Not yet.  Almost.  I'll get there.  But not quite yet.

As much as I love fall and everything it brings, the truth is we still have a good two or three weeks of sweet, juicy berries and I want to make the most of them.  And guess what?  This recipe calls for frozen berries.  Blackberries to be specific, which have been so unbelievably good this year.  I suggest you go buy a whole bunch this week, eat some straight from the container (after washing!), then freeze the rest.  You'll be able to make a loaf of this very easy and very tasty quick bread now and another loaf or two in January when berries are most definitely not in season.  By then you'll be extra glad for the burst of sunshine only summer berries can bring while you sit inside, all warm and snug, curled up with a blanket and a cup of coffee.  Just consider buying an (almost) embarrassingly large amount of berries now a very strategic future planning move.  

Sweet, juicy summer blackberries bring the perfect brightness to this easy, buttery quick bread.

Blackberry-Brown Sugar Quick Bread
adapted from Williams-Sonoma

2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. firmly-packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. frozen blackberries (do not thaw)
3/4 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
8 TBSP (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Lightly grease a standard-sized loaf pan.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Add the frozen blackberries and toss to coat.  This will help prevent the berries from sinking to the bottom of the bread.

3.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla.  Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until just combined.

4.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the loaf is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes about clean, 55-60 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for ten minutes.  Let cool completely before serving.