Monday, February 28, 2011

Quinoa with Caramelized Onions, Pecans, and Currants

1 c. quinoa
Soak the quinoa in hot water for 15 minutes, then drain. In a large pot, cover the quinoa with 2 cups of water and a teaspoon of salt. Cover and cook on low for about 20 minutes, or until the water has aborbed into the quinoa (Taste the quinoa; it should not stick in your molars).

Remove the quinoa from the heat and remove the lid to cool completely.

While the quinoa is cooking: caramelize the onions:

1 large or 2 small onions, diced
1/3 c. olive oil
1 t. salt

In a heavy bottom pan, add oil followed by the onions. Heat on low until the onions become translucent without browning. This will take about 30 minutes. Shortly after the onions become translucent, they will caramelize to a shiny, golden brown color.

Add 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar to the caramelized onions.

In a bowl, combine:

cooked quinoa
1 t. fresh thyme leaves, minced
3/4 c. toasted pecans. chopped
1 t. orange zest
1/2 c. currants

Season with salt and pepper. Adjust with more oil if necessary.

*Serve the quinoa on a bed of greens as a salad or as a side dish. I like to eat it with roasted vegetables. See acorn squash below or see roasted cauliflower post.

Roasted Acorn Squash

Carefully trim stem and cut acorn squash in half lengthwise. Be extremely cautious and keep the non cutting hand firmly on the top of your chef's knife, close to the handle. Scoop out the seeds.

With the cut side down, carefully slice the squash into 1/4 inch pieces.

On a half sheet pan, generously toss the cut squash with olive oil and season with salt.

Roast the squash at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Classic Vanilla Buttercream

1 lb. unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
6 egg whites
1/8 t. salt
1 T. vanilla extract
1 scraped vanilla bean (opt.)

In a small sauce pan, combine sugar and water.

Try not to get any of the sugar/water mixture on the walls of the pan. Have a small bowl of ice water on the side.

Gently heat the sugar mixture. Do not fluctuate the heat and do not stir the sugar.

The sugar mixture will bubble as you continue to heat it to 248 (firm ball stage on the candy thermometer). You can use a candy thermometer or you can carefully spoon a small amount of the hot sugar into the ice water. As the sugar mixture moves through the candy stages, it will hold a shape in the ice water. When the sugar starts to hold a shape in the ice water (softball) start to whip the egg whites.

A firm ball will feel soft and pliable between your fingers.

When the egg whites are a soft peak, start to slowly add the hot sugar.

Add the hot sugar mixture in a steady stream with the mixer on high speed. Stream it in the space between the wisk and the side of the bowl. In this photo, the sugar mixture looks a bit dark, so do not be concerned if your sugar mixture is clear.

Continue to whip the egg white sugar on medium until it cools to room temperature.

Cut the butter into one inch pieces.

When the egg/sugar mixture has cooled, add the butter one cube at a time. This can be done quickly.

The mixture may look a little curdly at this point. Do not worry; the butter will soon blend in and you will have a fluffy, smooth buttercream. Add the vanilla.

This buttercream will fill and frost the white cake (see white cake post). Do not refrigerate this cake.

White Cake

1 c. milk, room temperature
6 egg whites (save the yolks for ice cream or lemon curd)
2 t. vanilla extract
2 1/4 c. cake flour
1 3/4 c. sugar
4 t. baking powder
1 t salt
6 oz. unsalted butter, cut into one inch cubes

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees
*Prepare 2 eight or nine inch cake pans with butter and flour or non-stick cooking spray and flour.

Combine the milk, egg whites and vanilla. Set aside.

In a mixture, add the cake flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Mix the dry ingredients for a minute until smooth.

Add the butter and mix on medium speed.

Beat until the mixture looks like wet sand. This will take about 2 minutes.

Add all but about 1/2 cup of the milk mixture and beat at medium speed for 1 & 1/2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup milk mixture and beat 30 more seconds more. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Return mixer to medium and beat 20 more seconds.

Divide the batter evenly between cake pans. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool for about 30 minutes. Loosen sides of pan with a knife and invert. Reinvert and let cool, top side up, until completely cool before cutting each cake in half horizontally. Frost into a four layer cake. Do not refrigerate.
*see vanilla buttercream post

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chicken Marsala with Capers

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in half
1/4 c. olive oil
2 large shallots, diced
1 c. dry Marsala
zest and juice of one lemon
1/3 c. capers
1 c. chicken stock

Dust the chicken with flour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large saute pan for 1 minute. Then add the oil, followed immediately by the chicken. Season the chicken with salt.

Brown on on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Turn the heat off.

Remove the chicken from the saute pan and place onto an oven-proof pan. A half-sheet pan will work the best. Place in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes.

While the chicken is in the oven, saute the shallots....

until translucent.

Carefully add the Marsala. If you are nervous about the possibility of the pan flaming, turn the heat off while adding the wine, then turn the heat on again to low. Reduce by about one half.

Add the lemon juice, zest, capers and chicken stock.

Reduce to a light consistency. Arrange the chicken on a serving platter and pour the sauce over. 1/2 c. chopped parsley to garnish.

This dish is perfect with whatever starch you like and a simple butter lettuce radish salad with vinaigrette.

Remember, Simple Vinaigrette:
One part wine vinegar (with minced shallot soaked in vinegar for at least 10 minutes) to three parts oil. Salt and pepper