No Wonder We Love a Cuppa!


If you missed our recent Magnum Opus on coffee, check it out here. It's a great read, if I do say so myself…

 

And then, read this piece from RT News, sent to us by Sister Ann, (My Sis that is, not a woman of Orders…), it's fascinating stuff. Being an inveterate coffee snob, it does worry me somewhat as to what such a discovery might do to an already stressed worldwide crop. Certainly, it could cause an emphasis on monoculture of strains, with all the inherent environmental concerns. Food for thought and further study, no doubt.

 

Advertisements
Posted in Current Issues, Food Chemistry | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Empanadas


 

Empanadas are a delight for their simplicity, and for the wide range of creativity they provide a willing cook.

It is less serendipitous than it might seem that, on the day we post about empanadas, our friend Nandini who runs the Goan Imports blog, wrote about a close relative, Rissóis de Camarão, a Portuguese shrimp filled dumpling. Empanadas are ubiquitous throughout Mexican, Central and South American cookery, while close relatives like the pierogi, pastie, dumpling, pastel, pate, and pot sticker are found in almost every cuisine worldwide.

Empanadas may be baked or fried, and filled with a wide variety of meats, cheeses, vegetables, and fruits. Personally, I like the baked versions; they're less greasy, allow flavors to shine, and provide a tastier crust.

There are likely as many variants on dough as there are filling; that component is easily as important as what goes inside. A great empanada dough creates a versatile cover that can be rolled thick or thin as you like, yielding a light, flaky, and tender final product. This is our preferred version; it will make about a dozen 6″ empanadas. As with pie dough, the real key to a great empanada dough is to make it entirely by hand, and to handle it no more than is needed to fully combine and activate the imgredients. Plenty of recipes call for use of a mixer or food processor; don't go there. You'll get better incorporation, less heating of the cold elements, and a much better feel for proper condition when you make it by hand.

 

2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, (1 Stick)

1 large Egg

1/4 cup ice cold Water

1 teaspoon Sea Salt

1 Egg White, well beaten with 2 teaspoons cold water, for brushing the empanadas.

OPTIONS: chile flake, annatto, pepper, minced garlic, shallot, or fresh chiles can all be added, or for desert empanadas, 2 tablespoons of sugar, honey, or agave nectar.

 

Butter should be very cold. Cut into 1/4″ cubes and set aside in a stainless bowl, in the freezer.

Combine flour and salt and mix well.

Add butter and work by hand until blend resembles very course meal.

Add egg and water and form into dough. Once the dough is cohesive, stop working it – overworked dough equals tough dough.

Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 – 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Remove from fridge, flatten by hand to a disk about 3/4″ thick, then roll out until quite thin; anywhere from 1/8″ to 1/16″ will do nicely.

 

Cut into rings of the size you like.

Add filling, wet half the edge with a little of the egg white mixture, the fold in half and crimp the edge with a fork.

 

Note that we used a nifty little tool, a dough press offered by PrepWorks. These come in 3 sizes and make the production of all such treats ridiculously easy, (and the final product looks fabulous too.)

 

Lightly brush both sides of the empanada with the egg white, and place on an ungreased baking sheet.

 

Prick the tops with a knife or fork to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 15 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes prior to serving.

 

So, what to put inside? Your imagination is the only limiting factor. Empanadas are great for using up leftovers, and for exploring new combinations. It's best to avoid really wet, oily, or fatty ingredients, as they'll tend to either cause the pastries to rupture, and/or can lead to a soggy final product. Here is the version we made, as well as a few more to wet your whistles. All of these will make about a dozen empanadas; they all freeze well, so you can prep several meals at one time.

 

Pulled Pork Empanadas with Sour Cream/Salsa/Lime Dressing

12 Ounces, (about 2 Cups), shredded Pork

1/4 Cup Sweet Onion

1-3 Jalapeño Chiles, (Pickled adds a fabulous tang)

1-3 small sweet Peppers (Again, pickled is lovely)

1 small Lime

1-2 cloves Garlic

6-10 stalks Cilantro

Sea Salt and fresh ground Pepper

 

For the dressing

1/2 Cup Sour Cream

1/2 Cup Salsa (Green or Red as you prefer)

Remaining Lime Juice

Combine all, stir well, and allow to rest while empanadas are cooking.

 

Mince onion, chiles, peppers, garlic, and cilantro. Zest and juice lime.

Combine pork with the lime zest and veggies, and season with salt, pepper, and half the lime juice.

Allow to rest for about 15 minutes, for flavors to marry.

Bake as per above.

Serve on a bed of shredded lettuce or cabbage, with fresh tomato and sour cream/salsa/lime dressing.

 

 

Empanadas Desayuno, (Breakfast Empanadas)

6 Large Eggs

1/4 Pound Chorizo

1/4 Cup Sour Cream

4-6 stalks fresh Chive

1/4 Cup Queso Fresco

1 Yukon Gold Potato

Pinch Mexican Oregano

Sea Salt and fresh ground Pepper

 

Cut potato into 1/4″ cubes. Sauté over medium heat in 1 tablespoon of butter, until lightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside in a medium mixing bowl.

Remove potato, add chorizo, and sauté until browned. Remove from heat and add to potato.

Combine eggs, sour cream, oregano, salt and pepper and whisk well.

Scramble eggs until roughly 3/4 cooked; you want eggs a shade or two wetter than you'd like to eat.

Combine all ingredients in bowl, add the queso and chives, and adjust seasoning.

Fill empanadas as per above.

Bake at 350° F for 15-20 minutes, until light golden brown.

Serve with salsa, sour cream, chopped tomato, jalapeño, and cilantro.

 

 

Empanadas Veraduras, (Veggie Empanadas)

1 small sweet Onion

1 small green Bell Pepper

2-4 Jalapeño, Pasilla, or Hatch Chiles

1 small Carrot

1/2 Cup Jicama

2 Roma Tomatoes

1 ear Sweet Corn (About 1/2 Cup frozen is fine)

1/2 Cup cooked Black Beans

1/2 Cup cooked Rice

1/2 Cup Queso Fresco

1 small Lemon

1 small Lime

3-6 stalks Cilantro

1-2 cloves Garlic

1/2 teaspoon Epazote

1/2 teaspoon Lemon Thyme

Sea Salt and fresh ground Pepper

 

Rinse, peel, core, and seed all veggies. Fine dice the onion, pepper, chiles, jicama, carrot, and tomatoes.

Mince garlic and cilantro.

Zest and juice lemon and lime.

If using fresh corn, cut kernels from cob.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons canola oil and heat through.

Add carrot and jicama and sauté for about 3 minutes.

Add onion, pepper, chiles, and season with salt and pepper; continue to sauté until onions start to become translucent, about 2 – 3 minutes.

Add corn, garlic, tomatoes, and sauté for another 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and transfer to a mixing bowl; add citrus juice, zest, epazote, lemon thyme, queso, and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Fill as per above.

Bake at 350° F for 20 – 30 minutes, and serve with fresh avocado slices, lime wedges, and salsa verde.

 

 

Empanadas de Pollo, (Chicken Empanadas)

3/4 Pound shredded Chicken, (a combination of light and dark meat is best)

1 small Shallot

1 small Carrot

1 stalk Celery

1-3 Pasilla Chiles

1 small Lemon

1/2 Cup Chicken or Veggie Stock

2 Avocado Leaves

2 Tablespoons Avocado Oil

1/2 teaspoon Mexican Oregano

1/4 teaspoon Marjoram

1/4 teaspoon Annatto seed

Sea Salt and whole Pepper

 

Rinse, peel, seed and fine dice the shallot, carrot, celery, and chiles.

Rinse, zest and juice the lemon.

Combine oregano, marjoram, Annatto, salt, and pepper to a spice grinder and pulse until annatto and pepper are well broken down; set aside.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, heat avocado oil through. Add carrot and shallot, and sauté until shallot begins to turn translucent, about 2 – 3 minutes.

Add celery and chiles and sauté for another 2 minutes.

Add chicken stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze.

Reduce heat to low, add chicken, lemon juice and zest, spice blend, and avocado leaves. Simmer until chicken stock is absorbed, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove from heat, transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool enough to handle.

Fill as per above.

Bake at 350° F for 20 – 30 minutes, and serve with sour cream, pico de gallo, rice and charro beans.

 

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Empanadas

2 Cups chopped Rhubarb

2 Cups chopped Strawberries

1 Cup Cane Sugar

2 Tablespoons Orange Juice

1-2 Tablespoon Corn Starch

1 large Egg

1 Tablespoon Turbinado Sugar

 

Prep sweet dough with honey or agave nectar, as per above.

In a large, non-reactive mixing bowl, combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, orange juice and cornstarch.

Blend thoroughly, and allow to rest, covered, for 60 minutes.

 

Drain the liquid from the fruit mix and reserve.

Fill empanadas as per above.

Beat egg with 2 teaspoons cold water thoroughly; brush both sides of empanadas.

Sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar.

Bake at 350° F for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add liquid from fruit and heat until simmering. Reduce heat to medium low, and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Whisk to incorporate.

Simmer sauce until it thickens enough to coat a spoon.

Drizzle sauce over empanadas and serve hot.

 

 

Posted in House Made | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Ferrero Rocher & Nutella Chocolate Tart!


I just had to post this gorgeous creation of Jane’s – Read it and weep, friends! And by the way, her blog is a wealth of such stuff, so head over there and subscribe.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars


By multiple requests, here’s my peanut butter Nanaimo Bar. Something this good demands local, fresh ingredients, so please, don’t skimp. As decadent as this is, the final product has an amazing balance of salty to sweet, accented by the almonds and the peanut butter. We enjoy ours with freshly brewed, French roast coffee.

 

Bottom Layer

½ Cup Unsalted Butter

¼ Cup Dark Brown Sugar

5 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder

1 large Egg

1 ¼ Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs

½ Cup Almonds

1 Cup flaked Coconut

 

In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt 1 ounce of butter, then add the almonds, and sauté until golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a food processor, add graham crackers and process to a rough crumb. Add the almonds and coconut and pulse to a fine, even consistency.

In a double boiler over hot, but not simmering water, melt and combine the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder.

Add the egg and stir gently but continuously, until the blend is thoroughly heated through and the begins to thicken.

Remove from heat, add the wet to the dry mix, and incorporate thoroughly.

Press the mixture into an ungreased 8″ x 11″ pan; your base layer should be roughly 1/2″ thick.

Slide the pan into the freezer while you work on the next layer.

 

Second Layer

½ cup Unsalted Butter

3/4 Cup fresh Peanut Butter

3 Tablespoons Sour Cream

1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar

 

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk briskly to a creamy consistency. You want to incorporate enough air to notably lighten the feel. Taste and adjust proportions so that you taste peanut butter over sweet for this layer. Spread evenly over the bottom layer, then return to the freezer.

 

Third Layer

4 Ounces 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate

2 Tablespoons unsalted Butter

2 Tablespoons Sour Cream

Pinch of Sea Salt

 

In a double boiler over medium low heat, melt the chocolate. Cut the butter into roughly 1/2″ squares, add a couple at a time and let them melt and incorporate before adding more. Finally, add the sour cream and salt and whisk to an even consistency.

Remove from heat and allow to cool until the blend starts to thicken.

Pour and spread evenly over the second layer.

 

Chill the bars in the fridge for at least 2 – 4 hours before cutting into roughly 2″ x 4″ bars.

 

Bars will be good for at least a week refrigerated, but there’s no way on God’s green earth they’ll last that long.

 

 

Posted in Desserts | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Potato Crusted Quiche


Breakfast is the meal we love best here, and that’s where I do some of my best work.

Here's a recipe for a signature dish that I literally worked on for years before offering here. It is incredibly good, fun to make, very impressive visually and unbelievably delicious. Ladies and gents, I give you the potato crusted quiche.

Quiche is a member of the custard family, of course, which encompasses everything from crème brûlée to the savory breakfast variants, like frittatas and tortas and quiche. Eggs are a perfect food, and quiche is the best possible savory application utilizing them that I can think of.

As with all things custard, there are a few little touches that will make the difference between good and great;

1. Bring your eggs and cheese out with enough lead time to have them pretty close to room temperature before you mix and cook.

2. Scald your milk before you mix – In a sauce pan over medium high heat, until tiny bubbles form right around the very edges of the milk, then take it off the heat and let it cool a bit; this helps things made with it to cook quicker and more evenly in the oven.

3. Blend your egg-milk mixture well. the more it is blended, the smoother your custard will be – Use an immersion blender if you’ve got one, a stand mixer or blender if you don’t.

 

For the crust

1-2 potatoes

1/2 Cup shredded Swiss Cheese

2 Eggs

Sea Salt and fresh ground Pepper

 

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Grate about 2 cups of your favorite hash brown potato; Russets are most traditional, but any high-starch potato will do fine. Transfer the grated potato to a mixing bowl, and cover the potatoes completely with ice cold water. Let them stand for about 5 minutes, then strain out the water, and refill the bowl with ice water again, and allow a second 5 minute soak.

Drain the potatoes into a single mesh strainer, then grab handfuls of the shredded spud and wring the water out of them. Transfer the potatoes to a dry bowl.

Add the grated Swiss and crack the eggs into the mix as well, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Combine everything thoroughly by hand or with a wooden spoon.

Lightly coat a pie pan with olive oil, then spread the crust into the pan by hand and form a nice, even layer on bottom and sides. Form the sides of the crust over the height of the pie pan, as they'll shrink a bit during blind baking.

Bake the crust for 15 minutes at 400° F, until the eggs have set and the cheese has melted slightly; this is important, as it forms an impermeable layer for the egg mixture to come.

Remove from heat and reduce baking temp to 350° F.

 

For the Filling:

3 large Eggs

1/2 Cup Swiss Cheese

1 Cup Whole Milk

1/2 Cup Sour Cream

1 Tablespoon fresh Chives

1/4 teaspoon granulated Garlic

1/4 teaspoon granulated Onion

Sea Salt and fresh ground Pepper

 

Scald the milk and set aside to cool a bit.

Cut the cheese into roughly 1/2″ cubes. Chiffenade the chives.

Whisk eggs briskly, then add sour cream. Add the milk slowly, to temper the mixture and avoid cooking the eggs prematurely. Blend all very well with an immersion blender.

Add seasoning and mix well.

A classic quiche is simply eggs, cheese, and some seasoning, but you can certainly add more as you desire. Avoid ingredients that hold a lot of water, like tomatoes, as they'll tend to make your final product runny. If you wish to add things like ham or onion, it's best to lightly sauté them first, which will concentrate flavors and drive off excess moisture prior to baking.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350° F, until the quiche has risen nicely and is golden brown on top.

 

Remove from heat and allow a 10 minute rest, then cut, serve and enjoy.

 

 

 

Posted in All Things Breakfast, Baking | Tagged | 2 Comments

Shrubbery


 

 

With apologies to Monty Python, when you hear someone wax poetic about shrubs these days, they’re likely referring to a beverage, as opposed to landscaping. Shrubs have become tragically hip of late, and for good reason; they’re a delightful drink resurrected from colonial days.

There are two primary variants of the shrub as beverage; which one you’re thinking of probably depends on which side of the pond you were raised on.

Here in the former colonies, shrubs were vinegar and fruit based creations popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, with their origins in home preserving, the vinegar having been employed to extend the shelf life of fruit and fruit extractions. Over in England, shrubs were blends of booze, citrus and sugar, drunk iced, or used as a base for punch; this version’s roots sprung from popular patent medicines of the time. Both variants were often infused with herbs and spices and use in mixed drinks as well as flying solo.

American shrubs fell out of favor in the early 1900s, with the rising popularity of home refrigeration. Recent resurgence in home growing and preserving has renewed interest in ‘drinking vinegars,’ as shrubs were sometimes known. That has lead in turn to many commercial offerings, and a subsequent rise in price of same. Fortunately, shrubs are simple and inexpensive to make at home. Shrubs are a sweet-tart treat, and readily lend themselves to experimentation. Combining a favorite fruit or two with a complimentary herb or spice yields a truly refreshing drink far better for us than the artificial crap so popular these days.

Making shrubs requires a few simple steps and about a week’s time, so it’s a fun project to finish on a spring weekend.

We’ll start with a basic recipe and expand from there.

 

Citrus Shrub

1 Lime

1 Lemon

1 Navel Orange

2 Cups Cane Sugar

2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar

 

Rinse the citrus, then place that in a large mixing bowl with 4 cups cold water and 1/4 cup white vinegar. Allow the fruit to soak for 15 minutes, then pour out the water, rinse With clean, cold water and pat the citrus dry. This step is highly recommended for all store bought fruit, as a means of removing wax and residual chemicals prior to use.

Zest all citrus, then juice, and rough chop the remainder. Toss all into a glass or stainless steel bowl, preferably one with a nice, tight fitting lid.

Add the sugar and toss to thoroughly coat the fruit.

Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for three days, tossing gently once each day; the sugar will draw moisture from the citrus as it blends.

Remove the fruit from fridge and add the vinegar, stirring to blend thoroughly. Cover and return the bowl to the fridge for three more days, stirring once daily.

Now you’re ready for final clarifying. Wash thoroughly and then sterilize a glass jar or bottle by immersion in water at a rolling boil for 3-4 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the fridge and carefully run the mixture through a double mesh strainer, (A colander with cheese cloth will also work.) squeeze the fruit by hand to get all the liquid out, then discard the fruit.

Strain a second run using a couple of layers of cheesecloth, or a single layer of butter muslin; this will remove excess pulp and clarify the final product nicely.

Pour the syrup into your sterilized glass bottle.

The syrup will be good for 2 weeks refrigerated, though I doubt it’ll last that long.

Portion 2-3 ounces into a pint glass, then top up with sparkling water or seltzer and plenty of ice. A sprig of mint with a leaf rubbed around the rim makes a nice fragrant garnish.

There you have the basics. The process is virtually identical for any variant you can think of. If you’re using fresh or dried herbs and spices, they’ll do best added with the vinegar, (for instance, that mint I mentioned makes a very nice adjunct to the basic citrus version we just made.)

Lemon, lime, Meyer lemon, orange, mandarins, tangerines, grapefruit, yuzu, berries, pomegranate and cranberry, solo or combined, will all make wonderful variants. By the same token, different vinegars yield broadly different shrubs; distilled white, cider, champagne, balsamic, wine, and fruit or herb infused have tremendous potential. Certainly there’s room to play with sweeteners as well; local honeys, agave nectar, or raw sugars all will impart different notes to the finished product. Finally, add herbs and spices and the possibilities are bound only by your creative imagination. Here are a few more to try, then strike out on your own.

 

Very Lemony Shrub

4 Meyer Lemons

2 Cups Cane Sugar

2 Cups Champagne Vinegar

About 4″ fresh Lemongrass

5-6 Kefir Lime Leaves, (Fresh is best, dried will do)

1/4 teaspoon Lemon Thyme

Prepare as detailed above. Cut lemongrass into roughly 1/4″ rounds and add that plus the lime leaves to the initial mix with the sugar. Add the lemon thyme when you add the vinegar.

 

CranApple Shrub

8 ounces fresh or frozen Cranberries

2 Opal or Honeycrisp Apples

1 small Lemon

1 1/2 Cups Cane Sugar

2 Cups Red Wine Vinegar

1/2 Cup Water

1/2 teaspoon Ginger Root

1/4 teaspoon Fennel Seed

Pinch of Sea Salt

Rough chop apples, zest, juice, and rough chop remained of lemon.

Combine cranberries, apples, water, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until about half the cranberries have popped.

Remove from heat, add lemon zest, juice, and pulp. Store in the fridge for 3 days.

Remove, mince ginger and add, plus fennel seed and vinegar; store refrigerated three more days.

Strain and bottle as per above.

 

 

Grapefruit Shrub

3 large Pink or Red Grapefruit

2 Cups Cane Sugar

2 Cups Rice Wine Vinegar

1 small Lime

2 sprigs Fresh Mint

2 Tablespoons Cashews

Zest, juice and rough chop grapefruit and lime, add to sugar and rest 3 days.

Chop cashews, and add with vinegar and lime for next 3 day rest.

Strain and bottle as above.

 

 

Posted in Beverages, House Made | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment