Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Meyer Lemon and Squash Stuffed Shells

I got the idea for this dish after I made a wonderfully simple dish of mashed sweet potatoes with meyer lemon juice and a bit of cream, as the squash is similar enough in taste to the sweet potatoes. I also managed to use up several containers of leftovers from previous pasta dishes, and as such, filling quantities are estimates...

Makes about 1 dozen shells

  • 12 cooked jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 cup cooked squash (I mashed some cubed cooked squash I had, but you could use puree as well)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cooked spinach
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 small Meyer lemon, zested and juiced
  • Dash nutmeg
  • Garlic, basil, salt, pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients (except shells!) and stuff shells. Bake in covered casserole dish 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with more cheese if desired, or a simple lemon-cream sauce.

I made a simple roux with olive oil, flour, wine, lemon juice, basil, garlic and salt that dressed the shells lightly, and actually presented fairly well too!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Olive Oil Carrot Scones, or A Happy Accident

Ever since happening across the Carrot-Rosemary Scones recipe at C&Z I have been aching to try it. I even had the chickpea flour, but I also had some levain I wanted to use up. Strike one: chickpea flour has gone rancid...and after the barrage of holiday baking, I have pretty much exhausted all of my "interesting" flours. But I had semolina...not all that "interesting" but moreso than all-purpose flour, so I continued to pursue the recipe. So far, I've found that you can modify just about any recipe in order to use levain (to use 1 cup levain, substitute for 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup liquid). But this recipe (I was making a half-batch for our family's dinner) only requires a small amount of liquid to help bind the dough together, so that part of the plan was challenged as well, strike two (almost). I didn't have parmesan, but did have a nice firm white cheddar, which actually worked quite well paired with the carrots and the rosemary.

But the real "oops" of this endeavor occurred when I started putting it all together. I measured out the levain into a bowl first, then the dry flours...oops...how was I now supposed to cut the butter into the wet, floppy dough with any success? Having discovered a local olive oil that is divine I opted to substitute the olive oil for the butter and approach the whole thing from a batter bread perspective. I'm not sure if this removes them from the "scone" category or not, but I don't think it matters what you call them--they were delicious! And honestly the dough was manageable enough to make drop-scones out of them. By omitting the butter and cream (via the liquid from the levain) they are also a bit healthier as well. If you don't have levain on hand, you can revert to the original recipe for flour and liquid quantities. I got 8 palm-sized scones from this recipe.

  • 1/2 cup levain (sourdough starter), refreshed
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup semolina flour (although I think the chickpea flour would be excellent too!)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 cup finely shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded cheese (parmesan, romano, sharp cheddar, or crumbled chevre would be great)
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed lightly
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp mustard powder or 1 Tbs prepared fine mustard such as Dijon
Combine all ingredients and stir briefly with a fork, just until combined. I never bother with patting and cutting biscuits or scones, and this recipe might be a bit too messy to do so; drop by spoonful onto baking sheet (or however big you want to make them--mine were about a 1/4-cup worth per scone). Bake 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chocolate Adventure Contest Entries

It was a mad scramble to finish testing my ideas for the Scharffen-Berger Chocolate Adventure contest this weekend as I realized last night was the cutoff date--I thought for some reason that I had another week still! So, between using what I had on hand, going from memory for what I have tried so far, and test-batching all of my entries, it was a whirlwind of chocolate and matcha and coconut and coriander, to name a few. In the likely event that none of my entries are chosen, I still wanted to share them as I think they all turned out great, and some of them will likely become part of my regular (or not) repertoire (in particular, the salad dressing, Thai Iced Mocha, Atole and Stuffed Anchos)! Since the contest rules delineated that the Scharffen-Berger chocolate variety be specified, the recipes below include such specifics. In reality, almost any type of good quality chocolate can be substituted per your taste (mostly, I use dark chocolate). Unfortunately, I didn't get photos of all of them.

Jicama-Mango Salad with Chocolate Tamarind Vinaigrette and Pepita-Sesame Crunch

3 cups mixed salad greens
1/2 cup julienned jicama
1 mango, peeled and cubed
1 avocado, cubed
2 blood oranges (or 1 ruby red grapefruit), sectioned (reserve leftover membrane “rosettes” for juicing)
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, packed
1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup Pepita-Sesame Crunch

1/4 oz Scharffen-Berger 82% Cacao Extra Dark chocolate
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup blood orange juice
2 tsp tamarind paste
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground ancho chile
1/4 tsp mustard powder or 1 tsp prepared fine mustard
1 tsp agave nectar or 1 Tbs honey
1 tsp molasses

Pepita-Sesame Crunch:
1/4 cup pepitas
1 Tbs black sesame seeds
1 Tbs cacao nibs
2 Tbs raw sugar
2 tsp water
1/4 tsp ground ancho chile
1/8 tsp ground cayenne
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground coriander

Prepare vinaigrette: Using microplane zester or rotary cheese grater, grate chocolate as finely as possible. Squeeze reserved grapefruit membrane to extract remaining juice. Combine juice with remaining ingredients, except chocolate, in small pan and heat briefly over low heat, stirring until combined. Remove from heat, stir in chocolate shavings and let cool. Whisk just before serving. (Note: dressing can be made up to a week ahead of time, stored in the refrigerator. Chocolate and oil may harden slightly; to return to proper consistency, place in a pan of hot water for 30-60 seconds and shake vigorously.)

Prepare Pepita Crunch: Combine all ingredients in a small, heavy-bottomed pan or skillet. Heat over high heat, stirring constantly, until sugar coats seeds and water has evaporated. Transfer immediately to a piece of parchment paper and break into bite-sized pieces if necessary. Let cool completely. (Note: crunch can be made up to 2 weeks ahead of time, simply store cooled crunch in an airtight jar.)

To serve, layer salad greens, jicama, mango, avocado and grapefruit in serving bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with pepita crunch and cilantro leaves.

Fried Plantain Cakes with Coconut-Corainder Chocolate Sauce
The plantain cakes is a spin-off of an African fritter called Kaklo that uses bananas, onions, ginger and chile. The onions clashed too much with the chocolate in my opinion, so I omitted them from the recipe. Depending on how ripe the plantain is, you will need more or less water (going for a stiff, but not dry, dough). If you like the banana flavor, you could always substitute green-tipped bananas, or half banana, half white potato. For an easier version, just use slices of fried plantain, too.

1 ripe plantain
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs black sesame seeds
1 Tbs unsweetened coconut
1 tsp lime zest, divided
1/4 cup semolina flour plus additional for dusting
2 Tbs water
1 cup cooking oil for frying
Salt and Lime wedges for garnish

2 oz Scharffen-Berger 62% Cacao Semisweet Chocolate
3 oz coconut milk
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp grated palm sugar
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 tsp tamarind paste
Pinch salt

Slice plantain into 1-inch pieces. Steam 5-10 minutes or until tender. Mash in small bowl with semolina flour and water to make a stiff, but not dry, dough. Add remaining ingredients including half of the lime zest. Form dough into patties about 2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Set aside.

Heat coconut milk and lime leaves over low heat until bubbles start to form around edges. Stir in chopped chocolate and sugar, stirring until chocolate is melted and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in tamarind paste, salt and coriander. Meanwhile, prepare plantain cakes by frying in heated oil until crispy and browned on both sides (approximately 1-2 minutes per side). Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and lime juice and set aside. Arrange plantain slices on individual plates and spoon sauce over fried plantains. Sprinkle with unsweetened grated coconut and lime zest if desired. Serve immediately or keep plantains warm in low oven until ready to serve.

Dark Chocolate Mango Medallions

I actually made this up as a chocolate "bark" for my sister for Christmas, which is much easier preparation-wise, but thought it would be wonderful to do medallions, as that way you are guaranteed a little bit of everything in each bite.

6 oz Scharffen-Berger 82% Cacao Extra Dark chocolate
3 slices dried mango with chile-sugar, chopped*
1 Tbs whole coriander seeds, toasted
2 Tbs pepitas, toasted
2 Tbs cacao nibs

Melt chocolate in double boiler over barely simmering water. Spoon chocolate onto parchment paper-lined baking tray and form small disks (about the size of a silver dollar, or 1.5-inches in diameter, 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick). Place one piece of mango and small pinches of each remaining ingredient onto each disk. Place tray in refrigerator or freezer to expedite cooling. Once set, remove from parchment and store in airtight container, separating layers with parchment paper.

*Trader Joes sells chile-spiced dried mango, or you can make your own by soaking plain dried mango slices in warm water for several minutes and then dipping into a mixture of 1/8 tsp cayenne powder, 2 Tbs fine sugar and 1/2 tsp fine sea salt. Set aside on wire rack and dry in warm oven (200 degrees F) for several hours or 6-8 hours in an electric dehydrator.

Chocolate-Mustard Glazed Sweets n’ Beets

1.5 lbs sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cubed into 1-inch cubes
1.5 lbs beets, peeled and cubed into half-inch cubes
2 Tbs walnut or hazelnut oil
2 tsp salt, divided
1 Tbs prepared fine mustard
1 Tbs mustard seeds, bruised
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp ground pink peppercorns
1 tsp ground coriander
2 oz Scharffen-Berger 62% Cacao Semisweet Chocolate, finely chopped

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. In large shallow baking dish, toss beet cubes with oil and half the salt. Roast 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until beets start to soften at the edges. Remove from oven and toss in remaining ingredients except chocolate, adding more oil if needed. Return to oven and cook 20 minutes more, until beets and sweet potatoes are tender. Immediately add chocolate, stirring until evenly coated.

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Matcha Caramels

Wow, I could not stop eating these, even before the chocolate! The garnish was an afterthought, so it doesn't appear in the picture, but this recipe can be modified to make a caramel sauce as well, for topping ice cream or whatever. The sweetness of the caramels is offset by the extra-dark chocolate (which I didn't actually use, but I used 88% dark because that's what I had)!

1 cup coconut cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups grated palm sugar
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs + 1/2 tsp matcha powder
2 Tbs finely grated unsweetened coconut
4 oz Scharffen-Berger 99% Cacao Unsweetened Couverture Chocolate, melted and tempered

Line rimmed baking sheet or sheet cake pan with parchment paper. Bring coconut cream, whipping cream, salt, sugar and water to a boil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture registers 245 degrees on the candy thermometer (just past “soft ball” stage. Pour onto prepared paper and cool for at least 30 minutes. In a small jar or bag toss coconut with 1/2 tsp matcha powder. Shake to coat coconut. Cut caramels into 1-inch pieces (easily done with a pair of kitchen scissors). Dip in melted chocolate and sprinkle with grated coconut. Allow to cool and set 30 minutes. Caramels will keep for up to two weeks in an airtight container.

Ancho Chiles with Chocolate Spoonbread and Sweetened Crema

Again, I took the photo before it was finished...what can I say, it was late, and actually, once I started eating it, I didn't bother to stop for the crema. I think next time I will try to make the filling a little more pudding-like (in the vein of Indian Pudding), although it was quite runny as it was and I am at a loss as to how to contain an even runnier filling...but the tobacco-cherry notes of the Anchos really highlighted the chocolate with just the right amount of spice, so the combination was great!

4-6 dried Ancho chiles, rinsed
1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/4 cup amaranth flour (or substitute semolina or other flour of choice)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or substitute milk + 1 Tbs lime juice)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1/4 tsp black pepper, ground
1 Tbs pepitas
1 Tbs cacao nibs
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 Tbs grated piloncillo or dark brown sugar + 1 tsp molasses, packed
4 Tbs Scharffen-Berger 62% Cacao Semisweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped

Sweetened crema: 1/2 cup crema Mexicana or creme fraiche (or sub 1/3 cup sour cream mixed with 2 Tbs cream or half and half), juice of 1/2 lime (about 1 tsp), 2 Tbs grated piloncillo or dark brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Stir all ingredients together until combined and sugar is dissolved.

Boil dried chiles in water for 5-10 minutes, or until soft and pliable. Remove from water and pat dry. Carefully cut a slit lengthwise and remove the seeds. Set aside.

Combine cornmeal, amaranth, salt and buttermilk in saucepan and bring to a boil. Recuce heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, stir in melted butter, spices and sugar. Let cool 15 minutes. Quickly whisk in eggs and baking soda dissolved in 1 tsp water. Fold in chocolate chunks. Spoon mixture into chiles and wrap carefully in parchment paper or greased aluminum foil like a burrito to hold chile and filling together.

Bake in pre-heated 325 degree F oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes. Remove wrappers and transfer chiles to serving platter or dessert plates. Spoon sweetened crema over the top. Garnish with additional chocolate shavings if desired.

Mole Atole

Like a thick, creamy hot chocolate, especially if you strain the mixture through a sieve to remove the coarser cornmeal bits; but it is more "rustic" unstrained! It was delicious!

3 Tbs masa harina or very finely ground blue corn meal
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup half and half, divided
1 small whole ancho chile, rinsed
1/4 tsp cinnamon or 2-inch cinnamon stick, bruised
1/8 tsp cloves, ground or 3 whole cloves, bruised
1/8 tsp allspice, ground or 4 whole allspice berries, bruised
1 tsp black sesame seeds, toasted and ground
1/8 tsp ground pink peppercorns or 4 whole pink peppercorns, bruised
10 grams Scharffen-Berger 70% Bittersweet Chocolate, broken
1 Tbs dark brown sugar

Whisk together masa harina and water with 1/2 cup half and half. Stir in chile, spices and sesame seeds. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens slightly, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid lumps and occasionally pressing on chile pod to release flavor. Remove from heat and remove chile pepper; if using whole spices, strain mixture through medium-fine sieve. Stir in broken chocolate pieces and sugar until both are thoroughly incorporated, reheating briefly over low heat if necessary. Stir in remaining half and half and serve in mugs, topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Boba Style Thai Iced Mocha

The chocolate played off the Thai coffee flavor amazingly well. The original idea was to do a layered drink with a matcha-coconut-kaffir lime layer, but that didn't work as I expected (although the matcha-coconut-kaffir lime combination was a winner for future boba drinks!) Had I had the time, I might have mixed some arrowroot into the chocolate mixture to make more of a pudding and then topped it with matcha caramel syrup!

2 Tbs Thai Oliang coffee powder
1 Tbs black sesame seeds, toasted and ground
1.5 cups hot water
1/4 cup or sweetened condensed milk (or coconut milk + 1 Tbs sugar)
1 Tbs palm sugar
5 grams Scharffen-Berger 41% Milk Chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup large tapioca pearls (1/4-1/2 inch diameter)
3 cups boiling water
Black sesame seeds
Crushed ice (or snow!)

Prepare tapioca pearls by boiling in water for 15-20 minutes, covered. Remove from heat and let stand another 15-20 minutes, until cooked through. Drain and set aside.

Brew coffee powder and seeds in boiled water for 15 minutes. Strain and discard solids. Whisk in remaining ingredients until chocolate is melted. Cool.

Spoon tapioca pearls into a tall glass. Add 1/2 cup crushed ice. Pour chocolate mixture over ice to fill glass. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds. Serve with boba straw and a long spoon.

This certainly was an adventure! Now it is back to the real world...although thanks to Mother Nature, we get 2 extra hours of reprieve!