Batter Licker

October 5, 2011

project wedding dessert bar: part 5 (curried cashews)

This whole baking-a-lot-by-myself-in-my-kitchen thing is starting to make me go a little nuts. Not because I don’t enjoy it, but just because it’s a lot of time spent measuring, mixing, scooping, and waiting.

So I’ve been trying to find ways to keep the redundant work at least moderately amusing, which largely seems to entail inner – and occasionally outer – dialogue, mostly baking related, mostly looking deeper into things that I’ve always found odd about one baking ingredient (why is “evaporated” milk not called regular condensed milk?), or fascinating about another (how is baking soda so uplifting?).

In other words, I’ve embraced the nuttiness. Speaking of which, spiced nuts are some of the easiest and most delicious treats to make for any affair, and multiple internet sources tell me that they hold well for weeks. They’re also ridiculously easy to store and transport, so welcome to my nut house.

I started with cashews, a nut that I can eat raw, roasted, plain, salted, whole, and in pieces. But curried? Somehow, I had never gone down that road, and as a curry lover, it was about time. Gotta jazz it up for the wedding, right? (more…)

June 29, 2011

whole wheat pearl couscous salad with pistachio-broccoli pesto

When I first discovered Bob Red Mill’s new line of whole wheat pearl couscous at the BlogHer Food Conference in Atlanta, I was instantly hooked by the nutty flavor. I even smuggled a few sample bags back to San Francisco, and couldn’t wait to play around with the wholesome, round bites of pasta. Except that I actually did wait quite a bit – two entire months – before finding the perfect opportunity to use these precious samples.

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The opportunity came in the form of an orzo salad recipe I came across while flipping through Heidi Swanson’s superb cookbook, Super Natural Every Day). I decided to substitute the whole wheat pearl couscous for the orzo to add some wholesomeness while keeping the bite of a small, salad-friendly pasta.

But the combination of a broccoli pesto with broccoli florets, avocado and crunchy nuts were what initially drew me to the recipe. I’ve been known to easily polish off several cups of broccoli – raw, steamed, sauteed, or roasted. Yet I had never tried a broccoli pesto. Clearly, the time was nigh.
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May 25, 2011

green garlic walnut pesto

After stalking green garlic at the market for a couple weeks, I finally approached it with the understanding that, this time, I was taking it home. It didn’t matter that we weren’t familiar with each other, or that I had forgotten to research what others before me had done with this green onion look-alike. I simply knew that I had to experience the younger, milder version of garlic while springtime was still offering it.

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Lest I sound like a garlic pervert, I’ll take this opportunity to explain: (more…)

March 1, 2011

pea shoots, daikon radish and grated sweet potato salad with spicy sesame peanut dressing

On a recent trip to the farmers market, I picked up some pea shoots. I wasn’t really sure what I would end up doing with them, nor did it really matter at the time. It was all part of the fun of picking up as-yet-unexplored-by-me produce, and it’s what I look forward to every Saturday morning when I allow myself this $5 or less, single-item indulgence that often widens my culinary repertoire. And this particular Saturday, I was delighted to find a new bunch of greens to play with.

Although I’m generally not a fan of de-podded peas, I love snap peas in salads and stir fries. After tasting the pea shoots, I found their slightly crunchy texture and mildly sweet flavor more reminiscent of snap peas (thank goodness!). Having also picked up a daikon radish (regular radishes will also do) because the pea shoots cost only half of my $5 limit on indulgent farmers market purchases, I added that crunchy, slightly spicy root to the mix, and soon decided to use these veggies in their freshest, most flavorful form: raw.

Having embarked on this salad adventure, I wanted to add something healthy but with a little more heft, so I grated some raw sweet potato. That may sound weird if you haven’t tried raw sweet potato before, but trust me and the variety of raw root vegetable salads and slaws out there. As someone with major texture issues, I promise this one isn’t weird. But if you truly aren’t ready for that, try carrots instead to preserve the same beautiful orange color and a similarly sweet flavor.

I also added some cucumber and chopped cilantro – and while I find that cucumber contributes a lightness that’s wonderful in most salads and I think you can never go wrong with a small addition of fresh herbs, they are aren’t essential to this pea shoot and root vegetable-centric salad if you don’t have them on hand. (more…)

February 18, 2011

toasted steel-cut oatmeal with dried cherries, apricots and walnuts

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day to celebrate love. But showing loved ones you care needn’t mean showering them with chocolate, roses, and other pink and red items. (Not that I’d object to any of those, so long as those chocolate truffles aren’t Walgreens-quality.) And Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be the only day you tell the loved ones in your life – from family to friends to fiancĂ©es – how much you treasure them.

To me, the most meaningful way to show your appreciation is through little gestures or actions throughout each day. A kiss on the forehead of your still-sleeping significant other on your way out the door to work; a phone call to your grandmother when you know winter weather is keeping her unbearably housebound; bringing Blue Bottle coffee to a friend who is stuck at work on a gorgeous Saturday morning. And taking the time to make steel-cut oatmeal for anyone, even just yourself, for breakfast.

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Jay’s uncle Andy first introduced us to steel-cut oatmeal a couple years ago when we visited Chicago for Jay’s cousin’s bar mitzvah. When Andy heated up the pan to prepare the oatmeal, I had no idea that the breakfast in store for me would be nothing like the gloppy, gluey oatmeal I had grown up with. Rather, these oats had a delightful, slightly chewy texture, and were comfortingly warm and filling on that particularly cold, gray and rainy morning. Yes, the steel-cut oats took a longer time to cook, but the wait was entirely worth it.

While I have enjoyed many bowls since then, it wasn’t until last Spring, when I purchased Kim Boyce’s incredible cookbook on whole grain baking, that I ever thought to toast the oats before submerging them in water. I can’t imagine why I never thought to try this, as I’ve toasted everything else from nuts and spices to rice and farro. But I can now say that if you’re taking the time to make steel-cut oatmeal in the first place, you absolutely must take the couple extra minutes to pre-toast the oat grains. Like many other toasted foods, it lends such a wonderfully nutty, condensed flavor to the oatmeal that you might just eat it without adornments.

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