Friday, June 26, 2009

Lemon Risotto

As I've mentioned before, one of the Big Geek's favorite flavors is lemon. Because of that, I try to find recipes that use lemon to test out on him. I figure that at least he'll like SOMETHING about it.

This recipe came from Real Simple, and for the most part, it is. However, I should have read the entire thing before beginning, because I thought I'd be able to pour in the broth and walk away, which was NOT the case.

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup (4 oz) grated Parmesan (I used Asiago because that's what I had, and it worked, too.)
Zest of 1 lemon, grated (I used zest of 1/2 lemon) as garnish
Chopped flat-leave parsley as garnish

Melt 2 Tbsp of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat (at this point, life interfered with cooking, and my butter got browned, but it still worked). Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 min.

Reduce heat (just realized I missed that part of the instructions), add wine, and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed.

Add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring occasionally and waiting until it's absorbed before adding more. This should take about 30 minutes total (entire recipe should take 45 minutes total). The rice should be tender but slightly firm.

Remove from heat. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, Parmesan, and the remaining butter and stir until butter melts.

Spoon into individual bowls and sprinkle with lemon zest and parsley. Or be lazy like me and stir the zest and parsley into the pot and serve.

I thought this was good, and the Big Geek ate it. The Little Geek, who I thought would love it, just played with it, but the Baby Geek (who now gets some table food) really enjoyed it.

I will make this again when I know I have 45 minutes to devote to it.

Balsamic Portabello Mushrooms with Asiago

I got this basic recipe (if you can call it that) from a friend, and then combined a few different ideas I found online to make them.

Generally, I am not a fan of mushrooms. I find them spongy when raw and slimy when cooked. However, everyone kept telling me that portabello mushrooms were different--with a "meaty" texture. So I thought I'd give them a try.

4 Portabello mushroom caps, with stems removed
olive oil
minced garlic (optional)
Italian seasoning
Balsamic vinegar
sliced Asiago cheese

Preheat oven to 425. Rub both sides of mushroom caps with olive oil and place on a broiler pan. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, and minced garlic (I didn't do the garlic this time). Place in preheated oven for 35 minutes.

Remove pan from oven. Pour Balsamic vinegar over each mushroom (into the cap). Top with Asiago cheese slices. Broil for 10 minutes.

I thought they turned out pretty well. Except for a few bites in the middle, I didn't mind the texture. TheBig Geek, however, ate only a few bites before declaring he didn't like the texture, but would enjoy the balsamic/asiago combination on something else like chicken. The Little Geek claimed she tried a bite and didn't like it, but I'm not so sure.

Obviously, I won't be making these for our family again unless both the Little and Big Geeks are out of town. However, I'd happily eat another Portabello mushroom at someone else's house or at a restaurant in the future.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lemon Bundt Cake

The Big Geek's favorite flavor is lemon, so this year for Father's Day the little geek and I made this lemon bundt cake from The Best Light Recipe cookbook (the one I keep saying you should buy--did you get it yet??)

I had a hard time with this (possibly because of all my "help"). Things didn't quite get mixed as well as I'd have liked, and I accidentally added an extra 1/2 cup of sugar. I also couldn't get my egg whites to form stiff peaks. After two attempts, I just gave up, used what I had, and hoped for the best.

The result was a really dense cake with a somewhat inconsistent texture (which I expected because of the egg whites). The taste is good, though, if you like lemons, and the glaze is AWESOME. I will try this again sometime when I don't have so much "help."

Nonstick baking spray wiht flour
2 cups (12 oz) cake flour
2 cups (14 oz) sugar
1/4 cup finely grated zest from 4 lemons
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
3 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
pinch cream of tartar
2 Tbsp juice from 1 lemon
Lemon Glaze (recipe follows)

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray the inside of a standard 12-cup bundt pan with the nonstick baking spray.

Whisk the flour, 1 1/2 cups (NOT ALL) of the sugar, lemon zest, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the room temperature milk, eg yolks, oil, melted and cooled butter, and vanilla together.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on low speed until just broken up and foamy. Ad the cream of tartar and increse the speed to medium-high. Continue to beat, adding the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time, until all the sugar is added and the whites are shiny and form stiff peaks.

Slowly whisk the milk mixture and lemon juice into the flour mixture until smooth. Fold 1/3 (NOT ALL) of the beaten egg whites into teh batter until combined, smearing any stubborn pockets of egg white against the side of the bowl. Gently fold the remaining egg whites into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth the top. Wipe any drops of batter off the sides of the pan. Bake until deep golden brown and a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 40-45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking (oops--just realized I didn't do that). Do not overbake.

Transfer cake to a wire rack and cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and cool completely, 1-2 hours. When cool, dust with confectioner's sugar (if using), or drizzle with glaze and let glaze set about 15 minutes before serving.

Lemon Glaze:

1 cup (4 oz) confectioners' sugar
5 tsp juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp grated zest from 1 lemon
pinch salt

Whisk all ingredients together in a mediu bowl. Drizzle the cake with the glaze and let set for 15 min. before serving.

I glazed my cake on the cooling rack, but put a plate underneat it to catch the glaze drips. Then I just kept "recycling" the glaze until it was mostly gone.

After that, if you want, you could just lick the extra glaze off that plate. Or just wash the plate. You know, whatever.

I'm sure I'll make this again, if for no other reason than to prove to myself that I CAN get it right. But really, the cake tastes good, I just need to get the texture right. And the glaze is AWESOME.

Jerk Chicken

For pretty much every special occasion, the Big Geek wants red meat, and this Father's Day was no exception. Except that he also wanted to make jerk chicken from a recipe he found online, but realized on Saturday afternoon that the chicken was supposed to marinate overnight. So we had steak Saturday and jerk chicken for Father's Day instead.

I have to say that it was worth the wait.

1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup muscovado or dark brown sugar (we used dark brown)
3 to 9 Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, seeded and chopped (we used 5 habanero)
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 bunches scallions, finely chopped (green and white parts)
1/2 cup oil
Zest and juice of 4 limes
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup dark rum
1 (4- to 6-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces (We used some thighs I already had in the freezer, but you can use any chicken you like. I suggest bone-in but skinless. We left the skin on and it was kind of soggy, not crispy, so I'd have preferred the chicken without it.)

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a large bowl. Dip each piece of chicken into the mixture before placing it in a large ziplock (depending on how much chicken you are making, you may need more than one bag). Pour marinade into the bag with the chicken, squeeze out air, and seal bag. Marinate overnight (at least).

Remove chicken from marinade and cook on the grill like you would any other chicken (I never do this part, so I really can't be more specific, but if you know how to grill chicken you should be fine).


Jamie's Strawberry Bread

A friend from college posted this on facebook, and I finally got around to making it.

Dear LORD it is good! I also made it into muffins (just decrease the baking time to around 25 minutes--I suggest using cupcake paper liner things).

2 pints strawberries (4 cups)
3 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar (plus a little to sprinkle on strawberries)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (pumpkin pie spice will work in a pinch)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I think this could be reduced to 1 cup)
4 eggs, beaten (I may leave out 2 yolks next time, just to make it a little healthier)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour (or spray) two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.

Slice strawberries* and place in medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, and set aside while preparing bread mixture.

Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in large bowl, mix well.

Blend oil and eggs into strawberries.

Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture, blending until dry ingredients are just moistened.

Divide batter into pans.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until tester inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pans or on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn loaves out and cool completely.

*Because Jamie suggested it, I pureed about 1/4 of the strawberries. My muffins were EXTREMELY moist--almost too moist, which is why I think I can cut down on the oil in future batches. I'll probably reduce it by 1/4 cup until I get the right balance.

This does not rise a ton, so you can fill the muffin cups or bread pan up at least 3/4 of the way. My recipe made 24 muffins (some a bit flat), with enough for a "short" loaf (fairly flat--maybe 2 inches?) left over.

These are incredibly delicious. As soon as I tasted one, I thought, "WHY have I never baked with strawberries before????"

I'm working on making them healthier. I may play around with whole wheat flour, too. I'll update as I experiment. :)

Update: I made this recipe again last night (but as loaves, not muffins) with a few tweaks. It's not quite there, but I was happy with the results. Here's what I changed:

1. Cut the regular flour to 2 1/8 cup and add 1 cup of whole wheat flour. I don't think I'll try for more whole wheat flour--this was just the right amount.

2. Cut the oil to 1/2 cup and added 3/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce. The apple sauce was unintentional--I'd planned to just cut down to 1 cup of oil. However, as it turned out, I only had 1/2 cup oil left, and the batter needed more moisture, so 3/4 cup applesauce was my improvisation. I am pleased with the results.

3. Used 2 eggs and 2 egg whites instead of 4 whole eggs. I think this worked well. You could also use eggbeaters, I bet.

4. Reduced sugar to 1 3/4 cups. I would leave the entire 2 cups of sugar, depending upon the sweetness of your berries.