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Monday, April 19, 2010

Pistachio-Raspberry Tea Cakes (with Raspberry Buttercream)

 Whoa, extreme closeup! Sorry  about the slightly blurry image. I got the recipe for the cupcake, which in this case is closer to a muffin in consistency, from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes from 2009. She didn't say anything about frosting them, just showed them plain (granted, they are very pretty with the bright raspberries and the green  nuts). But I ask, who made her queen? The frosting recipe is from Cupcakes by Carol Pastor, and it's to die for.

I knew I had to make these for my friend Keri when I first saw the recipe while researching cupcakes for my sister's 50th (na-na-na, I told) birthday bash. Keri loooooves pistachios. 

Happily, I found a giant bag of already shelled pistachios. Because they came salted, I skipped the salt in the batter. I got 16 cupcakes out of the batter, one more than Martha. Again, na-na-na. I've noted my tweaks.

Pistachio-Raspberry Tea Cakes

Nonstick spray
1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt (skip if using the easier-to-find salted nuts like I did)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (I used nearly 3)
4 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 to 2 containers (6 ounces each) fresh raspberries
1/4 cup slivered or chopped pistachios, for sprinkling (optional, as in, I forgot)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (this was too high; try 325 to 350). Line standard  tins with paper liners; coat liners with cooking spray.

In a food processor, finely grind shelled pistachios with the sugar and salt. Add butter, vanilla and eggs; process until smooth. Add flour; pulse until just moistened and combined; do not overmix.
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Gently press raspberries into batter, 4 to 6 per cupcake, and sprinkle with slivered or chopped pistachios if not frosting.

Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown, about 28 minutes (Check much earlier; mine were almost done at 20 minutes). Serve warm or at room temperature or cool to frost. After frosting, garnish with pistachio pieces and/or a fresh raspberry if desired.

Raspberry Buttercream

3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter (no substitutes) at room temperature
1 1/2 tbsp. (heaping) seedless raspberry jam
1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
3 cups powdered sugar plus more as needed
 Few drops red food coloring (optional; I've never added any since it's a pretty pink color)

In a bowl, beat the butter with about the half the sugar until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice and raspberry jam and continue to beat till smooth. Beat in the rest of the sugar until fluffy.

If you are unhappy with the consistency, add jam to thin, more sugar to thicken. I tend to use more jam -- and then more sugar to compensate -- because I like a strong raspberry flavor. This is great on chocolate raspberry cupcakes, too (recipe for those to come eventually). It's also great on a spoon. No, really.

I used a 1M decorating tip and a pastry bag to frost the tea cakes. I meant to garnish them with chopped pistachios and a fresh raspberry, but forgot. Next time.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Arhat's Fast (or veggie-cashew stir-fry)

This recipe comes from Chinese Cooking Cantonese by Margaret Leeming. She notes that it's a modern version of a traditional Buddhist dish. I've modified it further to use more fresh vegetables and to make four to six servings. I also skip deep-frying the cashews. I don't think it loses anything but unneeded fat.  The sauce is wonderful and very simple. I got strange looks from my husband when I once picked up my bowl and drank the remaining sauce like soup. He then offered me his. I'm not saying what I did. But you might want to have a spoon handy for more mannerly consumption.

You could easily substitute chicken, pork or shrimp for the cashews. The shrimp could be added near the end of cooking; the chicken and pork could be cubed, mixed with a little broth, soy sauce and cornstarch, and quickly stir-fried. Set it aside and add to the recipe instead of the cashews near the end of cooking. You can use bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, as called for in the original recipe, but I used summer squash instead. and added the corn. Use whatever vegetables you prefer, but be sure to add them at the right time in the cooking process for their density. You could also serve it over rice.

As with any stir-fry, have all the ingredients prepped before you begin cooking for a smooth process.

Arhat's Fast

Preferred oil for cooking
6 to 8 slices fresh ginger root*, minced
8 scallions, chopped
2 bell peppers in two colors (I used red and orange this time)
2 cups baby-cut carrots, boiled till just starting to get tender, drained and cooled
10-12 asparagus spears, cut into inch-long pieces with tips reserved separately
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced on the diagonal (and halved if it's fat)
2 yellow squash, thinly sliced on the diagonal (and halved if it's fat)
1 can baby corn, sliced in bite-size pieces if whole)
1 1/2 to 2 cups cashews (whole looks nice, but pieces are cheaper)

Salt to taste
4 tsp. sesame oil (optional)

Seasoning sauce:
6 tbsp. soy sauce
6 tbsp. sugar
6 tbsp. rice vinegar (plain or "seasoned")
6 tbsp. water

Thickening paste:
2 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 4 tsp. water

Mix the seasoning sauce in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved and set aside. Mix thickening paste and set aside (keep the spoon in it; you'll want to stir it again right before using).

In a wok or large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. oil and stir-fy the ginger and scallions for a minute. Add the peppers and carrots and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add asparagus stems and the squash and cook another few minutes. Stir in the seasoning sauce and bring to a boil. Add baby corn, asparagus tips and cashews and cook a few minutes. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook just till sauce thickens. Sprinkle with sesame oil (optional; I forgot this time).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Skipper's Linguine

Joe and my father love this dish. And I like it, too (a la Irish Spring soap commercial). I guess for them it's hard to go wrong with bacon, seafood and pasta. The recipe is from the '80s cookbook Better Homes and Gardens' Fish & Seafood. I've added my changes, which include using turkey bacon except on special occasions and cutting back on the butter.

It's an easy, simple recipe, and we always "mmmm" when we eat it. It's a handy pantry recipe because parsley is the only ingredient I might need to pick up.

Skipper's Linguine

6 slices bacon (regular or turkey), cut into 1/2-inch strips
1/4 cup green onion, sliced (I often sub regular chopped onion because I always have it)
2 garlic cloves, minced
6  tbsp. butter or margarine (I use no more than 3, which works fine)
2 (6 1/2 oz.) cans minced clams, undrained
1 (6 1/2 oz.) can tuna, drained
1/2 cup black olives, sliced (optional)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, snipped
1/8 tsp. black pepper
12 oz. linguine
Shredded Parmesan 
Lemon wedges (optional)

In skillet, cook bacon till crisp and set aside (If you use turkey bacon, cook it in a little olive oil, which will pick up the bacon flavor, and use the oil in next step). Reserve 2 tbsp. drippings in skillet.

Cook onion and garlic in drippings until tender but NOT browned. Stir in butter/margarine till melted. Add clams and tuna, breaking tuna into chunks, along with reserved bacon, olives, parsley and pepper; heat through. Keep hot but don't let all the liquid cook away.

Meanwhile, cook linguine according to package directions; drain. Toss with hot seafood mixture and transfer to bowl for serving. Pass Parmesan so diners can top as they wish. If desired, serve with lemon wedges.
Serves 6.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Banana Oatmeal with Walnuts and Blackberries

I often play with ways to flavor oatmeal, and this one was a hit. My friend Michelle made me promise to write this down when I made it during her recent visit, after an unseasonably cold night. She claims it's as good as ice cream. 
Riiiiiight. Not as good as Graeter's or Jeni's, anyway.

Banana Oatmeal with Walnuts and Blackberries

2 cups McCann's Quick Cooking Oatmeal
4 cups skim milk (or water)
Pinch salt
2 bananas, thinly sliced
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Scant 1/4 cup vanilla sugar (or use regular granulated sugar and add 1/2 tsp. vanilla to milk)
1 cup walnuts, toasted in the oven and chopped
1 cup blackberries
Additional banana slices, as desired 

Stir together oats, milk and salt in heavy saucepan and turn heat to medium. Stir often, adding banana when cereal starts to get hot. Cook, stirring  frequently, till oats are cooked, mixture is creamy and much of banana has cooked down, nearly disappearing into the oatmeal. That should take 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in sugars and cook another minute or so, scraping bottom of pan.

Serve with walnuts, berries, additional banana and brown sugar as toppings.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cheesy Ham Poof (Cheesy Name) and Nantucket Cranberry Pie

I love everything about brunch; the time of day,  the relaxed atmosphere, the foods. Especially the food.

For Easter today, I made almost everything ahead of time or at least assembled it to bake. I turned the ovens on as soon as we got home from church, filled 'em up, and got to relax a bit with guests for a while. Here are two recipes I used.

My favorite was the Nantucket Cranberry Pie, a tried-and-true coffeecake of sorts. It's easy and really tasty. It's especially nice for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it's too good to limit it to those holidays. It's one of the reasons I stock up on cranberries in season and throw them in the freezer for use all year.

  My sister had tasted a friend's version, and when the friend neglected to share the recipe, she discovered it at If, like me, you keep vanilla sugar or citrus sugar on hand, they work well in the filling.

The "Cheesy Ham Poof" has a name that's kind of embarrassing, and I think I originally called it a "cheesy, eggy, brunchy thing." But I confessed the real name, and we had fun with that. And it's good, so who cares what it's called. The recipe is from Clifford Wright's cookbook Bake Until Bubbly. I added the potato.

Nantucket Cranberry Pie

For the Filling:

Butter, to grease the pie plate
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional, I've never added them)

For the Topping:

2 eggs
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp. almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

For the Filling: 
Place the cranberries in a buttered, 9-to-10-inch pie plate (If you really like scraping yummy stuff off pie plates later, skip that step). Toss the sugar and walnuts over the berries. 

For the Topping:
Cream the eggs and the butter with the sugar. Add the flour and almond extract to the mixture, lightly stirring 
with a fork just till combined. Spread the topping over the cranberry mixture and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, till golden and set. If desired, serve warm with whipped cream (I've never done that, and it's fine plain and at room temperature). 

Cheesy Ham Poof

 6 large eggs  
 ½ cup all-purpose flour 
1 ½ tsp. baking powder  
1 cup whole milk (I used 2% with a bloop of low-fat "half-and-half" added)
1 cup finely chopped cooked ham 
3 oz. cream cheese (neufchatel is fine), softened
2  cups shredded cheddar (sharp or mild)
1 cup cottage cheese (fat-free works fine)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter (or margarine), melted
3 scallions, white and light green parts, chopped 
1 large potato, cooked, peeled, chopped and browned (optional)
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
¼ tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper  

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly better a 9×9x2 inch baking casserole.*

In an electric mixer bowl, beat the eggs for 1 minute. Stir in the flour and baking powder. Beat in cream cheese and then cottage cheese. Slowly beat in the milk. Add the ham, cheddar cheese, butter, scallions parsley, paprika, salt and pepper. Continue mixing until well blended, about 3 minutes at medium speed. 

Transfer to the casserole and bake until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean and the top is golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes (start checking at 45 minutes). Serve warm. (Clifford Wright suggests in his cookbook to serve leftovers cold, cut in small squares, for an appetizer similar to the Spanish tapa called a tortilla).
*If doubling recipe, use 13-by-9 baking dish.  It takes about the same time to bake.