Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Candied Ginger


Ginger makes me happy,
Ginger makes me smile,
Ginger every way and day,
Full of spice and guile.

I love ginger. It all started with ginger ale, then pickled ginger with sushi. Then I discovered ginger beer (which is a lovely non-alcoholic beverage), then I turned 21 and discovered that gin goes particularly well with all non-alcoholic ginger beverages. When I am at a loss and at a bar, gin and ginger ale it is. 

So when I went to Whole Foods about a month ago and impulsively picked up a package of candied ginger, it was pretty clear I would enjoy the confection.

Here's what I didn't expect: I could not stop dipping into the bag for a tiny treat...even after breakfast I sometimes grabbed a piece while loading my bowl and spoon into the dishwasher. 


It's spicy, it's sweet, it's crunchy on the outside and perfectly chewy on the inside (apparently the most addicting texture...just think about oreos!). 

Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention that ginger has a laundry list of health benefits. It's good for stomach problems/nausea, is anti-inflammatory, and has immune-boosting properties. (Obviously these things are secondary to the deliciousness of candy!).


To make this treat at home, I turned to the teachings of food alchemist and chemist Alton Brown. You start by boiling the ginger alone until tender, then drain (saving the cooking liquid) and return to the pot with an equal weight of sugar and a bit of liquid. Dissolve the sugar, boil off the water, and wham bam alacazam out of a ginger flavored sky...


You think it's going to caramelize. It really does look like the beginning of caramel. But somehow, crystals start and once they start they spread. Soon the whole mess is white and snowy and ready to dry into crisp, sweet bites.

Candied Ginger
Yield: as much as you like! Plus some great byproducts*

Ingredients: 
  • Ginger Root (1 lb is good if you can think to buy that much), sliced into 1/8 inch coins
  • Water
  • Granulated Sugar (aprox 1 lb for each lb of ginger)
Method:
  1. Bring about 5 cups of water to a boil for every pound of ginger (it's going to boil for a while, so enough to cover and then some). Add the ginger and cook for 35 minutes or until a fork can pierce through as it would a cooked carrot.
  2. Meanwhile, put foil on a baking sheet and lay a rack over. Spray lightly with non-stick spray.
  3. Drain the ginger, saving the cooking liquid. Weigh the ginger and add an equal weight of sugar, then return to the pot and add a few tablespoons of cooking liquid (per pound--get the idea?).
  4. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat to medium/medium low until the water has evaporated and crystals form, 20-30 minutes. Transfer the ginger to the prepared rack, separate the pieces, and allow to cool.
  5. Store in an airtight container with a paper towel. Keeps well, though it won't last in this house!

*Byproducts of candying ginger:
P.S. The cooking liquid from the ginger is incredibly strong ginger "tea" concentrate...try adding some to cold water, black tea, or mixing with hot water and honey (and rum? or gin? for a hot ginger toddy!). It's super strong, so a little goes a long way!
P.P.S. The sugar that falls off the pieces is also delicious-in tea or coffee, on cookies or muffins, etc.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Spaghetti Fritatta


Eggs are a supreme comfort food.

Cheese? Pepper? This sounds like a cacio e pepe...just wait. We're gonna add pasta.


Pesto pasta, crisped in a pan which will now not really ever be the same for the power of cooked-on starch. But, your taste buds will thank you for crispy pasta suspended in perfect, soft, comforting egg. It's like the best part of rice-a-roni, you know those cooked pasta bits which have been sauteed in butter...


This fritatta isn't fancy. But it feels beautiful, steaming and messy and crispy and delicious.


The recipe comes from a book called Twelve Recipes, a book which is teaching me how to cook this summer.

Spaghetti Frittata

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cream (the original recipe calls for olive oil, but I had cream and thought it a better idea)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • pepper
  • leftover pasta (greens are also nice!)
Method:
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, put a thin sheen of oil and then all your leftover pasta. Saute, pressing down into a cake to get the bottom crispy.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk all other ingredients until smooth. 
  3. Once the pasta is crispy, pour the egg mixture in and cook until the edges are cooked and the center is still a bit wet, about 6-8 minutes. Then, flip the frittata out onto a plate (yes, you can do it!), re-oil the skillet, and slide the wet mess of fritatta back into the skillet. If it breaks, just nudge it back together.
  4. Cook another couple of minutes, or until you peek in with a knife in the middle and it is cooked to your liking.
  5. Slice and serve! (Or serve cold later, or room temp...it's really good however you have it! The leftovers make good breakfast.)



BONUS: I also made Joy's Brown Butter Banana Skillet Cake with Strawberries and Pecans! It is awesome and a great way to make friends with your landlords. Invite them up for cake...don't nobody not like cake.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Pizza Grilled Cheese


This grilled cheese. This made me no longer want to bake a cake. It was so good, so complexly flavorful and exciting and fun to make that I lost desire to throw myself into making a cake.

I also lost stomach capacity.

But not to worry! Cake will be back soon.

This recipe is brought to you by the struggling basil plant on our back porch, pine nuts the people we're subletting from (our superletters?) left behind, and parmesan cheese nubs. It's also brought to you by good, crusty bread.


Shoutout to my sister-in-law's dad, who subtly packed up leftover bread after a 4th of July BBQ and handed me the bag on my way out. I have been the beneficiary of their kindness and food many times--some kale from their garden made its way into my eggs the other day, too!

Anyway. This grilled cheese is brought to you by the letter A, as in mozzArella, which I never know how to spell. It's brought to you by the glory of butter sizzling in a skillet. By the power of a bit of olive oil and a lot of heat to bring out extraordinary sweetness in otherwise ordinary tomatoes.


Another single meal, but easily adaptable to however many mouths there are to feed. FYI: I plan to put the extra pesto on pasta tomorrow night, then put the pasta in a frittata the following night. It's a piggyback kind of return on investment. Knock yourself out!

Pizza Grilled Cheese
Yield: one sandwich, easily multiplied

Ingredients:

  • a bunch of basil
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • a garlic clove
  • a few tablespoons grated parmesan
  • a scant quarter cup pine nuts
  • 1 small tomato
  • 5 or 6 small balls of fresh mozzarella, or a few slices of a big ball
  • two slices crusty bread
  • butter
Method
  1. Roast tomato: slice it up, put on a sheet pan (foil makes clean up much easier!). Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and put under the broiler. Keep an eye on it while you make the pesto, below. Roast until soft, with browning edges. Take out and set aside.
  2. Make the pesto: [Note: I used a mortar and pestle but this can easily be adapted to a food processor.] Pound the garlic clove with a pinch of coarse salt until it's entirely broken down into a paste. 
  3. Toast pine nuts for a few minutes in a skillet on the stove, then add to the mortar. Grind up. Add the cheese and grind again. 
  4. Then, coarsely slice the basil, add, and grind more. Drizzle in olive oil and keep grinding until its consistency is to your liking. Taste, add salt/pepper, cheese, etc.-whatever you think it needs.
  5. Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread, then layer on the pesto, cheese, and tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes, until golden brown
    and starting to melt, then flip. If your cheese looks like it needs some help melting (though putting hot tomatoes on it helps that along a bit), throw a lid on the pan while the second side cooks to capture heat.
  6. Cut and serve. Pick your jaw up off the table so you can keep chowing down!
Inspired by Food52 and Joy the Baker.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Millionaire Shortbread

Happy Fourth of July!

Here's to food and family and fireworks.

I actually made these a couple of weeks ago, and they were the first thing I brought in to work. Food is universal--everyone eats, and most people like sweets!--so it was a great way to meet more people and share something enjoyable in the middle of the work day.



Though I brought them in when I arrived that morning, I didn't announce their presence until 2 o'clock or so. You gotta wait until the hunger and fatigue strikes, then BAM! make some friends! They're a layer of shortbread, followed by a dulce de leche-like caramel filling, and a chocolate ganache on top.


Anyway, everyone raved. And people were super impressed with the diamond cutting pattern.


I'm going to let you in on a little secret: it takes the same amount of effort as cutting regular squares.

But people think they're fancier. Just like spreading sauce artfully on a plate, or swirling frosting on a cake. Food psychology is almost as cool as food science!

Each layer is simple to make, so though there are three, there's not a ton of waiting between steps. The whole shebang took me about an hour, or a bit over. The original recipe calls for cooking the caramel to a precise temperature, but I did it by look and feel and it still turned out delicious. Make these...and revel in sinking your teeth into something decadent, sweet, and beautiful!


Millionaire Shortbread
Yield: as many diamonds as you can cut! (9x9 inch pan--I split between two smaller pans with similar area)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon ice water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Lyle's Golden Syrup (or dark corn syrup, or honey, or agave...)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
Method:

  1. For the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9x9 inch baking pan with slings of aluminum foil (greased) or parchment paper.
  2. Whisk flour, brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter, then cut in with a pastry cutter, two forks, two knives, or however your soul tells you is right. I like to grate frozen butter on the biggest holes of a box grater and then fluff everything together!
  3. Add ice water and egg and mix with a fork until the dough starts to come together in clumps. Press into the pan and bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  4. While the shortbread is baking, get the caramel ingredients ready. Dump everything except the vanilla together in a medium saucepan. When the shortbread has about 5 minutes left, turn on the stove to medium heat and whisk while the sugar dissolves and the caramel cooks. Let it cook until the mixture starts to boil around the edges, then keep whisking constantly until the caramel is thick and browning (you'll feel it get thicker). Stir in vanilla extract, then pour over the shortbread.
  5. Let the shortbread and caramel cool for about 15 minutes, then microwave the chocolate and cream together for 30 second bursts, until the chocolate is melted. Stir to combine, then spread over the caramel. 
  6. Put the pan in the fridge to set, at least an hour, and then pull out by the foil sling and cut as desired (I suggest diamonds!). Serve and impress, eat and delight!
  7. Store in the fridge for up to a week.