Monday, March 29, 2010

Playing with Pearl Tapioca

Ever since his business trip to Taiwan a year ago, my husband has been obsessed with bubble tea. He craves it like I crave ice cream. It’s the chewy texture of the tapioca pearls that he loves so much. His craving for bubbles led me to a startling realization: I didn’t know the first thing about tapioca. Can you believe I'd never cooked or even eaten tapioca in my entire life? So I picked up a package of small pearl tapioca and one of large pearl tapioca to play with. My trial run with the small pearls, which I based on a loose guess about what proportion of tapioca to liquid to use, was a great success. Even Hubby, who’s definitely NOT a coconut lover, loved the Coconut Tapioca Pudding I made. Let’s just say my experiments with the large pearls continue…

Coconut Tapioca Pudding
Printable Recipe

1/3 cup small pearl tapioca
1 13 ½-ounce can coconut milk
¼ cup sugar
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Place the tapioca into a small saucepan, add enough water to cover by several inches, and bring to a boil. Drain, rinse with cold water to remove the excess starch, and drain again. Return the tapioca to the saucepan and add the coconut milk and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring frequently, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the tapioca pearls are tender and clear all the way through. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk and lime juice. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Serves 4. Taste often to test for doneness—the tapioca pearls will have no trace of white in the center when they are ready. If you like, add a tiny bit of finely grated lime zest along with the lime juice. The pudding can be served immediately after it’s made, but I like the texture much better once it thickens overnight. Serve topped with fresh tropical fruit.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reader Request: Hearty Beef & Vegetable Soup

Recently, I received a lovely email from a reader. I’m blushing profusely because she said such nice things. Here’s what Linda, of Hamilton, New Jersey, wrote:

Your recipes are amazing…delicious…some of the best I have ever made, and I now know why after reading about you. I am looking forward to having your cookbook too.

Your soup recipes are so good! My husband and I both love the Beef, Barley & Mushroom Soup. We love it so much that it is always stocked in our freezer, and I can't remember not having a few containers always on hand. As a matter of fact, I went to the store today for the ingredients to make another pot.

Would you consider making a hearty steak-vegetable soup and sharing the recipe on your site? I have no talent for creations of my own and since finding your site have found none other that compares. I haven't made anything yet that we did not enjoy.

Thank you for considering a recipe request.

Linda, thank you so much for your kind words about my recipes and about Hungry Cravings! Comments like yours really make my day and encourage me to keep at it! And seriously, with that kind of flattering feedback, how could I not honor your recipe request?

A hearty, comforting meat and veggie soup usually includes peas, carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes.

But the start of spring and the first farmers market of the season inspired me…I chose to use leeks instead of onions.

I also added some cauliflower, since it’s one of my favorites.

This one’s for you, Linda. Enjoy!

Hearty Beef & Vegetable Soup
Printable Recipe

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 ½ pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup red wine
3 quarts beef broth
1 14 ½-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig Italian parsley
4 medium red potatoes
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
2 leeks, pale parts only, sliced
12 ounces cauliflower florets
1 cup shelled English peas
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large, heavy pot over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Add half of the beef and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, tossing about 3 times, until crusty and brown in spots.* Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef to a plate. Sear the remaining beef in the same manner and set aside. Reduce the heat to low, add the butter and garlic, and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Stir in the flour. Add the wine and simmer, stirring, for a minute or so. Stir in the broth, return the beef to the pot, and add the tomatoes (along with their liquid), bay leaves, thyme, and parsley. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the beef is nearly tender. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into ¾-inch cubes. Add the potatoes, celery, carrots, leeks, and cauliflower to the pot, return to a boil, and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Add the peas and simmer 4 to 5 minutes more, or until they are tender. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf, thyme sprig, and parsley sprig, and skim off any fat from the surface of the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8 as a main course. Leeks tend to be very dirty, so rinse them thoroughly after you slice them. Vary the vegetables as you like—try turnips, parsnips, pearl onions, cabbage, or whatever else may be in season. Use thawed frozen peas if fresh peas are unavailable.

*Searing the beef in this manner adds tons of flavor to the finished dish. For everything you ever wanted to know about searing, plus dozens of fabulous searing recipes, look for my book Seared to Perfection in stores in the fall of 2010.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Forelle Pears

So adorable! So darling! So precious! You might think I’m talking about a baby, but no…I’m going gaga over Forelle pears, the diminutive pears with the freckled, blushing cheeks.

Pretty and petite Forelle pears disappear in two bites each, three at most. So cute and dainty!

Pistachio Panna Cottas with Lemon-Cardamom Poached Forelle Pears
Printable Recipe

1 cup pistachios
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ teaspoons gelatin
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
¼ teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
6 Forelle pears, ripe but firm
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine the pistachios and ¼ cup of the sugar in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. With the motor running, add the cream. Transfer to a small saucepan, heat to a bare simmer, and let cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Measure ½ cup of the milk into a small bowl and slowly sprinkle over the gelatin. Stir the remaining 1 cup milk into the pistachio mixture. Heat to a bare simmer. Whisk in the gelatin mixture and strain through a fine mesh sieve. Chill over an ice bath until just beginning to thicken. Divide among 6 dessert cups. Refrigerate for about an hour, or until set.

Combine the remaining ¾ cup sugar, lemon zest, cardamom, and 1 ½ cups water in a small pot. Heat until the sugar dissolves. Peel the pears, cut them in half, and core them with a melon baller, leaving the stem end intact. Add the pears to the pot and drape them with a piece of cheesecloth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pears to a plate and chill. Boil the poaching liquid another 12 to 14 minutes, or until thickened and slightly syrupy. Stir in the lemon juice and chill.

Divide the pears among the dessert cups, drizzle with the sauce, and serve immediately.

Serves 6. If Forelle pears are unavailable, use quartered Bosc or Bartlett pears. The cheesecloth will keep the pears completely submerged beneath the poaching liquid so that they cook evenly. Garnish with chopped pistachios if desired.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Salsa Series: Salsa Verde

This is the fourth post in a series on salsas.

Salsa isn’t just for corn chips any more. This was my sudden mind-blowing, earth-shattering realization. It came way back during my college days after a working interview at one very famous Southwestern restaurant. They fed me dinner—a grilled tenderloin steak smothered in a smokey salsa—in exchange for my night’s work. I had only ever eaten steak plain, and my life would never be the same. I got the job. But more importantly, I opened my eyes to the possibilities of salsa.

Salsas, whether they’re made from chiles, tomatoes, tomatillos, avocados, or fruit, are an integral part of Mexican and Southwestern cuisines. They vary from mild to medium to spicy, and they can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold. Salsas can function as either dip or sauce (in fact, salsa is Spanish for sauce), and they are the perfect accompaniment to everything from eggs to tacos to rice and beans. They can transform a simple grilled steak, pork chop, chicken breast, fish fillet, or even veggie into a spectacular meal. It’s no wonder that salsa has overtaken ketchup as the most popular condiment in the U.S.

But while I’m singing the praises of salsa, I want to make clear that I mean homemade, from-scratch salsa. Homemade salsa is vibrant and fresh and delicious and healthy, and it can perk up anything you put it on. (In comparison, the store-bought stuff is appallingly expensive and completely tasteless.) And if there’s a batch in the fridge, it’s sure to inspire many amazing meals.

Salsa Verde
Printable Recipe

1 ¼ pounds tomatillos
3 to 4 Serrano chiles
1 yellow onion, quartered
1 bunch cilantro, stems trimmed
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of 1 lime
Kosher salt

Combine the tomatillos and Serranos in a medium pot and add enough water to cover by several inches. Bring to a boil and simmer for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the tomatillos are soft. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatillos and Serranos to a plate. Let rest for about 15 minutes, or until just cool enough to handle, and then stem the Serranos.

Combine the tomatillos, Serranos, onion, cilantro, cumin, and lime juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

Makes 1 generous quart. Heat level: medium/hot. If you like it hotter, use more Serranos. This salsa is delicious with pork, chicken, and seafood, and it’s especially good as a sauce for chicken and cheese enchiladas. Keeps for several days tightly sealed in the refrigerator and freezes well. Serve warm or at room temperature.

More salsa recipes are available here.

Now, if you’re going to have great homemade salsa, you probably want some of this Guacamole to go with it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Taste of a Cooking Class

For those of you who’ve never been to one of my cooking classes, I just thought I’d give you a little taste…In a recent class entitled Hands-On Galettes and Crostatas I taught at Clark College, students learned to make these beauties.

I have a variety of fun and inspiring classes scheduled, and I hope to see you at one soon! Check out the Upcoming Cooking Classes sidebar on the right for class listings.

Butternut Squash & Roasted Garlic Crostata with Parmesan-Herb Cornmeal Crust
Printable Recipe

2 heads garlic
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 3 ¼ to 3 ½-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
¼ cup cornmeal
½ cup grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, shredded
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons, or more, cold water

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Cut the stem ends off the heads of garlic to expose the cloves within. Place the garlic in the center of a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and seal the foil tightly. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, or until meltingly tender and golden brown. Let cool to room temperature, peel, and mince to a paste, reserving the garlic oil for another use.

Toss together the butternut squash and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large bowl. Spread on a baking tray and roast for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until tender. Let cool to room temperature and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, ¼ cup of the Parmegiano, chives, and thyme in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water and pulse until the dough just comes together. Test the dough by squeezing a small amount together with your fingertips. If the dough holds together, it’s ready. If it’s crumbly, add up to 1 more tablespoon of water and pulse 2 more times. Transfer the dough to a work surface, bring together into a ball, and then flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

Increase the oven temperature to 425˚F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a 14-inch wide, ¼-inch thick circle. Roll the dough up on the rolling pin and transfer it to a parchment-lined baking tray. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes.

Spread the roasted garlic evenly in the center of the dough circle, leaving a 2-inch border at the edge, and mound the squash on it. Fold the edge of the dough over the squash, pleating it as you go. Refrigerate for another 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the crostata with the remaining ¼ cup Parmegiano. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool slightly, cut into portions, and serve.

Makes 1 large crostata, serving 6 as a vegetarian main course. Perfect in the fall and winter, when butternut squash is abundant.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin