Monthly Archives: May 2011

Rhubarb-ilicious

It’s decided.

I am having an intense love affair with rhubarb.

Or maybe it’s more like we are BFFs.

Or is it that I have a crush on rhubarb?

Can one have a food crush?

I want Tom Robbins to write a story featuring rhubarb the way he did for beets.

Let me explain. Rhubarb has got style with it’s bright pink slender stalks. It’s full of sass and take-that attitude. It’s a vegetable posing as a fruit (unlike the tomato who is fruit posing as a vegetable). Don’t think that it is just red celery – because it’s not. It can be savory or it can be sweet and there is no hiding its unique flavor. Rhubarb is one-of-a-kind and utterly delectable.

How can you not fall in love with it?

Be prepared for an onslaught of rhubarb recipes.

Lime Pecan Butter Cookies

These cookies were responsible for my desperate desire for a stand mixer.

Lime Pecan Butter Cookies.

They look simple enough. And they are – if you don’t mind beating butter and sugar together for a loooong time.

I like these cookies. They have some zest to them (pun intended) but all of the comfort of a traditional shortbread. I remember the first time I made these cookies. It was while I was in graduate school and my parents were visiting Durham, I think over 4th of July. I decided to have some people over to my place on Oakland, despite having my living room ceiling cave in just days before, to prove to my parents that I had friends or something silly like that. We drank mojitos and ate these cookies. And as with most parties, the sexes segregated but interestingly the females gathered in the living room and the males in the kitchen. I think it’s because that was where the drinks were being made…

And I vowed never to make them again until I had a stand mixer.

Which I do now.

(Thank you mom, once again for the best birthday present ever)

Lime Pecan Butter Cookies

From Williams Sonoma

Makes ~35 cookies
**********
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 cup chopped pecans
1 lime (zest and juice)
3/4 cup butter
1 egg white
**********

Beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar until really light and fluffy, ~ 5 minutes.

While the butter and sugar are beating (and this is the beauty of the stand mixer), sift together the flour, cornstarch and salt. Set aside.

Back to the stand mixer and the butter and sugar. Add the lime juice, the zest and egg white. Beat until really really light and fluffy, ~ 8 minutes (this is what killed me last time with my hand mixer).

While this is beating, dig out the food processor and combine the pecans and 1/4 cup sugar. Pulse until uniformly pulverized. Set aside.

 

Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until just combined.

And then gently mix in the pecan mixture.

Now take a spoonful of dough, roll it into a ball, set in on a cookie sheet and flatten it to about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake at 350º for about 23 minutes.

To be enjoyed immediately. Or set aside for other uses … to be described later.

Spring onion soup

I bought green onions at the farmers market yesterday.

They begged me to take them home.

I couldn’t resist.

Only I had no idea what to make with them. I wanted something insanely onion-y, as I had just bought these and really wanted to showcase their flavor. But I don’t really have any recipes that call for onions as the main ingredient. Onions have only played a supporting role in my dishes.

Until now.

I stumbled upon a spring onion soup on Epicurious.com and decided to give it a try. I have to admit, the entire time I was making it, I didn’t have high expectations. I’ve never been one for onion soup and I felt like I was just making it to deal with the green onions that I had bought on a whim. I certainly wasn’t feeling inspired by this dish. The recipe calls for vermouth and Angustura bitters which I found intriguing, but wasn’t sure how I was going to like it.

I was half expecting to have to throw out the entire pot.

I was pleasantly surprised. There was an intensity of flavor that I wasn’t expecting. The garlic croutons were what really made the soup special (of course the white cheddar and green onion biscuits weren’t a bad accompaniment either). As with any soup, it was even better today, reheated for lunch.

I think this one may be going into my recipe box.

Spring Onion Soup

adapted slightly from Gourmet

Serves 4
**********
Spring Onion Soup
2 Vidallia onions, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup dry vermouth
6 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 1/2 tablespoon Angustura bitters
3 cups green onions
 
Garlic Croutons
12 slices 1/2 inch thick french baguette
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic salt
**********

The soup.

In a large pot, cook the onions in the butter and the oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they are soft and pale golden, add the garlic, and cook the mixture for 3 minutes. Stir in the vermouth and boil the mixture until most of the liquid is evaporated. Add the broth, the bitters, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer the soup for 5 minutes. Transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Stir in the green onion.

The garlic croutons.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. With a serrated knife cut the bread into 3/4-inch cubes. Toss bread cubes with olive oil and garlic salt. In a shallow baking pan arrange the bread cubes in one layer, bake them in the middle of the oven, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until they are golden.

To market, to market

I woke up early this morning.

Like 7:30 am. On a Saturday.

I don’t even wake up that early during the week (the life of an academic).

Why?

I was on a mission. I went to a farmer’s market a couple of weeks ago and was deeply disappointed by the lack of produce available. (I don’t know why I was surprised – we have had like the worst winter in Minnesota ever). But still, how can you have a farmer’s market with no produce? So this week I vowed that I would check out the selection right as the market opened, at 8:00 am.

I drug myself out of bed and onto my bike and worked my way to the Minneapolis Midtown Farmers Market. And tried not to be too hopeful about the promise of asparagus and rhubarb that their website offered.

First I found some coffee.

Then … produce success!

I scored some rhubarb, asparagus and spring onions. Now, I wouldn’t say there was a plethora of produce and some vendors only could offer canned versions of last year’s harvest.

But, it is a promising start to the season.

Now, what to make with my treasures?

Stay tuned…

Chocolate Mint Brownies

I played another round of “what-can-I-make-from-things-in-my-cupboards” last night. I actually have a market about 3 blocks from my house, so playing this game is pretty unnecessary. But I had already been to the store in the morning when I realized my cats were out of food and I refuse to go the store twice in one day. As it is I think I am there every other day. So I played my favorite kitchen game. When I spied a couple of squares of unsweetend chocolate, a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips and another handful of milk chocolate chips I knew that I wanted to make brownies.

One of the (many) things that I love about chocolate is that it pairs so well with so many other flavors. Peanut butter, citrus, fleur del sel, raspberry, cinnamon, caramel – the possibilities are almost endless. I won’t even try to pick a favorite. But a chocolate combination that I adore is chocolate mint. Classic. It reminds of being a kid and on the rare occasion that my parents would take my brother and I to the ice cream parlor and I would without fail, always, always get mint-chocolate chip.

So I made chocolate-mint brownies.

Chocolate-Mint Brownies

makes 16
**********
Brownie layer
1/2 cup butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon creme de menthe syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mint Layer
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon creme de menthe syrup
1 tablespoon milk
Chocolate layer
2 tablespoons 1/2 and 1/2
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
**********
 

Melt chocolate and 1/2 cup butter in double boiler. Set aside to cool.

In stand mixer, beat sugar and eggs until very light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes.

Add chocolate, flour, creme de menthe and vanilla extract.

Mix until just blended.

Pour into foil-lined 8x8x2 glass pan. Spread evenly and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool slightly.

For the mint layer:
Beat sugar, butter, creme de menthe syrup and milk until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Spread over baked brownies. Let stand until set, about an hour.


Chocolate layer:
Heat 1/2 and 1/2 over low heat until simmering.

Take off heat and whisk in chocolate until melted.

Whisk in butter.

Transfer chocolate mixture to a ziploc bag (or piping bag) and snip corner of bag and pipe chocolate over mint layer.

Let stand until set, about an hour.


I’d say I won this battle of Meleah v. the kitchen cupboard.