May 27, 2013

Brown Butter Cowgirl Bars

Brown Butter Cowgirl Bars
My daughter is a horseback rider and competes in shows in the warmer months. Before I was involved in this sport I imagined it was a Ralph Lauren world filled with girls with long silky hair, perfect bone structures, trust funds and eyes that said "you don't know anything about my world and you never will".

How different reality is. Lots of girls with long, but rarely silky, hair (due to the rain, humidity or sweat from being in a helmet in 85 degree weather) with every kind of face and eyes that say "Hey, how are you? It's so cool you're here". In the show ring, everyone looks much the same - a picture of snooty equestrian life in tan breeches, tall boots, tailored jackets and sleek helmets. Before and after it's cutoffs or jeans, dusty tee shirts and muck boots - an essential because the place is crawling with horses, of course, but also dogs. So. Watch. Your. Step.

Everyone is friendly. Everyone. And as long as you like animals - you'll feel right at home. Plus they play the craziest music mixes over the intercom - everything from hair bands to classic country to college alt. Find a spot in the shade, bring a good book and watch them pack around the jumps...not a bad way to spend the day (unless it's rainy and muddy or freezing and windy which it often is, but we're focusing on ideal conditions for this post).

I brought these cookie bars to the last show to share with everyone - they have delicious brown butter flavor, chocolate chips, and oats and walnuts to power the athletes (human variety - the equines just stick with oats). Browned butter brings out the butter flavor plus a subtle carameliness. Worth the extra step.

Brown Butter Cowgirl Bars

Makes approx. 20 large bars

3 sticks unsalted butter, browned and chilled*
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup oatmeal, not quick-cooking
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
2 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350º

2. Beat butter and sugars with electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated.

3. Put flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add to batter in a few additions mixing until combined.

4. Add oatmeal, walnuts and chocolate chips and stir with a wooden spoon (or clean hands) to mix them into the dough. It's a very dry dough.

5. Spread into an ungreased cookie/sheet pan pushing into corners and smoothing out top (I used a pastry scraper to get it smooth and even).

6. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool, cut and share.

* Heat butter in a saucepan and let bubble until brown bits appear on the bottom and edges of the pan, swirling a bit as it cooks. Pour into a heatproof dish and chill until solidified but still soft (about an hour).

Brown Butter Cowgirl Bars

May 24, 2013

Greek Beef Orzo

Greek Beef Orzo

I grew up eating a ground beef/tomato/saltandpepper/onion/celery/elbow macaroni skillet dish that my dad had learned to make from his mother. I think we called it hamburger casserole. I loved it - simple, clean, a little veg, a little meat, a little noodle. Economical too. This dish reminds me of that but with MUCH more flavor. It has tremendous flavor - sightly spicy, layered - delicious. I thought the cinnamon would bother me (I have an aversion to sweet mixed with savory and cinnamon makes me think dessert) but it didn't. It's served over bright lemony orzo pasta which adds another blanket of yum to an already flavorful dish. Ditto the feta and olives you sprinkle on top. Don't skip any of it.

I wish I'd come up with this but those honors go to Emily over at FiveandSpice. She won a contest with it for "best cheap feast" over at Food52. Completely deserving. She made hers with ground lamb.  I made mine with ground beef. With these flavors you can't go wrong.

Greek Beef Orzo 

From FiveandSpice via Food52
Serves 6-8

1 lb. ground beef (I used grass-fed) or lamb
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
7 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand
1 14 oz. can mini-diced tomatoes and their juices
5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped

1 lb. orzo pasta
2 cups fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1/4 cup kalamata olive, slivered

1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil to a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add beef, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and cook until brown, breaking up with a fork or spoon. Remove to a plate and drain all but 2 tablespoon fat from the pan (I had to add some olive oil because my meat was so lean).

2. Add onions and garlic and saute until softened - about 5-10 minutes.

3. Add all spices and saute for another few minutes until fragrant.

4. Add drained and crushed tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes.

5. Add diced tomatoes and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

6. Add ground beef back in, cover pot and let simmer for 20 minutes. Then add the chopped spinach and stir until wilted.

7. Meanwhile make the orzo in large pot of heavily salted (1 tablespoon) water until tender. Drain and toss with lemon juice, olive oil and parsley.

8. Put orzo on a platter and scoop meat sauce over. Sprinkle with feta and olives.

If you live in Mpls, get your feta and olives here 

May 20, 2013

Buffalo Egg Salad (with Cauliflower)

Buffalo Egg Salad (with Cauliflower)

Aw, man. Cauliflower in egg salad? Why would you go and do a thing like that?

Well, let me tell you.  I was out of celery. I like to sneak vegetables into things. And my husband happily ate it and had no idea it was filled with cauliflower!

This sandwich isn't exactly healthy but it is better than a plate of wings and has all the good spicy, salty pungentness of Frank's Red Hot (the only buffalo sauce, in my opinion). The eggs are sieved (I'll explain later) so they're soft and fluffy and you can stuff the sandwich with less guilt because the cauliflower is plumping it up.

Sieved eggs were brought to my attention by Smitten Kitchen's Deb Perlman. The hard boiled eggs are pressed through a colander to create a fluffy pile of eggs. Since I couldn't sieve cauliflower, I pummeled it in the food processor to get even-sized pieces, then sauteed them to soften. The textures are remarkably similar. Soft and luxurious with a hee-haw from Frank's and a little sharpness from the blue cheese.

Buffalo Egg Salad (with Cauliflower)

Makes 2 sandwiches

1/4 head cauliflower, core removed
4 eggs, hard boiled
2 scallions, white and light green part
3-4 tablespoons Frank's Red Hot sauce (to taste)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon crumbled blue cheese

1. Put raw cauliflower into food processor and turn on until finely chopped. Heat pan over medium heat and saute cauliflower until softened. Cool.

2. Press eggs through medium sieve using a fork to push through (not all of the eggs will make it but will get mashed enough with the fork motion to add to the salad).

3. Chop scallions finely.

4. Put everything into a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

May 15, 2013

Coconut Crust with Chocolate Ganache

Coconut Shortbread with Chocolate Ganache

This started life as the crust for a frozen strawberry cream pie but it didn't pan out due to catastrophic problems with the gelatin - think clumps of rubbery goo hidden among the fruit and cream only revealing itself in your mouth in a MOST unpleasant way..."I don't remember putting gummy worms in this". The crust, however, was killer. So I made another one, draped it in chocolate, threw on a handful of raw coconut and a sprinkle of flaked salt and had something sweet, salty and vaguely tropical to show for my afternoon. 

And stay tuned - not giving up on that pie...

Coconut Almond Crust with Chocolate Ganache

Makes 9 pieces

Coconut Graham Crust

9 sheets (one sleeve) graham crackers, broken up
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1/2 cup raw coconut flakes
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons Greek-style vanilla yogurt

1. Preheat oven to 350º.

2. Put first 6 ingredients in a food processor and blend until crumbly. Add yogurt and turn machine on, adding butter as it processes (it will resemble wet sand).

3. Press into bottom of 8" springform pan, pressing down to compact.

4. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Let cool and set aside.


1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup raw coconut flakes
Flaked sea salt

1. Heat cream over low heat until bubbles appear around the edges. Add chocolate and stir until completely smooth. Pour over cooled crust, sprinkle with sea salt and coconut flakes. Cool before serving.

May 11, 2013

Basil Balsamic Pistachio Green Beans

Basil Balsamic Pistachio Green Beans
Score! Not as often as I'd like do I cook something that everyone in my family loves (not counting sweets which, as Ruth Reichl says, are kind of a cheap trick). So when I try something new and they are one in their thumbs-up, I get a little petite-of-lettuce thrill. These green beans are the cause of my latest small victory. 

You simply sear, blanch or roast the beans and toss them with a sweet crunchy kicky balsamic basil pistachio dressing. I use white balsamic because I find it a little milder than the regular kind...more kid-friendly. A great side or as part of a composed salad the next day (not that you'll have any leftovers).

Basil Balsamic Pistachio Green Beans

Serves 4 as a side dish

1 lb. green beans or haricot-verts, trimmed
1 cup basil leaves, loosely packed
1/4 cup pistachios
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Parmesan cheese, optional

1. Combine everything except beans in a food processor. Blend until combined but a little rough.

2. Sear (hot pan with a little olive oil on the stovetop - add beans and toss until a little brown but still crisp), oven roast or blanch the green beans.

3. Toss beans with sauce in a large bowl, grate a bit of Parmesan over the top and serve.

May 7, 2013

I'm OK, You're OK (and so is this Chimichurri Fried Rice)

Chimichurri fried rice

Some days are virtual whiplash. You shine at something, maybe two things and feel so even and high and competent and then whomp, catching you completely off-guard, someone makes you feel inferior and your high plummets. That platitude about someone not being able to make you feel inferior without your permission is pure BS - when you're talking to me but looking over my shoulder for someone better, you're making me feel inferior. When I tell you about something I'm working on and you act like I'm a first-grader bringing home a crayoned drawing (which are fabulous, by the way), you're making me feel inferior. Well %$#! you and %$#! you too.

Forgive me.

Heading to the kitchen is as good a therapy as I've found. Rythmically chopping vegetables into uniform cubes gives me plenty of time to ruminate on my shortcomings and send waves of bad karma to the deserving. Once that's out of my system, I may realize that people are filled with their own insecurities and they might just not get or be interested in the same things I am, and that's OK. In the end I'm in a more peaceful place and I have something to eat for dinner.

I made this with leftover rice, a few vegetables I had on hand (most any would do - just cut them the same size so they cook in the same amount of time) and some chimichurri sauce I made yesterday. Chimichurri is a garlicky, smoky, acidic sauce and I absolutely love it.  A fried egg with a runny yolk topped it off. Quick and comforting. End the day on a positive note.

Chimichurri Fried Rice

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side

Red Chimichurri
1/4 cup toasted almonds
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parsley leaves
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimenton)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt, approx.

1. Put all ingredients except salt in food processor and blend until combined (won't be smooth). Add salt to taste.

Fried Rice
3 cups rice, cooked and cooled (I used brown basmati)
3 carrots, diced
1 green or red pepper, diced
3 tablespoons red chimichurri sauce
Olive oil
2-4 sunny side up eggs
Parsley, optional
Lime wedges, optional

1. Put large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and vegetables. Saute until tender but still crisp (3-4 minutes). Add chimichurri and saute for a minute then add rice and stir to combine. Turn heat down and make egg(s).

2. Heat nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Add a little olive oil or butter. Carefully crack egg and let saute until whites are set but center is not. Sprinkle with a little salt.

3. Put rice on plate and top with egg. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and fresh lime juice, if desired.

Chimichurri fried rice
A sunny-side up egg really is very sunny looking.

May 3, 2013

Biscuits with Rhubarb & Cream Cheese Whip

Perfect Biscuits and Rhubarb Shotcake

Happiness is finding a biscuit recipe that works. Ones that are fluffy, tender and crispy all at the same time. I tried so many this week that I'm wearing a biscuit around my middle, but it was worth it. Here's the trick — keep everything cold and handle it as little as possible. Chill the mixing bowl, freeze the butter (you'll add it using a cheese grater) and keep the buttermilk in the fridge until it's time. Mix it quickly and pat it gently into shape. I cut squares for maximum surface area. 

No better way to celebrate than with some tart rhubarb compote and whipped cream that looks like it's been spending time at the gym (where I should be). 

Rhubarb-Orange Compote

Makes about 2 cups

1 lb. (about 5 stalks) fresh rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces (3 cups)
1/2 cup sugar
Juice and zest from 1 orange (appx. 1/4 cup and 1 teaspoon)

1. Put all ingredients into a saucepan and stir gently. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let boil and reduce a bit. Give it a good stir then reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 5 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for another 5 minutes, stirring once or twice then let cool completely before serving (or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks).

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