Wednesday, December 31, 2008

zuni roasted chicken with bread salad

This recipe from Zuni Cafe exemplifies turning simple ingredients into something fabulous. The recipe does take time and careful planning, but done right it's really almost a breeze. Thanks to Jenn, I got to try this last Christmas. This year I pulled it out for my Christmas dinner and actually had everything on the table in an hour.

First, the recipe calls for dry brining a bird by rubbing it down with salt, pepper and herbs, then letting it sit in the fridge for a day or two. Traditional brining method involves finding a big bowl and submerging the chicken in a sugar salt solution, aka salmonella sloshing around your fridge. Dry brining = way easier, and equally juicy, flavorful meat.

Next, cube up a nice loaf of bread and toast it. The recipe says to trim the crusts, but I choose to ignore this. Soak some currants or cranberries in red wine vinegar. This is KEY. The balance of sweet and sour gives your salad bright accents of addictiveness that contrast well with the heaviness of the meat. Then mix up a vinaigrette of olive oil, red wine vinegar (go heavy on it), and white wine vinegar. Soften some garlic and scallions and toss with the bread.

When the chicken is done, carve it up, toss a handful of mixed greens with your bread, currants, toasted nuts, and more vinaigrette and enjoy together.

I used a loaf of levain from Angela's Oven. If you happen to live in Houston, you can find them at the Tuesday farmers' market at Rice, or at the Saturday Richmond or Onion Creek markets. They're lovely people with lovely baked goods. I also subbed rice for white wine vinegar with tasty results, and go heavy on the currants and toasted nuts. If you are like me and burn pinenuts with infalliable regularity, try toasting walnuts instead, which are a) cheaper and b) less prone to incineration.

Find the recipe here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

candied walnut banana cake

This cake is like addiction you feel good about having smothered in cream cheese fluff. Bananas, whole wheat, nuts, cultured cream cheese... health food, clearly!

Cultured cream cheese is basically cream cheese with the same little microorganisms that yogurt has. The result is a slightly tangy, more complex flavored deliciousness. If you happen to see it, I suggest giving it a try!

The cream cheese fluff is the lighter, more delicate cousin of cream cheese frosting. Instead of being loaded with butter and sugar, it is just slightly sweetened and beaten extensively till nice and fluffy. The tangy, sweet-savory flavor combines really nicely with mouthfuls of banana bread and extra sweetness of candied nuts.

To feed an addiction:

1. Get a handful of candied walnuts

2. Throw said walnuts into your favorite banana bread recipe, then bake in a cake pan

3. Meanwhile, make your cream cheese fluff: Beat together about 8 oz. of cream cheese and 1-2 tbsp of powdered sugar until fluffy. Think subtle and not red velvet cake frosting here.

4. When the cake is cool, spread a layer of fluff over the top and consume promptly.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

happy festivus!

In the middle of the afternoon, I hear some rather aggressive sirens and obnoxious amounts of honking slowly making their way down the street. Is it an emergency? Turkey deep-frying gone terribly awry? Oh, no...

It's Santa on a folding chair strapped to a fire truck. Please, please click on the photo for a better look. Best. Tax dollars. Ever. Even more, he was throwing broken candy cane dreams to the handful of confused citizens of Jersey Village that staggered out of their abodes. Imagine the truth-or-dare games they must be playing up in the fire station.

Moral of the story? Pay your taxes, and good things will come. Happy Festivus!

Monday, December 22, 2008

walnut butter cookies

Glorified, updated peanut butter cookies. Yeah. You've been replaced by a tree nut, Mr. Goober.

To make your own walnut butter, toss a few handfuls of toasted walnuts into a blender with a pinch of sugar and salt. Blend till peanut buttery. Will be a bit more liquidy than fresh ground peanut butter, but the flavor.. Oh, the flavor of concentrated walnut...

Walnut Butter Criss Crosses

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg

1 ½ sticks (12 tbsp) unsalted butter
1 cup walnut butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven 350 F.

Whisk dry ingredients together. In another bowl, beat butter until smooth and creamy. Add walnut butter and beat together. Add the sugars and beat for 3 minutes more. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients to butter mixture, stirring only until they just disappear. Stir in walnuts. Chill dough in fridge for 30 minutes.

Scoop out tablespoons of dough, roll into balls, and place on cookie sheet. To make criss crosses, use a fork and press down on top of the dough balls. Dip fork in flour if dough is sticking too much. Bake for about 12 minutes. When done, the cookies will be lightly colored and somewhat soft.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

currant events (har har)

I seriously need to start waking up early and baking in the morning. Seriously. I know, it looks like a pile of currants and oatmeal, but what's not to love? Custardy, moist, layer of yogurt and berries practically baked in streusel. Hells yeah.

You could maybe eat this all day long, but it won't make it past breakfast. I got out a plate, cut myself a warm slice (it cuts beautifully, btw) and realized this was not a plate food. This is a pick it out of a hot pan and straight to the stomach food.

Adapted from Canela & Comino, I had this in the oven in 15 minutes flat as promised. Do try this, but don't blink or you'll be a sad panda.

Don't Blink Currant Oatmeal Wedges

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup oats
1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
5 tbs butter, melted
3 tbs milk

1 1/3 cups dried currants or cranberries
3/4 cup yogurt or sour cream
1/2 cup sugar

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon
2 tbs flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 325F. Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit in bottom of springform pan, line it with circle, grease sides of pan. Any other shallow pan (square, pie, etc.) would work, too. Skip the parchment and just grease it.

In a bowl, mix together flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Drizzle butter and milk over flour mixture, stirring until moistened (mixture will be crumbly). Reserve 3/4 cup of oat mixture. Press remaining oat mixture into the bottom of pan.

In another bowl, combine all filling ingredients, stirring well. Spread currant mixture over prepared crust; sprinkle reserved oat mixture evenly over filling.

Bake 40-50 minutes or until edges are golden. Let cool if you can.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


You'd think I'd have Thanksgiving tales about delicious seared scallop pumpkin soup and a crustless buttermilk pumpkin pie (oops...), but alas, I can't even get around to posting the impressive backlog of adventures I've been sitting on.

Instead, I share with you this taco truck gastronomic delight. Cheers!