January 28, 2013

Mostly Broccoli Goat Cheese Tart

Broccoli Goat Cheese Tart

This is imperfect yet perfectly delicious. 

It's too buttery, too broccoli and too crusty.  It's funny looking, like a quiche with a hole in the bottom where all the egg drained out. But I could not stop eating it. 

You could fix this by omitting a few tablespoons of butter in the crust, paring down the broccoli and adding an egg to the filling. Then it would be more fluffy and familiar. Or leave it just as it is and enjoy your odd cheesy vegetable tart. 

Mostly Broccoli Goat Cheese Tart

Makes enough for one 9 inch crust 


1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
4-5 tablespoons ice water


1 cup broccolette (or broccoli rabe or broccoli florets)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 oz. goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4  teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped

January 22, 2013

Carrot Cranberry Whoopie Pies

I love the idea of an inside-out cupcake where the frosting is tucked in the middle instead of on top. It's less messy to eat and you're sure to get frosting in every bite.

A Whoopie Pie is kind of like this. The original version (from New England) is two pieces of chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting in the middle. It got its name from farmers who would find them in their lunch pail and yell "whoopie!". Cute. But it makes them sound like third graders. Maybe it was a silent "whoopie!" only in their heads, or maybe men were less inhibited and more moved by simple pleasures back then. Or possibly Wikipidea has it all wrong. Anyhoo...

Today I'm making a Carrot/Oatmeal/Cranberry Whoopie Pie. The cake part is more of a soft cookie with crispy edges and the cream cheese frosting has a splash of cranberry juice. They're yummy, hearty and easy.

Carrot Cranberry Whoopie Pies

Makes approx. 10 pies

½ cup butter, room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup grated carrots
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup oatmeal (not quick-cooking or steel cut)

1. Cream the butter and sugars in mixer until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated.

2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and sift into batter. Mix just until blended. Fold in oatmeal, carrots and cranberries. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to firm up.

3. Preheat oven to 350º. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from fridge and scoop into balls the size you want your pies to be, i.e., a ping-pong ball size scoop will give you a large 3-4 inch cookie. I experimented with patting my dough out on a flour dusted counter and cutting them into uniform sizes. Messy, but it worked pretty well.

4. Bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on cookie size). Cool completely then apply a scoop of frosting on the flat side and press down with a second cookie (flat side to flat side). Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cranberry juice (or orange juice or whatever you have on hand)

1. Put all ingredients in a bowl and beat until well blended.

January 18, 2013

Brussel Sprout Salad with Almonds and Goat Cheese

Brussel Sprout Salad with Smoked Almonds and Goat Cheese

I don't like brussel sprouts, but that's beside the point. Today I will make them and win myself over! Why? Well, first off, they're adorable. Secondly, they're incredibly healthy. Full of fiber, vitamins C, E, A and K, folate and more.

When I've had brussel sprouts before (roasted or sauteed) they've tasted bitter to me. So today I'm making a raw preparation. I assumed they would taste like cabbage, which I like, so I sliced a bit and had a taste. Just like cabbage only a little sweeter. Nice.

I'm combining them with smoked almonds (I have a bag from Trader Joe's that's been sitting around, untouched by resident snackers), warm goat cheese (to add some gooey and tangy) and a sherry vinaigrette (to compliment the smoky nuts). Quite tasty and a good option for a winter slaw/salad.

Use a serrated knife to slice the sprouts thinly

Brussel Sprout Salad with Smoked Almonds and Goat Cheese

Serves 4

18 brussel sprouts (4 cups shredded)
1/2 cup smoked almonds
4 oz. goat cheese
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 egg
¼ teaspoon black pepper


1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped shallots
½ teaspoon dijon mustard
4-5 tablespoons olive oil (depending on how acidic you like it)

Whisk egg and pepper together in a small bowl. Place Panko crumbs in a shallow dish. Slice goat cheese into 4 rounds, dip in egg wash, then in panko making sure to coat thoroughly.  Place on a small plate, cover with plastic wrap and put in the freezer for 15-20 minutes until firm (you can do this in advance up to a few days if you wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap).

While the cheese freezes, wash the brussel sprouts in cold water and roll on a clean towel to dry. Slice thinly with a serrated knife to within ¼ inch of root end (where it gets bitter). Place in bowl.

Feed almonds through tube in your food processor, using the smallest slicing blade. Alternately, you can chop them up with a heavy knife.

Make vinaigrette by combining vinegar, shallots and mustard and then whisking in olive oil.

Preheat oven to 450º.  Take goat cheese out of freezer and place on baking sheet lined with a little parchment paper. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top of the cheese rounds. Bake for 8 minutes or until golden. 

Toss brussel sprouts with vinaigrette, sprinkle with the almonds and top with a round or two of goat cheese (while it's still warm). 

I used the slicing blade on my
food processor and fed the almonds
 through the tube to get this rough mix.

Brussel Sprout Salad with Smoked Almonds

January 14, 2013

Dahlia Bakery Chocolate Banana Cream Bites

Dahlia Bakery Chocolate Banana Cream Bites

In my book, bakeries are either flaky or gooey. Flaky bakeries are European style with cases full of jewel-like pastries - glossy, symmetrical and perfect. Gooey bakeries have shelves of donuts and cinnamon rolls drooping with the weight of frosting or caramel, fluffy layer cakes and pies with filling bubbled over the edge. You can guess which I prefer. I think I may have found my ultimate gooey bakery but, sadly, it's in Seattle. Road trip! Someday, I hope. But for now I'll have to settle for the their cookbook, The Dahlia Bakery.

I purchased it after hearing Dahlia's founder, Tom Douglas, on NPR - now THAT'S what good PR will do for you. It's full of decadent and homey items from his Seattle bakery/cafe and this was the first recipe I had to try.

These are like tiny banana cream pies, which have a fond place in my memory being my brothers choice on his birthday. I was lemon meringue and my sister was chocolate silk or whatever looked fanciest at Poppin Fresh Pies (the precursor to Baker's Square and a much better name, in my opinion). I loved the combination of cool, creamy pudding and crispy pie crust. 

The best, the very best, part of this is the vanilla pastry cream (what I call "pudding"). It's incredible and worth every minute, penny and calorie. You'll need fresh vanilla from the pod (expensive but essential). If you like Breyer's Vanilla ice cream with the specks of vanilla, you will love this. It's kind of like that but much better. This recipe makes extra and it would be great with strawberries and whipped cream.

These will disappear quickly. People will snitch them when you're not looking, maybe from your very own plate. The crust is crunchy and cookieish and the chocolate, pastry cream, banana and whipped cream are superb together. Best of all they're not difficult to make, just a bit time consuming.

Dahlia Bakery Chocolate Banana Cream Bites
adapted from The Dahlia Bakery cookbook

Makes about 15 

First make the pastry cream: 

Vanilla Pastry Cream 

Makes about 1¼ cups

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons sugar
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ vanilla bean

Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Put empty pods in a saucepan with the milk and cream. Set scrapings/seeds aside. 

Whisk sugar and cornstarch together in a bowl. Add egg yolks and vanilla bean scrapings and whisk furiously until it is smooth and pale yellow.  

Bring the milk/cream mixture to a low boil (bubbling around the edges) and remove from the heat. Remove the pods and add a little to the sugar/egg mixture and whisk to temper the eggs, then slowly add the rest of the warm cream continuing to whisk until relatively smooth. 

Return mixture to stovetop and cook at a slow bubble, whisking constantly, until thick (like pudding). 

Immediately place in bowl of food processor, add butter and vanilla and pulse until melted, combined, smooth and glossy. Set over bowl of ice water until cool, place plastic wrap on the surface and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Next the crust:

Nut Crust

½ cup walnuts
1 ⅓ cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons butter
4-5 tablespoons ice water

Preheat oven to 350º. 
Dice butter and put in freezer. 
Grind walnuts in food processor, then add flour, brown sugar, salt and pulse until combined, scraping down sides and bottom if necessary. Add butter and pulse until the dough has pea size lumps. Add 3 tablespoons of ice water and pulse. Take a pinch of dough. It should clump together. If it doesn't, add another few tablespoons of water and pulse again. 
Gather dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or two. Roll out on floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into 3 inch rounds and place in mini-muffin tins, gently pushing into bottom and fluting the edges a bit with your fingers. Prick the bottom with the tines of a fork. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely.

Almost there - the ganache!


¼ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
¼ cup chopped milk or semi-sweet chocolate
⅓ cup cream
Pinch of salt

Grate the chocolate (or use chips) and place in a heat-proof bowl. Heat cream in a saucepan over medium high heat until bubbling around the edges. Pour on top of chocolate and let sit one minute. Stir until smooth. Let cool until thickened, but not hard. 

Whip the cream:

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Put the cold cream in a cold bowl with the sugar and whip just until it's smooth and holds a soft peak. Don't go past this point or it will get lumpy (but will taste fine). 

2 bananas

Slice the bananas

FINALLY - assemble these wonders!

1. Using a small spoon, put a layer of chocolate on the bottom of the tart shell
2. Add a slice of banana and squish it down a bit
3. Using a second small spoon, add a dollop of pastry cream
4. Top it with as much whipped cream as you like
5. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.

January 10, 2013

Crispy Potato Hash

Crispy Simple Potato Hash

Potatoes are such comforting food. Earthly, soft or crisp or soft and crisp, amenable to lots of other flavors. They're a friend you can seat next to anyone at a dinner party and not worry they'll talk radical politics or details of their last health issue. They play well with others. 

This dish is simply russet potatoes, a red onion, a red pepper and a few scallions. There is a wee-bit of preparation in that you need to precook the potatoes (cooking potatoes twice will get them crisp) but you could do this anytime and stash them in the fridge until you're ready to hash it out. 

The other thing I should mention is patience, something I lack in cooking. You need to let these fry gently for 10-15 minutes before flipping IF you want a little crispy (and who doesn't?).  You could add sausage, bacon or a fried egg to this. Avocado, smoked salmon or spicy black beans would also be delicious (see what I mean about this being the easy-going friend of the vegetable world?). 

Cooking potatoes whole and in their skins gives them better flavor .
I leave the skins on for the hash
(but you could peel them if you prefer)

Crispy Potato Hash

Serves 4

3 large russet potatoes
1 large red pepper
1 medium red onion
2 scallions
1/4 cup olive oil (approximate)
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper
Chopped Italian parsley (optional)

Scrub potatoes clean and prick a few times with a fork. Place in large pot and cover with cold water and a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and cook until fork slides in easily but potato is still firm and not falling apart or cracking (about 20 minutes but will vary based on size of potato). Immediately remove from water and set on a towel until they're cool enough to handle. Peel if desired. Slice into approx. 1/2 inch planks, then dice into 1/2 inch cubes. Set aside.

Slice scallions and set aside.

Dice red pepper and onion. Heat butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add peppers and onions and saute until soft, 10-15 minutes. 

Add potatoes and scallions, gently mix to spread the onions and peppers throughout, and salt generously. Drizzle more olive oil around the outside ring of potatoes so you see a little bubbling around the edges. Let them fry gently for 10-15 minutes until bottom is brown. Then carefully flip over, one section at a time using a metal spatula and scraping all the good brown crust off the bottom. Add more olive oil around the outside edge and cook for another 5- 10 minutes, tasting for salt and adding if necessary. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Now you must be patient and wait for the little buggers to brown.

"Brown food tastes good. "
- Ann Burrell

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