Sunday, October 30, 2011

Applesauce Muffins - 2 Ways

After my boss received a gift of fresh, locally grown apples, he took them to the break room to share with the staff. I brought home several of these apples with the intention of making muffins to share at work. And of course I had to make enough muffins to include Pritchard Parker.

The first batch I made had golden raisins and pecans, with a drizzle of confectioner's sugar glaze. I thought they were very pretty, but when Pritchard Parker tasted one he said, "That's different".  Now I have to say that Pritchard Parker had gotten home from work very late and was quite tired when he said that. He was not really in a place to offer a fair critique and I didn't pursue it.

Different? Just to be safe, I decided to go with another recipe for the next batch. This time I skipped the raisins and used brown sugar and toasted walnuts with  a sugary crunch for topping.

Both recipes begin by making applesauce.

Applesauce Raisin Muffins
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and spices. In another bowl, stir together the egg, milk, vegetable oil, and the applesauce and mix well. Stir the dry mixture into the wet until just combined. Stir in the raisins and nuts.

Spoon into greased muffin cups and bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Let them cool slightly then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. If desired, top with a glaze made of 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, and 1-2 Tbsp. milk or cream.  Add an additional sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg.

Applesauce Spice Muffins
(Gourmet Magazine, November 2003)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) plus 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

2 Tbsp. Turbinado (or regular granulated) sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together eggs and brown sugar in a large bowl until combined well, then add butter, a little at a time, whisking until mixture is creamy. Stir in applesauce, then fold in flour mixture until flour is just moistened. Stir in nuts and divide batter among greased muffin cups.

Stir together the topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of the muffins. Bake at 400 degrees until muffins are puffed and golden, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then remove muffins from pan and cool completely.

These are the muffins I took to work.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beets in Citrus Sauce

We love vegetables and beets are no exception. I think some people are put off by their gaudy magenta hue, but even as a kid, I loved that color and felt very attracted to beets. Also, it is hard to imagine by looking at the hard, crunchy, gnarly, and often hairy exterior of a beet that it could ever cook into a vegetable so sweet and buttery textured.   

Beets are a nutritional power-house; another reason to love them.  They can be juiced, grated raw as a topping for salads, oven roasted, grilled, or steamed, all with delicious results.

I have made Beets in Citrus Sauce many times over the years. The addition of the lemon and orange really brighten the flavor, the small amount of sugar takes away the earthy flavor some people find objectionable. And the cloves add a distinctly fall flavor.

Beets in Citrus Sauce
(adapted from The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas)
1 1/2 to 2 lb. young beets
1 1/4 cups liquid from beets
1 lemon
1 Tbsp. orange peel, freshly grated
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp. butter

Cook the beets whole, in simmering water, until just tender. Drain, reserving liquid, peel and slice thin. Pour liquid from the beets into a pot, add the grated peel and the juice of 1 lemon, the grated orange peel, sugar, salt, cloves, and the frozen orange juice concentrate. Dissolve the cornstarch in just enough water to make a smooth paste and add that also.  Beat the mixture lightly with a whisk and cook until it becomes clear.

Add the sliced beets and the butter, heat it through, correct the seasoning, and serve very hot.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Gulab Jamun

Curry-Palooza #7

It was my turn again, to choose the recipe for Curry-Palooza.  All along I had been thinking I would choose a shrimp recipe next. But since we just had seafood for our last event, I wanted to go with something else. I thought about some of my favorites when ordering in Indian Restaurants, but we had already done some of them, or something very similar. I finally decided on a dessert.

When dining out, I always choose Kheer, a delicious rice pudding. But I have always been curious about Gulab Jamun, and decided on that.  The recipe I chose is from the book, How to Cook Indian by Sanjeev Kapoor, a new book with over 500 recipes. I had been hearing about the book, so finally ordered. It is a very thick book, and disappointingly, it does not have a single picture.

I don't know what I was expecting Gulab Jamun to be, but it is not this. Mine tasted like little Southern-style biscuit balls with syrup. They would probably be a hit at a brunch table, along with the scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, and hot coffee.  In fact, I may do exactly that, the next time I host a brunch. 

Gulab Jamun
How to Cook Indian by Sanjeev Kapoor
1 cup dry milk powder
2 Tbsp. pastry flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup plain yogurt, whisked
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp. milk
1/4 tsp. ground green cardamom
Pinch of saffron threads
2 1/4 cups ghee

Put the milk powder in a bowl. Add the flour and baking soda, and stir well.  Add the yogurt and stir to make a soft dough.  Divide into 16 equal portions and shape them into round, smooth balls.  Set aside.

To make the sugar syrup, place a saucepan over high heat and add 1 cup water. Add the sugar and cook, stirring continuously, until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the milk and stir.  The scum containing the impurities in the sugar will rise to the top.  Gently gather it with a spoon and discard.  You will get a clear syrup.  Add the cardamom and saffron, and stir.  Cook until the syrup reaches 130 degrees.  Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Place a wok over medium heat and add the ghee.  Heat until the ghee reaches a temperature of 160 degrees, or until fragrant.

Gently slide in four dough balls at a time and cook, gently spooning hot ghee over the balls with a slotted spoon, until the balls are deep golden, about 2 minutes, about 2 minutes.

Drain the balls in the slotted spoon and transfer them to the sugar syrup.  Repeat with the remaining balls.  Soak in the syrup for at least 15 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature.

Curry-Palooza is a monthly blogging event with the goal of exploring Indian cuisine. We would love for you to cook along with us.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Grilled Ratatouille

Three weeks ago, a tractor-trailer truck with a load of locally grown tomatoes, over-turned on one of our narrow, steep and winding rural roads.  Tomatoes were all over the place! Many, many boxes of the tomatoes were rescued but were deemed (by whatever authority) unsaleable, due to the accident. Many were donated to local food banks and soup kitchens. Lucky for me, I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and found myself the happy recipient of two 25 pound boxes of beautiful, large and plump Roma tomatoes.  No one wanted to see these tomatoes wasted.  (And no one was injured in the accident).

I canned one box of them for the winter. With the other, I have made all kinds of tomato-ey things--tomato sauce, tomato soup, pizza, salsa, grilled cheese with tomato sandwiches, two pans of oven dried tomatoes, and I still have a nice bowl full of them to finish off this weekend.

Another thing I made is Ratatouille, which is a delicious dish to make and eat in very late summer to early fall, when the fresh, local, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, and squashes are still available. Ratatouille can be eaten cold with crackers and cheese when the weather is balmy. Or it can be treated as a hot and comforting stew for blustery autumn evenings, served with french bread and brie. 

There are many ways to make Ratatouille, and here is one.

Grilled Ratatouille
3 large onions, roughly chopped
3- 4 plump cloves garlic, chopped
2 bell peppers, any color, quartered, seeds removed
8 Japanese eggplant, split in half lengthwise
6 summer squash, split in half lengthwise
4 very large ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Olive Oil

In a large soup pot, cook onions, in olive oil, over medium low heat, until tender. Meanwhile, drizzle peppers, eggplant, and squash with olive oil, and salt and pepper them. Grill until tender. Chop the grilled vegetables to desired size and add to the pot with the onions. Add the garlic. Stir together, and simmer for a few minutes. Finally add the chopped tomatoes and the fresh rosemary. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.