Monday, September 30, 2013

Have you ever had a cactus pear?

When I was a kid, my mother would buy a cactus pear about once a year. I'm guessing that's because they weren't available any other time. But now that I think of it, I'm kind of surprised they were available at all.

I mean, back then mom shopped at a little neighborhood grocery store where the produce cooler was probably no more than six or eight feet long. Lettuce was iceberg. Potatoes were white or red. Beets were purple and peppers were green.

I remember just a few things about those cactus pears. First, they had nasty sticky spines that were waiting to snag you. And second, the color inside was a deep magenta.

So when my buddies at Frieda's Specialty Produce offered me some cactus pears, I was pretty excited to see them again. Because although they're not quite as rare as they were when I was kid, they're still not an everyday item.

And it's been a long time since I've had them.

Preparing a cactus pear isn't difficult. But you still have to watch out for those spines. They're tiny little things that are more annoying than painful. But having a little forest of them stuck in your thumb isn't a great thing.

Check out this video - it's a great description of how to prepare the fruit.

And, if you do manage to get the little spines in your skin, there's a simple, painless way to remove them. Just drizzle a thin layer of Elmer's glue on the affected area, and wait for it to dry completely. Then peel off the glue. The teeny little spines will come right out.

But what about the fruit?

Well, I didn't remember what it tasted like, so I was kind of excited to try it. The flavor resembles watermelon, and it had a similar texture. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it, And then I looked over at my juicer. Aha!

I ran the fruit through the juicer and got a juice with a nice body and a bright color. As a bonus, juicing got rid of the plentiful black seeds.

And then what?

To the juice of three cactus pears, I added a tiny pinch of salt, a generous three-fingered pinch of sugar, and the juice of 1/2 of a lemon. All by itself, it was a refreshing juice, but it was also a great cocktail mixer with vodka or with tequila.

As a garnish, I used a wedge of lemon.

But look a little closer at that lemon - it's PINK. Along with the cactus pears, there were some variegated pink lemons. The outsides were pink, green, yellow, and they has some stripes. When cut, the lemons smelled a little like grapefruit, but the flavor was very lemony.

Thanks to Frieda's, where every box is the Chopped version of a CSA.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Little Banana Cakes

Are you a fan of Cake Boss? Do you like baking?

On Saturday, September 28, the Michaels stores will be unveiling a whole line of Cake Boss products with some fun events.

More on that in a moment.

To help with the launch, I received some Cake Boss products to try, AND I have the same products to give away to one lucky winner here on Cookistry.

The first item is this sweet cakelette pan that makes cute little flower-shaped mini cakes:

The second item is a 24-piece decorating tip set:

More on how to win AFTER the recipe.

Because you know you want a recipe, yes? I used the cakelette pan, which I have to say was nicely nonstick. I still always use baking spray for insurance, but even so, I've had cakes stick.

These little cakelettes came out with no problem at all.

These sweet little cakes would have been fine with a dusting of powdered sugar, but since I had the decorating tips, I had to play.

And play, I did. Every little cakelette was different because I kept switching out the tips and making different designs.

I have to say that I'm not the most accomplished cake decorator, but I had a blast with these. I'm looking forward to using them more.

As far as the cake, I was really happy with these. If you like banana - and if you have some spare overripe bananas hanging around - give this a try.

Little Banana Cakes
with cream cheese frosting

For the cupcakes:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 stick butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 very ripe banana, mashed

For the frosting:
1/2 stick butter
4 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 cups powdered sugar (to your preferred sweetness)

To make the cakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray the mini cake pan wells with baking spray.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside until needed.

Add the vanilla to the milk and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar (if the butter is a bit cold, beat the butter first, then add the sugar) until light.

Add the egg and beat well. Add the bananas and beat well.

Add the flour mixture to the butter in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions, beating well after each addition.

Fill each cake well about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees until the tops of the cakes spring back when touched in the center and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the pan and let them cool completely on a rack before frosting.

To make the frosting:
Beat the butter until smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined, smooth, and light. Add the powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time until the frosting is your desired sweetness.

Frost the cooled cupcakes or refrigerate until needed.

Cake Boss Event at Michaels!

The Cake Boss event will be Saturday, September 28 from 10 a.m. to noon at all Michaels stores in the US.
  • Shoppers will be encouraged to discover their reason to bake (and learn more about Cake Boss products) by spinning an oversized "I Love to Bake" Cake Roulette. 
  • Each spin corresponds to a particular new Cake Boss product that will be displayed and presented at the event. 
  • Each shopper who plays the game receives a complimentary recipe card associated with product presented. 
  • Shoppers will also be able to view online videos, available to view at, featuring Buddy Valastro and his Cake Boss products.
For more info on Michaels, check out their website and Facebook page. You can also follow them on Twitter at @MichaelsStores.


Let's make this simple, shall we?

For your entry, leave me a comment telling me what flavor cake you would bake if you won the pan and baking tips.

That's it! Easy peasy. If you want to follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you can consider it good karma, but it won't get you any extra entries.

Contest starts when this posts and ends on Wednesday, October 2 at midnight, Mountain time. US entries only. All usual contest rules apply.

Cake Boss products were sent to me for my use, and the giveaway products will be sent to the winner directly from the company.

Gadgets: Takeya Flash Chill Tea Maker

When I make iced tea, I usually just put teabags in a quart jar full of water and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. Yes, I'm a tea heathen.

So, when Takeya said their 2-quart Flash Chill Tea Maker ($24.99) used a method that was new and better, I figured I'd give it a try. It's simple, really. Loose tea (or bagged tea) goes into the removable center piece. It's got a really fine mesh filter, so bits and pieces don't seep through. Then you pour freshly boiled water into the pitcher and let it steep.

When steeping is done, you remove that center piece holding the tea, and dump ice into the pitcher and shake the heck out of it. The documentation says that this shaking of hot and cold results in improved tea flavor. I don't know about that. Maybe a tea fanatic could tell the difference, but I didn't notice anything astonishing. On the other hand, I had cold tea right away.

I'm sure I could do the same thing in another 1/2 gallon pitcher, as long as it could withstand the shaking and possible thermal shock and had a tight cap. But, tea heathen that I am, I don't actually own a suitable pitcher. Hard to believe, right?

It's also a nice basic pitcher for whatever you use pitchers for.

This pitcher can come with a few accessories, if you go with a kit rather than just the pitcher, and others are sold separately. One that I'm interested in is a fruit infuser. Basically, a plastic basket that would be used in place of the tea holder that you'd use to infuse fruits into the liquid. While it might be nice for adding fruit flavors to tea or lemonade, I'm thinking it might be handy for some of the infused liqueurs I make.

Because that's how I roll.

The product was supplied for the purpose of a review on Serious Eats; this was previously published on Serious Eats.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Amy Klein's Carrot Cake

I posted the "sad" post about Amy, but I think she deserves a different sort of tribute as well, so I found a recipe that Amy had shared online along with some of her photos.

The recipe below is for the cake itself, which she said was very moist. I'm not sure what frosting she used, but the cake was decorated with marzipan carrots and candied carrot curls.

And it looks like edible glitter as well. Isn't it pretty?

I don't think she shared recipes for the candied carrots - I'm pretty sure it was something she found online, since she said she'd never made them before. Here's one version from Cupcake Project, and there are others to choose from. Just make sure you search for candied carrot curls, or you'll get recipes for a side dish instead of a garnish.

You're on your own for the marzipan.

I don't know where she got the carrot cake recipe from - I did a search online and I couldn't find anywhere that it had been published, so perhaps it was a family recipe.

Amy Klein's Carrot Cake

For the cake: 
9 oz flour
1 oz baking powder (I cheat; it's about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 tsp) never had a problem
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
4 1/2 oz coconut
5 eggs
9 oz brown sugar
6 1/2 oz veg oil
1 lb 2 oz grated carrots
4 1/2 oz raisins

For the frosting:
4 1/2 oz cream cheese
13 oz powdered sugar
9 oz butter, softened
capful of vanilla extract

To make the cake:
Mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and coconut (helps to keep the coconut separated). Set aside.

Mix together eggs, sugar, and oil till fluffy and add dry ingredients til just incorporated. Add carrots and raisins. Mix lightly.

Grease and flour your pans. It helps to put down parchment first. No sticking that way. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes. When done, let cool in pans. I usually stick a knife around the edges just to make sure it doesn't stick. When cool, frost.

To make the frosting:
Beat all ingredients until pale and fluffy.

Vegetable Panini (For Amy)

If anyone doubts that online friends are real friends, I can show you a photo of my red-rimmed eyes. My friend Amy Klein passed away on the morning of September 25, and I'm still reeling from the news.

Amy left behind a son, Jake (16), who she often mentioned. She recently settled her elderly mother into a nursing home. She had to move out of her mother's home - where she had been living while she cared for all of her mother's needs - so the house could be sold to pay for her mother's care.

Amy and Jake moved into an apartment with just a few belongings. I sent her two boxes of kitchen goods and a credit to Good Cook so she could do one of the things she loved: cook for her and her son. It seemed like a fresh start for her, relieved of the duty of being the 24/7 caretaker for her mother.

A vanilla milkshake in honor of Amy.
But shortly after she settled in, she went into the hospital. Pneumonia led to the discovery of her tumor and the treatment started. Doctors were optimistic, and as time went on, she posted that doctors were pleased with the condition of her tumor.

Although she had some trouble swallowing, she was doing better as the tumor shrunk, and she was excited about being able to have as many milkshakes as she wanted - no worries about weight, she needed to keep her strength up. She particularly liked vanilla milkshakes.

Through all her troubles with her mom, her money issues, and her medical issues, she remained positive. Even when she was about to go into the hospital for what was the last time, she was more interested in posting questions about what sort of corsage Jake should get for his date for his first homecoming dance - this past weekend.

Just recently, she said she was in ICU and after a day or two her texts became somewhat garbled. I hoped it had to do with medications and hoped that she wasn't saying what it sounded like. One of our group was thinking about flying out to be with her this coming weekend. But in just a few days, she was gone.

This time last year, Amy was busy cheering me up when Bob was in the hospital, and she always managed to make me laugh. The photo of the chicken, above, was one of her creations, and no matter what else was going on, that incongruous chicken with a fez amused me. Recently, she made it her profile picture on Facebook.

Shortly after Amy's diagnosis, she posted something else that made me smile, and it totally shows her sense of humor. It was this photo:

That's the attitude she always had. Sometimes things sucked, but she saw the humor in it.

In another conversation, on a less flippant note, she said: What's the point of being miserable when there's too much good and good people in the world?

That's a good way of looking at things, don't you think?

Are online friends real friends? Can we really know each other, if we've never met in person? Amy and I messaged each other and "met" online nearly every single day. Sometimes it was a simple "like" on a comment, or a smiley or a heart in response to a post. Sometimes it was a longer conversation. But we seldom went a full day without at least a glance and a virtual nod of the head.

When she saw that I posted about having to put down my dog last year, she mailed me - snail mail - a sweet handwritten letter. Who does that any more? While she was dealing with her illness, she still took the time to check in with me to see how I was doing during the recent floods in Colorado.

Amy touched many people's hearts with her humor, warmth, weirdness, and her concern for others, even though she never touched any of us in person.

I will miss her, and I will remember her.

For more conversation about Amy, check out this thread on Serious Eats. And here's the announcement in her local newspaper.

What better way to celebrate Amy than with a recipe?

Recently, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America sent me a panini recipe to post, and now seems to be an appropriate time. If you make this, serve it with a vanilla milkshake. That was something Amy particularly enjoyed.

Here's their preamble to the recipe:

CTCA, located in Arizona, is honored to serve patients throughout the state of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region. The number of patients from Colorado who traveled to CTCA for their cancer treatment has doubled from 2009 to 2012.

National Panini Month is a time to perfect our sandwich building skills and “press” away to create the best hot sandwich we can. According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America “panini” is the Americanized version of the Italian word panino, which means little sandwich and refers to a class of sandwiches that became popular in the United States in the late 1990s.

Flavor is the key to panini, which are based on high-quality Italian artisan breads like focaccia or ciabatta. The sandwiches are layered, but not overstuffed, with flavorful combinations of cheeses, meats or roasted vegetables. Various dressings or condiments are added and the sandwich is pressed and lightly grilled. Panini-style sandwiches are popular in trendy restaurants throughout the United States.

According to American Sandwich: Great Eats from all 50 States, paninis are said to have originated in Lombardy, Italy, in response to the demand among Milanese office workers for a quick lunch without sacrifice in flavor and quality. In both Italy and the United States, paninis are eaten for lunch and as snacks and appetizers. In Italy, sandwich shops traditionally wrap the bottom of the panino in a crisp white paper napkin, providing a practical solution to drips while enhancing aesthetics. notes the earliest print reference found for panini (as a food) in an American newspaper in 1956 in reference to food served at a fair. However, it is hard to tell from the article if the panini served at the fair is the same as the one commonly found on modern day restaurant menus.

Is your mouth watering yet? If you are ready to try your hand at making your own Panini – here is a delicious recipe courtesy of CTCA.

Vegetable Panini
Adapted recipe courtesy of Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Makes one sandwich

Vegetable oil or spray, as needed
1 ounce red bell pepper
1 ounce zucchini
1 ounce Roma tomato
2 ounces portobello mushrooms
Ciabatta bread
1 ounce fresh mozarella
1/4 cup fresh basil

Toss vegetables with a small amount of oil and place on a lined baking sheet and cook in a 350 degree oven until tender. Remove from over and reserve.

Assemble roasted vegetables on sandwich bread and top with fresh mozzarella and basil.

Grease a hot flat top (or a skillet or grill or griddle) with oil - or use a panini press. Cook both sides of sandwich until golden brown and cheese has melted.

Serve hot.

About Cancer Treatment Centers of America:
CTCA is a national network of hospitals focusing on complex and advanced stage cancer. CTCA offers a comprehensive, fully integrated approach to cancer treatment and serves patients from all 50 states at facilities located in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa. CTCA provides patients with information about cancer and their treatment options so they can control their treatment decisions. For more information about CTCA, go to

I posted one of Amy's own recipes right here. Because she would have loved that.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sweet and Salty Popcorn Balls (and why I'm not crafty)

A ridiculous amount of this disappeared. Magically.
So, when my friend Carla from Good Cook said she wanted some posts about popcorn balls, I said, sure, I can do that.

I even had a recipe for caramel-like toffee thing that I knew I could use for the "glue." I'd made the caramel before but never wrote about it. I was waiting for something to use it with/for/in.

So, popcorn balls. Sure. Easy.



I received two popcorn ballers (plastic molds for making the popcorn balls), one round and one oval/football shaped. The molds are a pretty good idea because your other option, I guess, is to form the balls with your hands. Sounds mildly painful considering you're dealing with melted sugar.

My first idea was to make a cheese-and-caramel sort of popcorn ball. There's a booth at the local farmers market that sells a mix of cheese popcorn and caramel popcorn and it's ridiculously good. I wanted to recreate that in a popcorn ball.

So far, so good.

I popped two batches of popcorn (about 5 quarts of popped  popcorn) and set out on my journey towards humiliation. You see, the bloggers in the Facebook group that Carla runs had starting making and posting their popcorn ball masterpieces. Some of them posted disclaimers that said, "hey, don't judge me ... my five-year-old made this."

And then they posted photos of Frankenstein-like monsters, and trains, and adorable gingerbread houses, and even turkeys and owls.

I considered renting some children, because my first attempt at making a "cute" popcorn ball was not quite a success. I used the oval/football shaped mold and decided to make it look like a fish. When I looked at the photos I realized it looked more like a dog with mutantly misplaced ears and a mohawk.

Mutant popcorn poodle
So I tried again, this time making it look more like a dog. A mutant popcorn poodle.

To glue the parts on, I used peanut butter. It made sense, since there was peanut butter in the caramel, but these weren't popcorn balls you could walk around with - the attached parts came of easily. Which was good for easy munching.

For something more secure, I'd suggest royal icing as a glue, or even melted chocolate. You could also use melted caramel, but I used all mine on the popcorn.

I used dried apricots for the ears and a dried cherry for the nose. The eyes were store-bought sugar decorations.

Better. Maybe. Sort of. But not great.

So, I decided to dispense with the cute popcorn ball and go back to my original plan - to make tasty cheese and caramel popcorn balls. Just balls. Round planetary objects. Yeah, that's what they were. Planets.

So much better.

Sweet-and-Salty Popcorn Balls
with peanut-butter caramel and cheese

It's round. Stare at it. It's like a planet, right? Right???
5-6 quarts popped popcorn
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons, 1/4 pound) butter
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
Cheese, as needed (something that melts well - colby is a good choice)

Have the popcorn popped and standing by in a bowl large enough to allow you to mix the popcorn without it spilling over the sides and onto the floor. Alternatively, have a dog standing nearby to catch fallen popcorn.

Just kidding. Maybe.

Put the sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan and heat on medium until the sugar melts and turns brown. Not black-brown-burned. You want a dark golden or rich brown. Add the butter. Gently. Things will bubble. Stir. The sugar will likely clump up and/or harden, but it will melt again. When the butter has melted and the mixture stirs easily, add the peanut butter and stir it in.

This is a thick caramel/toffee/candy, not a thin drizzly coating.

Add spoon fulls of the caramel to the popcorn and stir it around so that it coat the popcorn rather than the popcorn adhering to balls of the caramel. You'll see what I mean.

You can keep the caramel over LOW heat while you stir in spoon fulls, but watch it so it doesn't burn. Add as much of the caramel as you like. If you have some left over, pour it onto a silpat and let it cool there.

This stuff is really good ... the peanut butter makes it taste like peanut brittle. Even though it's only 1/2 cup, you can taste it.

For cheeseless caramel popcorn balls:

While the caramel is still warm and sticky on the popcorn, shovel the popcorn mixture into the popcorn ball mold, overfilling it, and mash the top on, compressing the popcorn a bit so it takes on the shape of the mold. Check it and shove extra popcorn in if you have gaps and holes in the ball. Mash the top on again.

Remove the popcorn ball from the mold and continue making more. Work quickly, before the caramel cools.

Left over caramel-coated popcorn is great for snacking. Quite a bit of it disappeared before I even started on the cheesy version.

For cheese caramel popcorn balls:

As some point, that caramel is going to harden to the point where it will no longer be sticky, but we can still make CHEESY caramel popcorn balls. Gather up what looks like about twice as much of the prepared caramel popcorn that would fit into the mold and put it onto a microwaveable plate or bowl. Grate a generous amount of cheese on top and mix it in. Grate a little more. This is our new "glue" so you need enough to keep the popcorn sticking together.

Use a cheese that melts easily like colby or a mild cheddar or gruyere. You can add something like parmesan for extra flavor, but don't count on that for the stickiness.

Microwave the cheese-covered popcorn until the cheese melts. The caramel will also soften a bit.

Shovel the popcorn into the mold as before and mash the top on. Add more popcorn, if needed to fill holes and gaps in the ball. Remove from the mold.

It's best to melt the cheese onto the popcorn one batch at a time, since the cheese cools pretty quickly.

Continue making as many popcorn balls as you like.

Just the cheese:

If you don't like sweets, the caramel isn't necessary. You could make popcorn balls with just the cheese. Just melt the cheese on the popped corn, and shove them in the molds.

For an added punch of savory flavor, you could add herbs and spices to the popcorn, or add more cheese flavor with powdered cheddar cheese.

As part of the Good Cook Kitchen Experts program, Good Cook sends me cooking gadgets for my use.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Angel Hair Pasta with Friday Sauce #CuisineNicoise

I've heard tomato sauce referred to as Sunday Sauce by my Italian friends - and in cookbooks. But until I got the cookbook Cuisine Nicoise by Hillary Davis, I'd never heard of Friday Sauce.

So of course I was curious.

I like pasta - all kinds of pasta - but I usually don't associate it with French cooking. But why not? Pasta is used all over the world. Of course it must be used in France.

This is another recipe that's very simple to prepare, and the ingredients aren't too exotic. Maybe not everyone keeps anchovies in the pantry, but they're not hard to find. If you like this recipe you might start stocking them for quick pasta meals. And olives? Well, those are one thing I almost always have.

The sauce cooks in about the same time the pasta cooks, or close enough. The recipe suggested cooking the pasta and keeping it warm with a drizzle of oil on it, but I had the water heating while I gathered and prepped my other ingredients and it all worked out well.

I thought a little extra squeeze of lemon at the table was a nice idea, but then again I'm a lemon fiend.

I wasn't sure how big a can of anchovies was intended, and I'm not sure if there's a standard-sized can, but I just went with the jar I had - 3.7 ounces.

Angel Hair Pasta with Friday Sauce
Adapted from Cuisine Nicoise by Hillary Davis

1 pound dry angel hair pasta (I used a whole wheat angel hair pasta)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 can anchovies in olive oil
6 garlic cloves, pressed
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons pitted black olives or oil-cured olives, minced
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in generously salted water. If it's done cooking before the sauce is done, drain it, drizzle with a little olive oil, and keep warm.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, anchovies with their oil, garlic, and lemon juice. Cook over low heat until the anchovies and garlic softens to the point where you can mash it with a fork. Whisk to blend. (Mine didn't blend at this point, but it did combine when the pasta was added - I think it needed a little water to make it combine.) Add the olives and cayenne and stir.

Add the pasta, toss to coat it with the anchovy sauce, and cook for another minute. (I added a bit of pasta cooking water.)

Serve with the parmesan cheese on top, or pass at the table.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bacon Biscuits

I love biscuits, and they're so easy to make, once you've figured out the technique. And they're fast. I can whip up a batch of biscuits while I'm waiting for a roast to rest - they're that fast.

I usually opt for smaller, taller biscuits, but this time I opted for wider, thinner biscuits for breakfast sandwiches. And, since I was thinking about breakfast, I added bacon to the biscuits.

These were also great for one of my favorite summer treats - tomato sandwiches. The hint of salty bacon was just right.

Bacon Biscuits

See the flaky layers? That's from folding the dough.
3 cups self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-4 strips of bacon, cooked until crisp, chilled
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups cold milk
Flour for dusting work surface

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put the self-rising flour and salt in a large bowl. Chop the bacon into very small pieces and add it to the flour. Stir to combine.

Add the butter and cut with 2 knives or a pastry cutter until the butter is in small pieces - about the size of peas.

Add the milk and stir just until all the flour is moistened and the milk is absorbed. At this point, it's a pretty gloppy dough. That's fine.

Generously flour your work surface and turn out the dough, Flour the top of the dough. Roll the dough to approximately 16 inches square (ish). It doesn't need to be square. A vague roundish blob is fine.

Biscuit cutters from Good Cook - 3 sizes, two cutting sides.
Fold the top third of the dough over the middle third. It's good to use a dough scraper for this, since though dough isn't very cohesive at this point. Fold the bottom over the top piece.

Now fold the left and right over the center in the same way. You should have a mostly-square piece of dough.

Flour the work surface again to keep the dough from sticking and flour the top so the rolling pin doesn't stick. You shouldn't need as much flour as the first time.

Roll the dough again to about 16 inches square and fold as before.

Now, roll the dough to about 10 inches square to make 3-inch biscuits. The dough should be about 1/2 inch thick.

Cut nine 3-inch rounds from the biscuits using a biscuit cutter. Place them on the baking sheet, leaving a little space between them.

Tomato sandwich with yogurt cheese on a bacon biscuit.
Gather the scraps together, stacking them so that the horizontal layers you've made stay horizontal. Roll the dough to 1/2-inch thick, in a shape that will let you cut three more rounds.

The remaining dough scraps can be baked for biscuits, but the more you re-roll, the tougher the dough will get. I usually just bake odd-shaped pieces for snacking. If there's room on the same baking sheet, put the scraps there, or put them on a separate sheet to bake.

If you like, you can brush the tops of the biscuits with butter or milk.

Bake at 450 degrees until the biscuits are nicely browned, about 12-15 minutes.

Remove the biscuits from the pan and let them cool on a rack.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gadgets: Lekue Mesh Bag

Here's an oddly fascinating gadget: the Lekue silicone mesh bag ($15). And it's also a bit of a head scratcher. What does one do with such a thing?

Well, you put things in it that you want to cook in boiling water, and then remove them all at once without fishing around or draining.

So, you could have a large pot of boiling water and have different vegetables in different bags. Cook them all in the same water, but remove each separately as they're done.

Who cooks like that? I really don't know. But you could.

You could also put a chicken carcass, aromatics, and vegetables into the bag and it would all hold together when you make stock. Then, just remove the bag. The stock would still need to be strained to get out the odd small bits, but the majority of the mess would remain in the bag.

It can also be used for foods that you want to remove from boiling water and then shock in cold water.

I've tested it with tomatoes and eggs and a few other things, and it works like it's supposed to, stretches to hold more than it looks like it does, and cleans up easily. It was slightly easier remove cooked eggs in one fell swoop and plunge them into cold water, but it wasn't a life-changing difference.

I'm guessing there are other people who would find this indispensable. Or perhaps there's some genius use I haven't discovered yet. I'm certainly open to suggestions.

After I posted this on Serious Eats, I got an email from a visually-impaired reader who said that it could be very useful for cooks like her. Now, that makes a lot of sense. So, you see, just about every gadget is going to be very useful for some folks.

The product was supplied for the purpose of a review on Serious Eats; this was previously published on Serious Eats.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Olive Oil Snow - Molecular Gastronomy at Home

I never let the fact that I don't know what the heck I'm doing stop me from plunging ahead.

In this case, I bought a pound of tapioca maltodextrin. If that sounds scary, let's just say that you've probably eaten it in commercial products before.

But it's also the darling of the molecular gastronomy folks who use it to turn fats into powder.

When my bucket o' fun arrived, I set it aside, thinking that I'd do some research, figure out how much to use, and if I needed to do anything special to mix it.

But I couldn't wait long. I figured I'd just play around with it and see what happened. Hey, I've seen it used on Chopped, and they never made a big deal about it. It couldn't be too complicated.

I put some olive oil in a little ramekin. Added a teeny bit of the powder. Stirred it up.


I added more. And more.

Turns out you need quite a bit before the oil turns into powder. I tasted it a few times as I went on, but when it was fluffy-powdery, it didn't have much flavor at all.


So then I added some basil olive oil for extra flavor. Good choice. It wasn't as fluffy-powdery with the added oil, but it was definitely a dry product. It stuck together a bit, but that's okay. And then I added just a little salt for more flavor.

So, now what? I figured it would be good on tomatoes. So I sliced some tomatoes, arranged them on a plate, and put the powder on top.

That was pretty plating for maybe a minute or so, but then the liquid from the tomatoes started to melt the powder. Oops. I hadn't considered that.

So I, um ... ate the tomatoes. It tasted pretty good with that basil oil. And then I replated with the powder on the side. That made more sense, and it still looked interesting - I mean, most folks would be curious about the powder, right?

So, what have we learned here?

You need something with more flavor than plain olive oil for the powder to make sense, you need quite a bit of the tapioca maltodextrin to absorb the oil, and you need to plate it so that it stays dry.

Oh, and we've also learned that sometimes I am a bit of a mad scientist in the kitchen. And sometimes it even works.

I'm thinking I might try butter. Or clarified butter, maybe. And then I'll see what else it can do.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dairy-Free Coconut Almond "Ice Cream"

Let me be perfectly clear. I'm not a huge fan of coconut. I don't run screaming when I see it, but given the choice between coconut and most other flavors, coconut's not going to be the winner.

On the other hand, I don't mind cooking with it - for other people. And I'm fine with tasting it to make sure the flavors are balanced. Just don't expect me to devour a large slice of coconut cake. Not gonna happen.

When my friends at 37 Cooks hooked up with Tropical Traditions (and if you don't know, they describe themselves as "America's source for coconut oil"), I thought it would be a great opportunity to have another go at making ice cream without any dairy products.

I chose a coconut cream concentrate, also known as cocoa butter. This isn't the same thick cream you'd find on top of a can of coconut milk - it includes bits of the coconut meat, so there's some texture to it.

Since I've been playing around with ice cream so much this summer, and since I've been trying to come up with a dairy-free ice cream, I decided to give coconut a chance in ice cream. The result was good, but not as creamy as some of the super-rich ice creams I've been making.

Right out of the ice cream maker, this had a really nice texture. Once it froze solid, it got a little more sorbet-like. Which isn't a bad thing at all - just a change. This is definitely a dessert you'd want to let sit before scooping to let it soften just a bit to get back to that softer, less icy state.

In retrospect, I'm thinking that this would have been better with the addition of a little alcohol, which would have made it less apt to form ice crystals. Rum would be good, for that tropical drink flavor. Plain rum, or even a flavored one would be good.

For less assertive flavor, but keeping the antifreeze quality, vodka would be a good choice. Maybe even one of the flavored vodkas. There are so many to choose from these days, but a pineapple-flavored vodka would be interesting, right?

If you want to play around with adding vodka to a recipe like this, start with one ounce and work your way up until you get to a flavor and consistency (when frozen) that you like. I've added up to 1/4 cup of whisky to a quart-size recipe for regular ice cream, and it worked just fine.

Did you know that you can re-freeze ice cream? So, if you really wanted to experiment, you could add one ounce of rum or vodka, then freeze your ice cream. Check the texture and if you're not pleased, let it thaw and add another ounce. Try again.

If you add too much, it might not freeze at all, but of you add in small increments, you'll find where that sweet spot is, where it's got the right texture and flavor for your taste.

Dairy-Free Coconut-Almond "Ice Cream"

2 cups vanilla almond milk (cold)
1 cup coconut cream concentrate
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend-blend-blend. The idea is to get the coconut cream to blend as well as possible with the other ingredients. You probably won't get it completely smooth, but you want the tiniest bits possible - it should look like an emulsified mixture.

Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions. Serve (soft-serve) from the machine, or freeze for a firmer consistency.

Want more info on Tropical Traditions?
You can find them on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Google+.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Applesauce Cake

Has this ever happened to you? You need an emergency cake for a recipe that calls for 1 cup of cake crumbs, and you don't happen to have any stashed away.

And you're pretty sure your neighbors won't have any cake crumbs you could borrow, either.

So, you grab the closest book and look for a cake recipe, right?

Well, that's what I did.

Turns out closest book was The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook by Tracey Medeiros. I browsed through the book and found an applesauce cake that I knew would be perfect for my cake crumbs. And it sounded pretty good for eating, too.

I cut back a little bit on the spices because I didn't need them for my crumbs, but the cake was great without them. I think it also would have been great with them. The original recipe included 1/8 teaspoon each of cloves and nutmeg.

The recipe suggested using home made applesauce, but I'm guessing most people don't have that on hand. I used an applesauce made by a local apple orchard. Not quite home made but pretty darned close.

Applesauce Cake

Adapted from The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook by Tracey Medeiros

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups applesauce
Powdered sugar, for dusting.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9x13 pan with baking spray.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine.

With a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with an electric mixer, beat the eggs, butter, applesauce, and vanilla until smooth.
Add the flour to the wet ingredients, and stir until well combined, but don't overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees until the top springs back when lightly touched on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean - about 25 minutes.

Put the cake pan on a cooling rack to cool completely. Or, if you like, turn the cake out of the pan and let it cool on the rack.

Serve squares dusted with powdered sugar, if desired.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Dill Pickles

Can-it-Forward Day is over, but it seems I've caught the canning bug. I bought pickling cucumbers at the farmer's market, and then went looking for dill. Unfortunately, I couldn't find nice fronds with heads that the recipe I used called for, so I used baby dill.

I bought a whole bunch of small pickling cucumbers, and some that were more of a medium size. I had enough of the little ones to fill two pint jars, and I sliced the rest of them into rounds. The photo in the booklet showed the cucumbers sliced lengthwise, but I thought rounds would be better.

And then ... when I measured the cider vinegar I had, I didn't have enough. Bah! So I used half cider vinegar and half white vinegar.

It turned out that I had enough pickling liquid for five jars of pickles. Which was fine, because I had plenty of pickles. What I didn't have, though, was enough garlic. I only had three cloves, so the first three jars got garlic. The last jars didn't.

And then, since I was already so far off the map, I decided not to use the bay leaves. Just because.

Meanwhile, I bought more tomatoes. I'm not sure yet what I'll do with those. Maybe just sauce for the freezer. We'll see.

Dill Pickles
Adapted from Ball's Beginner's Guide to Canning & Recipe Booklet

The pickles are the same - the greener ones are in blue jars.
2 tablespoons pickling spice
1 1/4 cups cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup pickling salt
1 garlic clove for each pint jar
1 head of dill or springs of dill for each jar
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds for each pint jar
Rounded 1/8 teaspoon pickle crisp for each pint jar
3 bay leaves (optional - I didn't use them)
Pickling cucumbers, as needed to fill 5 pint jars, sliced into rounds

Prepare jars and lids and stockpot or canner*.

Tie the pickling spice in some cheesecloth and put it into a saucepan. Add the vinegars, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes to let the spice flavor infuse into the liquid. Stir as needed to help the sugar and salt dissolve - but it will probably do that on its own.

When the jars are hot, add the garlic, dill, mustard seeds, pickle crisp, and the bay leaves, if you're using them.

Pour the hot pickling liquid over the pickles. Remove any air bubbles in the jar, and check the headspace on the jars - it should be 1/2 inch.

Wipe the jar rims, put the lids on, and put the jar rings on finger-tight. Process* the jars in hot water for 15 minutes (I had to process for 25 minutes since I'm at high altitude). Turn off the heat, let the jars sit for 5 minutes, then remove the jars and let them cool.

*If you're new at canning, check a canning book or reliable online site for instructions. I blogged about it here, but I also suggest you double-check other sources.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Mushroom "Stroganoff"

My first run-in with beef stroganoff came when I was in my later years of grade school, and I was reading one of those teen novels.

The protagonist was a high school freshman (Ooooh! High school! How adult!!!) and at some point she met a guy. (OOOOOHHHH!!!! Boyfriend!!!)

She decided that she wanted to invite him over for dinner and cook him a fancy adult-style meal. So she decided to cook Beef Stroganoff, since that was very fancy.

Well, it was pretty darned fancy to me, because I'd never heard of it.

And then someone in the book convinced her to make meatballs stroganoff, because it was easier. And I thought, gee, if you like this guy and want to impress him, why would you go to all the bother of cooking for him, and then make something easy?

See, I was like that even when I was a kid.

So she makes her stroganoff, and ... I have no idea what happened. I remember the stroganoff reference, but I have no idea if the meal was a success or not.

My next run-in with beef stroganoff was at some restaurant. Somewhere.

I was not terribly impressed. Meat and noodles and gravy, yippee. Further introductions to stroganoff were even worse. Buffet-style cafeteria food or noodles-in-a-box.

Well, the 50s are over and stroganoff is out of fashion. It's never on restaurant menus, right?

But that doesn't stop me from making an occasional noodles-and-gravy dish that resembles stroganoff. Sort of.

And this one is even a little farther from the norm, since it includes Kary's Roux. You see, the nice folks at Kary's teamed up with my friends at 37 Cooks, and we're all having fun taking roux where roux has never gone before.

I'll tell ya, when I heard we were working with roux for this challenge, I was like, roo? Like kanga? Well ... okay, but I've never cooked it.

And then I was like, rue? The medicinal herb? But that's not generally edible, is it?

Finally, I was like, yeah, I'm just kidding. I know what roux is ... it's what I make with flour and water before I make gravy.

So, why would anyone buy a roux, you ask? The "original" wet roux from Kary's is a dark roux. Like the color of mahogany, maybe. Just short of burned.

Making a roux that dark is time-consuming. It involves a lot of stirring and watching and stirring and stirring and stirring and (yawn, I'm tired of standing here) and watching and stirring (I need a glass of water) and OH DAMN, I BURNED THE ROUX.

And then you start all over.

So I was more than happy to get a jar of dark roux to play with rather than stand at the stove for half a day cursing and fanning the smoke detector.

So, stroganoff, meet roux. Roux, meet mushrooms. Because I decided to make a meat-free version, using mushrooms at the major player. This isn't a vegetarian dish because I used beef stock. Mostly because I happened to have it on hand. But if you want to go vegetarian, you could use a vegetable stock. Or water.

For the noodles - does this ever happen to you?  - you go to the store with the idea of one type of pasta in mind, and then you leave the store with something else?

I was thinking something fettuccine-like would be good, but then I found these other noodles that were about the width of fettuccine, but had a name I'd never heard of. Fresine.

And they had that rough exterior texture that meant a sauce would cling really well.

So I bought them. Weird noodles, sort of.

If you look at them head-on, they're an oval shape, rather than flat like fettuccine. They took a little longer to cook than fettuccine would have, but no big deal.

Mushroomz and Noodlez
an ode to zhtroganoff

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound button or crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 pound fettuccine or other noodles
1 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons Kary's Original Roux
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Additional sour cream, for serving, if desired

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed frying pan (or saute pan, or whatever) and add the mushrooms and onions.

Cook until the mushrooms lose their water, then continue cooking until all that water is reabsorbed or it evaporates and you've got mushrooms and onions skidding around a mostly-dry pan. If some of the mushrooms brown a little bit, that's a plus.

This mushroom-cooking will take a while. Be patient.

Meanwhile, boil those noodles in salted water, until they're just al dente.

Add the beef stock (or vegetable stock, or water) to the mushrooms along with the wet roux. Cook and stir until the mixture thickens a bit.

When the pasta is done cooking, add it to the mushrooms and sauce. Add a bit of the cooking water and cook until the noodles are nicely coated with sauce and the sauce has thickened so it's coating the noodles rather than having the noodles swim in thin liquid.

Add the sour cream and stir it in.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and some generous grinds of pepper, as needed. Since the noodles were cooked in salted water and the beef stock might have been salty, you might not need salt - which is why we didn't add salt until now.

If you prefer a creamier sauce, you can add more sour cream, or pass it at the table for people to stir into their own portions.

Serve with a little dollop of sour cream on top, if you like.

If you've got something green - parsley, chives, scallions - you can garnish with that as well. All I had on hand was dill - which would have worked, actually - but I was saving that for pickles.

If you have leftovers, you'll probably need to add some extra water when you reheat, since the noodles will absorb some of the liquid.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Gadgets: Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker

Let's be perfectly clear: The Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker ($29.99) is not a gourmet, high-tech, fancy cooking tool for super-serious cooks.

Not at all.

What it is, though, is fun. And it's well-built and sturdy, considering what it's designed to do. And it works just like it's supposed to.

The whole idea is to make a breakfast sandwich like the ones from fast-food restaurants. You could certainly do that with normal cooking equipment - a toaster, frying pans, egg rings - but that's really not the point. This gadget makes the process a little more user-friendly. Or maybe I should say kid-friendly.

Or cooking-challenged friendly. Because this isn't really like cooking. It's a simple assembly process that just about anyone could manage.

The idea is that you start with the bottom of a muffin, add meat, cheese or vegetables on top, then close that section and put an egg on the next layer and put the top piece of bread on top of the egg. Close it up, and in about five minutes, the egg is cooked, the bread is toasted, and everything is very hot. Slide the bottom out from under the egg, and there's a complete sandwich.

Letting kids make their own fast-food-style breakfast sandwiches might help picky kids get involved with cooking - which is supposed to help them become more adventurous - and mom could limit the selections to healthier choices.

Younger kids would still need supervision, because this machine does get hot while it's cooking, but they could choose their ingredients and make their own special breakfast sandwiches with a little help. Older kids could work unsupervised, making breakfast or an after-school snack.

Kids with allergy issues who can't have fast-food style sandwiches might also get a kick out of making their own sandwich that looks like the real thing. And since this is small, it's something that could be brought along on trips to make a safe breakfast in a hotel room or in someone's home. Or an adult with allergy issues that prevents them from using the communal toaster and microwave might keep something like this in their office.

Since it takes about five minutes for an egg to cook in the sandwich, this isn't the best bet for someone who needs to make a half-dozen breakfast sandwiches. In that case, you might as well break out the frying pan and egg rings. But for someone single, a breakfast sandwich could be done in the time it takes to brew coffee.

Besides breakfast sandwiches, I've used this to make English muffin pizzas and hot ham-and-cheese sandwiches on biscuits, so it's not all about breakfast.

Is this for everyone? Absolutely not. Is it for some people? Definitely yes.

The product was supplied for the purpose of a review on Serious Eats; this was previously published on Serious Eats.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Blueberry-Stuffed Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting #OXOGoodCupcake

This is a sponsored post - but a different sort of sponsorship. In return for writing this, OXO will donate $100 towards pediatric cancer research. In addition, OXO is donating 25 cents for each purchase of specially-marked products.

As part of my participation, OXO sent me a few tools, including measuring cups and spoons, an offset spatula, and a cupcake corer.

I've never cored a cupcake before. I've never even thought about coring a cupcake. But if I get a new cooking gadget, of course I'm going to use it. As soon as I decided to core and stuff the cupcakes, I knew exactly what I wanted to use as the filling - the blueberry jam I made recently.

Sprinkles! by Jackie Alpers. Check it out!
I decided to make a vanilla cupcake, so I modified a caramel apple cake recipe I'd made before. I knew I needed a frosting, but I didn't have a recipe at my fingertips, so I grabbed the first likely cookbook - Sprinkles! by Jackie Alpers.

Sprinkles is all about making colorful cakes and other decorative desserts, but I knew there had to be a frosting recipe I could use.

I'm one of those crazy people who will happily peel the frosting off a cake and just eat the cake. But the buttercream from Sprinkles! was pretty darned good. I liked that it was fluffy instead of dense.

And then, to add my own little stamp on it, I added a tablespoon of vanilla bean paste. Because I like vanilla a lot and I thought the teeny vanilla seeds would add some visual interest.

Not exactly sprinkles, but I liked the speckles.

I gave instructions for making the cake and frosting with a stand mixer, but you can do this with an electric hand mixer. You could probably do it by hand, but I think most folks have some sort of mixer.

Blueberry-Stuffed Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting

For the cupcakes:

Jam-filled cupcakes.
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
Jam or other filling, as needed

For the frosting:
(Adapted from Sprinkles! by Jackie Alpers)

2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

For the cupcakes:

OXO tools
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 18 cupcake tins with papers. (I actually made 12 cupcakes and one mini loaf cake - but this should make about 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside until needed.

Add the vanilla to the milk and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar (if the butter is a bit cold, beat the butter first, then add the sugar) until light.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour mixture to the butter in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions, beating well after each addition.

Fill each cupcake about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when touched in the center and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean - 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the cupcakes from the pan and let them cool completely on a rack before stuffing and frosting.

While the cupcakes are baking, make the frosting:

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the heavy cream, then the vanilla, then the vanilla bean paste, beating well after each addition.

Scrape down the side of the bowl and make sure there's nothing unmixed at the bottom of the bowl, then continue beating until the frosting is fluffy. Refrigerate if you're not using it right away, particularly if it's warm in the room.

If you refrigerate the frosting for a long time - like overnight - it will firm up quite a bit, so you might want to beat it again to get it all to the right consistency for frosting the cupcakes.

When the cupcakes are cool, remove a core from them - I used the tool provided by OXO. Save the core, because you'll be popping part of it back into the cupcake to hide the hole you create. Fill the hole with the jam or other filling, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inch unfilled. Cut the top of the core to fit that space, and insert it in the hole.

Continue with the rest of the cupcakes. When all the cupcakes are filled, frost as desired.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Bouquet of Broccoli from #CuisineNicoise

I love cookbooks. I might even be a cookbook hoarder. So when my Virtual Potluck pals asked if I wanted Cuisine Nicoise by Hillary Davis, of course I said yes.

When people think of French cooking, they might think of fancy sauces and elaborate meals, but French cuisine can also be very simple. What's more French than a baguette, a hunk of cheese, and a bottle of wine? It's simple, yes?


But of course, even the simple meals have nuance. That's not a baguette from can - it's a good baguette from a good bakery. And a good cheese. And the perfect wine.

So when I browsed through the book, looking for recipes to make, I had that simplicity in mind. And I settled on a side dish - a bouquet of broccoli with a shallot vinaigrette. The genius in the serving of the broccoli is that you cut it into however many servings you need, then reassemble the broccoli head in a bowl so that it looks whole. Then the vinaigrette is drizzled on top.

I used a purple shallot (and might I mention that when the book calls for 1 large shallot, it means one large "normal" shallot. The ones I saw recently at the grocery store were humungous. I've never seen them that large, and probably never will again. )

The result was simple. But elegant. And fun. And whimsical. And the purple shallot made a nice contrast to the green broccoli.

This would also be an interesting way to serve a small head of cauliflower. And the vinaigrette would be lovely on a green salad or drizzled on fresh ripe tomatoes.

I have to say this is really a lovely book, and I was smitten with the pastas, risotto and pizzas section. Risotto with parmesan, ricotta, and lemon sounds pretty amazing, and the Angel Hair Pasta with Friday Sauce is on my must-do list.

And or course I'm curious about the French take on pizza.

But for now, a simple side with a pretty presentation.

A Bouquet of Broccoli
Adapted from Cuisine Nicoise by Hillary Davis

1 large bunch broccoli
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry or white wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 large shallot, minced

Cut the stalk of the broccoli to about 2 inches long or whatever is going to make it fit right in your particular bowl.

Have an ice water bath standing by.

Heat a pot of salted water to a boil, then lower the head of broccoli into the water and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the stalk is tender, but the broccoli is still bright green.

Remove the broccoli from the water and plunge it into the ice water. This stops the cooking and sets the color.

Pat the broccoli dry and then slice the stalk so you can separate it into 4 pieces than can be reassembled in a bowl to look whole again.

In a medium bowl whisk the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, mustard and shallot until well combined. (I used the shake-in-a-jar method, but whatever works for you is fine.) Taste and adjust seasonings.

Fit the broccoli into a bowl so it forms a dome. Trim as needed to make it fit. Pour the vinaigrette over the top. (I spooned some over the top and reserved the rest for individual use.)


Isn't it pretty?

I received a copy of Cuisine Nicoise from the publisher.