Sunday, April 25, 2010

Granola Balls

This is a fast and easy one. And just because it's fast and easy doesn't mean it's not a totally wholesome, tasty snack. So super simple: 1/4 c peanut butter+2 T agave+1 T veg oil in a small pot on medium heat. Stir till liquidy(ish). Add 1 3/c of your favorite granola. Stir. With wet hands, shape into balls. Lay on waxed paper so they don't stick. DEE-lish.
 This recipe makes 12 granola balls, about the size of golf balls... keep away from granola lovers if you want them to make it an hour past the time they were finished!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Can I replicate the best bomboloncini?

I can sure as heck try, by looking at as many recipes that look like bread, donuts, and bomboloncini as possible, to get an idea of how to make the perfect not-quite-sweet bread product with delicious sweet filling. So that's just what I did, and this will be the first documented experiment in the feat of replicating Levain bakery's raspberry bomboloncini because, although my mid-morning snack yesterday morning was beyond satisfying, at $2.25/each, I'd like to figure out how to bring my cost down just a tad.

When I woke up this morning, I mixed the dough, went to the gym, and, when I came home, it was time to shape and fill these little gems (which my mother called "mini turtle shells" when they came out of the oven). I decided to make the first batch a white batch, because white flour has more elasticity, and it rises more easily. For this test run, I wanted to use white flour and sugar. I reasoned to myself, if this batch succeeded, the next few batches I would play with using alternative ingredients. I will say, although these are delicious and delightful in their finished state, I have a lot of work to do to make them as light and chewy as Levain's. I wonder what would happen if I filled them after baking, instead of shaping them and filling them in the same step before the second rise... If anyone has any comments of any kind, leave them below, instead of the facebook page. Let's start a dialogue: Help me make light bready donuts!

Here is the recipe I used:
2 T lukewarm water
1 package dry yeast
1/2 c heated and cooled whole milk
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
2 T sugar
pinch salt
2 T softened butter
fruit spread or smooth jam
1 T soft butter
1/4 c confectioners sugar

Pour water into bowl of electric mixer and sprinkle yeast on top. Let sit for 5 min. Add milk, sugar, flour, and salt. Mix until incorporated. Add butter, mix until dough forms, about 3-5 min. Remove dough from bowl and knead on floured surface until dough is smooth. Place in oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise 1 hr.
Prepare 2 baking sheets. Line each with parchment paper. Spread softened butter into four 5" circles on each sheet. Sprinkle confectioners sugar over each buttered circle. 
Divide dough into 8 portions. Remove first portion from bowl and keep the rest covered with plastic wrap. Have floured surface ready to work on. Divide first portion in half. Flatten each piece, from outside, in, so near the edges it's thinner than in the middle. You are aiming to make two 3" circles that are slightly thinner near the edges than in the middle. Lightly brush water around the edges of each circle. Dab (about 1/2 T) some jam on the middle of one circle. Lay other circle on top. Create a seam, with your fingers or, as in the picture above, with a fork. Then gather into a ball, and place, seam-side down, on circle on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough portions.
Cover both baking sheets with plastic, loosely, and set aside, 45 min, for dough to rise again.
Bake one sheet at a time, on the middle rack of the oven, at 400, for 8 min. Remove bomboloncini to a rack (use tongs).  Dig in!

Richly colorful gnocchi

I did it! And it was freakin awesome.
I saw this recipe in Sunset magazine ages ago. I think it was a vegetarian Thanksgiving option. I ripped out the page when I was visiting in the Bay Area, and it's been floated from my desk, to bookshelf, to bedside table for months. Finally, last night, it made its way to the kitchen counter. I had all of the major ingredients, just made a trip to pick of the cheeses and mushrooms and, voila! 
I swear it looked amazing. I was initially pretty impressed with myself but then I realized something: it's actually a pretty simple recipe. Just a tad time-consuming if you are alone. If you're NOT alone, and you have someone to make the gnocchi, someone to make the veggies, you're set, and this will be a cinch. But seriously, if you are alone and you want to make this, even though it makes about 4 servings, it's still manageable and satisfying and vegetarian and healthy and innovative. So i urge you to give it a go, because even before you eat it, it will make you feel good that you created this colorful (and in food terms, colorful is like super richly good, nutrient-wise), simple masterpiece!
Sweet Potato Gnocchi w/ spinach and mushrooms
adapted from Sunset magazine
1 lb (about 3 small) sweet potatoes, peeled, boiled, and pureed in blender
1 T brown sugar
1/2 c ricotta cheese, strained 1-hr over sink if watery
1/2 c freshly-grated parmesan cheese
1 1/4 c flour
1/2 T salt
1 T extra virgin olive oil

Begin to boil large pot of lightly salted water. Mix all ingredients to form a soft dough you can handle. Have a floured work surface (I used a cutting board) ready. With flour on your hands, form dough into four sections, and shape each one into a 1/2" wide rope. With a sharp knife, slice each rope into 1/2" sections. In batches of about 15, begin to boil gnocchi in water. Boil first batch about 5 min, or until firm and floated to top. Remove with slotted spoon to strainer, then to lightly oiled pan so they don't stick together. Do this for each batch. When they're all done, heat oil in a saute pan, add gnocchi, and toss occasionally, cooking until browned lightly. Set aside.

1 T butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T sliced shallot
2 c sliced cremini mushrooms
1/2 c vegetable broth
1-2 c baby spinach
salt, pepper, parmesan to taste

In saute pan, heat 1/2 T butter. Add garlic and shallot, cook until fragrant but not brown. Add mushrooms, cook 5-8 min on medium heat, until they release their liquid. Then add broth, remaining butter, and spinach. Cook on medium-high heat until spinach is wilted.

To serve: Put gnocchi on plate, top with veggies, salt and pepper, and freshly grated parmesan. Enjoy!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Did I already say I love California?

Yesterday's short trip to the North Berkeley Farmer's Market yielded some results, but not much. I didn't remember that market being so small! But it's just the beginning of spring, I'm sure it will grow as the season progresses. I returned home with two bags of greens from Happy Boy Farms: one of flowery salad mix, and one of prewashed mixed greens to cook, including escarole, kale, and chard. Matt happened to have some baby artichokes in the fridge, you know, so small they don't even have chokes yet, so you can peel off the darker green leaves, slice the remains, and chow down once sauteed or roasted.

So, this morning for breakfast, I made something so green it makes me smile to just look down at my plate and, although my camera-to-computer link is at home (boo), I took some less-good photos to share with you, just so you can have a picture to this glorious description. Greens *lightly* sauteed in garlic with sliced baby artichokes, served with scrambled eggs. Who could ask for anything else?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

And an easy second Passover recipe

I write this post from Oakland, CA, where it is nice and sunny. I'm about to leave for a Berkeley farmer's market to get some grain-free dinner supplies as I attempt to keep Passover in the region with the best food in America. I think it'll be an organic chicken sausage night, with some quinoa pilaf and baby artichokes (that's what we've gotten so far), but we'll see what we can scrounge up at the market.
Anyway, as I promised, here is recipe #2 of kosher for passover cookies.

This is the simplest French Macaron recipe in the world. You may think it's cheating, but it's flawless. I've made these with ground almonds before and just didn't get the same results. So call me what you will, but these are perfect, and will also garner the love and compliments from your friends just as the previous recipe did, I'm sure.

Simple Almond Macaroons, the easy way
7 oz almond paste
scant 2/3 c sugar
2 egg whites
Apricot jam

Combine ingredients in food processor. With rubber spatula or wooden spoon, scoop dough into pastry bag or large food-grade plastic bag with a very small hole cut in one corner. Squeeze all dough to where you want it, and twist bag at the top. Twist/squeeze bag from the top, as in, not near the hole, to spiral small circles of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Try to make them about the same size. I start by outlining a circle and filling it in until I reach the center. Bake sheets for about 10 minutes, until just golden, not brown. Let cool on sheet, then remove to plate. Put a small dollop (less is more) of jam onto half of the cookies, and sandwich with the other half.