Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cherry Muffins

Living in Traverse City, Michigan, I have come under the influence of cherries.  Claiming the title, Cherry Capital, Traverse City is home to the Annual Cherry Festival, an event which draws tourists from all over the world,  as well as the vast cherry orchards  which inspire us locals to invent various uses for the famed fruit, using it for everything from the legendary pies to an additive for ground meat and all things in between.
So, it wasn't too strange when I decided to depart from a heavy dump-muffin recipe from a cereal box  and venture into an ingredient closer to home.
Not at all dense, but very moist and cake-like with the deliciousness of sour cherries, the ones we generally use for the classic cherry pie, these muffins are a great start to the day and are equally as good as an afternoon pick-me-up with a cup of coffee.
Cherry Muffins

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup half-and-half
2 large eggs
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1-15 oz can sour cherries, well drained.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Grease muffin tins or use paper liners.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk half-and-half, eggs, sugar, butter and extract together.
With a fork, blend the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until just wet. Don't overmix.  There should still be lumps and the batter should not be smooth.  
Gently fold the cherries into the wet ingredients.
Spoon into the muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out dry.
Cool for about 10 minutes in the tins before removing them to a rack to cool
Makes 12.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Brazilian Black Beans (Feijão Preto)

One thing I didn't see much of on my  visits to Brazil were black beans, a key ingredient in Feijãoda, something else I didn't see much of...maybe once at a pay-by-weight buffet.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I got hold of a Brazilian recipe for black beans, one that called for some ingredients that I can't get here, that forces me to use my imagination for substitutions, ends up making the recipe my own. I'm sure my Brazilian friends will notice the replacement right away!
With the beans, I also served rice (my new favorite way to make it thanks to Carlos, my friend in Manaus who gave me a cooking lesson on my last night there) and braised cabbage, a colorful dish that utilizes corn, peas and red sweet peppers to make a dazzling dish,  I will give the recipes for both of those in a later post.

Brazilian Black Beans

1 pound black beans
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup good quality chopped bacon
4 oz diced Polish sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste.

Pick over and rinse the beans and put them in a pressure cooker with enough water to cover by 5 inches.  Heat until the weight gently rocks and cook for 15 minutes.  Use cold water to decrease the pressure.  Drain off part of the water leaving about 2 inches covering the cooked beans and mash the contents with a potato masher to thicken up the broth.  Be careful not to mash too much.  You still want most of the beans left whole.
In a skillet, heat the oil and saute the bacon and sausage until cooked through.  Add the onion and garlic and continue cooking until the onion is soft and add the contents to the beans, one cup of water and salt and pepper to taste.
Put the cover on the pressure cooker, bring up to pressure and cook again for another 5 minutes.  Serve with rice.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Semur Daging

In my never-ending quest to experience all things Indonesian, last night I followed a friend's advise and made my first Semur.   Salmah, a Facebook friend from Indonesia, and I got into a discussion about Indonesian food yesterday, much to my delight.  She mentioned a few favorites which sent me running for my copy of Southeast Asian Food, a compendium of dishes from the area (and my bible for southeast Asian cooking) by Rosemary Brissenden, to look for something called semur.   The book only offers two recipes for this Javanese stew.  (I am not really complaining as the very thick edition covers quite a lot of area--both culinary and geographically--making it impossible to include every single recipe for every single dish in every single region.  Still, I do wish someone would come out with a more complete book for just Indonesia.)                                                               Having a freezer bag of Korean-style beef short ribs in the freezer, I opted for the Semur Daging and was pleased with the result.  However, the next time around, I will be using the slow cooker.  (The recipe calls for simmering, covered, for and hour and the adding quartered potatoes which take another half hour to forty-five minutes.  This makes it tender enough but I think letting it go for several hours in the slow cooker would result in a more tender melt-in-your-mouth meat.)
Whichever way you want to prepare this, here is the recipe for Semur Daging, a wonderful Indonesian beef stew which you will want to serve with rice.  (Never mind that the stew already includes potatoes!)

Semur Daging (Beef Stew)

1 tablespoon oil
2 pounds stewing beef, cubed.  Or beef short ribs
3 tablespoons kecap manis (available in Asian markets) or 2 tablespoons dark soy and 1 tablespoon palm or         dark brown sugar.
1 slice ginger root, bruised
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 small stick cinnamon
Salt to taste
3 small potatoes, quartered
1 tomato, cut into 8 wedges
Fresh lime juice to taste
2 red chilies, sliced

Spice Paste

3 cloves garlic
5 shallots, sliced
Pinch black pepper

Grind the Spice Paste ingredients into a fine paste.  Heat the oil in a pan and fry the Spice Paste until fragrant and add the meat, stirring to coat with the fried paste, and cook until the meat changes color.  Add the kecap manis, enough water to cover, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.  Cover and simmer for one hour.  Add the potatoes, cover and simmer until they are done.  Add the tomato, like juice and more water if needed.  Serve garnished with chilies.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Apple Galette (easier than pie!)

Rustic and so tasty looking, this is my go-to desert when I am rushed and I know I have some pie dough in the fridge.  Actually, that is how I ended up making my first galette.
  We had to bring pumpkin pie to a gathering and when I made the dough, I made the whole recipe, enough dough for two pies.  Even though I had never made one before, I knew a galette could be made using regular pie dough and a fruit filling. You've heard the term "easy as pie?"  Well, this is way  easier!

Apple Galette

2 baking apples (Granny Smiths are good) peeled, cored and sliced about 1/8 inch thick
1/2 cup white sugar plus more for sprinkling on the crust.
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or more to taste)
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons butter to dot the pie
1/4 cup apricot preserves*
One recipe pie dough  (followed below)

Preheat oven to 425°F
Mix apples, sugar, cinnamon and salt and set aside.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll one disc of dough into a circle about 14 inches in diameter and transfer to baking sheet.
Place apple slices in a concentric circle on the dough leaving about 4 inches of dough exposed around the edge.
Dot with small pieces of butter in various places.
Fold the dough in around the fruit.
Brush dough with water and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for about 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Heat preserves and brush on exposed apples.

Pie Dough

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup chilled vegetable shortening or lard
Ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, place the flour, sugar and salt and pulse a few times to mix.
Add the butter and shortening and pulse 11 times or until the fat is cut into the flour to resemble the size of small peas.
Add 6 tablespoons of the ice water and pulse several times adding a little more water if needed until the mixture comes together.  (Do not add too much water,)
Remove the dough, divided in half and form each half into a 5-inch disk, wrapping each in plastic wrap and refrigerating until needed.

*I have used various kinds of jams including strawberry and even orange marmalade with great results!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Nasi Goreng

I know I will catch a lot of flack from my friends in Indonesia and Malaysia for this recipe because it is probably not what they would call original, for one thing.  For another thing, both cultures seem to lay claim to this preparation of fried rice and some other dishes that they both share but  prepare in different ways.
This recipe comes from Southeast Asian Food by cookbook author, Rosemary Brissenden.  I am currently cooking my way through this fabulous book starting at the beginning which focuses on recipes from Indonesia.
To make it even spicier (and tastier IMO), I like to add bajak sambal, a sweet, sour, fiery condiment that none of my Indonesian friends seems to have heard about but one which I make at least twice a week to go with my daily breakfast of nasi goreng, the fried rice of Indonesia and Malaysia.

Nasi Goreng

3 tablespoons or more oil
8 oz rump steak or boneless chicken, cut into very thin strips
7 oz shrimp peeled and deveined (optional)
3 cups steamed rice, cooled.  (leftover is best)
1 tablespoon Javanese soy sauce (I use kecap manis)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
Fried onion flakes for garnish
One egg per person 
Shrimp crackers

Spice Paste

4 medium-length red chilies, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste
2 cloves garlic
5 shallots, sliced.

Grind the spice paste ingredients to a rough paste.  Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or pan and fry the spice paste until fragrant.  Add the beef and shrimp (if using) and stir-fry until they are cooked.   Add the rice and mix well. Add more oil if necessary, and the soy sauces, and keep stirring until the rice grains are coated, everything is warm and the color is even.  Set aside and keep warm.
 In a separate pan, fry the eggs until they are cook but the yolks are still soft. Serve the rice on individual plates, garnished with fried onion flakes and a fried egg on top.  Decorate the plates with the sliced tomatoes and cucumber.  Serve with a side dish of shrimp crackers.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Curry Puffs (Karipaps)

I really have to thank my very dear friend Adam from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for introducing me to this wonderful snack.
He not only told me about them but also sent me a cookbook with a recipe for them.
For a dipping sauce, I like to use the sweet chili sauce that comes in a bottle.  Both Mae Ploy and Dragaonfly make this and is in the asian section of the supermarket.  Anther friend from Malaysia has given me a recipe for it which I have yet to try so I won't include it here.  If you cannot get it, I would use oyster sauce, hoisin or some other sweet sauce.  If you have sweet and sour that would be fine, too.
For the curry powder, I use Oriental curry powder from S&B. Use a little extra if you cannot get curry leaves.
These are best eaten fresh and hot buy can be reheated in the oven on a baking sheet.  DO NOT reheat in the microwave.  It destroys the texture.

Malay Curry Puffs (Karipaps)

3/8 cup oil
2 1/2 tablespoon butter
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, minced
5-6 curry leaves
1 tablespoon curry powder mixed with 5 tablespoon of water
5 oz ground beef
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and finely diced
1 teaspoon salt

To make the pastry, heat up oil and butter just until the butter melt and then cool slightly.
Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the oil and butter mixture.  Mix well.  Add the salted water and mix well.  Add just enough water to make a pliable dough and knead.  Cover and set aside for half an hour.

To make the filling, heat oil in a skillet and saute onion until translucent.  Add the curry mixture and curry leaves and fry for a few minutes splashing a little water in the pan if it starts to stick and burn.  Add the beef and fry for a few more minutes.  Add the potatoes and salted water and continue cooking adding a little water from time to time to "steam" the potatoes.  Correct for seasoning and set aside to cool.
Roll the dough out thin and cut into 3-inch circles. Fill, fold and crimp the edges.
Fry in oil until golden brown and serve immediately

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lamb Rendang

Lamb Rendang over rice

Frying spice paste

On the Saturday morning before Easter when I decided at the last minute that I wanted to make Abbacchio, Roman lamb, for my dinner the next day, I had no idea that I was getting into a situation that would leave me with more meat than I had counted on.  I called a local butcher shop and was told there was one lamb shoulder roast left.  Excited, I asked the man                                                                      to put my name on it and save it.  I pictured a medium-sized roast like the one I had gotten in Rome during my stay there. When I got there I was surprised at the size of this monster. It wasn't a shoulder of lamb, it was a shoulder of elephant!
The next day I cut the lamb into pieces and started wondering what I would do with the rest. (I had two 1-gallon bags full of cut up lamb.)  My answer came soon after as I was looking through my favorite Malaysian cooking site, Rasamalaysia where I found a recipe for slowcooker Lamb Rendang.  Really?  Slowcooker?  Who knew?  OK, I am chronically western and ignorant with visions of an ancient culture that has remained the same for centuries in spite of the fact that I talk to my Malaysian friends on Facebook and Skype and warn at least one not to become too addicted to the McDonalds' and KFC's in Kuala Lumpur.
But yes, this uses a slowcooker and the results are amazing.  This is some of the tenderest and most succulent lamb I have ever eaten.  And it was not that spicy, either.  I hope you'll give this a shot.
Lamd Rendang