Saturday, January 22, 2011

Vegetarian chili you will crave

I'm pretty sure that this chili is the stuff cravings are made out of.
Once again, the Oliver does not disappoint. The secret ingredient? Roasted sweet potatoes. It gives the chili a touch of sweetness that lightens everything up. And, the cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne don't hurt either.

I could (read: did) eat bowl after bowl of this. It is warm and satisfying, but not heavy. Really, just a perfect vegetarian chili.

It was so easy to make, which also doesn't hurt. Start by peeling and chopping up your sweet potatoes, into about 1/2 inch dice. Toss them with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of the warm spices.
While those are roasting, chop up some pretty bell peppers and onion, and toss them in a Dutch oven with some olive oil.
Once those have browned, add your cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, and some finely diced hot peppers (I used serano).
Work that all together.
Then, add your chopped tomatoes and beans.
Let that yum up for a bit, and then add in those glorious sweet potatoes right at the end.
And, you are done!
Get ready for the cravings to begin.

Vegetarian Chili (from theoliver)
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes (about 500 g)
1/2 - 1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus extra for sprinkling (1 tsp makes it very spicy)
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin, plus extra for sprinkling
1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
(1 bunch fresh coriander)*
1 red chili
1 green chili
2 cloves of garlic
2 14oz tins of beans- try kidney, chickpea, pinto, cannellini
2 14oz tins of chopped tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into bite-sized chunks [about 1/2-3/4 inch dice should do it, they shrink quite a bit]. Sprinkle with a pinch of cayenne, cumin, and cinnamon, drizzle with olive oil and scatter with a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to coat, then put them on a baking tray. Cook for about 40 minutes until soft and golden.**

Peel and roughly chop the onion. Halve, deseed, and roughly chop the pepper. Deseed and finely chop the chilis. Peel and finely chop the garlic.

Put a large pan on a medium*** heat and add a couple of glugs of olive oil. Add the onion and peppers, cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds more. Add the chili and spices, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.

Drain the cans of beans, then add them and the tomatoes to the pan. Stir well and bring to a boil, the reduce to a medium-low heat and leave to tick away for 25-30 minutes. Add a splash of water if it gets a bit thick.

Get the roasted sweet potatoes out of the oven and stir them through your chili. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Makes 4-6 servings.

*Obviously, I omitted this because I think cordiander tastes awful. But, you could substitute parsley instead.
**You may want to make extra of these, because they are so delicious there is no way you can resist snacking on them.
***I think medium heat is better if you are using a Dutch oven, but use medium-high heat if you are not.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chocolate-Cherry Chunkers

These chocolate-cherry delights have, count it,
five different kinds of chocolate: bittersweet, unsweetened, milk, semisweet, and cocoa powder.

And, there are cherries.
Could you possibly ask for more?

But, fair warning, these aren't really 'cookies'. They are a bit luxurious, more like not-too-sweet, high quality layer bars in cookie form. But, however you describe them, they taste divine.

To make them, you start by whipping up your eggs and sugar. Then you melt the bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates with some butter. Then combine those.
Next, you add in your dry ingredients. How good does this batter look?
Now, time for all your goodies: dark chocolate chips/chunks, milk (or white) chocolate chips/chunks, toasted pecans, and cherries.
When you scoop them onto the baking sheet, it seems like they can't possibly stick together, because the batter is very chunky, but don't worry, it works.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the tops are a bit dry. Be careful when you take them off the cookie sheet, it takes them a little while to set-up.
Let them cool, and get ready to be delighted!
Chocolate-Cherry Chunkers (adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 cup chocolate chips
6 ounces premium milk or white chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped nuts, preferably salted peanuts or pecans
1 cup dried cherries, chopped*

*Her recipe calls for 1 cup moist, plump dark or golden raisins or finely chopped moist, plump dried apricots, but I am in love with the chocolate-cherry combination, hence dried cherries.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Sift together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the butter, bittersweet chocolate, and unsweetened chocolate and heat, stirring occasionally, just until melted-- the chocolate and butter should be smooth and shiny but not so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the heat and set it on the counter to cool.

Working with a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until they are pale and foamy. Beat in the vanilla extract, then scrape down the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the melted butter and chocolate, mixing only until incorporated. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl, then, on low speed, add the dry ingredients. Mix just until the dry ingredients disappear into the dough, which will be thick, smooth, and shiny. Scrape down the bowl and, using the rubber spatula, mix the semi-sweet and milk (or white) chocolate chips, nuts, and cherries-- you'll have more crunchies than dough at this point. (The dough can be wrapped in plastic and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Drop the dough by generously heaping tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about an inch of space between the mounds.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 10-12 minutes. The tops of the cookies will look (and feel) a little dry but the interiors should still be soft. Remove the baking sheet and carefully, using a broad metal spatula, life the cookies onto a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the remaining dough, baking only one sheet of cookies at a time and making sure to cool the baking sheet between batches.

If, when the cookies are cooled, the chocolate is still gooey and you'd like it to be a bit firmer, just pop the cookies into the fridge for about 10 minutes.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A triumph of a double-crust lemon pie

Over a year ago, my father suggested I make a double-crust lemon pie for the holidays. You might think this was a simply request.

You would be wrong.

Turns out that recipes for double-crust lemon pies aren't exactly abounding. The most popular option is the 'Shaker Lemon Pie', which has you thinly slice lemons, macerate them over night, and use that as the filling. I made this pie. And, then I made it again. Each time it was just shy of inedible. The rind, in spite of the maceration time, was bitter (which, I hear, there are ways around), and the texture also was off. There was none of that wonderful smooth lemon pie filling, just lumpy, grainy, lemon slices. A failure, to be sure.

So... gasp!... I had to come up with my own recipe. At least, kind of. I decided to take a recipe for lemon pie filling, adjust the quantities, and put it between two crusts. Finding the right quantity has taken some doing. But... like I said, this story ends in my triumphing over the double-crust lemon pie! Hooray!

The filling is perfect: not to tart, like lemon curd, but not too sweet either. You, of course, start with a bunch of lemons, 4-5.
Grate 'em
Juice 'em
Then, get everything else together in your mis en place.
Whisk everything, except the butter, together in a bowl.
Then, add the butter, and in a somewhat large sauce pan, slowly bringing it to a simmer. Be sure to whisk constantly, so nothing scalds.
Once it has come to a simmer, whisk for 30 seconds more, and remove it from the heat. It will be a lovely pale yellow color, and it will be thick, like pudding.
Then, using a spatula, press the filling through a sieve.
This will help you leave this sort of thing behind.
And, here you have it: wonderful lemon pie filling!
Cover it with wax paper, let it come to room temperature, then put it in the refrigerator to cool.
P.s. You can also just eat this filling with a spoon, like pudding. It will make you very happy.

But, if you are going the pie route... when you are ready to assemble your pie, roll out the bottom crust. Fill the pie with that gorgeous filling.
Put on the top crust, crimp the sides, use a knife to poke some breathing holes in the top, and pop it in the oven.
Just under an hour later, you have a lemon pie!
Like I said, a triumph!

Double-Crust Lemon Pie (adapted from Joy of Cooking and my trials and tribulations)
Lemon Filling Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup water
1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Whisk together all the ingredients, except the butter, in a large saucepan. Then, add the butter. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly and scraping the bottom and the corners of the pan to prevent scorching, until the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens. Then continue to cook, whisking briskly, for about 30 seconds.

Using a spatula, scrape and strain the filling into a medium-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Cover the surface of the filling with a piece of wax or parchment paper, cool, then refrigerate to thicken. Stir gently if necessary before using; do not beat. This keeps, refrigerated, for up to 2 days.

For the crust:
Pâte Brisée recipe, or whatever recipe for pie crust you like

For the pie:
Preheat oven to 425.

Roll out the bottom crust so that it is about 12-inches, and place in a 9-inch pie pan. Trim the dough, so there is a 3/4 inch overhang. Pour the filling into the bottom crust, and level with the back of a spoon. Brush the overhanging edge with cold water. Roll out the top crust, and cover the pie. Firmly pinch the edges of both crusts together with your fingers to seal. Trim the double edge overhang to 3/4 inch, then tuck the overhang underneath so that the folded edge is flush with the rim of the pie pan. Crimp or flute the edge. Prick the crust with a fork or using a sharp knife, make three or four 2-inch vents.

Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake 20-30 minutes more. Let cool completely on rack.