May 5, 2014

Perfect Guacamole

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  

Here's the perfect recipe for guacamole.  With only a few ingredients, this method really allows our friend, the avocado, to shine.  I've been making this for years and it's a favorite among family and friends. 

So go ahead - celebrate with this delicious guacamole.  Shake up a margarita and you have a fiesta on your hands.  Feel free to invite me to the party.


Guacamole
Serves 4

1 jalapeño or serrano chile, seeds and membrane removed, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 - 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ripe avocados

Mix together the chile, onion, lime juice, cilantro and salt in a medium bowl.  Cut the avocados in half.  Remove and discard the seed.  Carefully score the avocado into a 1/2-inch dice while still in the skin. Remove the diced avocado with a spoon and add to the bowl. Using a fork, gently mash and mix the avocado with the other ingredients until combined, but still chunky.  Taste for seasoning.







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April 21, 2014

Coconut Macaroons










Not to be confused with the French macaron, these macaroons are a much more forgiving sweet treat perfect for spring.  Coconut macaroons are very common during Passover, because they are a flourless confection.  I make them every year.  Dip them in chocolate and I swear you’ll think you’re eating a Samoa girl scout cookie.  Only much better. 

Did you know that May 31st is National Macaroon Day?   This means you have plenty of time to make these now and then again to celebrate in a few weeks.


Combine coconut with condensed milk and vanilla.






Whip egg whites and salt.







Gently fold egg whites into coconut mixture.










Almost combined.








Drop onto baking sheets.





















Coconut Macaroons
Makes 20-24 cookies

Ingredients:
14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


Directions:
Preheat oven to 325.

Combine coconut, condensed milk and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks.  Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Drop batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper or a silpat using an ice cream scoop (1-3/4” diameter) or two teaspoons.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature.





April 3, 2014

Hoisin Glazed Salmon with Avocado-Edamame Salad

Here’s a delicious meal - perfect for spring or anytime of year.  The salmon and salad have several of the same ingredients so you can prep those once and share them in both recipes.



Hoisin Glazed Salmon with Avocado-Edamame Salad
Serves 4

Salad:
8 ounces frozen shelled edamame, thawed
8 ounces sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and cut in half
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger*
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
Generous pinch of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
5 to 8 radishes, sliced
1 ripe avocado, cut into large dice
Sesame seeds

Salmon:
4  center cut salmon filets (about 6 ounces each)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Glaze:
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
Juice of 1 lime
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely grated*
For garnish:
Sesame seeds
Sliced green onions

Prepare the salad:
Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add edamame and snap peas and cook for 60 seconds.  Drain and allow to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients – rice vinegar, oil, garlic, ginger, lime, honey, salt and pepper.

Place salad ingredients in a medium bowl – cooled edamame, snap peas, green onion, cilantro, radishes, sesame seeds and avocado.  Toss with dressing to taste.

Prepare the glaze:
In a small pot, combine glaze ingredients.  Heat over medium until simmering.  Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.

Prepare salmon:
Use paper towels to absorb any moisture on filets.  Season flesh of salmon generously with kosher salt. Coat the bottom of a nonstick sauté pan with the oil, heat on high until oil just starts to smoke.  Carefully lay the salmon in the pan, flesh side down.  Cook the salmon until it has a nice sear on the flesh side, about 3-4 minutes.  Carefully flip salmon and cook additional 3-4 minutes, until fish is cooked to about medium.  Divide glaze mixture between filets while the skin side is down, spreading with a spoon on top of the flesh.  Top salmon with green onions and sesame seeds.  Serve with rice, rice noodles, buckwheat soba noodles or simply with the salad.


**I keep a peeled knob of ginger in the freezer and grate it over a microplane straight from frozen when I need it.


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February 13, 2014

Pretzel-Crusted Salted Caramel Brownies





FACT.  Salty + Sweet = Delicious.  

Sometimes a dense chocolate brownie needs an element of crunch that can’t be achieved through the addition of nuts. 

Enter our friend, the pretzel.  Salty, crispy, perfect.

The pretzels keep their crunch as the crust of this brownie, rather than being folded into the batter.

Make these and you might just elect the pretzel your new best friend.




Pretzel-Crusted Salted Caramel Brownies
Makes 20-25 brownies

Pretzel crust:
1 cup crushed pretzels (crushed in food processor)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, melted

Brownie:
7 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Topping:
2-3 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
10-13 caramel candy pieces
Sea salt, such as fleur de sel

Preheat oven to 350.

Make the crust:
Line a 9x13x2 pan with parchment, allowing some overhang on the sides.  Stir together the pretzel crumbs, flour, brown sugar and baking soda.  Stir in the melted butter.  Pat mixture evenly into the prepared pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Make the brownies:
In a glass bowl set on top of a saucepan of simmering water, combine chocolate, butter and water.  Stir occasionally until melted and combined.  Transfer to a large bowl.

Add both sugars to chocolate mixture and beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until combined.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Beat on medium for 2 minutes.  Add flour, salt and cinnamon.  Beat on low just until combined.  Spread batter on top of pretzel crust.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs.  Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Make the topping:
Melt the chocolate and caramel candy pieces separately.  Place each in a zip-top bag and snip off one corner.  Drizzle each liberally on top of cooled brownies.  Top with flakes of sea salt.  Refrigerate to set completely.  When cool, remove brownies from pan, cut into squares.


Recipe adapted from Bakers Royale.






























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February 5, 2014

SOUP'S ON!

You guys.  It's winter.  It's cold.  Aren't your craving a hot bowl of soup?  I know I am. 

Chicken Tortilla Soup and Thai Butternut Squash Soup are two favorites you are sure to love.  They are simple, delicious, HEALTHY, inexpensive and will feed a crowd. 

Chicken Tortilla Soup


Thai Butternut Squash Soup
Noticing a jalapeño theme? I can't get enough!



Chicken Tortilla Soup
Makes 8-10 generous servings
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Recipe

4 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
1 tablespoon olive oil                                              
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
9 cups chicken broth or stock
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed with your hands
2-4 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
6 (6-inch) fresh corn tortillas

Optional toppings for serving:
Chopped avocado, sour cream, grated cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, tortilla chips, jalapeños, chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 35-40 minutes, until cooked through.  Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven.  Add the onions, celery and carrots and cook over medium-low for about 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown.  Add the coriander, cumin and garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapeños, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and the cilantro. Stack the tortillas and cut into 1/2-inch strips, then cut the strips into 1/2-inch squares.  Add to the soup.  Bring soup to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones and shred the meat.  After the soup has simmered, add chicken to the soup and check soup for seasoning.  Ladle into bowls and serve with tortilla chips and toppings of your choice.

*Regarding the jalapeños - they will NOT make your soup spicy if you remove the seeds and membranes before you mince them.  If you prefer a little heat, keep the seeds and membranes in one or two of them.  Just be careful and wash you hands immediately after handling the peppers.  If you are completely averse to using jalapeños, simply substitute two poblano peppers.





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Thai Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 apple, cored and chopped (Gala or Fuji work well)
2 teaspoons red curry paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken broth or stock
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Optional toppings:
1/2 cup chopped salted, roasted peanuts
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges
Pomegranate arils
Goat cheese
Jalapeños

Heat canola oil in a medium pot over medium heat.  Add onion and squash, sprinkle with salt and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring often.  Add garlic, apple, curry paste and ginger, sauté for 3 minutes, stirring often.  Add chicken stock, coconut milk and fish sauce.  Continue to simmer until squash and apples are tender, about 10 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, carefully blend the soup until smooth. (You can use a blender for this step – place half of the soup mixture in blender. Remove center piece of blender lid to allow steam to escape. Secure lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender to avoid splatters.  Blend until smooth. Pour into large bowl and repeat procedure with remaining soup.  Return to pot.)

Taste soup for seasoning.   Ladle into bowls and serve with toppings of your choice.


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