Sunday, April 26, 2020

Ina Garten's Classic Hummus with Veggies {Perfect Quarantine Snack}!

As a bean lover, I almost always have lots of canned and dried beans on hand, especially chickpeas! Hummus is one of my favorite things on earth and I do not discriminate. Sure, I love a luscious and velvety hummus made from scratch like Yotam Ottolenghi makes, but I also love a quick puree made with canned chickpeas, like this Ina Garten recipe.

Luckily, this week I received lots of fun colorful veggies in my Misfits Market box. This meant I was able to throw together a classic hummus with lots of veggies for dipping.

If I were to offer any tips regarding the sourcing of ingredients, it would be this: This is the perfect time to take advantage of companies like Misfits Market (who deliver fresh organic produce direct to your doorstep) and it would also be the perfect time to sign up for a CSA or your local farmer's market!

I have been receiving my Misfits Market box every single week during quarantine and it has saved me. I am able to put together lots of different meals with the staples in my pantry, such as beans, pasta, grains, and eggs. In addition to Misfits, I have also signed up to order weekly from a local farmer's market.

I recommend that everyone try to source a local farmer's market that is practicing good social distancing.This is a direct source, and a sure way, to keep getting quality ingredients on your table!

Each week my farmer's market publishes a list of goods online. I've seen a wide range of goodies on there each week, pretty much everything one would NEED to live. Seriously, it is fabulous! I place my order online and when I arrive everything is NO CONTACT! I simply pop my trunk and someone (who is wearing a mask and gloves) places everything in my trunk and I drive away with all my fresh goodies. It's as simple as can be!

Then I am able to make fresh dishes like this hummus with veggies and feel good about my choices!

This is a classic everyday hummus and one I can see myself making over and over again, due to the ease. The recipe does call for hot sauce, which I thought a little odd, but I went ahead with it. I have to admit that I like my hummus pretty classic so I would skip the hot sauce next time around. If you like the heat then you would probably enjoy it.  I just prefer pure unadulterated hummus.

I am quite fond of serving hummus with pita, but right now I'm really trying to be healthy and pack in some vitamin C. Lucky for me, I received some baby bell peppers and just three of them have a whopping 260% of your vitamin C for the day. I also enjoyed this with thinly sliced mini cucumbers and the other classic veggies, such as carrots and celery. This made for a wonderfully delicious and healthy snack to keep in the refrigerator!

Classic Hummus
Adapted from Food Network
by Ina Garten
Makes around 2 cups

4 garlic cloves
2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved (this is equal to one can)*
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup tahini
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons water or liquid from can of chickpeas
8 dashes of hot sauce, if you like*
Veggies, pita, etc. for serving

 Notes: This recipe calls for one 14.5 oz. can of chickpeas. I love hot sauce, but I did not care for it in this recipe, so if you like a more classic hummus than feel free to omit it. I would definitely omit it the next time around. I love to garnish hummus with many different things: drizzle of olive oil, reserved beans, sumac, za'atar, herbs, feta cheese, and especially buttered and toasted pine nuts (my all-time favorite). I also love to serve hummus with pita, baby peppers, carrots, celery, cucumber, etc. Jazz it up and make it color because then it is very hard to resist!

Turn on the food processor or high speed blender and drop the garlic down into it and process until it's minced. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor (or blender) and process until the hummus is coarsely pureed (this is your personal preference - I processed until it was very smooth). Taste, for seasoning, and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Cooking what we can during Quarantine @ IHCC

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Nigella Lawson's Caramel Croissant Pudding {My New Go-To Dessert!}

I am bread heavy this week. I wasn't expecting the grocery to have all the bread on my order so to cover my bases I ordered it all: hamburger buns, hot dog buns, bread, tortillas, English muffins, Hawaiian rolls, etc. Since I wasn't expecting them to have any of that or all of it, I also ordered bread from my farmer's market pick up: dinner rolls, tiger rolls, asiago cheese bagels, and a really nice loaf of whole wheat with flax seeds. On what feels like an online ordering spree, I then decided to order takeout for the first time during quarantine and ordered a family meal from the local chicken salad restaurant, which came with 6 croissants.

ALL of it came in. There were no shortages. I found myself staring at an entire kitchen counter full of bread options and nearly crying. I DO NOT ever waste food and I felt terrible because I wasn't trying to be greedy. We immediately started eating every manner of bready things, I froze some bread, and I gave some bready goods to my in-laws. 

I was surprised when no one went after the croissants. I have never heard of leftover croissants! I've also never forgotten the first time I saw Nigella Lawson's Caramel Croissant Pudding while thumbing through my copy of Nigella Express. I wanted to make it right then and there but shied away from it both because I never have leftover croissants and more importantly, I have never been successful with caramel.

In quarantine, with nothing but time on my hands, I decided that I wasn't going to stop until I had a successful caramel. Things were not smooth sailing, as sugar and water are known to be finicky, but I got a successful caramel on the first go-around. I was really proud of myself when I poured that luscious caramel over the torn-up croissants. I could tell this was going to be a masterpiece!

Now, a third reason for not making this recipe is that this is absolutely terrible for you: two croissants, one cup of sugar, and heavy cream. Plus, I just knew that I would have to top it all off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. But, we're in quarantine and I successfully made caramel for the first time, plus it's my wedding anniversary, and even though I'm not fond of this entitled way of thinking, I felt as though I earned it!

Folks, I can assure you that this dessert is worth it! Holy cow is this good. The interior of the pudding is sweet, smooth, and buttery while the top of the pudding gets a beautiful flakiness to it that crackles when you take a bite. The caramel is balanced perfectly, not too sweet. This pudding, with a scoop of vanilla, is heaven on earth.

One of the reviewers on the Food Network said that she makes several versions of this dessert with different add-ins and serves it at her bed and breakfast where it is a smashing success! After tasting this I can tell you, it is simply that good. This is my new go-to dessert!

Caramel Croissant Pudding
Adapted from Nigella Express
Serves 2 greedy people

2 stale croissants
1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 whole milk
2 tablespoons bourbon*
2 eggs, beaten

Optional: Read the reviews on the Food Network website. Reviewers added chocolate chips, fruit, etc. I added a sprinkle of sea salt on the top prior to baking because I love the way caramel and sea salt go together. It was a lovely addition and I would do it again!

*Note: I used vanilla instead of bourbon. I think you can use any type of flavorings, such as rum, bourbon, vanilla, etc.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Tear the croissants into pieces and put in a small gratin dish; it needs to have the capacity for 2 cups.

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, and swirl around to help dissolve the sugar before putting the saucepan on the burner over medium to high heat. Caramelize the sugar and water mixture by letting it bubble away until it all turns a deep amber color; this will take 3-5 minutes (mine took well over 10 minutes). 

Turn heat down to low and add the cream - ignoring all spluttering - and whisking, the milk, and the bourbon.* Any solid toffee that forms in the pan will dissolve easily if you keep whisking over low heat. Take off heat and, still whisking, add the beaten eggs (tempering the eggs in a steady slow stream). Pour the caramel bourbon* custard over the croissants and leave to steep for 10 minutes if the croissants are very stale.

Place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes and prepare to swoon.

We are cooking our way through the pandemic @ IHCC!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Julia Child's Roast Chicken {The Very Best Roast Chicken Ever}!

Way back in the day, before I was born, my Mom and my Grandma used to love watching episodes of Julia Child's The French Chef. They lovingly called Julia, 'Julia Chicken', because Julia was always prancing about with chickens on her show. 

I'm not sure if my Mom or Grandma ever cooked a Julia Chicken recipe. If I had to guess, I'd say probably not. My mom wasn't ever one for recipes. She was too much of a rebel, always doing her own thing in the kitchen, and in life. Plus, I never found any Julia cookbooks amongst their belongings.

Years ago, my Dad bought me Julia's Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, the 50th Anniversary Edition, for Christmas. It sat on my bookshelves, as part of my collection for years, until now.

I know everyone thinks of the classic Beef Bourguignon when they think of Julia. I can't help but think of Julia Chicken, and my Mom and Grandma.

This is our first week cooking the recipes of Julia Child, and I could hardly think of a recipe more fitting than Julia's Roast Chicken. NOW, THIS IS NOT YOUR ORDINARY RECIPE FOR ROAST CHICKEN! Oh no, ma'am. What sets Julia's recipe apart from the many other roast chicken recipes is the simple fact that Julia's chicken gets flipped and basted at 5, 10, 15-minute intervals, the entire time it cooks, making for a wonderfully buttery-flavored bird that is more reminiscent of a rotisserie chicken than anything else.  

The aroma of this chicken cooking is simply intoxicating! A lovely, buttery, juicy roast chicken like no other. I know my Mom and Grandma would approve, and I sure wish they could've tasted it, because they probably would've called her 'Julia, the Queen of Chicken.' I'm telling you folks, prior to this I was real fond of Ina Garten's Engagement Roast Chicken (and you should make that one too), but I dare say that Julia's recipe is better! Julia Child's recipe for Roast Chicken is THE recipe for Roast Chicken! Yes, it's finicky, and yes, you will be setting alarms and flipping your chicken back and forth for a while, but PLEASE DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND MAKE IT! It is simply seductive!

Make sure to buy a high-quality chicken. I prefer organic and pasture-raised! It makes a difference. Trust me!

Julia's Roast Chicken {Poulet Roti}
Adapted from Mastering The Art of French Cooking
by Julia Child
Serves 4

A 3-pound chicken
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons softened butter
a shallow roasting pan just large enough to hold the chicken easily
a small sliced carrot and onion
 a small saucepan
 2 tablespoons melted butter 
1 tablespoon good oil
a basting brush
salt, to season the chicken
1/2 tablespoon minced shall or green onion
1 cup brown chicken stock or chicken broth
salt and pepper
1 - 2 tablespoons butter

Note: A 3-pound chicken will cook for approximately 1 hour and 10 to 20 minutes. My suggestion is to start a timer, controlling the total cook time, while you set your oven to 5, 10, 15-minute intervals for turning the chicken. 

My chicken was 3.74 pounds and it cooked in about an hour and 20 minutes. However, I forgot to turn the oven temp down from 425 F to 350 F at the halfway mark so it probably would've cooked longer at 350F. 

It's worth noting that you want to make sure to find a roasting pan (I used my 10" cast iron skillet) that is just a touch bigger than the chicken. You want your roasting pan to "hug" the chicken. You'll also want to cut your veggies a decent size as to prevent burning. I'll also tell you that this is where you'll want to buy a quality bird, preferably organic and pasture-raised.  It makes a difference. Trust me! Enjoy! This is THE recipe!

 Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with the salt, and smear in half the butter. Truss the chicken. Dry it thoroughly, and rub the skin with the rest of the butter.

Place the chicken breast up in the roasting pan. Strew the vegetables around it, and set it on a rack in the middle of the preheated oven.  Allow the chicken to brown lightly for 15 minutes, turning it on the left side after 5 minutes, on the right side for the last 5 minutes, and basting it with the butter and oil after each turn. Baste rapidly, so the oven does not cool off. Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Leave the chicken on its side, and baste every 8 to 10 minutes, using the fat in the roasting pan when the butter and oil are exhausted. Regulate oven heat so the chicken is making cooking noises, but fat is not burning.

Halfway through the estimated roasting time, salt the chicken and turn it on its other side. Continue

Fifteen minutes before the end of estimated roasting time, salt again and turn the chicken breast up. Continue basting.

Indications that the chicken is almost done are: a sudden rain of sputters in the oven, swelling of the breast and slight puff of the skin, the drumstick is tender when pressed and can be moved in its socket. To check further, prick the thickest part of the drumstick with a fork. Its juices should run clear yellow. As a final check, lift the chicken and drain the juices from its vent. If the last drops are clear yellow, the chicken is definitely done. If not, roast another 5 minutes, and test again.

When done, discard trussing strings and set the chicken on a hot platter. It should sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before being carved, so its juices will retreat back into the tissues. 

Remove all but two tablespoons of fat from the pan. Stir in the minced shallot or onion and cook slowly for 1 minute. Add the stock and boil rapidly over high heat, scraping up coagulated roasting juices with a wooden spoon and letting the liquid reduce to about 1/2 cup. Season with salt and pepper. Off heat and just before serving, swirl in the enrichment butter by bits until it has been absorbed. Pour a spoonful of the sauce over the chicken, and send the rest to the table in a sauceboat.

**Roast chicken can wait for 20 to 30 minutes in the turned-off hot oven, its door ajar. It cannot be reheated or it loses it's fresh and juicy quality.

IHCC: Bon Appetit, Julia!


Sunday, April 5, 2020

Ruth Reichl's Blueberriest Blueberry Muffins with Streusel

I have avoided mentioning the state of the world for the past several weeks because I just can't find the words. In the beginning, I stared at the wall marveling at how surreal this all is. It was all I was capable of. Nowadays, I've concluded that I simply cannot watch the news. It's not good for my mental health. So I get up and try to be productive.

My focus is almost completely gone. I can't focus enough to watch a show or read a book. My hands are raw from cleaning (I tend to clean when I get stressed). Some days I don't feel like cooking. Some days I do. Then I worry that there are no groceries in the stores and there hasn't been for days. Should I be trying to really stretch every single ingredient I have in my house?

Trust me, I'm stocked up. We have plenty for now, but I worry. I don't want to go to the stores. It seems like there's nothing there anyway and I don't want to catch the virus. So I stay home and take stock and order food online. I've become a full-time quartermaster, doing inventory and staggering deliveries.

One thing I'm thankful for is my weekly Misfits Market box. I've mentioned it before, but I will mention it again because Misfits delivers organic fruits and veggies to your door each and every week. After your first week, you can choose from a list of things and even add some add-ons to your order. They are keeping me stocked with the most delicious organic fruits and veggies regularly! Yes, occasionally something is misshapen or has a mark, but I'm fine with that on a regular day, so I'm definitely fine with that in these uncertain times. I urge you all to find a similar source for fresh produce. Unfortunately, I think things will be like this for a while.

This week I was able to add on two packs of the most beautiful organic blueberries. They arrived in perfect condition. Not one single blueberry was bad. I debated at length on what to make with them. Did I want to make blueberry syrup for pancakes, which would really make my blueberries stretch OR did I want to make some blueberry muffins like my mom used to make all the time?

Since I've been thinking about my mom a lot lately I opted for Ruth Reichl's Blueberry Muffins with Streusel and I'm so glad I did!

With two full cartons of blueberries, these muffins are definitely blueberry forward...AND I LOVE THAT! The batter is light and tender and so is the streusel topping, which allows the blueberry to be the shining star. These are the blueberriest blueberry muffins I've ever had and I think it may very well be my all-time favorite blueberry muffin recipe!

I added a little vanilla glaze to the tops, simply because I had some on hand, but these are absolutely perfect either way. I know, without a doubt, my mom would love them. I take a bite and think of her. I know she would be in disbelief at the world around us, as I am. I know she would feel the uncertainty. I know she would tell me to put on a smile and do what I can to help, so I mail cards to my students to tell them how much I miss them. I set candy on their porch early in the morning. We organize a teacher parade around our school neighborhood and I paint messages for the kids on my car. I give pep talks. I say prayers. I cook and I bake. I feel the overwhelming sense of grief in the pit of my stomach. We do what we can and we keep going.

I hope you and your loved ones are well. Please take care.

Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Makes 12 muffins

For Batter
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12 ounces) blueberries

For Topping
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3-1/2 tablespoons sugar

Make the batter: Put a rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 375F. Generously butter muffin cups.  Melt butter in a small saucepan over moderately low heat; remove from heat. Whisk in milk, egg, yolk, and vanilla until well combined.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add milk mixture and stir until just combined. Gently but thoroughly fold in blueberries. Divide batter among muffin cups and spread evenly. 

Make the topping and bake: Combine all topping ingredients in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over batter in cups.  Bake until golden and crisp and a wooden pick or skewer inserted into center of muffin comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes, then run a knife around edges of muffin tops and carefully remove from cups. Serve warm or at room temperature.