Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shreddin’ the gnar gnar pow pow…

January in New England is only tolerable for one reason – snowboarding.  For braving the wind, sleet, snow and thick gray slush constantly bundled in my puff coat that looks like a sleeping bag, I am rewarded with powdery white peaks, blustery passes and sugar frosted trees as I zip down the slopes on my board.

Having snowboarding on the brain almost non-stop during these winter months, I’ve been thinking I should share with you a recipe that my friend Lauren and I invented on a snowboard vacation out in Winter Park, CO.  It’s for a super easy fish burrito, made heartier than your average burrito by replacing rice with mashed sweet potato.  This dinner comes together fast and is absolutely perfect to feed a bunch of tired winter sports enthusiasts after a hard day of shredding the most gnar gnar of pows…word.

Gnar Gnar Mahi Mahi Burritos
Invented after a sick day of riding by Beth Marois and Lauren Ledoux

1.5 pounds mahi mahi
2 yellow peppers, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
a splash of vegetable oil
3 good size sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon lime juice
4 plum tomatoes, sliced
2 ripe avocados, sliced
1 jar of your favorite salsa
1 package large flour or corn soft tortillas

Peel sweet potatoes and chop into 1 inch cubes.  Cover with water and boil until tender (stick with a sharp knife – you’ll know).  Mash with lime juice and put aside.

Next you need to deal with the fish.  Ideally it would be great to grill it – either on an outdoor grill (on an oiled grate) or in a grill pan.  If this isn’t possible it’s cool to bake it at 375˚ for 20 minutes, or until it flakes easily.  It will still be delicious.  Which ever method you choose, flake the fish into smallish pieces using forks.

Sauté yellow peppers and onion in a splash of oil until soft and almost beginning to brown.

Place fish, sweet potato, onions and pepper in a warm tortilla, garnish with tomato, avocado, and salsa, roll and enjoy. 

If you want to get crazy you can add dairy, like sour cream or a sharp cheese. But these guys are pretty burly with the sweet potato and get enough creaminess from the avocado, so I prefer to leave the dairy out for a change.

Serves 5-6 hungry snowboarders

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Science for breakfast...

Weekend breakfasts are sacred in my household…basically because not having to commute into the city on these magical mornings allows for something much more interesting and satisfying than a rushed bowl of cold cereal and black coffee while trying to dry my hair, pick out earrings, remember my lunch and not miss the train.

This morning I was in the mood for something more interesting than our delicious but mundane standby, the fried egg sandwich on a bagel.  Having recently finished Michael Ruhlman’s book Ratio, mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been dying to make popovers…so those ended up on the breakfast table this morning, in all their eggy, creamy, butter-kissed golden glory. Popovers are a miracle of good old-fashioned science.  The liquid in the batter becomes steam when high heat is applied, and puffs up the gluten and protein structure of the popover as it begins to set while baking…no yeast necessary.  They are dramatic yet simple, and can be dressed up any way you please – sweet or savory.  And you don’t need a popover pan to make them – a plain old muffin tin will do just fine.

We enjoyed our popovers this morning with blackberry jam, butter and crème fraiche…scrumptious.  These are perfect for a chill breakfast for two, or a fancy brunch for however many you dare – the recipe is easily doubled or further multiplied! 

Barely adopted from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio
Makes 6 popovers
(Michael's basic suggested ratio for popovers is 2 parts liquid : 1 part egg : 1 part flour)

8 ounces milk
4 ounces eggs (2 large eggs)
4 ounces flour (a scant cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1 ounces butter (1/4 of a stick), melted

Place your pan (popover or muffin tin) in the oven and preheat to 450º. 
Combine milk and eggs and whisk until they’re uniformly combined.  Add flour and salt and stir until combined.  Allow batter to sit for a half hour or longer for the flour to bloom, or hydrate (Don’t skip this step!)
Remove pan from oven (carefully, it will be blazing hot), and put 1 teaspoon of butter in each cup (for a muffin tin, you’ll be able to just fill 6 cups with this recipe – be sure to fill the other cups with a half inch of water for even baking).  Fill each of the buttered cups with batter and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375º and continue baking until done, 20-30 minutes (mine were done and delightfully golden at 24 minutes).
Serve straight from the oven with preserves, jams, honey, butter…whatever you like.  And I won’t even tell you to enjoy, because it will be impossible not to!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Time on my hands...

Being on vacation from work since pretty much Christmas Eve has given me so much more time than I usually have to cook!  So wonderful…I feel spoiled.  Usually between working full time, going to grad school and commuting to Boston every day I’m lucky if I can cook anything even remotely interesting midweek.  But I’ve been up to all sorts of things this particular week in the kitchen – roasted pork and apple ravioli, butternut squash bisque, triple chocolate pudding…it’s been fantastic.

My biggest culinary achievement this week by far has been baking my first yeast bread ever!  I’ve been meaning to get around to this challenge for years now, but there never seems to be enough time to mix and knead and rise and shape and rise again and bake and yeah.  Whew.  Plus the whole yeast chemistry component was admittedly daunting.   But I am now happy to report that it’s not so scary at all, and the results are so super satisfying.
For my first yeast bread adventure I chose anadama – for those unfamiliar, this is a hearty bread consisting of both flour and corn meal, which receives a rich and lovely brown hue from a healthy dose of molasses.  In a word, heavenly.  In my travels on the web I came across a recipe a few months ago via Tastespotting and Oui, Chef, which was adapted from the New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook.  It’s definitely a beginner friendly recipe, and I was attracted to it because it doesn’t require hours and hours to rise.  Not to mention the fact that I adore anadama perhaps more than any other bread...

Anadama Bread
sliiiightly adapted from Oui, Chef

7 ½ to 8 ½ cups unsifted All-Purpose flour (I used 7 ½ on the money)
1 ¼ cups yellow cornmeal (I used fine ground, but you could probably use coarse)
2 ¾ teaspoons salt
2 packages dry active yeast
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 ¼ cups warm water (about 130˚F – I used my milk foaming thermometer to get it just right)
¾ cup molasses at room temp

Combine 2 ½ cups of flour with cornmeal, salt and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment.  Add in the butter and mix to incorporate.  Add the water and molasses a bit at a time, blending after each addition.  Turn the mixer to medium speed and blend (scraping sides of bowl as needed) for about 2 minutes.  Stir in another ½ cup of flour and mix on high for about 2 minutes more. (Should look like a weird, mealy soup at this point) Slowly blend in enough of the remaining flour, with the mixer on low-medium, to form a stiff dough (I did about ½ a cup at a time – try not to lose count!)  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, turning it over to oil both sides.  Cover with a damp kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft free area to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.  Punch down the dough and split into 2 equal parts.  Shape the loaves by rolling out each piece into a 14”x9” rectangle, and folding the ends sides and ends in.  Place the loaves, seam side down into 2 greased 1 ½ pound loaf pans.  Cover with a damp towel and again place in a warm, draft free spot to rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Pre-heat your oven to 375˚F and bake the breads on the center rack for about 40 minutes.  If the tops start to brown more than your liking toward the end, tent loosely with a piece of tinfoil.  When you think the loaves are done, remove one from the pan and tap it on the bottom – a hollow sound means it is ready!  Allow to cool on a wire rack outside pans before enjoying.