Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yogurt Spiced Chicken with Cilantro and Lime

If you're like me, you're always looking for the perfect lunch or light dinner. I'm always looking for new ways to cook with chicken breast to make it flavorful; truth be told, a lean piece of chicken breast without the skin and bone can often be quite bland. Marinating the chicken in spiced yogurt for a couple hours packs the chicken with flavor as well as tenderizes the meat.

This recipe was perfected by Oliver who was inspired by an old Indian cook book my mother found in a remote village in India while traveling a couple years ago. The book eloquently describes yogurt as "the diplomat of Indian cuisine. It is often there, but in the background, seeing that things go smoothly; it is sweet, but - at times - slightly sharp".

Yogurt Spiced Chicken with Cilantro

2 skinless chicken breasts
1 cup of plain yogurt
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
1 tablespoon of grated ginger
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons of curry powder
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 lime
1/4 cup of sour cream
A handful of cilantro, coarsely chopped
Naan bread

Toast the seeds in pan (without oil) and toss until fragrant. Then, grind the spices until you obtain a powder. Mix the yogurt, spices, ginger, garlic, curry powder salt and pepper in a bowl. Cut the chicken breasts into bite size cubes and add to the yogurt mixture. Toss to coat all the pieces, cover with plastic wrap and marinate for 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Remove the chicken from the bowl, shaking off any excess marinade. Place the chicken on the grill sheet that goes in your oven, and place a an aluminum-lined sheet below (marinade will drip down as it cooks). Place the chicken in the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Turn your oven to broil and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown and just cooked through.

Serve with warmed Naan bread, a dollop of sour cream, a good drizzle of fresh lime juice and garnish with a small handful of cilantro. Enjoy!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Lime Cheesecake with Pistachios

I hadn't made cheesecake in a little while so I was glad that this month's Daring Bakers Challenge would give me a chance to make one of my favorite desserts.The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. The cheesecake was delicious! I used a mixture of oreo crumbs and melted butter for the base, and then added a lime's juice and zest to the batter. I then topped it off with a few chopped pistachios.

Lime Cheesecake with Pistachios
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature
1 cup / 210 g sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream
1 lime, juice and zest
1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside.

Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lime juice and zest, and blend until smooth and creamy.

Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tomato, Parsley and Pine Nut Stuffed Squid

After using pine nuts for the pine nut and almond tart I made last week, I used the leftover nuts to make stuffed squid. I had never had stuffed squid and am glad to have discovered a new way to enjoy it. I am used to using squid in various summer salads as well as in pasta dishes but this was a great way to enjoy it as an appetizer or a light meal. I made a pine nut, tomato and herb stuffing but you could really use anything you think would pair well with squid.

The squid sort of looks like mini rockets ready to launch.. but I can assure you that it was delicious!

Tomato and Pine Nut Stuffed Squid

(for 4)
4 squid, discard tentacles
2 tomatoes
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
2 teaspoons of drained capers
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Gently wash the squid and thoroughly dry. Lightly score both sides. Reserve.

Seed the tomatoes and cut in small cubes. Finely chop the pine nuts, capers and parsley. Put the tomatoes, pine nuts, capers and parsley in a bowl. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix.

Stuff the squid with the tomato mixture. Turn your grill to medium high heat. Lightly season the outside of the squid with and place on the hot grill. Grill for 3 minutes on each side, lightly pressing down on the squid to get nice grilled marks. Serve atop of crusty bread and garnish with parsley. Enjoy!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Almond and Pine Nut Tart

Since giving Oliver Nick Malgieri's book for Christmas, he had been eying this Almond and Pine Tart over and over again. I could see him flip back to the page every time he browsed through the book. A couple days ago, we got our baking gear together.. and here it is! We have somewhat of a love affair with pine nuts in this household so he knew this would quickly become a favorite.
We had a tiny bit of mishap with the recipe though. It calls for 'almond paste' - but we got marzipan instead. Marzipan is basically almond paste with added sugar, so we used the marzipan and omitted the call for sugar in the recipe. I was suggest getting canned almond paste if you can though because I think it would make the consistency of the filling slightly more airy. I also think I will add a handful of crushed pine nuts to the batter next time, with a couple tablespoons of orange juice. The tart was delicious nonetheless - and a nice change from the classic desserts we are used to seeing in pastry shops!

Almond and Pine Nut Tart

Recipe (for 6)
Dough (see here for my basic tart dough recipe)
8 ounces of canned almond paste cut into bite size cubes
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter, softened
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of finely grated lemon zest
1/3 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of pine nuts

Set a rack to the lowest level of your oven and preheat to 350 F.
Combine the almond paste and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is reduced to fine crumbs, about 2 minutes. Add one of the eggs and continue beating until the mixture turns into a heavy paste.

Beat in the butter until it is completely incorporated. Beat in the second egg, then the egg yolks until smooth. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest, followed by the flour until fully incorporated.

Use a large rubber spatula to give a final mixing to the filling and scrape it into the prepared pastry crust. Scatter the pine nuts all over the almond filling, gently pressing them with the palm of your hand to make them adhere.

Bake the tart until the crust is baked through and the filling is set and well colored, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool the tart on a rack.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Beef and Pepper Fajitas with Orange Salsa

This is just a simple fajita recipe I came up with when I was working on summer recipes a couple weeks ago. I am by no means an expert on Mexican cuisine, but this is my easy interpretation of beef and onion fajitas. I served it with a nice and fresh orange salsa which really made the dish great for those warmer summer days.

Beef and Pepper Fajitas with Orange Salsa
(serves 4)

1 pound of strip loin, cut into thin strips
1 small red pepper
1 small yellow pepper
1/2 onion
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon of chili powder
A handful of fresh coriander
8 flour tortillas

Orange Salsa:
1 orange, diced
1/4 red onion, finely diced
1/2 lime, juiced

Make the orange salsa. Mix the oranges, red onion and lime juice and reserve.
Add the cumin and chili powder to a bowl and mix. Rub the beef strips with the mixture and reserve.
Cut the onion and peppers into thin strips. In a sauté pan on medium heat add a good drizzle of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the peppers and cook for about 10 minutes or until the pepper have softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add the beef strips and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the meat is just cooked through. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Warm up the tortillas in a cast iron pan on medium heat (2-3 minutes). Add the beef mixture, a small handful of coriander leaves and roll the tortillas. Serve warm and garnish with a spoonful of the orange salsa.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Blackberry Tarts

With some of the leftover dough from my mini blueberry tartelettes, I decided to make blackberry tarts as well. I love the versatility that comes with making dough. The dough recipe I use is super simple to put together and I find that only slightly tedious part is to roll out the dough to your desired consistency and shape. To tell you the truth, I have a myriad of kitchen gadgets in the house but still haven't gotten around to purchasing a rolling-pin. It's more out of sheer laziness than anything else - when I go to my favorite kitchen stores I usually have a dozen things I want to buy and by the time I remember to get the rolling pin, I'm already out of the store and don't go back in. So, I've been using an empty wine bottle to roll out dough. While it does the trick, I'm thinking that next time I'm headed for the store I'm grabbing that rolling-pin before anything else catches my eye.

I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes, even without the right tools to do the job, the end result can be pretty good!

This recipe is the same one as the blueberry tartelettes recipe, but I omitted the glaze and baked the tarts for a few minutes longer because of their larger size.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Mini Blueberry Tartelettes

I've been meaning to make a blueberry tart for a couple weeks now. I've bought several boxes of them, but for some reason they had never made it to the dessert table until last night. This recipe is inspired by the classic french fruit tarts I was taught how to make at culinary school. The filling is a simple vanilla pastry cream (which is incredibly easy to make) and a light apricot glaze comes last, to give the finishing touch to the tart. I decided to make mini tartelettes this time which worked well for the party we were having that night. They're something fun and elegant about small finger food for dessert isn't there?

If you've never made homemade dough, I highly recommend this recipe. It's a fairly simple fail-safe recipe that can be applied to countless desserts. You can also omit the sugar in the dough and make a savory tart instead.

Mini Blueberry Tartelettes

Pastry Dough
200 grams of all-purpose flour
100 grams of very cold butter
30 grams of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 egg, beaten with 2 teaspoons of water

Sift the flour, sugar and salt directly onto a work surface (a cold surface such as marble works best). Cut the butter into small pieces. The butter must be very cold before you add it into the flour. Mix the butter into the flour by using a metal pastry scraper to cut in the butter and fully incorporate it into the flour mixture. You can also use your fingers, but if you do you must do it quickly to ensure that the butter stays as cold as possible. Once the dough has the texture of fine sand, create a well in the center by using a cup or a glass. Add the egg and water to the center (you can do this in batches depending on the size of your well). Gently beat the egg in the center and slowly incorporate the flour into the center making sure that the well does not break. Once most of the flour has been incorporated you can start using your hands. Knead the dough and form a round ball of dough. At this point, take a small handful of the dough, and, using the palm of your hand, smear it out completely onto the counter surface. This process makes sure that the butter is fully incorporated into the dough, and helps form a dough that will be easy to work with. Re-form the smeared piece of dough, and repeat with the rest of the dough until you have a pile of chunks of dough. Form it into a ball again. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Take the dough out of the fridge, unwrap and leave it out for a few minutes so it warms up a little. Lightly flour your working surface and roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick round. Use small cookie cutters to cut out circles of dough. Place in buttered individual molds and gently prick the bottom of the dough with a fork a couple times. Then, place a small circle of parchment (a little bigger than the size of the mold) in the center of the circle of dough and place some baking beans on top to weigh the paper down. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the tart turn a light shade of golden brown. Let the tartelettes cool for a couple minutes, discard the beans and parchment paper and leave to cool on a cooling rack.

Pastry Cream
2 cups of whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)
4 egg yolks
75 grams of sugar
20 grams of flour
20 grams of cornstarch

Separate the eggs and combine the yolks with the sugar. Whisk until the mixture turn a yellow pale of yellow (about 3 minutes). In a separate bowl, stir the cornstarch and flour together and add it to the sugar-yolk mixture. Stir to remove any lumps. In the meantime, bring the milk and vanilla bean to a boil. Stir occasionally. As soon as the milk starts boiling, add a ladle of hot milk to the egg mixture and stir vigorously (this ensures that the eggs won't curdle). Add all the egg mixture into the milk mixture and whisk until the mixture thickens. This take 1-3 minutes. Remove from the heat as soon as the mixture thickens. Place the pastry cream in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure that the plastic wrap touches the surface of the cream (this prevents the formation of a skin). Let the pastry cream cool.

1 small box of blueberries
A couple spoonfuls of apricot jam
1 tablespoon of water

Once the tartelettes and pastry cream have cooled down, add some pastry cream to the bottom of each tart. The cream should go up 2/3 of the tart shells. Add the blueberries on top. In a small saucepan, heat the apricot jam for about 3 minutes. Add the water and stir. The glaze shouldn't be too thick, so add more water if it seems to thick to brushed on top of the fruit. Once the consistency of the glaze seems good, gently brush the glaze onto the blueberries and serve. Enjoy!
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