Archive for the ‘takes all afternoon, but worth it’ Category

It’s been kind of non-stop sweets around here lately, so here are some vegetables in case any of you were thinking it wasn’t a good idea to have cupcakes for dinner (again). This is a bit time-intensive (it took me about 90 minutes), but if you’re going to make it, I strongly recommend doubling, because it is also awesomeness-intensive.

squash-onion galette slice

The crust for this is the truly amazing part: it’s easy to work with and reliably creates a crust that’s both tasty and flaky. I encourage you to experiment with fillings, but I happen to love this one.

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the crust:
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
1 stick butter, cold from the fridge (1/2 c., use unsalted if you have it)
1/4 c. sour cream
2 t. lemon juice (from a jar is fine!)
1/4 c. very cold water

For the filling:
1 butternut squash (1 to 1 1/2 lbs)
2 T. olive oil
Two pinches of salt
2 T. butter
1 onion
1/2 t. dried sage
1-2 oz. feta cheese
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375.

Make the crust:
Put the flour and salt in a bowl. Open the stick of butter and cut it into a dozen or so slices, then dump these all into the bowl. Cut the butter into the flour until it has the texture of damp sand. (I usually start with a pastry blender or forks and end up using my hands.) Make a well in the center, and add the sour cream, lemon juice, and 2 T. of the water. Mix until the dough forms a ball, adding the rest of the water if needed. (If it’s very dry in your area, you might even need a bit more water.) Don’t overwork the dough here. When you have a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge.

Make the filling:
Peel your squash and cut off the ends. Then cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and strings. Cut the squash into half-inch chunks; it’s a good idea to really get them this small in this case so your filling is reasonably spreadable. Line your pan with foil (9×13 should work for one squash; you’ll probably need to use two or a jelly roll pan if you’re doubling) and add the squash chunks. Toss them with the olive oil and a pinch of salt and roast for thirty minutes or until it can easily be pierced all the way through with a toothpick or fork.

squash-onion galette - squash

(Yes, I did not line my pan with foil. That’s because it is an awesome stoneware pan and is super-easy to clean, even when covered in caramelized squash sugars.)

While the squash is roasting, peel the onion and dice it. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat, then add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re light golden brown, which will take about 20 minutes on the lowest heat that keeps them sizzling and about five on medium heat.

While they’re caramelizing, chop the feta into small (1/8-inch) pieces. I aimed for a generous quarter cup, but you could use more if you like the taste or have a milder cheese.

When the squash is ready, take it out of the oven and raise the oven temperature to 400. Mix the squash with the caramelized onions, feta, and sage in a bowl.

Take the galette dough out of the fridge. (It probably needs at least 45 minutes or so in there, in case your mad knife skills got you through the filling prep faster.) Lightly flour a Silpat or piece of parchment. If it’s less than twelve inches across (the diameter to which you’ll roll the dough), also flour the surrounding counter. Then roll the dough into a roughly twelve-inch circle and lift it on its parchment to the sheet you’ll bake it on. If needed, you can drape the extra dough over the sides of the sheet.

Spread the squash filling over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border. Sprinkle with black pepper.

squash-onion galette - filling

Starting in one spot, fold in the edge, and then move around in one direction, folding the edge up, pleating it as you go to make it fit.

squash-onion galette - folded crust

Bake for about 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Let it stand on the cookie sheet for five or ten minutes, then slide it (or lift using a couple of spatulas) on to a serving plate or board. Slice and serve.

squash-onion galette

If there are leftovers, some people like them room temperature, but I liked them best reheated briefly in the oven or toaster oven.


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These are some very serious cupcakes. You’re almost certainly going to have to go to the store before you can make them. They require you to make your own caramel. You’re going to have to wash a small mountain of dishes. But they are mighty. I used them to bribe people to help me move (it worked); I gave a couple of leftovers to my new mama friend, the one whose baby brought you those tasty, tasty cookies.

chocolate cupcake with salted caramel frosting.jpg

The mightiness of these cupcakes comes in many forms. First, there’s the one-two punch of melted chocolate plus cocoa powder. There’s the knock-you-upside-the-head richness created by over a pound of butter and the better part of a dozen eggs. But the richness somehow manages to mesh perfectly with a lightly-textured cake, and if you can stop eating the caramel with your fingers…well, you’re a better person than I am.

By the way, this recipe is being posted just a few days after I cooked it (not my usual MO) because my Dad specifically wrote to me to ask where it was. And also so that after you eat six of them, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting
Adapted from Cupcake Blog. The original is well worth checking out: it has a sneaky method for making a batch that’s half regular and half gluten-free cupcakes, as well as much snappier styling than what I’ve got.

For the cupcakes:
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate
3 sticks butter (that’s 1 1/2 c.)
2 1/4 c. sugar
8 eggs
1 1/4 c. flour
4 T. cocoa powder
1 1/2 t. baking powder
pinch salt

For the salted caramel
4 T. water
1 c. sugar*
2 T. Lyle’s Golden Syrup**
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 T. butter
1/2 t. lemon juice***
1/2 t. fine-grain sea salt

For the frosting:
2 sticks butter (1 c.)
8 oz. cream cheese (regular or reduced-fat; not fat-free!)
3-4 c. powdered sugar

Before you start:
Put the butter and cream cheese for the frosting on the counter to soften.

Make the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350.

Break the chocolate into pieces, either by hand or with a knife if necessary.

chopped chocolate.jpg

Put it and the butter in a large bowl and microwave in thirty-second increments, stirring in between, until nearly smooth. Then remove and stir until completely smooth. Stir in the sugar.

Check with a fingertip to make sure the mixture is not still hot. If it is, let it cool for a few minutes. When it’s not too hot to touch, stir in the eggs. I recommend doing this one or two at a time (eight is a lot of eggs) and stirring vigorously until they’re thoroughly incorporated.

Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the cocoa powder as well, sifting if there are any lumps. Mix until combined.

Scoop into lined or greased cupcake tins. Fill the cups only about 2/3 full so they don’t overflow. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pans (at least back-to-front; switch racks if you have them on two) and bake for about ten more minutes, until the tops appear just dry and a toothpick comes out clean. You can make the caramel while they bake!

baked cupcakes.jpg

[Note: for me, this made 26 cupcakes. For the extra two, you can use foil or silicone baking cups, both of which are strong enough to stand up on a cookie sheet. Put one of your pans of cupcakes on the sheet too and just tuck the extras in at the edge to save space.]

Make the caramel:
[A word to the wise: this would be a good time to make sure chaos-prone members of your household are not underfoot. Sugar syrup burns aren’t so fun, and you’re going to want to give this part your undivided attention.]

Combine water, sugar, and syrup in a deep saucepan and stir to combine. (I like to use a nonstick pan for easy cleanup, but it does make it a bit harder to judge when the caramel is done because of the dark interior. The “deep” part is the most important one, though!) Put the saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook for two minutes.

Then remove the cover and turn the heat up to medium-high. If the mixture isn’t already boiling, it will start. Cook it without stirring from now on. (This helps keep the sugar from crystallizing.) Instead, you can shake or swirl the pan.

You’re just going to cook it until it turns a nice, dark amber. The syrup is already a bit dark, so it can be tricky to tell exactly how this is going. It will boil for some minutes — I’d guess three to five — and then start darkening in color. (What’s happening is that the water is boiling off before the sugar starts to caramelize.) So look for the color to start changing towards darker. But also, don’t worry too much: I under-caramelized mine slightly, and it’s still excellent.

When it’s dark amber, remove it from the heat and wait a few seconds, then carefully pour in the cream and stir to combine. The mixture will bubble and steam, so keep your face away from the pot.

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, lemon juice, and salt.

Measure out one cup using a metal cup or by pouring it into a Pyrex measure.

You’ll probably have a few tablespoons left over; you can pour these on to foil to cool. I just ate mine, but you could use yours for cupcake decoration, too. You’ll need to throw it in the freezer if you want to do this in some way other than drizzling!

salted caramel

Make the frosting:
You’ll need to wait until your caramel goes from burning hot to merely warm for this part.

If your butter and cream cheese aren’t soft, soften them with a brief stint in the microwave on 50% power. (Use fifteen-second increments; you don’t want them melty.)

Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together until they’re uniform in texture.

Sift in 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix to combine. (Start on a low speed if you don’t like your kitchen covered in sugar, yes? You can also throw a towel over the top of a stand mixer.)

Beat in the reserved cup of caramel. Then sift in more powdered sugar until you reach the desired taste and texture. The frosting will get stiffer as you add more sugar, but I found that three cups was about enough for me. It made for a relaxed kind of frosting — it’s spreadable even straight from the fridge — but it was as much sweet as I could take, even balanced with the cream cheese.

And Bob’s your uncle!****
Frost the cupcakes and try not to eat them all.

*This is a time when regular old granulated white sugar, or the closest thing you use to it, is your friend.
**Ok, so you could actually use corn syrup here — go for the light stuff — in a pinch. It gives me a belly ache though. Lyle’s is cane syrup and can often be found in the international foods aisle (along with other imports from the strange lands of England or Ireland). If not, there’s always the internet
***I wildly prefer Santa Cruz Organics lemon juice, which I can also get at my local natural food store, to regular bottled lemon juice.
****I learned this phrase when I was in Britain and I have an unreasonable love for it.

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“Foods I didn’t discover until adulthood” are getting to be a theme on this blog, which I’m pretty sure is because there are so darn many of them. As a young child, I only ate three things we could reliably get outside of the house: hamburgers (well-done only, no pink), pepperoni pizza, and spaghetti with red sauce. Add a father with equally, er, selective tastes and you get a childhood with fairly limited cuisine.

potatoes and cauliflower

So that’s how it happened that I didn’t discover Indian food until I went to live in England for a year when I was twenty. (Other discoveries of the same year: sushi, falafel, and portobello mushrooms. Also wine and kir. It was a good time.) And then, for years, I ate amazing Indian food in restaurants, but utterly failed to recreate anything like it at home.

Fortunately for all of us, that era is past. The secret, it turns out, is really great garam masala. I buy it from an Indian grocery, but you can also get it online, and it is the difference between “random bunch of Indian-inspired spices” and “YUM.” This recipe for potatoes and cauliflower (aloo gobi) is a little less saucy than most restaurant preparations, but every bit as tasty.

Indian-style Cauliflower and Potatoes
Adapted from Madhur Jeffrey’s World Vegetarian

Canola oil for the pan
About 1 pound of potatoes
About 1 1/2 pounds of cauliflower
1 onion
About an inch-long piece of fresh ginger
1/4 t. turmeric
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. garam masala
1/2 t. salt plus more to taste
black pepper to taste

First, wash the potatoes. Chop into one-inch chunks. Line a plate with paper towels and set it to the side.

Heat a large skillet with a lid* with a about three tablespoons of oil and the same amount of water over medium heat. When it is hot, add the potatoes and cover. Cook until the potatoes are cooked through, 7-12 minutes.

While this is happening, chop off the stem of the cauliflower, and then chop it into florets, no more than about an inch and a half across. It’s okay to cut large natural florets into smaller pieces with a knife.

Then remove the lid from the potatoes and allow the water to boil off. (You can check to make sure they’re done by poking with a fork or toothpick; it should easily pierce all the way through.)

Fry the potatoes until they are golden brown, stirring only occasionally, 3-5 minutes per side, adding oil as needed to prevent sticking. When the potatoes are done, use a spatula or slotted spoon to remove them to the prepared plate, and line a second plate with paper towels.

Add the cauliflower to the remaining oil (add more if needed!) and cook, stirring only occasionally, until it is soft and caramelized on the edges, 5-8 minutes. While it is cooking, peel and chop the onion.

cooked cauliflower

When the cauliflower is done, use the spatula to turn it out onto the second plate. Check to make sure there are a couple of tablespoons of oil in the bottom of the pan, then add the onion. As it softens, grate the ginger.**

When the onion is soft, add the ginger to the skillet and cook half a minute, until it is fragrant. Add the other spices and stir to coat everything, then add the potatoes and cauliflower back in, along with three tablespoons of water. Stir everything to coat, then turn the heat down, cover, and allow to cook for about five minutes.

This recipe makes about four servings and reheats beautifully. It also doubles well, but the vegetables really get some of their flavor from their contact with the pan during the initial frying (which caramelizes them to that lovely golden brown), so you may need to do that step in batches.

*The lid doesn’t have to belong to the pot, just to cover it or the contents reasonably well.

**I love a microplane grater for this; my favorite is a big flat one like this.

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I have recently learned that there are some people (and by “some people” I mean “my mother”) who have never eaten latkes. I find this pretty much inconceivable. The two women I remember my mother doing social things with when I was small were both Jewish, and latkes have pretty much jumped the Jewish shark anyway and now can be made even by goyim like me.


I read a whole bunch of latke recipes, and they all pretty much agree on the critical ratio: about one pound of potato per egg. I used all-purpose flour and a relatively large quantity of onion, and made my latkes small so that there would be a lot of crispy per pancake. And they were pretty good: beautifully browned, crispy all over on the outside without being too mushy or eggy in the middle. If I had a Jewish grandmother, I like to think she’d be proud.

Potato Latkes

2 lbs potatoes (Russet are usually recommended, but I only had Yukon Gold and they worked fine)
1 large or 2 small onions
2 eggs
1/2 c. flour
salt and pepper
oil for frying

Peel the onion and potatoes and grate them, either on the coarsest holes of a box grater or in a food processor. I just grate them both into one pile without worrying about keeping the potato and onion apart.

Now you want to get the moisture out. You can do this by putting them in a colander and smushing them down with your hands or a spoon, but the easiest way is to wrap them in cheesecloth and just twist away on the top as the water drips out the bottom.

potato squeeze

Crack the eggs into a bowl and mix them with a fork to break up the yolks. Then add them to the potatoes, followed by the flour and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well so the flour gets evenly distributed.

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet with a couple of tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Peanut oil is traditional — it takes high heat well — but canola works too. While you’re waiting for it to get so hot it shimmers, line a plate with paper towels.

When the oil is hot, drop the latkes in and flatten them slightly with the back of your spoon or a spatula. Don’t pack them in too tightly or they’ll be hard to flip later. Cook until they’re golden brown around the edges.

fry fry fry

Then flip and cook until the other side is golden brown before removing to the paper-towel lined plate.

I like them best fresh out of the skillet, but they can be reheated in the oven or toaster oven, either directly on the rack or by placing a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet and the latkes on top of that. Bake at 400 F until hot and crisp.

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I love a lot of things about being vegetarian, but one thing I don’t love is entrees. You know the drill: you go to a family dinner, and you eat six sides for dinner. Or worse yet, six sides plus Tofurkey. Yikes! Sure, they’re probably excellent sides, but when it comes to tasty entrees, we’re often stuck with the short end of the awesome stick.

This recipe is here to solve that problem for you.

strudel for freezing

Now, I need you all to take a deep breath, because this recipe contains an ingredient I have recently learned many people are afraid of. But don’t worry! I have an awesome method to save you from the dreaded food.

The ingredient is filo dough, which is used here to wrap the herbed mushrooms into their adorable little parcels, and I promise, it will be fine even if you tear most sheets. I know, because I did!

cooking mushrooms

Mushroom Strudel
Originally from The Complete Mushroom Book, via Leite’s Culinaria and Smitten Kitchen

1 pound mushrooms (my favorite mix is portabella plus shitake, but don’t forget to take the stems off the latter!)
1 onion*
3 T. butter
pinch of nutmeg
1 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. dried thyme (or sage, or use fresh if you have it, about 1 1/2 t.)
4-6 T. grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

18 sheets frozen filo dough, defrosted (this should be about one package; leave it on the counter for an hour or so to defrost)
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Put the butter in a large skillet to melt over medium heat and mince the onion. When you’ve finished, throw the onion in with the melted butter.

Wash or wipe the mushrooms if needed to remove grit, and chop into smallish pieces, about 3/4 of an inch across. (Don’t forget to stir the onion occasionally while you’re doing this.)

Once the onion is soft, add the mushrooms and nutmeg, and turn the heat up a bit. The mushrooms will suck up all of the butter like little mushroom vacuums. Then they’ll start to soften and give off liquid. Keep cooking! It’s important to stir every few minutes here, especially if your mushrooms are more than one layer deep.

When they’ve released all of their liquid, it will start to evaporate. When most of the liquid is gone, stir in the flour, herbs, and salt and pepper, and remove from the heat. (If you stop here, you’ll still have amazing mushrooms. I ate my leftover filling on toast!)

If you’re going to cook these immediately, preheat your oven to 400 F. (If not, you can freeze them on a baking sheet and then pop them in a freezer bag once they’re frozen solid.)

Now you need some serious counter space: enough room for a sheet of filo. Lay out your filo, egg wash, and Parmesan. Melt the stick of butter in the microwave or a saucepan. You’ll also want a damp dish towel.

Put a sheet of filo in front of you, covering the rest of them with the dish towel so they don’t dry out. Starting at a long edge, brush half the sheet with butter, and then fold it lengthwise so the butter is sandwiched inside. Repeat this process, brushing half of your long rectangle with butter and then folding it over. Now you have one long, skinny piece rectangle! If there are wrinkles, try smoothing them out, but it doesn’t really matter. If there are tears, you can ignore them, because you have four layers of filo to keep things together! Hooray!

Put a spoonful of mushroom filling on one end, and top with a sprinkle of Parmesan.


Fold the top corner over so the mushroom filling is inside a triangle. Continue to fold flag-style, flipping it over the edge closest to the bottom, until you get to the very end of the dough. (It takes a few folds before the mushrooms are fully encased; before that stage, they should be considered an escape risk.) You may need to trim off uneven ends of your dough with scissors.

Place the package seam-side down on the baking sheet, brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with more Parmesan.

To serve immediately, bake for 15 minutes. If you’re freezing, bake them for more like 22 minutes at 375 so you can get the centers warm without scorching the crust.

*There is pretty much no case in which I don’t believe that the best available onion for your purposes is a sweet one, but here you’ll never see it, so you could use purple ones (which taste fine but are ugly when cooked), white, yellow, or even leeks.

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