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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Pound Cake

This recipe comes from the marvelous book Pie in the Sky:  Successful Baking at High Altitudes by Susan G. Purdy. Every recipe in the book was tested at five altitudes, including sea level. And each recipe is presented so you can succeed no matter in spite of the effects of air pressure, lower boiling point, etc. Here's a link for baking this cake at 5000 feet elevation. Although I have not baked this cake at sea level I have so much trust in Purdy's instructions that I'm posting it for readers who don't live at my elevation. For any reader who lives at 3000, 7000, or 10,000 feet I recommend you check the book out from your library.



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Pound Cake (for sea level up to 2500 feet)


Source:  Pie in the Sky:  Successful Baking at High Altitudes by Susan G. Purdy
Serves 12-16, depending on how you slice it


3 c sifted all-purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1 1/2 teas baking powder
8 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
1/2 teas cream of tartar
3/4 teas salt
3/4 c plus 2 c granulated sugar, divided
3/4 pd unsalted butter (3 sticks) at room temperature
1 c sour cream
1 T vanilla
2 teas lemon or almond extract or 1 teas each
3 T brandy or rum

Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375F. Coat a 10-inch (12-16 cup) plain tube pan (angle food cake pan) with nonstick spray or butter.  Avoid a bundt pan. 

In a bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder together. Place to the side.

Put the egg whites in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer. Add the cream of tartar and salt and beat until foamy. Then gradually pour in the 3/4 c of sugar and increase the speed to high. Watch closely and beat until you see tracks in the top of the mixture. Stop and check the whites. You are looking for something that is just beginning to stand in peaks, no droopiness. Don't overbeat. The mixture should also be smooth and shiny. Set this aside as well. If you need your bowl for the remainder of the recipe, put the mixture into another bowl.

In a large bowl (5 quart or larger) place the butter and the remaining sugar (2 c) and cream together, scraping down the bowl and beaters. Cream until well blended. Add the sour cream, vanilla, and other flavorings, and the brandy or rum. Mix until combined and add the egg yolks 2 at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix a couple more minutes. If the batter looks curdled, don't be surprised. It is fine.

Lightly stir in approximately 2 cups of  the egg white mixture into the creamed butter and sugar to lighten the mix. In 5 or 6  alternating additions, fold in the flour mixture and  the remaining egg white mixture. A long handled rubber spatula is good for this job since you'll have quite a bit of batter by now. Fold until you have a creamy, thick batter and you no longer see streaks of flour.  With a light hand, scrape along the bottom to ensure you've mixed everything in. 

Place the batter into the prepared tube pan. Use a knife or a thin spatula to run through the batter to remove any air pockets, but be sure to avoid the sides and bottom of the pan. Smooth the top and place into the oven. 

After about 30 minutes of baking, place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top, shiny side down; this will keep the top from getting too brown. Continue to bake for a total of 50-55 minutes until the top is golden and has a few cracks. It should be springy to the touch and if you use a tester (or a toothpick) it should come out with a few crumbs, nothing wet. 

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack and allow to cool for 45-60 minutes. Then use a knife to carefully run around the sides of the pan and the tube. Invert the cake onto a plate and invert again onto a cake platter or another plate, so the top is up. Allow to cool completely. 

The author of this recipe recommends you wait until the next day to eat it for best flavor and slicing; but she points out it is difficult to wait that long. 

This cake is wonderful served with berries, fruits in simple syrup, berry coulis, lemon curd, or whipped cream. 

High Altitude Pound Cake

This is the best pound cake I've ever eaten; it would have to be with all those eggs. If you want a superior cake with fine texture, consider making this. But be prepared for it to take a little time and dirty a few dishes.



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High Altitude Pound Cake (5000 ft) 


Source:  Pie in the Sky:  Successful Baking at High Altitudes by Susan G. Purdy
Serves 12-16, depending on how you slice it

I believe this recipe will work for elevations from 4000-5500 feet. For a sea level recipe please see "Pound Cake" and for other elevations consider borrowing the book from the library. It can really help you succeed when baking.


3 c plus 1 T sifted all-purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1 1/2 teas baking powder 9 large eggs, at room temperature, separated 1/2 teas cream of tartar 3/4 teas salt
3/4 c plus 1 3/4 c granulated sugar, divided 3/4 pd unsalted butter (3 sticks) at room temperature
1 c sour cream
1 T vanilla
2 teas lemon or almond extract or 1 teas each
3 T brandy or rum

Place the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375F. Coat a 10-inch (12-16 cup) plain tube pan (angle food cake pan) with nonstick spray or butter.  Don't use a bundt pan. 

In a bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder together. Place to the side.

Put the egg whites in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer. Add the cream of tartar and salt and beat until foamy. Then gradually pour in the 3/4 c of sugar and increase the speed to high. Watch closely. At this altitude you don't want the eggs to get to the stiff point. Beat until you see tracks in the top of the mixture. Stop and check the whites. You are looking for something that holds together but the peaks are droopy. The mixture should also be smooth and shiny. Set this aside as well. If you need your bowl for the remainder of the recipe, put the mixture into another bowl.

In a large bowl (5 quart or larger) place the butter and the remaining sugar (1 3/4 c) and cream together, scraping down the bowl and beaters. Cream until well blended. Add the sour cream, vanilla, and other flavorings, and the brandy or rum. Mix until combined and add the egg yolks 2 at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix a couple more minutes. If the batter looks curdled, don't be surprised. It is fine.

Lightly stir in approximately 2 cups of  the egg white mixture into the creamed butter and sugar to lighten the mix. In 5 or 6  alternating additions, fold in the flour mixture and the remaining egg white mixture. A long handled rubber spatula is good for this job since you'll have quite a bit of batter by now. Fold until you have a creamy, thick batter and you no longer see streaks of flour. With a light hand, scrape along the bottom to ensure you've mixed everything in. 

Place the batter into the prepared tube pan. Use a knife or a thin spatula to run through the batter to remove any air pockets, but be sure to avoid the sides and bottom of the pan. Smooth the top and place into the oven. 

After about 30 minutes of baking, place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top, shiny side down; this will keep the top from getting too brown. Continue to bake for a total of 45-50 minutes until the top is golden and has a few cracks. It should be springy to the touch and if you use a tester (or a toothpick) it should come out with a few crumbs, nothing wet. 

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack and allow to cool for 45-60 minutes. Then use a knife to carefully run around the sides of the pan and the tube. Invert the cake onto a plate and invert again onto a cake platter or another plate, so the top is up. Allow to cool completely. 

The author of this recipe recommends you wait until the next day to eat it for best flavor and slicing; but she points out it is difficult to wait that long. 

This cake is wonderful served with berries, fruits in simple syrup, berry coulis, lemon curd, or whipped cream. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Salad of Peppery and Bitter Greens with Sunchokes and Bacon

Late winter means arugula in our New Mexico garden and it also means chicory. We also grew a truck load of sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes). So this salad is as homegrown as a salad can be in February and March. Add bacon to the mix and it can hardly be beat.



While I'm at it, let me encourage you to give these tubers a try. They are indigenous to North America, easy to grow, and store for months in the refrigerator. They can be eaten raw or cooked. I've served them as soups, salads, and sides. (See note below about the only downside.)

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Salad of Peppery and Bitter Greens with Sunchokes and Bacon


Adapted from:  Dinner: A Love Story who in turn adapted it from a recipe from Jamie Oliver
Serves 4

6 slices thick bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pd sunchokes
2 large handfuls of arugula
2 large handfuls of chicory greens or sliced radichio
1 sliced small sweet onion or red onion
Slivered parmesan cheese, to taste
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Start cooking the bacon in a 12-inch skillet. Remove when as crisp as you like and set aside. Boil the sunchokes in water until cooked but not mushy. Remove from pot, allow to cool until you can handle them and slice into 1/2-inch slices. Leave about a tablespoon bacon grease in the skillet and place sunchoke slices in and brown each side. Remove and set aside.

Cook the onion in what is left of the bacon grease. If needed add some olive oil. When the onions are softened return the sunchokes to the skillet and reheat.

In the meantime, tear the greens into a salad bowl. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons olive oil over the greens and about 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Taste to test for flavor and add more oil or vinegar. Toss the warm sunchokes and onions into the greens and top with the bacon and the parmesan cheese slivers.

Taste one more time for salt. I find the cheese and the bacon add seasoning so I don't add more but you might want to.

If you don't want to boil the sunchokes, you can roast them in the oven at 375F for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice.

Note:

Sunchokes contain inulin which can be difficult for some to digest. See this discussion of the issue. Some decide to skip sunchokes all together, but we  have found that Beano is helpful, as is eating them somewhat regularly. 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Paprika Salmon

In California recently, I had the pleasure of going out to dinner with my husband Michael, his sister Adrienne and her husband Aaron. My mother-in-law had given us a gift card to use at the restaurant, and was watching all of the kids for us. When we arrived at the restaurant we were delighted to find that it was trivia night! Between the four of us, and with some help from a neighbor not playing trivia, we managed to win 3rd place, which was a $15 gift card. One of the questions was something about the heart-healthy qualities of a food known as Pacific, Atlantic, King, and Coho. Salmon, of course!




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Paprika Salmon


Source: Cook's Country

This is so easy it hardly warrants a recipe, but it's tasty enough I didn't want to forget it.

Combine in a small bowl:

1-2 T olive oil
1 teas paprika
1/2 teas salt
1/4 teas pepper

Rub onto 4 salmon fillets, 6-8 oz each.

Heat 1 T vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add the salmon and saute for 4-5 minutes per side, until fish reaches at least 125 degrees. Sprinkle fish with another 1/4 teas paprika for extra flavor.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Asian Lettuce Wraps

I was first introduced to lettuce wraps at P. F. Chang's years ago. This version is much cheaper and if you use rotisserie chicken, it is a quick meal. Also it could easily be converted to a meatless meal--just substitute another vegetable for the chicken.




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Asian Lettuce Wraps


Cobbled together from a number of recipes. Sauce from Cooks Illustrated Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps.

This recipe is flexible and it's easy to create your own variations, depending on what you like or what you have. Consider carrots, red peppers, water chestnuts, or squash as your vegetables, and adjust cooking times according to how fast your vegetables cook.

Rice, of your choice
Crispy lettuce leaves, washed (I like romaine)

For the filling:

1 T vegetable oil
1 T grated fresh ginger
1 T minced garlic
1 lb button or crimini mushrooms
2 ribs celery
3 c cooked chicken (I used rotisserie)

For the sauce:

3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice cooking wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Cook the rice.

Mince the garlic. Peel the ginger, using a spoon to scrape off the skin. Then grate the ginger using a microplane. (If you don't have a microplane, mince it with a chef's knife.) Trim and chop the mushrooms and celery. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, then add the ginger and garlic. Cook until fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Then add the mushrooms and celery and cook for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables reach desired tenderness.

Prepare the chicken. Cook, if necessary, then chop into smallish pieces to match the size of the vegetables. Then prepare the sauce: whisk all sauce ingredients in a small bowl until combined.

When the vegetables are done, add the chicken and sauce to the skillet. Cook for a couple of minutes to heat the chicken if necessary and combine flavors.

To serve, fill lettuce leaves with a little rice, then add some of the meat and vegetable mixture.

Note from Colette: Cook's Country Magazine also offers a good recipe for a filling for lettuce leaves. It suggests grinding your own pork but I have done it with purchased ground pork. This recipe, too, can be tweaked. I didn't have canned water chestnuts the last time I made it so I used carrots and it tasted great. I supplemented the filling with a spoonful of cooked white rice. 


Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Soup

We had a volunteer banana squash plant in our garden last summer, such a lovely surprise here in squash-bug country. But a banana squash can be a bit large for two people to consume without boredom and I'm pleased to find various ways to eat it so I subbed banana squash for butternut in this soup.



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Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard Soup


Adapted from:  The Make-Ahead Cook:  8 Smart Strategies for Dinner Tonight by America's Test Kitchen
Serves 4-5

4 c vegetable broth
1 T vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped 
4 scallions, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teas minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 teas minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teas dried
1 pound butternut squash (or other winter squash), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces  (3 cups)
1 pound swiss chard, stemmed and cut roughly into 2-3 inch pieces
1 c canned coconut milk
salt

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and scallions and cook until softened. Stir in garlic, chipotle, and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in 1 c cubed squash and 2 cups broth, setting aside the additional 2 cups. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until the squash is tender. Carefully process the mixture in the blender until smooth; depending on how your blender handles hot liquids you may have to do it in two batches. Return mixture to the pot. Or use a stick blender. Add the rest of the broth.

Stir in remaining squash cubes and chard and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender. Off heat, stir in coconut milk and let sit for about 5 minutes until heated through. Season with salt to taste. Serve.

If you want to prepare this ahead and finish a few days later (as the original recipe intended), let the soup cool after blending and add the second half of the broth. Let soup sit, uncovered, until cooled to room temp about 30 minutes. Store it covered in the refrigerator either in the pot or another container for up to 3 days. Place the remaining squash and the chard in the fridge, too. On the day you plan to serve it, remove from refrigerator, add the reserved squash and the chard, and continue to follow the instructions to finish the soup. 

Note:

When I last made this, I had only one cup of vegetable broth in my freezer and I didn't have lots of time to make more. So I subbed water for the broth and threw in a couple of carrots and a stalk of celery (all halved) and a few whole sprigs of parsley in with the onions and left them in while the squash cooked. I removed them when it was time to place the squash in the blender. In the 30 minutes of cooking time this added enough extra vegetable flavor that the broth wasn't missed. If you aren't interested in a vegan dish, you could substitute with chicken broth instead.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Skillet Apple Raspberry Crisp

This is a fussier than usual apple crisp recipe but the apples are evenly cooked and lightly caramelized in a gently thickened sauce. The end result is worth the extra effort. And the raspberries make it look so pretty.




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Skillet Apple Raspberry Crisp


Source:  cooksillustrated.com
Serves 6-8

If you don't have an oven safe skillet Cook's Illustrated recommends that you prepare this on the stovetop and transfer it to a baking dish (9X13) to finish in the oven.



Preheat the oven to 450F and ensure the rack is in the middle position.

For the topping:

3/4 c unbleached flour (I use half white wheat flour)
3/4 c slivered almonds
3/4 c old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 teas cinnamon
1/2 teas table salt
8 T unsalted butter, melted

Stir together all the ingredients but the butter. When combined stir in the butter until the mixture is completely moistened and crumbly. Set aside.

For the filling:

Cook's Illustrated also reports that Golden Delicious apples are best since they retain their shape and their cooked flavor is excellent.

3 pounds Golden Delicious apples (about 7 medium) peeled, cored, and cut into half-inch thick wedges
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c cinnamon
1 c apple cider or juice
2 teas juice from 1 lemon
1/8 teas almond extract
2 T unsalted butter
1 c raspberries, fresh or frozen

Place the apples, granulated sugar, and cinnamon into a large bowl; stir to combine. Place the apple cider into an oven safe 12-inch skillet over medium heat and bring to a boil. Cook until it is reduced to 1/2 cup (pour it back into your measuring cup to be sure). Once it is reduced keep it in the measuring cup or a small bowl and add the lemon juice and almond extract.

Return the now-empty skillet to the burner. Add the butter over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming and has melted, add the apple mixture and cook until the apples start to look translucent and begin to soften, but don't fully cook them. Turn off the heat and stir in the raspberries and the apple cider mixture ensuring the apples are coated.

Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, making sure there are no large chunks. Place the skillet on a large baking sheet and cook until the topping is browned to a deep gold and the apples have softened. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Note:

Usually apple crisp is a pantry recipe with almost all the ingredients available at home. The addition of the apple cider changes this aspect for me. I keep a can of apple juice concentrate in my freezer and reconstitute some of it to equal a cup and use that instead of the cider.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Red Beans and Rice


This is an old recipe from The Washington Post, so old I can't find it in their recipe database. (There are some that are similar but not the same.) I started making it about 18 years ago. I'm not certain of its authenticity, but I love how it tastes.




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Red Beans and Rice


Adapted from:  The Washington Post
Serves: 6-8

This recipe uses 4 types of pepper. I like the flavor combination so I follow the instructions, although I lower the amount of cayenne. Feel free to modify any of the peppers to suit your heat tolerance.

1 pound dry kidney beans
2 quarts water
1 1/2 teas salt
additional water to cover beans
one ham bone, optional (or ham hocks)
1 large onion, chopped
1 c chopped green pepper
4 green onions, minced
2 bay leaves
1 teas hot sauce, such as Tabasco or to taste
1 teas ground white pepper
2 teas dried thyme leaves, crushed
1 1/2 teas dried oregano leaves, crushed
1 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teas cayenne (or less)
1/2 teas freshly ground black pepper
2-3 cups cubed ham, about 1/2 inch bits

cooked white rice
sour cream

The night before you plan to serve, sort through the beans on a flat surface; discard stones, dirt, and withered beans. Place the beans, 2 quarts water, and 1 1/2 teas salt in a bowl or pot and stir until salt has dissolved. Allow to sit overnight. At least six hours before serving, drain the beans and rinse them. Place into a pot or Dutch oven, add water to cover by an inch or so and place on a burner over medium heat. If you forget to soak the beans, you can do a speed-soak by bringing to a boil the beans, water, and salt. Then remove from the heat and allow to sit for at least an hour before continuing with the recipe. I'll admit I prefer the overnight method, but have forgotten often enough that I've frequently resorted to the speed-soak. Because the beans have been soaked in salt water, don't add more salt until you've tasted the end product.

Add to the beans, a ham bone or several ham hocks, and all other ingredients except the cubed ham. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat and gently simmer, covered, for several hours until the beans begin to break up and the liquid begins to thicken. Stir occasionally and make sure you keep the heat at a level that avoids scorching. When the beans are very tender remove the ham bone. If the beans are still soupy, remove the lid and raise the heat and allow the liquid to evaporate somewhat. Stir often at this point.to keep from burning the beans. You can also remove some of the cooking liquid and discard it (but reserve it until you know you won't need it). At this point I use a potato masher to smash some of the beans. Add the ham and allow to heat through. Taste for seasoning and if needed, add some salt.

Serve over white rice with a dollop of sour cream and more scallions or chives as a garnish. Corn bread is a good accompaniment, too.

Note:

If you can find it, you can use andouille sausage to replace some or all of the ham. You might want to reduce the pepper amounts depending on how spicy the sausage is.

This freezes well.