Saturday, January 21, 2017

Toffee bars

I recently had these toffee bars at my friend Susan's house, and I made sure to take the recipe home with me--these are delicious, and extremely simple to make.  I am always happy to find a cookie or cake recipe that starts out with melted butter rather than having to beat the butter until soft--so much easier.  I made these last night for the Oneg Shabbat at Temple, and they disappeared quickly.  Next time I'll make a double batch!

adapted from Alice Medrich's Cookies and Brownies

8 T. unsalted butter
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar (either light or dark sugar is fine)
1 t. vanilla
1/8 t. salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, or 6 oz. semi-sweet or dark chocolate cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans (or almonds or walnuts)

Use 8-inch square pan, lined on the bottom and all 4 sides with parchment paper (foil might work also).  Toast the nuts in a sauté pan for a few minutes, or in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

BASE:  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. Press the dough into the bottom of the baking pan.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until well-browned at the edges and golden brown in the center. 

topping:  Sprinkle the hot crust with the chocolate and return to the oven for 1-2 minutes, or just until the chocolate softens.  Remove the pan from the oven and spread the chocolate evenly with the back of a spoon.  Sprinkle the nuts over the chocolate and press them down gently into the chocolate.  Set on a rack to cool.  Lift the edges of the liner to transfer to a cutting board.  Use a sharp knife to cut into 16 or more squares.  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Steamed Salmon with Snow Peas

For the last several years, I've purchased superb salmon from Sitka Salmon Shares. This salmon is so good that most of the time, I just steam, bake, or pan-fry it and spend my cooking time on the sides.  But last night I tried this recipe and we really enjoyed it.  The fish is perked up a bit with ginger, garlic, and a little sauce, and the snow peas and orange were really nice companions for it.  I have upped the amounts of ginger, garlic, and lime juice from the original recipe.

Sitka Salmon has expanded significantly this year, and in 2017 will be delivering everywhere in the Midwest and some places beyond.  They're working on a map for the website.  Until that's up, here's what you have to do to find out if they sell to your area: Click on "Join now," put something in the cart, and that will take you to a page where you put in your state and zipcode, to see if they will deliver to you.

steamed salmon with snow peas
adapted from The Flat Belly Diet, by Lisa Vaccariello
4 servings

1 to 1-1/2 lbs. salmon fillets, cut into four pieces
2 t. grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 t. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 t. toasted sesame oil
12-16 oz. snow peas
1 cup diced avocado
4 oranges, cut into eighths

Rub the salmon fillets with the ginger and garlic.  Coat a steamer basket with nonstick cooking spray and lay the fillets in the basket.  (I use this kind of steamer basket.)
In a saucepan, bring 1-2" of water to a boil.  (I use a 3-qt sauté pan with straight sides, something like this.)  Put the steamer basket in the saucepan and cover.  Steam for 8 minutes.
While the fish is steaming, whisk together in a small bowl the lime juice, soy sauce, oil, and scallions.  Set aside.
After the salmon has cooked for 8 minutes, put the snow peas on top and cover.   Cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the snow peas are crisp/tender and the salmon is opaque.
Spoon the snow peas onto four plates, making a bed for the salmon.  Put on the salmon, sprinkle with the diced avocado, and then drizzle with the reserved sauce.  Serve the cut-up orange as a side dish.
392 calories

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Holiday Breakfast--Norwegian Pancakes with Orange Sauce

Although we don't observe Christmas as a religious holiday, my husband and I take advantage of the peacefulness of a necessarily unscheduled day (no appointments! no errands!) to enjoy a couple of special meals.  I make a once-a-year breakfast, and he makes a lovely dinner.

We first had this breakfast in the early 1970s, when we shared a house with the recipe's originator, our fellow Stanford graduate student, Kristin Mann.  "Kristin's Orange Sauce" lives on in our household these 40+ years later!  The pancake recipe is from The Settlement Cookbook.  The batter for Norwegian pancakes is the same as for French pancakes (crepes), just made in a larger (10") skillet and served flat rather than rolled.

serves 3 (quantity for serving 2 in parentheses)
1 cup (2/3 cup) flour
1/2 t. (1/3 t.) salt
1-1/2 cup (1 cup) milk (skim is fine)
3 eggs (2 eggs), well beaten

  • I beat up the batter in a 4-cup measuring cup, and then pour the batter into the skillet from there.
  • Beat eggs.  Add milk and salt and beat together.  Sift flour and salt, add to milk-egg mixture, and beat all together very well.  (I use a stick blender.)  Batter should be as thick as heavy cream.  (Add a little more flour is it seems too thin.)
  • Heat a 10" skillet.  Grease lightly with butter.  Pour in a little batter, tilt pan back and forth so batter will spread all over the bottom.  When dry on top and browned on the bottom, flip and brown on the other side.
  • As pancakes are done, pile on a plate and keep warm in an oven set at 175 degrees.
  • To serve, put a few pancakes on each plate and top with orange sauce.

serves 3
1/2 stick (4 oz) butter 
2 T. brown sugar
juice of 1/2 of a juicy orange
2 t. brandy

Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add brown sugar and stir until it is dissolved.  Add orange juice and let it bubble a bit.  Add brandy and cook until the alcohol taste is gone--a couple of minutes.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Pumpkin-Pecan Pie

I don't much like plain pumpkin pie.  The pumpkin chiffon pie my mother used to make for Thanksgiving is the supreme dessert for the holiday, but it is a great deal of work.  I love pecan pie, but it's awfully heavy.  So I tried this recipe, which has a layer of pumpkin pie on the bottom and pecan pie on the top.  Very nice!

I found the recipe in my dessert file, clipped from an unidentified publication.  Searching the web, I found the same recipe by David Bonom here.  (But if you use the online recipe, note a significant typo in the pie crust recipe.  It should be 7 tablespoons of butter, not 7 teaspoons.)

serves 10

You need to start making the pie six hours before serving, as the pie dough needs to chill, the pie takes an hour to cook, and then the whole pie needs to cool and then chill for 4 hours.  Start with the pie crust, and then make the fillings while the pie crust chills.  You could certainly use a purchased pie crust for this instead (I like the Pillsbury refrigerated crusts), if you'd like to save some steps, though this one came together easily. 

Cornmeal Butter Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
2 T. sugar
1/4 t. salt
7 T. chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 T. ice water (or a little more, as needed; I used 6 or 7 T.)

In the bowl of a food processor, mix flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt.  Add butter and pulse until incorporated (large granules).  Add water, 1 T. at a time, while pulsing, until ball forms (or until you can easily press the dough into a ball).  Remove and wrap with plastic wrap.  Chill at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. (I use a large silicone mat--really makes this easier.) Use a lightly floured rolling pin and roll into a 14" diameter round. Fit into a 9-inch pie pan. Trim excess dough, leaving enough to turn under and crimp around the edges of the pan.  Chill at least 15 minutes.

Pumpkin filling
1-1/4 cups canned pumpkin
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 T. half and half
2 t. vanilla extract
3/4 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 t. salt

Pecan filling
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
1-1/2 cup pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Prepare the pumpkin filling:  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well until combined.

Prepare the pecan filling:  In another bowl, combine all the ingredients except the pecans; whisk well.  Then stir in the pecans.

Pour the pumpkin filling into the chilled pie crust.  Gently spoon pecan filling over the pumpkin filling.  Place on a baking sheet and bake 65 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 1 hour.  Then put in the refrigerator and let chill 3 hours before serving.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Jade Green Summer Soup

I made this soup yesterday, the first course for a dinner cooked collectively.  It was in the 70s here, and I figured it was likely the last time to enjoy a cold soup, and found the recipe for this one when cleaning out my recipe files earlier in the week.  Unusually for me, I didn't note the source; it's copied from a book, but I had no idea which one.  Google to the rescue!  It's from Robert Wolke, What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained. I think this was a book I checked out of the library one summer, when the summer reading challenge included a category for "science."  This recipe is in a chapter on microwaves, explaining their impact on food.  The recipe is written for the microwave, but gives alternative instructions for stove-top cooking, which is what I did.

Today for lunch, I heated the soup up; it is excellent either hot or cold.  Next time I make it, I may add a couple of potatoes to the mix, to make it more of a main dish soup.  Note that there's no milk in this soup, unlike many chilled summer vegetable soups.  It was nice to have a soup like this with just the broth base.

adapted from Robert Wolke, What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained
serves 6-8

5 cups chicken broth 
2 cups fresh green beans, chopped into about 1" pieces
2 cups chopped romain lettuce
2 cups zucchini, chopped into about 1/2" pieces
2 cups frozen peas
2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped scallions, both white and green parts 
1/4 cup chopped parsley (and more for garnish)
salt and freshly ground pepper
chopped fresh herbs for garnish (I used parsley and chives)

Into a soup pot, put the chicken broth and all the vegetables: green beans, romaine, zucchini, peas, celery, scallions, and parsley.  Bring to a boil, then simmer, partially covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Add salt and pepper as desired.  Blend to the point of a textured purée (that is, not entirely smooth); I use a stick blender.  Chill thoroughly before serving.

Garnish each serving with chopped fresh herbs.  I used both parsley and chives.  Next time, I think I'd use just chives--would be prettier, and there is already parsley in the soup.  Mint might be nice, too.

The recipe suggested an optional addition at serving time of a drizzle of olive oil or a dollop of sour cream, but I liked it very much without either of these.  Why not keep it simple and low-cal?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Nicoise Salad

Not often enough, I put together a Salade Niçoise, and always wonder why I don't do it more often, because it is so simple, elegant, and delicious.  We recently had this when a friend came over for dinner, and her delight in it leads me to share the recipe here.  The original recipe includes instructions for a vinaigrette dressing, so if you want to make that also, click on the link below.  I just serve it with oil and vinegar.  It does take some time to prepare each of the ingredients, but you can do any or all of it ahead of time, which helps.  Served with a crusty bread, this is a full meal.

adapted from Simply Recipes
serves 6
  • grilled tuna or salmon, about 16 oz; canned tuna or salmon is also fine
  • 6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
  • 12 small red potatoes (about 2" in diameter, about 1-1/2 lbs. total), boiled until just tender, cooled under cold water, and then cut in quarters
  • Boston or butter lettuce, enough for 6 people, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 small ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into eighths (or a comparable amount of cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 small red onion, halved and sliced thin into crescents
  • 8 ounces green beans, steamed until just tender (I use the steam-in-bag type)
  • olives (kalamata if you don't have nicoise)
  • 2 cans of anchovies
  • fresh pepper
  • capers
  • olive oil
  • vinegar (I use balsamic)
Once all the ingredients are prepped, you can either put everything on a large serving platter, or you can make up individual plates.  Lettuce goes on the bottom, and than place each of the ingredients through the anchovies on top of the lettuce, each in its own pile.  Sprinkle on some fresh pepper and some capers, and then drizzle on olive oil and vinegar, as desired.

If you don't use up all the ingredients at one sitting, they will all be fine the next day as well, straight from the refrigerator.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Low-fat Vanilla Cream

With berries in full season, I was reminded of this simple recipe, adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites.  It's a great substitute for whipped cream or crème fraiche.  The original recipe suggests low-fat cottage cheese and yogurt, but I use non-fat and it's still delicious.

makes about 1 cup, serves 5-6

1/2 cup non-fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup non-fat yogurt
2 T + 1 t. pure maple syrup
1/4 t. vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients together.  (An immersion blender works well.)  Chill and serve.  Keeps for about 3 days in the refrigerator.