January 31, 2012

No-Tortilla Squash Burrito

This is one of those what do I have in the house kind of meals. I guess it has been that kind of week. It's not that I didn't go food shopping. I did. I just didn't have the presence of mind to think through things like, what will I be eating for dinner this week.

The squash is actually a lone holdover from the farm share. There are still some berries and such in the freezer, but the squash has been sitting out on the counter just waiting for attention for about two months. Today was the day. I also had some leftover sour cream from a baking experiment that I didn't want to forget about. Sour cream definitely falls into the category of things that I buy only because a specific recipe calls for it, use the amount for that recipe, and then find several months later molding in the back of the fridge. I wasn't going to let that happen this time.

Squash plus sour cream seemed to lend itself to two options: soup, which I really wasn't in the mood for, and mexican. Having no tortillas, I decided to approximate the contents of a burrito and go from there.

This recipe is endlessly customizable. Here are just a few ideas for substitutions:
* Instead of acorn squash: butternut squash or sweet potatoes.
* Other veggies you could add: bell peppers, artichokes, cabbage, tomato.
* Also, if I had had any, I definitely would have added jalapenos or some other fresh hot pepper.
* Cilantro would be nice as well, to add to the garnish.
* You could use the sour cream plain. Or use plain yogurt.
* A pepper jack cheese might be nice instead of chedder.

All in all, this is a pretty low maintenance weeknight meal. It takes about an hour, but much of that is not active time.

- Franklin

No Tortilla Squash Burrito with Spicy Lime Sour Cream
Total time: 1 hour
Sweetness Factor: 1; Indulgence Factor: 3; Difficulty Factor: 2; Chance I'll Make it Again: 10.
Serves about 3.

1 Acorn squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed
1 large sweet onion
1 portabella mushroom

1 cup sour cream (I used the trader joe's fat free)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon mexican spice blend
hot sauce (to taste)

1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375. Slice the squash in half. Scrape out the seeds. Rub each half with about half a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with a dash of salt. Lay face down on a cookie sheet. Bake for about forty minutes until the squash is soft. Scrape the squash away from the skin. Discard the skin. Stir the squash together with the beans.

Thinly slice and chop the onion. Saute it in a dry pan on low for about ten minutes until the onion starts to wilt. Add two tablespoons olive oil. Saute over low heat for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Chop the mushroom and add it the onion. Saute for about another twenty minutes, until the onion is soft and sweet.

Combine the sour cream, the mexican spice blend, and the lime juice and whisk with a fork. Add a few dashes of hot sauce until it reaches your desired spiciness level.

To assemble your burrito, put a large scoop of squash and beans in a bowl. Add a scoop of the mushrooms and onions. Sprinkle on some cheddar cheese. End with a dollop of the sour cream.

January 29, 2012

One-Egg Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

Sometimes a girl NEEDS a chocolate peanut butter brownie. This was one of those times. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to buy eggs when I was at the market, and I didn't have time to go back. So these had to be one egg brownies.

After about forty-five minutes of googling (I guess, in retrospect, I did have time to go back to the store), I learned there are two types of brownies out there: two-plus egg brownies and vegan brownies. So I got to work on a happy medium. Working from a vegan recipe, I replaced the oil with butter, the beer with cream cheese, added my egg and made a few other tweaks.

When the batter came out thick and doughy, I was sure I had gone awry somewhere. I knew they would taste fine (I mean, can you really go wrong flavor-wise with chocolate, butter, peanut butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar) but I was sure they would be more cookie than brownie. They weren't. They were brownies through and through. I ate a lot of them. I ate so many in the first twenty minutes after cutting them that I decided to go to my neighbors' house warming party and bring them the rest.

- Franklin

One-Egg Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies
Very loosely adapted from: The Knead for Speed
Total Time: 1 hour
Sweetness Factor: 8; Indulgence Factor: 9; Difficulty Factor: 3; Chance I'll Make Them Again: 10.

1.5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup muscavado sugar (could use all brown sugar if you can't find muscavado)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup crunchy salted peanut butter
1/4 cup whipped cream cheese
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350. Thoroughly butter an 8*8 baking dish. You could line it with parchment paper if you really want to be sure that you'll be able to get the brownies out, but I don't think it is necessary.

Whisk together the flour and the baking powder. Set aside. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and the butter. When melted, remove from heat and whisk in vanilla extract.

In a large bowl, whisk together all the remaining ingredients. Add the chocolate to the mixture, whisk to thoroughly combine. Add the flour mix slowly and whisk (at a certain point it becomes too thick to whisk and you'll need to switch to a spoon) until combined. The batter will be extremely thick.

Scrape all the batter into the pan. Spread it out evenly. Bake for about 35 minutes, until brownies look done on top. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely in the pan (unless you really want to eat brownie goo!). Either cut in the pan, or invert the pan onto a plate, and cut them on the plate.

January 22, 2012

Beef Marrow with Parsley Salad

It has been a goal here at the Evening Oven to blog more savories. It has been a tough habit to get into. For whatever reason, it just doesn't occur to me to go for my camera when I start dinner. Perhaps because making dinner is so routine. I plan dinner less than I plan baking. Most of the time, I get home from work, I go into the kitchen to see what's there, and I start cooking. It isn't until I have finished eating something that I realize I should have blogged about it.

This one you have my roommate to thank for. I was only a few steps in, when she asked if I would blog about this meal. I ran for my camera. I'm sorry not to have gotten some pictures of the marrow bones in the bowl before I put them in the oven. The bowl was full of five or six bones, all of which I thought were marrow bones until closer inspection revealed that several of them were unidentifiable other things (I used those other things to make a beef broth, which smells a bit funny). These marrow bones came from a cow share I bought into last spring. For eight dollars a pound, I got twenty pounds of a variety of cuts from a grass-fed happy cow. Lessons learned from the cow share experience: one, when you get a random assortment of cuts from the whole cow, you get a lot of random cuts; two, grass-fed beef is very lean: add extra fat at every stage along the way (except to the marrow bones, which are basically pure fat already!).

I have never cooked marrow bones at home before and have only eaten them a few times, so I didn't want to get too experimental. The recipe is actually extremely easy, and the whole process took about twenty minutes. When I pulled the marrow out of the oven and extracted it from the bones,

I thought it looked truly disgusting. More gelatinous and varied in color than the marrow I had had in restaurants. But spread on the warm toast with the parsley salad it was truly divine.

Side note: the leftover parsley salad was fantastic with melted cheese on a bagel at work for lunch the next day. In fact, I would recommend this parsley salad as an accompaniment to many things and on any sandwich.

- Franklin

Roasted Beef Marrow with Yummy Parsley Salad
Adapted from The Hungry Mouse
Total Time: 25 Minutes
Sweetness Factor: 2; Indulgence Factor:9; Difficulty Factor: 3; Chance I'll Make it Again: 5. Note: the low chance I'll make it again is only because I very rarely cook meat at home and not any reflection on the perfection of this meal.

Marrow bones (check out the Hungry Mouse post linked about for guide pointers on buying the bones, since mine came with the cow share, I didn't have to figure this out)
1 shallot, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon of capers (or more)
Juice of half a lemon
One loaf of french bread

Preheat the oven to 450. Stand the bones on end on in an 8 * 8 baking pan. Roast for 20 minutes. When it is done, you can either serve the bones one per person with some kind of long very skinny spoon for removing the marrow or you can remove the marrow yourself and serve it in a bowl. I did the latter only because I had no appropriate sized spoon and removing the marrow was a messy adventure with a chop stick.

In the meantime, lightly saute the shallots in the olive oil for five minutes or so. Rinse, remove the stems from, and chop the parsley. Toss the parsley with the shallots (making sure to get all the oil from the pan too), capers, and lemon.

Toast and slice the french bread. Slather bread with a dollop of marrow and a few forkfuls of the parsley salad. If you have more salad and bread than you do marrow, you can replace the marrow with a generous slathering of butter. Not divine in the same kind of way, but also yummy.

January 1, 2012

Meringue Cookies

Ever since I made this monstrous cake, I've had a freezer bag full of egg white ice cubes in want of cooking. Today was their day to shine.

As I've been learning from this book, there are all sorts of amazing things you can do with sugar and egg whites. I haven't had much success in this area in the past, but Gesine Bullock-Prado is sorting me out. I decided to start simple, with a basic meringue cookie.

Rather than offering a stand alone recipe, Gesine merely suggests, mid-Swiss Buttercream, that if you stop before adding any butter, you have a delicious and versatile meringue, perfect for lemon meringue pie or for cookies. The cookies seemed an appropriate New Year's Eve party item: finger-food, easily transportable.

I took the egg whites out of the freezer and set them in a bowl on the counter to defrost. When, after over an hour, they were still frozen solid, I decided that I should just get the meringue started. As step one involves putting the egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl over a pot of steaming water, I figured they would get into line quickly. And they did. Within a minute, the cubes were completely melted. And within three the sugar was totally dissolved. I did make the mistake of neglecting to stir for a while, as I was laying parchment paper out on baking sheets, and the mixture started to smell quite custardy and was starting to get a tiny bit clumpy. But some vigorous whisking got it back into shape (the smell of custard didn't dissipate until after I had transfered the bowl to the stand mixer and let it go for a bit).

On the stove, the mixture turned a pale brown after I added the vanilla extract. Once I got it going in the stand mixer, it turned a fluffy pure white. After baking, the color was somewhere in between the pure white and the pale brown. The delicious color of slightly toasted sugar!

When I've made meringues in the past, I haven't bothered with a pastry bag, I've just spooned the meringue onto the baking sheet. Either method is fine, but the pastry bag simply gets you prettier cookies. Hardly likely to make a difference to tipsy New Year's Eve party goers!

Three notes:
1. Be careful. When the meringue is ready, it is marshmallowy and delicious. Don't accidentally eat it all before making any cookies!
2. This is a pretty versatile recipe. You can add other flavors, such as maple, chocolate, or ginger. For maple, replace sugar with maple sugar. For chocolate, add shaved chocolate or chocolate chips at the end. For ginger, add grated fresh ginger or chopped up crystallized ginger at the end or ginger syrup or extract earlier. Or add any other type of extract of your choosing.
3. The purpose of baking these meringues is not to cook them, it is to dry them out. You can therefore vary the baking time to suit your preference. Cut the time for chewier cookies. Increase it for crispier cookies.

- Franklin

Meringue Cookies
Adapted from sugar baby
Total Time: 2.5 hours (1/2 hour active)
Sweetness Factor: 10; Indulgence Factor: 4; Difficulty Factor 6; Chance I'll Make Them Again: 9.

8 egg whites
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
seeds of one vanilla been (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Put the egg whites, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl from your stand mixer. Set it over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved. Continue whisking until the mixture reaches 150 degrees fahrenheit.

Transfer the bowl to your stand mixer (fitted with the whisk attachment). Whisk on high speed until the mixture is white, fluffy, and soft peaks form when you lift the whisk. This will take a few minutes and will give the bowl enough time to nearly cool. Add the crystalized ginger and mixture or another few seconds.

Onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, either spoon the meringue or pipe it. Bake for about two hours. If you like your meringues chewy bake for less time, if you like them really crispy you could leave them in longer.