Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lemon Meringue Fool

I made a really delicious Lemon Dream Cake for my Mom's birthday a few weeks ago.  In fact, if lemon is your thing and you like super easy cake recipes, I would highly recommend it. This particular lemon cake called for lemon pie filling, but I was unable to find any so I substituted lemon curd instead.  After making the cake I had a good amount of lemon curd leftover and I had no idea what to do with it. Well, actually that's a little bit of a lie.  Eating the remaining lemon curd by the spoonful crossed my mind several times, but it hardly felt like justice for something so delicious.  So I kept hunting for recipes.  Then I remembered this recipe from Nigella.

When I daydream about desserts I tend to think of cakes, pies, cookies, and brownies.  This is a shame in many ways, but mostly because I always forget how much I love a light, creamy, fruity dessert like this fool.  A fool is also a cinch to make and goes together so quickly.  A little lemon curd mixed with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice then folded into some whipped heavy cream and you're pretty much all set.  Crumble some store-bought cookies into the mix, if you'd like, or eat it as is.  It's a very pretty dessert and can be very elegant if served in a martini or parfait glass. Everyone in my house really enjoyed this one. 

Lemon Meringue Fool
Adapted from Nigella Kitchen
by Nigella Lawson
Serves 2 or 4

2/3 cup good-qualit store-bought lemon curd, plus a little extra to decorate
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice, or limoncello if you have it
1 cup heavy cream
4 small meringue cookies (store-bought is fine)*
lemon zest, to serve

*Note: I couldn't find meringue cookies so I used shortbread cookies instead.

Grate the zest of one lemon, reserving the zest for the garnish.  With the remaining lemon, squeeze one to two teaspoons of lemon juice into a medium-sized bowl.  Add the lemon curd to the lemon juice and stir.  If this mixture feels too thick add a little more lemon juice.  

Pour the heavy cream into another bowl and whisk until just thick.  It should hold to its shape, but not be so thickly whipped that it looks dry; it will thicken more as you fold in the lemon curd.

Drizzle half the lemon curd mixture over the cream and fold in with a rubber spatula, then do the same with the remaining half.  You don't want it all folded in completely, whipped cream rippled with lemon is what you're looking for.

If you have the meringue cookies, go ahead and crumble them with your fingers into the fool, and gently fold most of this into the mix.  Spoon it into 4 small martini glasses (or fill 2 large goblets) and decorate with some lemon zest curls and a drizzle of lemon curd, scraped out of the bottom of the bowl it was mixed in, or spooned out of the jar.  If you have any thin, crisp cookies put them on the table for serving. 

Potluck Week at IHCC (Sharing the recipes of Nigella Lawson, Mark Bittman, Giada De Laurentiis, Jamie Oliver, Tessa Kiros, Rick Bayless, and Yotam Ottolenghi)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rainbow Chard and Saffron Omelets

My husband and I just returned home from a very tasty trip to Mexico.  We enjoyed many delicious meals, but the thing we looked forward to most was breakfast.  Our resort had a phenomenal breakfast service.  All of the food was authentic, homemade, fresh, colorful, brimming with flavor, and very exciting.  My husband was a fan of their omelets.  Each morning he would have an omelet stuffed with beautiful bright red chorizo, sliced jalapenos, pico de gallo, and a very melty and delicious chihuahua cheese.  My personal favorite was the Red Chilaquiles topped with sliced red onion, crema, and queso asadero.  On the side I always had a serving a refried beans, the perfect combination with chilaquiles.  To wash it all down I drank the most amazing cantaloupe agua fresca.  Total heaven!
On the plane ride home we had a lengthy discussion about how much we were going to miss breakfast in Mexico.  We decided it was time to spice up our breakfast routine and add a little color and excitement to our mornings. These rainbow chard and saffron omelets are a real labor of love but they definitely fit the bill when it comes to shaking things up.
Herb-infused omelets are stuffed with colorful ribbons of rainbow chard, tiny saffron-kissed potato cubes, and a layer of cream cheese. The delicate omelet is filled with flavor from all the herbs, the filling is earthy and hearty, the cream cheese brings it all together, and the hint of saffron definitely adds a complexity that otherwise wouldn't be there.  I thought the filling would be the dominant flavor in this recipe but the paper thin omelet packs a lot of flavor with all those herbs. All in all, this dish has a very good balance and is very unique and delicious.

Rainbow Chard and Saffron Omelets
 Adapted from Plenty
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4

1 medium waxy potato, peeled and cut into 3/8-inch dice*
1 cup water
pinch of saffron threads
3/4 lb Swiss or Rainbow Chard (stalks and leaves), shredded
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove,minced
5 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2/3 cup chopped herbs (tarragon, dill, parsley)*
about 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature OR creme fraiche, cold

*Note: I used a yukon gold potato
*Note: Use whatever combination of herbs you like.  I used parsley, baby dill, and chives

Put the potatoes, water and saffron in a large pan and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 4 minutes, then add the chard, minced garlic, and some salt and pepper.  Continue cooking, covered for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the potato is soft.  Drain out any excess liquid that is left in the pan.  Off the heat, add the lemon juice and garlic.  Leave to cool.  

Whisk together well the eggs, milk, herbs and some salt and pepper.  Pour 1 teaspoon of oil into a hot, 9-inch nonstick frying pan, then use one-quarter of the egg mix (about 1/4 cup each) to make a thin round omelete.  Transfer to paper towels.  Make three more omelets in the same way.   Leave to cool down.  Note:  I found it was easiest to use about 1 teaspoon of oil for each omelet.  I have an electric stove and set mine to about 3 or 4.  The omelets cooked very fast.

Divide the cold creme fraiche, or cream cheese, among the omelets, spreading it over one half of each.  Taste the chard mix and adjust the seasoning, then spread generously over the creme fraiche.  Fold each omelette over in half, then fold again to get a fan shape.  Allow the chard mix to show at the open side.  Arrange the omelets in a lightly oiled ovenproof dish or on a baking sheet.  (Keep in fridge if making ahead.)  When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 325F.  Place the omelets in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes, or until hot.  Serve at once. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sweet Potato Cakes with Tangy Dipping Sauce

I really loved these sweet potato cakes.  For me, it was all about the texture. Crispy exterior, fluffy interior, and a creamy dollop of tangy yogurt sauce. All those textures in one bite really make your mouth happy.    

Of course, the flavor is pretty spot on too. The sweet potato is definitely the star in this recipe, as it should be. The flavorings are rather subtle and I like it that way.  Little hints of soy sauce, chile, and green onion help to accentuate the flavor of the sweet potato, not mask it. 

The tangy yogurt dipping sauce is crucial to this recipe.  In fact, I would go so far as to say it actually makes the recipe.  The sauce is creamy yet light and refreshing.  It has a little pop of freshness from the lemon and a little tang from the yogurt and sour cream and it really cuts through the richness of the buttery sweet potato cake. A perfect combination!

Sweet Potato Cakes
Adapted from Plenty
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4

2-1/4 pounds peeled sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
2 teaspoons soy sauce, or a dash more to taste
scant 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons chopped green onion
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh red chile, or more if you wish
plenty of butter for frying

For the Dipping Sauce:

3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons sour cream 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
salt and black pepper

Steam the sweet potatoes until completely soft, then leave in a colander to drain for at least an hour.  
*Note: I'm not sure it's essential to drain the sweet potatoes.  I checked on mine after they were draining for 30 minutes and I noticed no liquid.  Depending on the moisture in your potatoes you may be able to skip this step, or at the very least, reduce the one hour of draining in half. 

To make the sauce: Whisk together all the sauce ingredients until smooth; set aside to allow flavors to develop. 

Once the sweet potatoes have lost most of their liquid, place them in a mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients (except the butter).  Mix everything together, preferably by hand, until the mix is smooth and even; do not over-mix.  The mixture should be sticky; if it's runny add some more flour.

Melt some butter in a non-stick frying pan.  Each cake should be roughly 2 inches in diameter and 3/8 inch thick.  Fry the cakes on medium heat for about 6 minutes on each side, or until you get a nice brown crust.  Place in between two sheets of paper towels to soak up the excess butter.  Serve hot or warm, with the sauce on the side. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Yotam Ottolenghi's Shakshuka

Shakshuka is a North African breakfast and brunch specialty that showcases a beautiful array of veggies:  red and yellow bell peppers, onion, and tomatoes.  These veggies, along with a flavorful blend of spices and herbs, simmer away to create a perfectly spiced sauce that is vibrant in color.  This colorful sauce serves as a bed for poached eggs and can be served family-style or individually.  

This is a very impressive and welcoming dish that would be perfect for entertaining.  Not only is it pretty to look at it, but the sauce can also be made in advance.  In fact, I would encourage you to make the sauce in advance because the flavor actually improves with time.  The morning of your breakfast or brunch you simply reheat the sauce in a skillet (add a touch of water if it's too thick) and break a few eggs.  You'll have a very inviting dish in less than 10 minutes! 

As a bonus, this recipe is also quite healthy.  The original recipe did call for 3/4 cup olive oil, but I was able to reduce the oil down to 1/4 cup.  With the reduction, one cup of sauce with one egg is roughly 200 calories.  This means you shouldn't feel guilty about grabbing that piece of bread for dunking.  You are eating your veggies for breakfast after all!

Adapted from Plenty
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 8

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
2 large onions, sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch strips
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch strips
4 teaspoons muscovado (or brown) sugar
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus extra to garnish
6 ripe tomatoes (or two 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
pinch of cayenne pepper 
salt and black pepper
up to 1-1/8 cups water
8 eggs

For Garnish: Various herbs (cilantro, parsley, etc.)
Feta Cheese
Preserved Lemon

Note:  The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup olive or vegetable oil, but I didn't find it necessary to add all that oil so I reduced it to 1/4 cup. Also, if tomatoes are not in season, go ahead and substitute 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced or crushed tomatoes.

In a very large pan dry-roast the cumin seeds on high heat for 2 minutes.  Add the oil and onions and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the peppers, sugar and herbs and  continue cooking on high heat for 5 to 10 minutes to get a nice color.

Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.  During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  It should be potent and flavorful.  You can prepare this mix well in advance.

Remove the bay leaves, then divide the pepper mix among four deep frying pans, each large enough to take a generous individual portion.  Place them on medium heat to warm up, then make two gaps in the pepper mix in each pan and carefully break an egg into each gap.  Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids.  Cook on a very gentle heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the eggs are set the way you like them.  Sprinkle with cilantro and serve. (Note: You can chose to make the sauce ahead and refrigerate it for later.  You can also serve family-style in one large skillet and/or serve individually as I have).
Below is a video of Yotam Ottolenghi making his recipe for Shakshuka.  
If you're interested in cooking the recipes of Yotam Ottolenghi please visit I Heart Cooking Clubs for more details.