Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stuffed Peppers

Somehow, I had never made stuffed peppers until this evening. Since I'm a big fan of bell peppers, this situation had to be rectified. So, I started off by looking at the stuffed pepper recipe in Cooking from the Heart of Spain, a recipe which says that it "deliciously celebrate[s] summer". We're approaching the end of summer here, so I'm all for celebrating it while I still can. I used that recipe as my starting point, made some changes, and ended up with something a bit lighter and more low-maintenance than the original. And they doubly celebrate summer because they're done entirely on the stovetop: no oven. :)

To go with the peppers, I made the "Hot Potatoes" (Patatas Bravas) from the same book. They're very easy: shallow-fried potatoes that are then tossed with salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper. The cumin in the potatoes brought out the cumin in the stuffed pepper sauce, and the heat from the cayenne balanced very nicely with the sweetness of the peppers and the acidity of the tomatoes.

Stuffed peppers Patatas Bravas

Sort-of Spanish Stuffed Peppers
serves 4

4 bell peppers
2 slices of bread
Milk (for soaking the bread)
1 egg, beaten
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 1/4 lbs ground turkey
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup olive oil or 2 tbsp bacon fat
1 14.5 oz can diced or crushed tomatoes (diced = chunkier sauce, crushed = smoother sauce)
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Cut around the stems of the peppers, and remove the stems and seeds.

Soak the bread in milk until softened. Squeeze out excess milk and discard, then crumble the bread into a mixing bowl.

Reserve 1 1/2 teaspoons of the beaten egg in a shallow bowl or saucer. Add the remaining egg to the bread. Add about a quarter of the chopped onion, a third of the minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, and all of the nutmeg, pepper, parsley, and ground turkey. Combine well. Stuff the peppers with the turkey mixture. (You may have some turkey mixture left over; don't try to overstuff the peppers in order to use up all of the stuffing.)

Dip the open ends of the peppers in the reserved egg, and then into the flour.

Heat the oil or fat in a deep skillet over medium heat. Fry the peppers, floured side down. Once the floured sides have browned, add the remaining chopped onion and garlic to the pan. Turn the peppers to fry on all sides, about 8-10 minutes total. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, turning the peppers every 15 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for another 20 minutes to reduce the sauce.

Cut peppers in half lengthwise and serve with tomato sauce spooned over them.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

English muffins

There is cornmeal all over my kitchen... an acceptable consequence of making English muffins from scratch.

Since you can buy decent English muffins at the grocery store, they're not something that people make at home very often. I was curious to see what homemade ones would be like; this was my first time making them, and results taste much different than the store-bought ones I'm used to. The homemade muffins are more substantial, with more noticeable butter and yeast flavors.

The recipe I used came from The 'Good Enough To Eat' Breakfast Cookbook by Carrie Levin, chef/owner of Good Enough to Eat in NYC. GEtE is known primarily as a breakfast/brunch place, and this cookbook is full of all the typical yummy breakfast foods: eggs, pancakes, muffins, waffles, and so on.

Since this was a first attempt, I followed the recipe pretty closely, even the parts that seemed odd. For example, you scald the milk, add it to the flour, and then add the bloomed yeast. I thought that perhaps the scalded milk might be hot enough to kill the yeast. Turns out that I had nothing to worry about. Here's the before and after:

English muffins before rising English muffins after rising

Risen English muffin

Yes, the yeast was functioning just fine.

I did have to fudge a couple of things. I do not own a biscuit cutter. The recipe says that you can also use a clean tuna can... except that I've never bought a can of tuna in my life (seafood allergy). So, my makeshift biscuit cutter: a clean glass.

I also don't have a griddle, but I do have frying pans, so I used one of those for the actual cooking. And although the recipe doesn't say to do this, I cooked the muffins in a little bit of butter. Just sticking the muffins in the hot pan with no oil whatsoever felt wrong. And since butter helps with browning, they came out looking kinda pretty:

Cooked English muffins

And once they were done, I opened one up (in proper English muffin fashion, with just a fork). Nooks! Crannies! They have the official English muffin texture. I immediately had one with some butter and honey.

Cooked English muffin

I normally skip breakfast, but I'll make an exception for these. Yum.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Fried chicken with bacon; Spicy baked sweet potato chips

Fried chicken is one of those great foods where you have to work really hard to mess things up. Everybody has their own recipe, their own tricks, their own technique, and it's always good (with the possible exception of Sandra Lee's fried chicken, which involves salt and flour, nothing more... it's a bland mess).

I came across a fried chicken recipe that I knew I had to try as soon as I saw it, because it had the magic word in it: Bacon.

Fried chicken and baked sweet potato chips

This ingenious idea was in The Cook's Book, a very large cookbook with chapters that are authored by different chefs according to their specialties. It discusses the basics, but also goes beyond the basics with some unique recipes. It seems like it would be a great choice for someone starting a cookbook collection (my copy is visiting from the library).

Start with 2 lbs of chicken, cut up. Add Dijon mustard, salt, and cayenne pepper. Pour buttermilk over chicken. While the chicken sits in the buttermilk, fry 4 rashers of bacon until crispy. Crumble the bacon into 3 cups of breadcrumbs. Heat up oil. Dredge chicken pieces in the breadcrumbs and fry until golden. Done.

Fried chicken Baked sweet potato chips

I also made some sweet potato chips flavored with brown sugar and cayenne pepper, to match up with the bacon flavor in the chicken. I baked the chips in an attempt to pretend that at least part of this meal was healthy. The "chips" won't come out crispy, but they're still quite tasty (if I do say so myself).

Spicy Baked Sweet Potato Chips
Makes 2 servings

2 sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the sweet potatoes into rounds between 1/8" and 1/4" thick (I used my food processor's slicing blade for this).

Combine the olive oil, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Add the sweet potato slices and toss to coat evenly. Spread the slices out on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, tossing once to minimize sticking.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pudding cake

The person who discovered pudding cake is a genius. This may be the most perfect dessert ever: on top, a moist cake layer, and underneath, a thick pudding layer.

Lemon Pudding Cake Lemon Pudding Cake

This particular one is a lemon pudding cake. As you can see, it came out mostly pudding, with a pretty thin cake layer; I'm actually ok with that. Texture-wise, the cake layer reminds me much more of a soufflé than a typical cake; again, that's fine with me. It's a pretty low-maintenance warm dessert... and yes, warm is KEY, because the pudding layer thickens as it cools, leaving you with a pudding layer that's almost a solid gel. Yeah, it'll still taste fine, but it's nowhere near as appetizing to look at.

This recipe at Epicurious is pretty similar to the recipe I used (Mine had 1/3 cup of lemon juice, 3/4 cup of sugar, 4 tbsp of melted butter, and I used skim milk instead of whole milk). If lemon isn't your thing, Epicurious has several other recipes for this type of cake, including maple and blueberry.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Empanadas Filled with Spicy Chicken

This recipe comes from Janet Mendel's Cooking from the Heart of Spain, which is full of recipes from the La Mancha region of Spain. There are some recipes in this book that have me drooling just from reading them (sadly, no gorgeous food porn pictures in this book). I'll almost certainly be trying out other recipes from this book over the next few weeks.

Tonight's recipe was one for empanadas. It's not exactly a low-maintenance recipe, but was well worth some extra effort... I even roasted my own pepper, which is something that I love doing. The results were fantastic. The filling has a really wonderful flavor from the oregano, cumin, and roasted pepper, and the pastry comes out light and flaky. I had one right out of the oven, and didn't even care that I burned my mouth; they're that good.

Things I will do differently next time:
  • Refrigerate the dough. The recipe specifically says to leave the dough at room temperature for the entire time it rests, but this made the dough very sticky and difficult to work with. I will say that the finished product is light and flaky, but refrigerating the dough would keep even more of the butter from melting before the dough is baked... which should yield something even flakier.

  • Not go quite as light on the cayenne pepper. I usually like hot, spicy food, but this was the first time I made this and I didn't want cayenne to end up as the main flavor. However, the filling is substantial enough that it could hold up to more heat.

  • Not drop my open flour container on the floor.
(I did have the recipe posted here, but I removed it, because I don't want to go against anyone's copyright.)

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Broccoli with garlic breadcrumbs


This is my go-to broccoli side dish recipe. If you don't have panko, regular breadcrumbs work just fine. You can add parmesan cheese, lemon zest, red pepper flakes... it's a good basic recipe with lots of room to improvise.

Broccoli with Garlic Breadcrumbs
Makes 4 servings.

1 lb broccoli, trimmed and cut into 2-3"-wide florets
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Steam the broccoli for 5-10 minutes (5 minutes will give you relatively crisp broccoli, 10 minutes will make it softer -- whatever your personal preference is).

Meanwhile, cook the garlic in olive oil in a 12" skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until just barely golden (about 5 minutes). Add the panko, salt, and pepper, stirring to evenly coat the panko with the garlic oil. Increase heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until the panko is golden (about 3 minutes). Remove the skillet from heat.

Add the steamed broccoli to the crumb mixture in the skillet and toss to coat.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Nun's Puffs

Baking during the summer isn't always a pleasant endeavor. Here in Maryland, we've been going through a nasty little heat wave involving multiple days of temperatures at or above 100 degrees. This results in me not wanting to crank my oven up to 400+ degrees... which means that there isn't much baking for me during the summer months. I happen to love baking (and am quite good at it, if I do say so myself), so I get cranky when it's too hot for extended oven usage.

Today, we had a bit of a break in the heat wave. Nothing substantial, but the high today was right around 90. It felt downright cool outside. The first thing I did was dust off my recipe for Nun's Puffs:

Nun's Puffs

I chose these for a couple of reasons. First, I have a major love for eggy quickbreads. More practically, a lower oven temperature (375) combined with the fact that they bake in a muffin tin means that the oven's on, but isn't cranked up super-high for a long time... it may be a bit cooler out, but it's still 90 degrees.

The batter for these is made in the same method as a pâte à choux; bring butter and your liquid (milk in this case) to a boil, add your flour and stir like crazy, then add eggs one at a time and continue stirring until you think your arm will fall off. The batter then goes into a greased muffin tin, and you sprinkle some sugar on top before baking. They end up being mostly savory, with a nice hint of sweetness on the top crust... very nice breakfast fare, drizzled with some honey.

Nun's Puffs

I used a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, which is something of a ubiquitous cookbook in many kitchens. However, if there's no copy handy, you can also see the recipe at Recipezaar or Everything2.

(I did have the recipe posted here, but I removed it because I don't want to go against anyone's copyright.)

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In a tiny kitchen?

Welcome to my brand-new food blog! I love cooking and baking, but I feel bad posting about my cooking experiments on my knitting blog. So, I finally sucked it up and started a separate blog for food stuff.

As for the title...
I live in an apartment, and my kitchen is 7' x 10'. Not much room for gadgets and small appliances, and the large appliances are definitely not state-of-the-art. For example, my oven doesn't have a window in the door or an oven light, so baking involves some guesswork. However, even with a tiny apartment kitchen and not a lot of stuff, I think I do some good cooking, and this is where I'll document it. Stay tuned. :)