About 5 years ago, I had a meal at a restaurant in California that served up a mean coconut rice. It was creamy and delicious and delicately flavoured, and this is my attempt to duplicate it. Admittedly, I can’t remember with great certainty exactly what the rice at that restaurant tasted like, so I don’t really have anything to compare to, but this tastes pretty good and is super easy to make. I add a touch of brown sugar and a drop of vanilla for a little extra perfume and flavour, and if you want to get fancy, you can stir in some toasted coconut after cooking. This is great served with stirfries or curries, and is especially good beside meat grilled with sweet chili sauce.
I’ve been on a rhubarb kick lately. I bought about 4 kilograms of local rhubarb a few weeks ago and it’s now in my freezer, waiting to be used in something delicious. Seeing as the strawberry rhubarb pie I made at Easter didn’t quite satisfy my craving for slightly tart rhubarb-y goodness, I decided to make a coffee cake instead. This is based on a recipe that I’ve had in my little recipe notebook since high school – I think it is from making goodies for the concession at a school concert or something, but I have no idea of the original source. I took some inspiration from this recipe from a baking group called “Tuesdays with Dorie” (they are baking their way through a cookbook by Dorie Greenspan, of Julia Child fame) and modified the coffee cake to use strawberries and rhubarb, with some ground ginger in the cake and candied ginger in the fruit and brown-sugar struesel topping. I also used whole wheat pastry flour, which gives the cake a slightly “toasty” flavour and stands up well to the more assertive rhubarb flavour. You actually wouldn’t even know it was made with whole wheat because the cake was still moist and light.
The candied ginger I used was marked “mild” and I could have easily used twice as much to get a better ginger taste. I could have also used more ground ginger in the cake batter, and the recipe below is how I would make it next time, ie: with more ginger! If ginger isn’t your thing, feel free to omit it, however it is a really nice addition to the classic strawberry rhubarb combination.
One thing to note: you can use fresh or frozen fruit, but don’t mix it together with the sugar and lemon juice until just before you are really to sprinkle it over the batter, otherwise you will end up with a bunch of liquid in the bottom of the bowl that you have to discard because it will make your cake soggy :(…
Today I made flank steak fajitas with purple cabbage slaw for dinner. They are so simple that they don’t really require a recipe, so what follows is more of a guideline. The first time I made these was a few years ago during Earth Hour, when you are supposed to turn off all the lights, so I was literally making them in the dark (well, by candlelight) – but they were so easy to make that it didn’t matter. They were also delicious, and have become my favorite Mexican-ish dish to make at home.
If the thought of cabbage in a fajita weirds you out, you just have to trust me. It is tossed with lime juice and salt and pepper, and the fresh crunch of the tangy cabbage slaw is fantastic in the fajita – a nice change from lettuce. Please try these – you will not be sorry!
I like to use flank steak because it is relatively cheap and flavourful and is conducive to being sliced thinly, but obviously you can use whatever kind of steak you like. I upped the ante by making homemade tortillas, seeing as it’s Cinco de Mayo and all. They were really good and added a nice chewy texture to the juicy steak and crunchy cabbage….
Yesterday was Nate’s birthday, and I wanted to make him a cake. He suggested something lemony with cream cheese icing, so I came up with a layer cake filled with lemon curd and covered in white chocolate cream cheese icing. Sounds good, right?
In theory, it was good. It looked good. In reality, it could have been better in several ways. One thing is for sure, this cake was SWEET. Holy sugar headache, Batman!
Sometimes I get a little over-enthusiastic about trying something new, in that I start trying to re-invent the wheel. I Googled “lemon layer cake” and came up with several tried and true recipes (many of which used a 1-2-3-4 cake as a base), but did I go for one of them? Nope, I wanted to do it differently – better, I was hoping….
I have been meaning to share my favorite pie crust recipe here for a while now, but every time I’ve made it lately, I’ve been experimenting with it somehow, with varying degrees of success. For Easter I decided to experiment once more with a hazelnut pastry for strawberry rhubarb pie, and I have to share this variation on the pie crust recipe because it was so good. For the strawberry rhubarb filling, I used this recipe from Simply Recipes, which was a good starting point, but I have some changes I’d make for next time. First, less sugar – 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of fruit was too sweet for my taste. I like a bit of tart rhubarb flavour, and this was quite sugary. Second, more fruit – probably 4 cups of rhubarb and 2 of strawberries. Third, the recipe used instant tapioca for the thickener, which gave the filling a kind of tapioca-pudding texture (little tiny gelatinous balls). Nate said he couldn’t tell, but I wasn’t loving it – not that it tasted bad, I would just prefer a smoother texture from, say, corn starch. And fourth, I would add some lemon zest along with the orange zest to the filling. So once I have all that figured out and perfected, I’ll share my recipe. In the meantime: hazelnut pastry!
This is a super easy-to-make pie crust, made in a slightly different way than usual: instead of cutting cold butter in to flour, you actually cream the room-temperature shortening/butter, then stir in the flour until the dough looks ragged. I know – I was skeptical the first time I made it too, but it was so easy to work with and turned out SO flaky and delicious that it has become my go-to pastry recipe for everything that needs a crust. The only thing it doesn’t work for is single crust pastries that are blind-baked (pre-baked) before filling (like a quiche), because the large amount of fat in the dough causes it to melt and shrink down the pie plate. But for pies that you fill before baking (especially double crust), it is fantastic. I also like that it is easily made entirely by hand – you don’t need a food processor to make good pastry!
I had a strawberry rhubarb pie a few years ago that was topped with a sort of almond struesel, which gave me the idea of adding nuts to the pastry. I like the assertive flavour of hazelnuts, and thought they would pair well with strawberry and rhubarb, so I ground some up and substituted 1/2 cup of the flour for the ground hazelnuts. When I added the water, I ended up with a slightly wetter dough, but by sprinkling it with flour and folding it several times on a floured surface, I got a dough that was just the right consistency and baked up really nicely into lots of light, flaky layers.
I recently joined an online cooking challenge group called the Daring Bakers (their website, the Daring Kitchen, is also home to the Daring Cooks). Every month members are challenged to make a certain recipe, showcasing their creativity and skills to interpret it. The members keep it a secret (no blog posts or online mention of the challenge) until the 27th of the month, when everyone posts a write-up on their blog, recounting their kitchen adventure with that month’s challenge recipe. April was my first Daring Bakers’ Challenge, and it was a good one!
The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!
I have to admit that I was a teensy bit disappointed because mousse isn’t exactly a challenging baking recipe, and the previous months’ challenges had definitely employed more advanced baking skills (including a Jaconde sponge/entremet and a yeasted meringue coffee cake, both of which I want to try out at some point!). However, the edible container part was intriguing, and gave me a chance to try two things that I have wanted to make for a long time: tuile cookie cups and chocolate cups using water balloons. I got over my initial disappointment pretty fast after that, because I love maple syrup (and coincidentally, I had just bought a litre of it for a relatively good price!) AND because Evelyne suggested incorporating bacon into the edible container – and who doesn’t love bacon? Plus the maple/bacon combination is just so delicious…
In grade 7/8 Home Ec, we learned how to make scones and sew boxer shorts. I have never in my life ever sewn another pair of boxer shorts, but this scone recipe is probably the most-loved recipe I have: I use it a lot and the scones (or baking powder biscuits, whatever you want to call them) always turn out perfectly. You can use whole wheat flour if you want or add chopped herbs, grated cheese, dried fruit, fresh or frozen berries, chocolate chips… endless delicious possibilities.
The important thing with making scones is not to over-mix when adding the milk to the dry ingredients, and also not to over-knead the dough before cutting it. The best way to think about it, in both instances, is as more of a folding action, rather than a stirring or kneading action. This gives you light, flaky, perfect scones.
I have been on a quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie for as long as I have been baking cookies – which is to say, years and years and years. My go-to recipe has previously been the Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe in the cookbook Golde’s Homemade Cookies, but I think I may have found a fierce contender for best chocolate chip cookie, and it’s made with whole wheat flour to boot!
This recipe comes from the book, “Good to the Grain – Baking with Whole-Grain Flours” by Kim Boyce. The recipes in the book all contain whole grain flour (obviously!) but nothing about them is sacrificed simply to make them healthier by using whole grains. Boyce talks about the different characteristics of a myriad of different flours – whole wheat, amaranth, oat, buckwheat, teff, rye, kamut, quinoa, the list goes one – and creates recipes that showcase their unique flavours and baking properties, rather than just substituting whole grain flour in a recipe developed using regular white flour, which is I think what turns people off when they hear “whole wheat cookies”….
I love spring. I love the warmer weather (well, slightly warmer – it’s still pretty darn cold out around here!), the longer days, the crocuses and cherry blossoms, the singing birds… but what I’m really appreciating this spring, more than usual perhaps, is the abundance of gorgeous, fresh, spring vegetables that are available – many of them local. At The Root Cellar, which is a super awesome green grocer in Victoria that you should definitely check out if you have not already, they stock all kinds of fantastic local spring produce, some of it fairly standard – chard, parsley, butter lettuce – and some of it more unusual – sorrel, collard greens, and kale tops. Most of the local greens in stock at the moment are from Vantreight Farms, best known for all those daffodils.
Anyway. The other day I was at The Root Cellar, browsing for dinner ideas, and I saw these kale tops. I am a big fan of brassicas (the broccoli family – my Dad calls them broccolids) so I was intrigued. Essentially, this is kale that is going to seed and is just about to burst into flower – probably not something that most people would think to eat, and definitely the first time I’ve ever seen it in a store – but why not? They looked so beautiful, green and crisp and fresh… so I brought some home to try….
This pork tenderloin is delicious. Honey-y and butter-y and sage-y and delicious. The recipe is adapted from my trusted friend Martha (I added the sage – rosemary or thyme would probably be really good as well), and as usual, she did not disappoint. This is easy enough for a weeknight but tasty enough for company. I can’t think of anything else to say, other than DELICIOUS.
The roast potatoes are adapted from Clothilde’s roast potatoes on Chocolate & Zucchini. I think her original recipe has the oven temperature a bit higher, but I find that they roast better at 375˚ F. The trick is parboiling the spuds, then draining them and giving them a good shake (with the lid on!) to bash them around a bit and create a soft, slightly mashed layer on the outside of each potato piece that gets nice and crunchy in the oven. Preheating the oil (I hear duck fat makes the best roast potatoes!) in the oven ensures that the spuds don’t soak up too much oil. It might sound complicated, but it’s really not, and it’s definitely worth the extra steps of parboiling and shaking! (Actually the shaking part is pretty fun 😉 )…