January 31, 2013

Pin It Smitten Kitchen - Cook the Books Guest Posts

January, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, done! It was a great month of new recipes and culinary challenges. As promised, I'm going to share some of the recipes my friends and family tried during the month from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.
Kristen posted about her delicious Honey and Harissa Farro Salad on her blog. It looked simple, healthy and amazing. Good work Kristen!
Photo Courtesy of Kristen.
My sister Leah was my inspiration to make this recipe. She tried out Smitten Kitchen's Sesame-Spiced Turkey Meatballs and made her own version of  smashed chickpeas. Leah's notes are below:

I made Deb's Sesame-Spiced Turkey Meatballs from her book. 
I deviated a little from the recipe in that I used dried breadcrumbs instead of fresh ones (who does that to perfectly good bread? I guess if you have stale bread you could make your own).  I also didn't used Aleppo pepper because I don't know what it is. The first time I made this recipe, I toasted the sesame-seeds but I was too lazy this time to do that and it totally tasted the same. While browning the meatballs (before you put them in the oven to bake) it is hard not to add too much oil, you don't want to fry them, just to brown them.
It is also difficult to get their sides brown because they are pretty soft and tend to get a little square in the process of browning them. It was also kind of little stressful to make sure that the internal temperature is 165 degrees, I have a candy thermometer but I was paranoid about under cooking them.
Once I put the meatballs in the oven to bake I made my hybrid version of Deb's Smashed Chickpeas and a really yummy dish we had this summer at Pintox Bar in the amazing La Boqueria Market in Barcelona. In a small pot, I browned a clove of garlic with a little bit of nice olive oil.  I put two cans of rinsed chickpeas in the pot with a cup and a half of chicken stock, ground in some fresh black pepper (I love my pepper ball!) and a tiny bit of lemon juice (a teaspoon).  I let it simmer on medium-low for about twenty minutes, checking to see if the chicken stock had been absorbed. I took it off the heat and added a little more of the nice olive oil (half a tablespoon), sprinkled in some kosher salt and chopped fresh parsley. Then I got to smashing the chickpeas with a wooden spoon.

To assemble a healthy pita, I got some whole wheat pitas and yummy tzatziki-feta sauce at Trader Joe's. The only thing I would add in the future is some freshly chopped lettuce and a juicy slice of tomato. 
It was super good and we were even excited to have it as leftovers the next day!

My friend Bonnie also tried out some recipes from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook this month.  Here are her notes and photos on Deb's pizza dough:

I made Smitten Kitchen's Leisurely Pizza Dough. I've never tried to make pizza dough before because it's less than $2.00 at the store. But, I've been trying to make things with yeast lately, so I thought I'd give it a try. And I'm glad I did! While it does take a lot of down time to come together, the homemade dough is a lot softer and easier to manage that the store bought dough. I had a much easier time getting a super thin crust. The crust had a really good bread-y flavor and it cooked through much faster. I would definitely like to try making this dough again and doubling or tripling it to have a pizza dough handy in the freezer.
We topped our pizza with sauteed greens, mozzarella balls and prosciutto.

Thanks for sharing and for participating! Next up for February: Joy the Baker, 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes.
Another signed cookbook. We talked about how I made her salted caramel cheesecake for New Year's a few years ago, nbd. 
Tom's not the biggest sweet breakfast person but I'd be willing to bet that if I made these I wouldn't be eating the whole batch by myself.
Love me some homemade granola
Mmmm, may have to try my hand at bread pudding this month.
The cookbook for the following month hasn't been picked yet but I'm going to try out an new challenge for March, so expect it to be gluten-free! I figured it would be a good change after a baking-heavy month.  I imagine that it will be super tough (Tom loves burritos and pizzas and I love cookies) but I'm hoping for some great new recipes and a little test in food self-control. 

January 29, 2013

Pin It Chocolate Raspberry Rugelach - Cook the Books

Taken From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
I'd been holding out on this recipe all month since I knew February was going to be very baking heavy. I've waited long enough and decided to take this one on over the weekend. Definitely a weekend activity and not something you should try and fit into a week night, too many steps and too much prep!

This recipe starts out by making the dough, which needs to be made ahead of time so it has time to chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

The dough calls for:
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces (1 brick) of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

See what I mean about prep?  Not only do you have to make the dough ahead of time but you have to get all the fats to room temperature first.  This recipe is totally worth it, just make sure you have everything organized before you start, or it has the potential to take over you entire day.

Start by beating the butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy then add in the flour and salt and mix at a lower speed until the flour just disappears. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge (2 hours - 3 days).
I made my dough the day before and let it chill overnight.

The next morning I started by getting organized and prepping all the parts for these cookies.

For the filling you'll need:
2/3 cup raspberry jam
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons pecans, toasted and finely chopped (walnuts and almonds work too)
1/2 cup finely chopped bitter-sweet chocolate or mini chocolate chips

You will also need to the following for the glaze:
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
Coarse or sanding sugar, for sprinkling or additional cinnamon-sugar

Start out by heating the jam over medium heat until it simmers.  This thins it out a bit and makes it easier to spread.  Set the jam aside and let it cool slightly.

I mixed together the cinnamon and sugar, and put everything in separate bowls to have it easily accessible, and because Deb told me to. At this point I also mixed together the egg yolk and teaspoon of water until smooth and set it aside for later.

The recipe says to divide the chilled dough into thirds and return the unused dough to the fridge while you are working.

Here is how the rest of this process goes/how I did it.

Roll out one third of the dough onto a floured surface into about a 12 in "circle."
Dough, with bowls of jam, mini chocolate chips, cinnamon-sugar and chopped walnuts.
Spread 2-3 tablespoons of jam onto the dough, right to the edges.  Sprinkle on 3 tablespoons of cinnamon-sugar (I found this to look like a lot, 2 tablespoons would probably be fine), 2 tablespoons of chocolate and 1 tablespoon of nuts. (I only put nuts on half my cookies to please the non-nut loving cookie eaters I know, plus I'm not the biggest fan either). Using a piece of parchment paper, press the toppings into the dough so they are less likely to fall out when you roll each rugelach.
I used my fancy pizza cutter (a sharp knife works too), to cut the circle into 16 "even" wedges. 
Roll each wedge, staring with the wide end, into a little crescent and place it on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, with the point of the cookie tucked underneath (to pin it closed).  Preheat your oven to 350 and place the tray of rolled rugelach into the freezer for 15 minutes before baking. I didn't bother trying to bake these all at once (because I don't have that many cookies sheets that I trust) so I just assembled/baked in 3 separate batches.  While the first batch was chilling in the freezer, I started on the second chunk of dough and repeated the same process.
Before baking, brush each cookie with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar/cinnamon-sugar.
I baked these at 350 for 22 minutes (the recipe says 20-25 minutes) until they were golden brown. These get really messy in the oven which is why parchment paper is highly recommended.  It's also important that you remove them from the baking sheet and move them to a cooling rack while they are still warm, as the hot jam and sugar caramelize and can make it hard to get them off the baking sheet.  I also found that moving them when they are hot makes it easier to remove the excess goo that leaks out while they were baking.
Since my dough wedges weren't all exactly even, I got final products of varying sizes.
This was was mini, and adorable.
I continued with my other two chunks of dough, and baked each batch for another 22 minutes.  You end up with 48 beautifully delicious rugelach. I have to say there were never actually 48 all at the same time since kept eating them right off the cooling rack. I had to make sure they were good, and then I just couldn't stop myself! They were so small and bite sized and just begging to be eaten.
These are awesome! The pastry is light and delicate and the filling is rich and delicious. Love them. Kind of involved to make but with an amazing outcome. 

January 26, 2013

Pin It Zucchini Ribbons with Almond Pesto - Cook the Books

Taken From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
I wanted to squeeze one more savory dish in this month from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook before moving on to the sweets. This one seemed simple, easy and clean. Although zucchini are a summer vegetable I wanted to try this one out now anyway.

My two favorite things about this recipe: 
1. I got to use my food processor.
2. Nothing needed to be cooked.

The zucchini are raw but you would never know it.  When they are peeled so thinly, they are very delicate but still have a little crunch to them.  I found the almond pesto dressing to be a little bland, so I added a bit of extra salt and pepper. Other than that, this was a nice accent to the cilantro chicken I made for dinner. The cilantro chicken was only ok. Probably would be much better if you grill it as directed, but we don't have a grill so I baked it = not as good...but we both agreed the zucchini was really good!

Here are details for the zucchini ribbon salad:

1/2 cup almonds, toasted and cooled
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 pounds medium zucchini, trimmed (about 4 medium, thin and longer if you can find them)

Grind almonds, Parmesan, garlic and red pepper flakes in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Add the lemon juice, salt and olive oil and pulse a few times until incorporated. Pour the dressing into a large salad bowl and let it roll up and around the sides.

Peel the zucchini with a vegetable peeler or mandolin and place zucchini ribbons in the dressing-coated bowl. Toss the ribbons gently (your hands work best) attempting to coat the zucchini as evenly as possible. Serve at room temperature. 
Dressing made, zucchini waiting to be transformed into ribbons.
Thin and curly.
Dressed ribbons.
Zuccini ribbons alongside mediocre cilantro chicken.
Now expect the next post to be something sweet and amazing!

January 23, 2013

Pin It Sesame-Spiced Turkey Meatball and Smashed Chickpeas - Cook the Books

Taken from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
My sister tried this recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook last week with great results so I figured I'd try it out too.  Plus, it gave me a great excuse to go to the new spice shop in my neighborhood, Spice Ace
Spice Ace is a really cool spice shop that is great for finding unusual/hard to find herbs and spices for really reasonable prices.  They also have tons of varieties of salts and sugars, more than I ever knew existed. It's a really cool place to check out if you are looking for something specific or to just peruse the shelves and get inspired by their huge collection.
This whole wall is just salts!
I went there specifically to get Aleppo Chile pepper and sumac. I'd heard of sumac so figured they had it but wasn't as optimistic about Aleppo pepper.  When I asked if they had it the guy said, "Oh yeah, of course." Apparently not as uncommon as I thought. I was able to walk out of there with both spices for less and $10 and was now fully prepared to make these recipes!
The recipe for the sesame-spiced meatballs is not on the Smitten Kitchen site but I did find it typed up here. It yielded 20 meatballs for me.

I always feel like meatballs are a huge pain and super involved to make, but they were actually really easy.  Everything just goes into one bowl, you mix it up and form the meat into balls.  Deb has notes about being careful while forming and browning the meatballs as they are really delicate and soft, but I didn't have that issue at all.
Prepped the meatballs earlier in the day and put them in the fridge to save time later.
The only change I made was that instead of baking the meatballs in the pan I browned them in, I  transferred them to an oil coated glass baking dish and baked them for ~20 minutes in that.

I browned the meatballs in two batches then transferred them to my baking dish.
It took a little longer to cook than Deb indicated but I just cut open one as a tester to make sure they were not pink in the middle.
To accompany the meatballs, I wanted to make the recommended smashed chickpea salad. I couldn't find the chickpea recipe anywhere online though, so I'll provide it below:

1 3/4 cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed (1 15 oz. can)
Handful of pitted, halved and very thinly sliced green olives
1/2 teaspoon ground sumac, plus more for garnish
Chopped fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon table salt
Olive oil

Combine everything but the olive oil into a bowl and lightly smash the chickpea mixture with the back of a fork or a potato masher. Dress chickpeas with a drizzle of olive oil and stir to combine.

I doubled this recipe and again, it was super easy to make. Put everything in a bowl and smashed it together. Done.
I tried to go easy on the parsley as it's not my favorite flavor, but a little worked well in this salad.
Last week I also made Smitten Kitchen's super smooth hummus.  I doubled the recipe so we had a ton and it was the prefect compliment to this meal. The hummus was really good and so smooth. She has you shell the chickpeas, which takes a while but I think it's the key to its creamy texture.  I found it to be a little salty (maybe only add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to start) and tried to cut it with some additional lemon juice. I also found that it doesn't need as much of the chickpea cooking water added in at the end as she recommends. I used canned chickpeas so I just used water for this part. I'm not sure if I'll ever go back to buying store bought hummus again!  It's super easy to make yourself (especially if you skip the shelling step) and you can make it any flavor you want: garlic, roasted red pepper, spicy, anything!
In addition to the hummus, I served the meatballs and smashed chickpea salad with tzadiki sauce and mini pitas from Trader Joe's.
This was a delicious meal that was great as leftovers the next day. The meatballs were juicy and flavorful and the chickpeas were light and lemony. I would definitely make this again and recommend it for others to try too. 

January 21, 2013

Pin It Pasta with Cauliflower Pesto - Cook the Books

Taken From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Another interesting recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I love using my food processor so any excuse and I'm there. This recipe was all about using the food processor, and it worked really well.  There are just some things that you can't make without the help of this amazing appliance. Love it.

I wasn't able to find this recipe on Smitten Kitchen's site, so I'll provide it below.

1 cauliflower head
1/2 cup almonds, toasted
4 dried packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon capers, drained
3 tablespoons fresh parsley (I used ~6 fresh basil leaves)
2 pinches of red pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2-1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 lb. linguine (I used whole wheat pasta)

Cook your pasta as directed. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water to mix into the pesto later.

While your water is boiling/pasta is cooking, cut the cauliflower into chunks and place them in the food processor.  This is easiest to do in 2 batches in order to make the processing more efficient (otherwise you will get chunks of cauliflower that keep missing the blades).  Process to form couscous-like crumbs and transfer to a mixing bowl.

Toast the almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking them as needed to avoid scorching. Cool, then place in the food processor along with the sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, garlic, capers and parsley (or basil) and red pepper flakes. Pulse to form a coarse bread-crumb consistency, then add the mixture to the cauliflower in the bowl.
Stir in the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt until it's evenly distributed, in order to form a pesto like mixture. The yield is about 3 3/4 cups.

Add the pasta and toss to coat evenly, then add as much of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to create the desired consistency (I added about 1/2 cup). Taste, and adjust the seasoning, adding the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar as needed.

Like I mentioned, the food processor is key in this dish. If you don't have one, I'm sure you could borrow one or just do everything is tiny batches with the Magic Bullet.  No, not really. Please don't attempt that.

I started out by processing the cauliflower until it looked like couscous.
Separately, I processed the almonds, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, garlic, capers, basil and red pepper flakes until it resembled bread crumbs.
I mixed the two together, then stirred in the olive oil and vinegar. Deb suggests doing this by hand as adding the oil while the food processor is running turns it into a paste.
I mixed the pesto in with the pasta, added 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water and topped it off with more shaved Parm.
I really liked this. It's a little odd and I'm not a huge fan of pasta based meals but this was delicious with an interesting texture.  It was a really nice alternative to a heavy cream sauce or an acidic tomato sauce.  The pepper flakes gave it a nice kick and the nuts added a little crunch. A pound of pasta makes a ton so this would be great for an easy, healthy group dinner.