Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fresh Berry Crumb Bars

I'm taking a break next week. I wish I could say I'm jetting off to Paris or Rome, but the reality is that my daughter is in between camp and school, so I'll just be trying to amuse her while still getting work done (wish me luck, she's a tough audience).

Since I won't be back until after Labor Day, I wanted to leave you with something that screams summer. Something made with fresh berries while the berry getting is still good. These are so simple and satisfying. And because they're not too ridiculously sweet and fruity too, you can get away with having them for breakfast (in front of others I mean--when you're alone you can eat a whole tray of fudge brownies and live with the private shame). Have a nice week!

Yield: 24

1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
1 heaping tablespoon tapioca starch or corn starch
4 cups fresh blueberries and raspberries
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1.      Preheat oven to 375º F. Grease a 9- x 13-inch pan.
2.      Combine 1 cup of the sugar with the flour, baking powder and salt in food processor; pulse to combine. Add the butter and and pulse until mixture resembles a course meal. Add egg and pulse until dough begins to climb up the sides (dough will be crumbly but stick together when squeezed). Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.
3.      In another bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and starch. Gently mix into the berries, along with the lemon zest and lemon juice. Sprinkle the berry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.
4.      Bake for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

adapted from
dry ingredients pulsed; adding butter
adding egg
dough climbing up the sides
crust patted down
I went with about 65% blueberries and 35% raspberries.
adding lemon zest
filling all mixed
filling spread over crust
sprinkling with crumbs

If you want larger crumbs on top, just squeeze
some of the dough as you go to form larger clumps.
ready to bake
sliced into bars

They're even easier to slice if you put the cooled pan
in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. And obviously
you can get more than 24 if you cut them smaller.
luscious berry filling
even closer to the luscious berry filling

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fresh Corn Polenta with Baked Eggs

As soon as I laid my eyes on this recipe, I knew it would be appearing on my kitchen table soon. I could easily picture how cute it would look to bake an egg right in the polenta. And as if being adorable isn't enough, it's also cheesy with chunks of fresh corn and a touch of delightful heat from the poblano. I just wish someone had slept over the night before so I could have slipped one of these in front of them for breakfast. Good morning indeed.

Serves 4

1 medium poblano pepper (or red pepper)
3 cups fresh corn (from 3 to 4 ears)
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup corn grits
2 1/4 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 oz. grated cheddar cheese (full 3/4 cup)
8 eggs

1.      Preheat oven to 475° F. Place the pepper on a foil-lined baking sheet and cook until the skin blisters and begins to darken, about 10 minutes (turn the pepper over 2-3 times using tongs, so all sides get dark). Pull the foil up and around the pepper until it’s completely enclosed and let sit for 10 minutes (to steam). Once the pepper is cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, remove the stem & seeds, cut lengthwise into thin strips and halve the strips.
2.      Reduce oven temperature to 325˚ F. Pulse the corn in a food processor until you have a coarse purée. Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the corn purée and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened.
3.      Stir in the corn grits, water, and salt, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring from time to time, until thickened and cooked, about 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with black pepper. Stir in the poblano pepper and cheese. Polenta can be made ahead (reheat before adding eggs to ensure even cooking).
4.      Divide the polenta between two oiled pie plates or four individual oiled gratin dishes. With the back of a spoon, make little indentations in the polenta, like evenly spaced craters that can each receive its own egg.
5.      Crack the eggs into the indented spots and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle a few drops of water over the tops of the eggs to keep them from drying out.
6.      Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the whites are set and the yolks are shiny–not runny, but still soft. Transfer to plates (no need if you’re using gratin dishes) and serve hot.

slightly adapted from Myra Kornfeld
poblanos (I made an extra and rubbed
mine with oil, but you don't have to)
roasted poblanos
peeling off the skin (after steaming in a bag)
stem and seeds removed
shucking corn
cutting kernels off the cobs
puréed corn
cooking the corn purée with a little butter
adding the grits
water and salt added
stirring in the cheese and poblanos (I cut my
poblanos a little smaller than the recipe says)
making a well in the polenta
eggs cracked into the indents
I ended up using three small gratin dishes plus one
larger one and only 5 eggs (and I left the poblano
out of two of them so they'd be more kid friendly)

You can see the indent for my egg was just
a little too small because some of the white
ran over to the side. Still delicious!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Avocado with Savory Tomato Sorbet and Chips

I'm tagging this recipe as a definite don't. I like all the ingredients, so theoretically, it should have been mediocre at the very least. But somehow the whole is way less than the sum of its parts. It's too bad, I love unusual dishes like this so I had high hopes, especially because the reviews were so positive. They really sold me. To be fair, maybe I did something wrong, I don't know. I did follow the directions. I hesitated to post it, but I thought some of you might be interested (especially if you saw this recipe online and thought about trying it). If I can save one person from having to taste this, my work here is done.

Makes 8 servings

tomato sorbet:
4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup tomato juice
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon hot sauce (preferably Tabasco)
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 ripe avocados
olive oil cooking spray
1 small lime, peeled, membranes removed from segments, and segments diced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
8 baked corn chips, crushed
freshly ground black pepper
12 leaves cilantro, roughly chopped

1.      Blend tomatoes, tomato juice, oil, lime juice and hot sauce with 1/2 cup water in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve; discard solids. Add the salt. Freeze in an ice cream maker, according to manufacturer’s instructions. Store in freezer.
2.      Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion until tender, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cook 10 minutes more. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature. Blend in a blender until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve; discard solids. Set aside.
3.      Slice avocado thinly and divide among 8 small plates, fanning out slices to form a flat surface. Coat avocado with cooking spray; cover with plastic wrap until needed (to prevent oxidation).
4.      Place diced lime on and around avocado. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place 1 scoop sorbet on top of avocado slices; drizzle with 1 teaspoon onion oil. Divide chips among plates; sprinkle with black pepper. Garnish with cilantro.

from Self, May 2010 by José Andrés
beautiful summer tomatoes
all the sorbet ingredients in the food processor
straining the puree
pouring the puree into the ice cream machine
tomato sorbet (bleck!)
cooking the onions
I blended these and I guess I went too far because
it turned into a puree instead of something strainable.
There was no way I was getting any oil to separate from
this, so I tried again. Maybe this whole recipe just wasn't
meant to be for me.
I tried again...this time I didn't even blend the onions and oil.
I just strained out the onions. The oil was delicious (that
I would make again).
avocado (save yourself the time and
discomfort and just eat one of these plain)
cutting off the lime peel
avocado slices, diced lime and salt arranged on the plate
(that probably tastes great...I should have just made this)
crushed corn chips (also very tasty on their own)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sesame Balls with Red Bean Paste

Riding high after successfully making moo shu pork, I thought I'd tackle my favorite dim sum treat. For those of you who have never gone out to a Chinese restaurant for dim sum, let me tell you about it. It's fun, like a party. The waiters wheel around carts filled with tiny dumplings and other scrumptious bite-size goodies. Each one like a perfect little work of art. You can pick and choose only the ones you want and share with your friends. Some are savory and some are sweet. Which leads me back to my favorite...sesame balls. They're sweet (but subtly, like many Chinese desserts). They're crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. You can make them without the sweet bean paste, but personally, I'd be sad if there was no prize inside.

Yield: 48

1/2 cup sesame seeds (or as needed)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 - 1 1/3 cups boiling water
3 cups glutinous rice flour
1 cup sweet red bean paste
vegetable oil, for frying

1.      Spread the sesame seeds over a piece of wax or parchment paper. Place a small bowl of water beside the sesame seeds.
2.      Dissolve the brown sugar in 1 cup of the boiling water.
3.      Place the rice flour in a large bowl. Make a "well" in the middle of the bowl and add the dissolved sugar and water mixture. Stir until you have a sticky, caramel-colored dough, adding as much of the remaining 1/3 cup of boiling water as needed (don't add the water if not needed).
4.      Pinch off a piece of dough roughly the size of an average golf ball (about 1 tablespoon).
5.      In a wok or deep-sided, heavy saucepan, pre-heat the oil for deep-frying to 350º F. Make sure that there is at least 3 inches of oil in the wok.
6.      Push your thumb into the dough to make an indentation. Roll 1 level teaspoon of sweet red bean paste into a ball. Place the red bean paste in the hole, and shape the dough over the top to seal. Make sure the red bean paste is completely covered. Continue with the remainder of the dough.
7.      Dip a ball into the small bowl of water (this will help the sesame seeds stick to the ball). Roll the ball over the sesame seeds. Repeat the process with the remainder of the balls. Deep-fry the sesame seed balls, a few at a time, in the hot oil.
8.      Once the sesame seeds turn light brown (about 2 minutes), use the back of a spatula or a large ladle to gently press the balls against the side of the wok or saucepan. Continue applying pressure as the balls turn golden brown and expand to approximately 3 times their normal size.
9.      Drain the deep-fried sesame seed balls on paper towels. Serve warm. If preparing ahead, refrigerate and then re-heat the balls until they puff up again.
glutinous rice flour (aka mochiko, sweet rice flour)
brown sugar dissolved in boiling water
pouring sugar/water into rice flour
sesame ball dough
ball of dough flattened into a disk
sweet red bean paste
dough with sweet red bean paste ball on top
wrapping the bean paste with dough
dough balls ready (all filled with bean paste)
ball dipping in water
rolling in sesame seeds
rolled and ready to fry
fried sesame balls
In Chinese restaurants, they sometimes snip the
sesame balls with scissors to cut them in half (so
you can easily share). So I gave that a try.
No wonder they do that, it works nicely.

Yield: 2 cups

8 oz. dried adzuki beans, soaked overnight in water
3 cups cold water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup canola oil (or other neutral oil or lard)

1.      Drain beans and place in a heavy, medium pot with 3 cups water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the heat and let cool.
2.      Drain the beans through a fine strainer. Set the strainer over a medium pot. Using a rubber spatula, press the beans against the strainer into the pot (discard the skins). Add the sugar and oils and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture forms a thick, sweet paste, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Store in the refrigerator.

adapted from Emeril Lagasse
adzuki beans soaking in water
soaked adzuki beans starting to cook
ready to strain
pressing against the strainer
mostly skins left
cooked with sugar and oil and thickened nicely