Archive | April 2014

Five-Spice Simple Syrup & My Favorite Coffee Cocktail

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As far as weather goes, this time of the year is certainly… uhhhh….. the most interesting. Here in Seattle I’ve seen the weather go from a heavy downpour to blue skies and sunny then to a light drizzle during the past 30 minutes. And by the time I finish writing this post I’m sure the weather will have drastically changed at least once or twice more. C’est la vie.

While such sporadic, unpredictable, rainy, and dreary weather can make spending time outdoors rather complicated (definitely won’t be going on a picnic or hike anytime soon), I like the fact that I can still enjoy something dear to my heart: coffee based drinks. While I’ve been known to enjoy Spanish and Irish Coffees all year round, there’s just something odd about ordering a piping hot coffee cocktail when it’s 85 degrees outside (which, for Seattle, is crazy hot). I try to eat and drink according to the season, which is why I have no qualms with a bit more rain, as I can continue to enjoy hot, boozy, coffee drinks.

My new favorite coffee drink is so incredibly easy to make. It’s a spiced simple syrup, rum, and coffee. The spiced simple syrup is fast and easy to make and can be used in a ton of different drinks. Once made it will last up to a month in the refrigerator.

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Five-Spice Simple Syrup

Adapted from Imbibe Magazine

  •  5 whole star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns (I couldn’t easily find these so used black peppercorns and found they worked just fine)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar

Place star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns in a ziplock bag. Seal bag and smash (I did this by hitting the bag with a rolling pin several times). Crushing the spices helps release some of the flavor. Heat a medium sized pot over medium heat (make sure the pot is completely dry). Add spices and heat, allowing them to toast (this also brings out flavor). Once they become incredibly aromatic (this won’t take long, minutes at the very most), add sugar and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool in the pot until room temperature. Strain through a very fine mesh sieve.  Store in refrigerator for up to a month.

Air-runn’s Favorite Coffee

  • 1/2 ounce Five-Spice Simple Syrup
  • 1 1/2 ounces dark rum
  • 1 cup pipping hot coffee (I prefer an Americano—2 shots of espresso and roughly 1/2-3/4 cup water depending on how strong you prefer)

Mix together all ingredients in a coffee mug and enjoy!

Is this delicious topped with whipped cream? Why yes, it is. Is it good with a splash of Irish Cream? Yup! Feel free to add either but I definitely enjoyed the taste of this without… sometimes simple is better.

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Duo of Dips: Artichoke Feta and Tomatillo Salsa

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What’s better than one delicious dip? Two delicious dips!

I feel like an infomercial…. buy one recipe and get a second for free! Except no one is paying for these recipes.

Recently I had a friend come to visit Seattle for the first time. While I knew we would eat most of our meals out at restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and hole-in-the-wall gems, I wanted to make sure there was at least something at home to snack on. While it was comical that I thought the two of us could possibly eat a snack (since we pretty much ate like 78 meals a day at Seattle’s most exciting eateries), I was at least prepared if the urge to snack ever hit.

 

Artichoke Feta Dip

Adapted from Macrina Bakery

  • 1 (14-ounce) can whole artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered
  • 1 large garlic clove, left in peel
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced thyme
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 ounces (1 1/3 cups) crumbled feta cheese, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place artichokes and garlic on lined baking sheet, drizzle on half the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper (approximately 1/2 teaspoon of each), minced thyme, and toss to coat in oil. Roast in oven for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool for 15 minutes.

Place cream cheese and feta in the bowl of a food processor (using the steel blade). With the motor running, drizzle in remaining olive oil and blend until very smooth. Add cooled artichokes, remove peel from garlic (you should be able to easily squeeze it out), pulse entire mixture a few more times to slightly chop up artichoke (I like this dip somewhat chunky, but pulse additionally for a smoother consistency). Taste for seasoning. I found the feta I used was plenty salty so just added a bit more pepper.

Transfer to serving bowl. While I don’t typically garnish plates with completely random ingredients (this isn’t the 90s afterall, when every dessert was garnished with mint), I thought this needed a bit of color, so I added a sprig of parsley.

Eat immediately or store in refrigerator for up to 5 days (let come to room temperature before serving). I enjoy this most with pita chips, but flatbread, crackers, or a sturdy chip would work.

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Tomatillo Salsa

Adapted from Rick Bayless

  • 8 ounces (5 to 6 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed (1 serano if you prefer more mild)
  • 5 or 6 sprigs fresh cilantro (thick stems removed), roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced white onion
  • Salt

Preheat a broiler.

Roast the tomatillos and chile on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until darkly roasted, even blackened in spots, about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side, 4 to 5 minutes more.

In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatillos and chiles, including all the delicious juice that has run onto the baking sheet. Add the cilantro and pulse lightly until combined. Add 1/4 cup water, blend to a coarse puree, and scrape into a serving dish. Rinse the onion under cold water (this removes some of that very strong oniony taste, feel free to skip if you really like onion), then shake to remove the excess moisture. Stir into the salsa and season with salt, usually a generous 1/4 teaspoon.

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No-Knead Bread

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So something pretty glorious happened in November of 2006: The New York Times posted a recipe adapted from Jim Lahey called “No-Knead Bread.” 2006 also happened to my junior year of college—an incredibly fun year—but a year in which I was definitely not reading cooking blogs. In fact, the closest thing I got to cooking was assembling my own salad from the salad bar.

While I didn’t get around to making no-knead bread until January of 2013, a solid 5 years after the craze died down, it’s truly such an amazing bread that I had to share it, even though I’m sure it’s old news for most bloggers.

What makes this such a good bread? The tender, moist, chewy interior and the incredibly crispy, crunchy crust rivals that of any rustic or artisan bread from a bakery and it’s so ridiculously easy to make. While the process of making this is far from fast (a day from start to finish), there’s only about 10 minutes of active work—the rest you just let the dough do it’s thing!

The recipe calls for very little yeast, a fair amount of water, and a lot of time to ferment. Fermentation basically develops the gluten in the bread, which eliminates the need to knead.

 

No-Knead Bread

From NY Times via Jim Lahey

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 11/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 5/8 cup water

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky.

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Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at minimum of 12 hours, preferably about 18 (18 is always what I do and I think it has the best results), at room temperature, about 70 degrees. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.

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Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

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Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth)* with flour; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

*Note: you need a really, really smooth towel to wrap the dough in. After coming close to ruining two dish towels with sticky dough that never quite entirely came off I decided to use a brand new, 100% cotton t-shirt—which works like a charm.

 At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic—I use a Le Creuset French oven) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

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Cover with lid (if you’re not using a pot with a cover, tightly wrap with tin foil) and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

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Whole-Wheat, Zucchini Chocolate Cake (and One Ingredient “Ice Cream”)

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For the past few months I’ve tried to live (nutritionally, at least) a somewhat balanced life. I’m not going to lie, some days I have a slice of pizza for lunch and a burger for dinner… but I’ll have raw veggies as a snack and a green smoothie for breakfast. It all evens out in the end, right?

That’s not to say I don’t make a conscious effort to eat healthy grains and lean proteins most days, but every now and then that just doesn’t happen. And I’m okay with that. Especially when I end a meal by eating a healthy version of cake.

Now, typically when one thinks of cake, one thinks of copious amounts of fat, white flour, and sugar. While those three elements add up to typically delicious desserts, more often than not it’s not going to be healthy. But, I’m pleased to say you can make and enjoy a cake that doesn’t have sugar or white flour, and is packed with whole-wheat and vegetables. Who woulda thunk?

Whole-Wheat, Zucchini Chocolate Cake

From Texan Erin Baking

  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped bitter-sweet chocolate (small chop)

Ganache

From Barefoot Contessa

  • 4 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the honey, oil, and vanilla (the honey may be stubborn, but it will mix together eventually). Stir in the eggs and then the Greek yogurt. Set aside.

In another large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and stir, just until combined. Fold in the zucchini and the chopped chocolate. Pour into prepared pan and even out the top.

Bake in prehated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a smidge of moist batter (typically you would want to cook cake longer, but this particular recipe can dry out easily so you want to take it out of the oven before entirely cooked [especially since it will continue to cook once out of the oven]).

Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then flip out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Once cooled, prepare ganache by melting the chocolate, cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler. You’ll want to stir occasionally until everything is nicely melted together. If it looks too thick, add a few more splashes of cream.  Drizzle over the completely cooled cake.

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One Ingredient Ice Cream 

As a bonus, here is a “recipe” for “ice cream”; use as many bananas as you feel fit (one banana is roughly one small serving of ice cream).

  • Peel bananas, slice into small pieces, freeze for 2 hours.
  • Place frozen banana slices in a food processor and pulse until consistency becomes creamy. Prepare to be shocked how the texture is almost exactly that of a rich, decadent ice cream.