Monthly Archives: November 2011

November

November?

What happened to you?

Where did you go?

This month, more so than most, has flown by.

Here are the highlights:

Scott and I went to Chicago and all we did was take this photo at The Bean.

That’s not quite true. We gathered in the windy city to witness the union of our two dear friends, Jenny and Sayan. But I don’t have photos of that. Because, as it turns out, I am really bad at taking the time to take photographs when I am actually having a life (remember Dave and Robin’s wedding?).

It also turns out that I am a romantic sap. I love watching people promise to spend their lives together. To become each other’s family. It’s stunningly lovely. And never fails to bring tears to my eyes. To have the people from all aspects of your life gather, assemble and celebrate love.

Plus, there is the added benefit of their friends being my friends. So in assembling to celebrate Jenny and Sayan, I got to see many of my friends that I had made while in graduate school. Some of whom I hadn’t seen for nearly two years and just thinking about it brings a smile to my face and warmth to my heart.

Somewhere in the middle of November, I spent a week in Minneapolis, where I developed my menu for Thanksgiving.

Then I flew to the best corner of the world, the Pacific Northwest, otherwise known as home.

Where I got to play with babies and toddlers (and force my hugs and kisses on them).

And fuss in my parents’ top-notch kitchen.

Eating more than I thought I possibly could. All the while soaking up the scenery.

Lazy days filled with family. Doing nothing and having the days slip through my fingers without a second thought.

As always, it does my heart and soul good.

November, you will be missed, for you brought me my friends and family (and a lot of food!).

A girl can’t ask for much more.

Cranberry-Pomegranate Curd with Pecan Shortbread

Do you remember my serious love affair with rhubarb over the past summer? It took some time, but I think I am ready to move on. This season, my heart stolen has been stolen by cranberries. And by pomegranates. Some people will have you choose between cranberries and pomegranates. But I would never ask you to choose. It’s like playing favorites with your cats.

Cranberries are serious. Dignified, rich with a tangy twist, you need to coax them to come and play. An intellectual fruit in my mind. Pomegranates, on the other hand, are silly. Bright and bursting with juiciness. Full of secrets that beckon you to dig deeper.

And like my cats, they play wonderfully well together. Especially in this little treat that’s a riff on a lemon bar. A cranberry and pomegranate curd that’s just barely sweetened, to cut some of the tartness topped on a rich, buttery pecan shortbread crust.

I brought them into the lunchroom on this dreary snow-sodden Monday and I think it brightened people’s day. How could it not with it’s brilliant color? A perfect pre-Thanksgiving taste. (As for the recipe request … this one’s for you, Kelaine).

Cranberry-Pomegranate Curd with Pecan Shortbread

adapted from The Kitchn

**********
For the Crust:
1 cup pecan pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
For the Cranberry-Pomegranate Curd:
12 ounces cranberries
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
Powdered sugar for dusting
**********

Prepare the crust:

Line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment.

Coarsely grind the pecans in a food processor. Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and pulse until finely ground (~10 additional one-second pulses). Sprinkle the chunks of butter over the top of the flour-nut mix and pulse until the mixture holds together when compressed in your palm (although it will be crumbly).

Press the crust mix into the baking dish, making it as even as possible. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Remove the crust from the freezer and bake for 20-25 minutes, until beginning to color around the edges.

While the crust is baking, prepare the cranberry curd:

Place the cranberries and pomegranate juice in a medium-sized pot and cook over medium-high heat and stir. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally until all the cranberries have popped and become mushy, about 5 minutes. Pour them into a fine-meshed strainer set over a medium-sized mixing bowl and press the cranberry-pomegranate puree through using a spatula (this make take a little elbow grease). Allow the puree to cool to room temperature.

Add the sugar, eggs and egg yolks to the bowl with the cranberry-pomegranate puree. Whisk thoroughly until the mixture is even.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and set the burner to medium. Stir the curd continuously, making sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pan. Cook until the curd starts to thicken, coats the back of a spoon, and registers about 150° on an instant-read thermometer. This should take 10-12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter all at once. Stir until the butter has completely melted, then pour the curd through the strainer into a clean bowl.

 Pour the warm cranberry-pomegranate curd onto the pecan crust. Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes, until the curd has set but still jiggles slightly in the center. Cool completely and refrigerate before cutting.

To cut the squares, lift them from the pan using the parchment paper as handles. Dust the tops of the bars with powdered sugar just before serving and use a sharp knife to cut them into squares. The powdered sugar will melt into the cranberry curd, making sweet glaze.

Keep refrigerated.

Celery Root and Apple Soup

Ahh, the celery root. You poor, misunderstood vegetable.

There is a delicious creaminess to celery root and because of it and the chill in the air, I went ahead and made a soup out of this monstrosity. I fear I am getting to be predictable with my soup making. I suppose there are worse things.

I made this soup a week ago. Then I went to Chicago for my dear friends’, Jenny and Sayan, wedding (congrats!). In lieu of a bachelorette party, Jenny wanted to go to a cooking class (I love my foodie friends!). And what else was on the menu but Apple and Celery Root Bisque with Thyme Croutons (among other delicious dishes to be discussed later). I couldn’t believe how ahead of the curve I was with my adventures the previous weekend.

There were some subtle differences – I used homemade garlic croutons instead of thyme; I made a chive oil to drizzle on top of the soup instead of just a garnish of chopped chives and mine lacked cream and maple syrup … In some ways, it was a fantastic opportunity to see how well I fare on my own compared to in the presence of a culinary instructor.

The verdict: I wasn’t too shabby, if I do say so myself. Of course that was after several glasses of wine and an evening spent with fabulous friends, so there is some chance that my self esteem was slightly higher than average.

That’s not to say that I didn’t learn anything at our cooking class, but more on that later. For now, I am going to go ahead and give you both of the soup recipes.

Celery Root and Apple Soup

from Bon Appetit

**********
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups peeled celery root, diced in 1/2 inch pieces
2 green apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup chopped chives
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
Pinch of salt
**********

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add celery root, apples, and onion. Cook until apples and some of celery root are translucent (do not brown), stirring often, about 15 minutes. Add 2 cups broth. Cover and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer covered until celery root and apples are soft, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to pot. Season to taste with apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.

Puree chives, grapeseed oil, and pinch of salt in blender until smooth.

Rewarm soup over medium heat. Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle croutons over each serving. Drizzle each bowl with chive oil.

Celery Root and Apple Bisque

from The Chopping Block (Chicago)

**********
Bisque
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium-size celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tart apples, peeled and cut into large dice
1 onion, medium dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 to 6 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons chives, minced
1/2 heavy cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Celery salt and pepper to taste
 
Thyme Croutons
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups multigrain, rye, sourdough or French bread, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, rough chopped
salt and pepper to taste
**********

For bisque:

Heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the butter and olive oil.

Saute the celery root, apples and onions, stirring occasionally, until they are lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.

Add the stock and apple cider vinegar; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered until the celery root is knife tender, about 25 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender, in batches if necessary, until smooth.

Return the soup to the pot and stir in the heavy cream and maple syrup. Season with celery salt and pepper to taste.

For thyme croutons:

Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add the butter.  Once the butter is frothy, toss in the bread cubes and cook, tossing frequently, until the bread is just starting to become golden brown.

Remove from the heat and toss in the garlic and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and allow to cool a bit before using.

Serve the soup in warmed bowls with croutons.

Roasted Pumpkin 5-Spice Ice Cream Sandwiches with Molasses Ginger Cookies

Perhaps the longest title for a recipe ever.

You didn’t think that I gave up on my ice cream obsession, did you? I know it’s been a month since my last ice-cream themed post, but I’ve been waiting for pumpkin season to feature this recipe. I knew that I wanted to make a pumpkin ice cream and that I wanted to have it as an ice-cream sandwich. Just like I knew that I needed to have wooden fenders for my bicycle. It’s a complicated thought process impossible to explain, but when you know what you want, you know what you want.

The ice cream recipe is from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. It’s roasted pumpkin puree with Chinese 5-spice and it’s a fantastic combination. The anise in the 5-spice really comes through with the pumpkin. And the structure of the molasses ginger cookies holds up well with the ice cream and freezer, to say nothing of the vibrancy of the spices.

I have a six mile bicycle commute and there have been many a night when returning home that I head straight into my freezer to grab one of these ice cream sandwiches, despite the chill in the air.

Roasted Pumpkin 5-Spice Ice Cream Sandwiches
with Molasses Ginger Cookies

makes 1 dozen sandwiches

**********
Roasted Pumpkin 5-Spice Ice cream
(from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home)
3/4 cup roasted pumpkin puree
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch 
1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup honey
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cups packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 tablespoon Chinese 5-spice powder
**********
Molasses Ginger Cookies
(from Bon Appetit)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup raw sugar
**********

For the ice cream base:

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch to make a slurry.

Whisk the cream cheese and the salt in a medium batter bowl until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree and honey.

Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup and Chinese 5-spice powder in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil and cook until thickened, about a minute or two. Remove from heat. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the pumpkin mixture until smooth. Cover and chill thoroughly.

For the cookies:

Sift flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt into medium bowl. Combine butter, shortening and brown sugar in large bowl and beat until fluffy. Add egg and molasses; beat until blended. Add dry ingredients; mix just until incorporated. Cover; chill 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place raw sugar in small bowl. Using wet hands, form dough into 24 equal pieces; shape pieces into balls. Roll in sugar to coat. Transfer to prepared sheets, spacing 2 1/2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are pale golden and cracked on top but still soft, about 15 minutes. Cool on sheets 1 minute. Transfer to racks; cool completely.

Sandwich assembly:

Freeze ice cream in ice cream maker. While the ice cream is still soft, spoon about 1/3 cup onto a cookie, top with a second cookie. Wrap sandwiches in wax paper and store in freezer. Freeze for at least 3 hours.

Potato Leek Soup

You can call me Dr. Crankypants. I woke up this morning and the temperature was 29º. As in below freezing. I know I shouldn’t complain about it, especially because it was a fantastically beautiful autumn here in Minneapolis, but I’m going to anyway. And with the upcoming time change this weekend that will make darkness fall at 5 pm (and gradually creep earlier and earlier into the day) … it’s put me in a cranky sort of mood.

A cranky sort of mood that makes me only want to make soup. I think I’ve figured out why I love making soup so much:

1) There are generally minimal (less than 10) ingredients.

2) There’s not much technique involved – throw some things in a pot, add some liquid and simmer for a while.

3) It makes a big batch so that you don’t have to cook every night, which leaves you time to come home and curl up on the couch in the fetal position in fear of the upcoming winter and 4) It freezes beautifully, so when you come home from your frequent travels to far-off corners of the country, you can have a bowl of piping hot soup in a manner of minutes.

What’s not to love? And everybody knows that love is the only antidote for crankiness…

Potato Leek Soup

**********
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks, chopped, white and light green parts
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, diced
4-5 yukon gold potatoes, diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
**********

In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add leeks and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add carrots, potatoes and dried thyme. Add stock, reduce heat to low and simmer for ~30 minutes, or until carrots and potatoes are tender. Transfer half of the soup to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Stir into remaining soup. Add heavy cream and heat until warm throughout.