28 August 2011


Happy birthday to me! :) I had a brunch-themed early birthday party (so many early September birthdays to compete with...) and decided that doughnuts fit the theme better than a birthday cake. Here are a few pro-tips and suggestions for you to consider if you endeavor to make your own doughnuts too:

My #1 tip for you: Use an electric fondue pot for frying the doughnuts. You can control the temperature much more easily that way, and it turns out the maximum heat output on my pot brought the peanut oil to the ideal doughnut frying temperature! Note: do not dunk your fingers in the hot oil. It will make you swear uncontrollably. 
Tip #2: Use wooden takeout chopsticks to flip the donuts in the oil, and a slotted spoon works best for transferring them out of the oil to the cooling rack. 
Tip #3: Use biscuit cutters to shape your dough. Use a 2 1/2" diameter circle for the doughnut and 1 1/4" diameter circle for the holes (thanks, Baking Illustrated!).  I know it looks wimpy when you cut them this way (see below), but remember after the second rise they will be just as fluffy as you'd anticipated. 
Tip #4: Make half batches of all the glazes and toppings so you can make some of each without wasting too many ingredients. I did 9 cinnamon sugar doughnuts (plus 33 holes), 9 glazed, and 9 chocolate glazed. For chocolate glaze (so necessary in my opinion), heat up 1/4 c. half and half and add 2 oz. of semisweet chocolate chips, and then whisk until smooth. Then add confectioner's sugar until you get the best consistency (around 1 cup). Thanks again, Baking Illustrated!
Tip #5: Being the way that I am, I couldn't leave the basic recipe alone. My secret: cardamom in the dough. The recipe calls for nutmeg, or cinnamon if you don't like nutmeg (for shame!). I read about cardamom doughnuts and couldn't resist, plus it is one of my favorite spices this year.
Tip#6: Sprinkles, people! Come on!! They're doughnuts! Peanut butter? Jelly. Macaroni? Cheese. Hugs? Kisses. Doughnuts...? Sprinkles.
Oh noes! Doughnuts without holes! Don't worry, I'll get on that. Just appreciate the potential for delicious filled doughnuts looks like this. Maybe next time...
With holes removed (and set aside), pre-rise. See, they look wussy here. Fret not!
Risen and ready to be fried!
For cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, you roll them in your mix straight out of the oil.
Finished product! Do not scoff at the cinnamon-sugar variety, they are just as tasty!
Glazed doughnuts are yummy, too. Once the doughnuts have cooled, dunk them in glaze and them wait for them to set before serving.

24 August 2011

fresh corn and basil oil risotto

    Oh man I have no idea how long it has been since I've shucked corn. What a great word -- shucks! I think I'll have to integrate "Aw, shucks!" into my usual rotation of favorite everyday phrases.  This was also the first time I've ever zipped the corn off of the cob. I think the last time I ate fresh corn off of the cob was when I had braces. As a result, I have a serious appreciation for my folks doing this for me when I was a teenage brace face. I had no idea it was so hard to do tidily! Does anyone have a slick way to shave off the corn without firing it all over the kitchen? I've been told I can't have a doodad for this purpose (and rightfully so -- I don't think I can manage to keep many more silly gadgets around for a task I only need to worry about a month or two out of the year).                          So yeah, sweet corn is great. It is even better when you meet the farmer and he looks you straight in the eye and tells you he picked it that very morning. I'm looking forward to finding new ways to enjoy it, particularly because of food52's recent Corn off the Cob Contest. I've also heard a rumor that one of the new foods for the Minnesota State Fair this year will include sweet corn ice cream! I am totally sold and my assumption is that it will taste like Corn Pops. Maybe I'll finally get the risotto on a stick this year too. :) 

Fresh Corn & Basil Oil Risotto
(adjusted from Cooking from the Farmer's Market to use the market goods in my pantry)

1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. fresh basil leaves, packed
2 T. butter
1 1/2 c. arborio rice
1 small white onion, diced
1/2 c. scallions, white and light green parts chopped
3-4 ears of fresh sweet corn
4 c. veggie broth
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Tear up the basil and soak it in the olive oil.
2. Heat up the broth in a saucepan with the lid on. You just want it to be warm, simmering at the most.
3. Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.
4. Add the onions and scallions, stir to coat with butter, and cover for 4-5 minutes until translucent on medium-low heat.
5. Add the rice and stir for 3 minutes on medium heat (keep it there now). You'll see the rice turn clear around the edges.
6. Add 1/2 c. of hot broth to the skillet. Stir continuously. When the liquid is absorbed, but before the rice is dry, add another 1/2 c. of broth. Keep doing this for 10 minutes.
7. Add the corn (yay!), and continue adding liquid 1/2 c. at a time for another 10 minutes. I find the absorption rate of the rice decreases over the course of the 20 minutes of stirring (you may need a substitute stirrer at some point. Offer to trade with ladling broth; it seems fair!).
8. Turn off the heat and add the basil oil.
9. Serve and enjoy! 

21 August 2011

southwestern-style potato salad

I wonder how many times the thought "Aha! A way to use purple potatoes and freshly picked cherry tomatoes at the same time!" will cross my mind in my lifetime. But it did, and am I ever happy to report that this is probably the best potato salad I've ever had.

So I really wanted to make this a little while ago, but the purple potatoes that I bought liquified in the pantry in three days (I blame the July heat). The coolest thing about this creamy potato salad is that it doesn't include mayo. The solution to mayo-free potato salad? Silken tofu! You know, the kind in a box on a shelf? That's the stuff. Now potato salad is safe for vegans and mayo-phobes, and it tastes super delicious!

I also dig anything with chipotle in it. Much to my husband's relief, I have learned that just because it comes in tiny cans with adobo sauce doesn't mean one can equals a reasonable addition to a recipe (whoopsie!). Here's a tip: I blended a whole can's worth of chilis and adobo sauce in the Magic Bullet, and then froze 1 T. blobs of it on parchment paper on a cookie sheet, then stuck them in a freezer bag for storage. Now you don't have to feel obligated to use a whole can :). This trick is also great for homemade pesto (minus the cheese) and tomato paste.

So here you go:
Southwestern-Style Potato Salad
(slightly adapted from Southern Style Three-Potato Salad in Passionate Vegetarian)

1 large sweet potato
3 lbs. small purple potatoes
1 T. ground cumin
2  Hungarian wax peppers; stem, seeds, and ribs removed, finely diced
1 poblano pepper; charred, peeled, seeds removed, diced
1 small white onion, finely diced
1 box silken tofu
2 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. lime juice
1 T. chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1 t. salt
handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
3 T. fresh parsley
3 T. fresh cilantro

1. Prick the sweet potato with a fork and cook in the microwave, about 5 minutes. Let cool and peel.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and then boil the purple potatoes, skin on, for 15 minutes.
3. Put peppers, onion, and cumin in a bowl. Stir to combine and coat with cumin.
4. Combine the tofu, garlic, olive oil, lime juice, adobo chili paste, salt, cilantro, and parsley in a food processor until smooth. Stir the mixture into the peppers. Slice the purple potatoes into 1/2 inch thick discs (the skins will fall off, that's fine) and dice the sweet potato. Add the potatoes to the pepper and tofu mixture and toss to combine. Add the tomatoes and toss gently to combine.

09 August 2011

zucchini bread

Remember how I said I bought zucchinis when I meant to pick up some cucumbers? Well, I figured out what to do with a ton of zucchinis: First, I made zucchini burgers. They were pretty fun, and involved ground flaxseeds, TVP, nutritional yeast, and balsamic vinegar, but didn't use much zucchini. I needed to find something else to make as well...

I pondered this for far too long. So long that I'm surprised the zucchinis hadn't gone bad, or even iffy. I was home, the weather had cooled down and the humidity had dropped, and I pined for a reason to use the oven. Solution: zucchini bread! I'd never made it before, and my trusty copy of Baking Illustrated did not disappoint me.

On a side note: have you ever tried to make something from a cookbook, and were disappointed when yours didn't come out as nicely? Well, how's this for consistency: another blogger that I follow used the same recipe, and our results are nearly identical! Well, except for the fact that her photos are way cooler than mine. But if you can get past that, they look a lot alike, right?

Zucchini Bread
from Baking Illustrated

Makes 1 loaf

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
1 pound zucchini, washed and dried, ends and stems removed
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) granulated sugar
½ cup walnuts, chopped coarse
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the zucchini and 2 tablespoons of the sugar until the zucchini is coarsely shredded, twelve to fifteen 1-second pulses. Transfer the mixture to a fine-mesh strainer set at least 2 inches over a bowl and allow to drain for 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can shred the zucchini (don’t cut into 1-inch pieces) on the large holes of a box grater, toss with the 2 tablespoons of sugar, and drain. (Word to the box grater! So satisfying. For draining, I put the shredded zucchini in a fine-ish mesh strainer over a mixing bowl, then put a piece of plastic wrap on top of the zucchini, and then sat a heavy saucepan on top of it for 30 minutes.)

3. Meanwhile, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a cooling rack and cool completely. Transfer the nuts to a large bowl; add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk until combined. Set aside.

4. Whisk together the remaining ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, and melted butter until combined. Set aside.

5. After the zucchini has drained, squeeze the zucchini with several layers of paper towels to absorb excess moisture. (Yes, there will be more moisture. Liquid, even. Lots of it! Squeeze!!) Stir the zucchini and the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture until just moistened. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula.

6. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool for at least 1 hour before serving. (The bread can be wrapped with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

03 August 2011

chocolate mint brownies

I would very much like to bake things. Classic, right? I want what I can't have. At least I don't want to make soup, because that would make me certifiably hard to please. At least I know I'm not alone -- my husband commented about how he can't wait for fall or winter so that we can bake lots and lots of bread. :) So here's a recipe that involves brownies and peppermint patties, which is a fine combination. I have been holding out on you... I baked these last time it was reasonable to run the oven for a while... you know, early June? We then hoarded them in the freezer (I mean, I didn't even tell you guys about them!) and didn't share them much at all. A quick 20 second zap in the microwave, and you've got ooey-gooey brownies and the oven isn't even on. 

It is true though... the ten day forecast here in Minnesota is looking mighty fine, and the lowered humidity is making me feel much more like a human and way less like a slug. Maybe I'll just have to stay up late tonight and bake some biscuits and drink a gin & tonic, because I can!

What?? I see your disapproving brows. I am out of breakfast food as a matter of fact -- I've got to make something then I suppose, eh?