Monday, February 3, 2014

Guest blogger -- Adoom's Awesome Saucesome (Pumpkin) Bread Recipe

A very special guest blogger recipe, from Adoom Cusack, who makes the BEST pumpkin bread I've ever had.  Sweet, moist, full of raisins, appropriately spiced, but not overly so....just the best.

Pour yourself a cup of coffee and start nibbling....

This recipe works well for zucchini, pumpkin, or banana bread.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of all spice
1/2 teaspoon of ground clove
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
3 eggs
1 cup of vegetable oil
3 cups of brown sugar
2 cups choice of grated zucchini, pumpkin (canned) and banana
1 cup of chopped walnuts if you want
2 cups of raisins (a must!)
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup of either apple sauce, apple juice or apple cider
2 to 3 teaspoons of pumpkin spice extract (optional, for extra spicy kick)
2 to 3 teaspoons of gingerbread flavoring or molasses (optional)

1. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. I use Pam and spray a good even coat. Preheat oven to 325°F.

2. There are methods to put ingredients in separate bowls and beat eggs etc., but the style I choose is to put all the ingredients in one large wide bowl. Starting with the flour, eggs, salt, sugar, oil and whatever you want the bread to be, followed by all other ingredients in no particular order.

3. Mix everything thoroughly until it becomes smooth with a dark brown color and the raisins or walnuts, if you choose to have them, are evenly spread in the bowl.

4. Bake between 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

5. Enjoy!

Sausage gravy on biscuits

It's a gray, cold, snowy day, and I needed a reminder that Sunday brunch on the patio in the backyard isn't too far away.

Sausage gravy with homemade biscuits. I've done this recipe before, but add this variation:  if you're so inclined, or if you don't have sausage on hand, this works equally well with any kind of ground meat -- beef, turkey, pork.  I would be sure to saute half an onion or a shallot, and maybe add a crushed garlic clove before browning the meat, to add extra flavor to unseasoned ground meat (unlike sausage, which is fully seasoned, and often flavored, ground pork). I also really like adding Worcestershire and Tabasco to jazz up the flavor. 

And after you've finished the sausage gravy, you can always slather a biscuit with sweet butter and homemade peach jam.  Yes, you can.

The recipe I've been using for biscuits is from the New York Times (Melissa Clark).  It's a very good all-purpose recipe, though written in an annoying style, as the NYTimes seems convinced of late, that all its readers are cooking with metric measurements.  Odd.

And though the recipe calls for part cake flour (to approximate the soft flours used in 'classic' Southern biscuit recipes), I typically use just all-purpose flour, and it works just fine.  

I don't use a biscuit cutter.  After rolling out the dough, I cut with a knife into triangles.  No fuss, no bother.  

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits (source: The New York Times)
Yield 10 to 12 biscuits

Time 30 minutes
    230 grams (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
    50 grams (about 1/2 cup) cake flour
    15 grams (about 1 tablespoon) baking powder
    8 grams (about 2 teaspoons) sugar
    6 grams (about 1 1/4 teaspoon) fine sea salt
    9 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
    1 cup buttermilk, chilled.

    1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
    2. In a bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or fork, quickly cut in 8 tablespoons butter until it forms pea-size crumbs and is uniformly mixed it (for flaky biscuits you want the butter to remain cold). Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in buttermilk. Stir together until it just forms a moist, slightly tacky dough.
    3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 2 or 3 times, then pat out into a 3/4-inch-thick round. Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut the biscuits. Twisting the cutter prevents proper rising; to prevent sticking, dip the cutter lightly in flour between biscuits. Do not re-roll the scraps, but pat them together and cut into rounds. Transfer biscuits to the baking sheet.
    4. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Brush butter lightly over the tops of hot biscuits. Bake until puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Fried stuffed peppers

This is one of those dishes from every Italian mother's repertory -- long, sweet peppers (sometimes called "cubanelle" in grocery stores), that have been stuffed with a savory bread mixture, then fried until tender.

It's filling, frugal, vegetarian, and delicious. Makes a great side dish to a roast, or chicken cutlets, or a main course for a Lenten Friday. 

For the savory bread stuffing, to fill 6 - 8 peppers, depending on size:

6 slices good-quality white sandwich bread (like Pepperidge Farm or Arnold's), crusts and all, pulsed into crumbs in a food processor
Enough milk to moisten the crumbs, maybe a scant half cup
A clove or two garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper
A couple tablespoons chopped parsley
A couple tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
A dozen olives, chopped (any sort will do -- from green olives with pimentos from a jar, to Kalamata, to oil-cured Sicilian)
1/4 cup grated pecorino
A good drizzle of olive oil
An anchovy filet or two, if desired.

Moisten the crumbs with the milk.  You want to have a soft mass, but not a soupy one.  Add the other ingredients as you have and as you like.  You're aiming for a savory mixture, and very accurate measurements are not too critical.  I like to add an anchovy filet for savor, but feel free to leave it out if you don't like it. If you want to taste the mixture prior to filling the peppers, take a tablespoon of it, place it in a ramekin, and pop it into the microwave for a few seconds to cook.  Taste for seasoning.  Adjust as necessary.

Prep the peppers:  cut the tops off, and remove the seed pod.  Spoon a couple tablespoons of the stuffing mixture into each pepper, being very careful not to overstuff.  The stuffing will expand as it cooks, as you can plainly see in the photo below.

Heat a skillet over a medium burner, film with olive oil, and add the peppers.  I find the easiest way to cook these is in a 350°F oven, for about 15-20 minutes, turning every so often so they cook evenly.  Alternately, you can continue to cook them on the stovetop.

You will likely notice that as the peppers cook, the skins will darken and begin to peel.  No need to worry, but if you're so inclined, you can peel them off before serving -- they come off very easily. 

Serve hot, or at room temperature. 

By the way, that skillet in the photo is my 12-inch DeBuyer steel skillet.  Steel (not stainless, mind you), get very 'ugly' very quickly as they are used and seasoned, but they conduct heat nicely, and can be used on the stovetop or in the oven.  A nice investment, and compared to stainless pans (like All-Clad), much less expensive. 

Pasta alla carbonara, sort of.

Not quite authentic carbonara, but close.  I used plain old bacon, not guanciale or pancetta, and onion in this. 

It's still very good.

1 lb pasta -- I used gemelli, "twins," 2-in long helices  (or other short pasta of your liking)
1/2 lb bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 large yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 egg yolks
Black pepper
Chopped parsley (optional)
Grated cheese -- pecorino or parmigiano

Saute the bacon in a skillet -- you can add a bit of olive oil to get things started -- until it is browned, but not fully crisp.  Add onions and garlic, and cook until the onions are softened. 

While the bacon and onions are sauteing, boil the gemelli in ample salted water, and drain, reserving a cup or so of the cooking liquid. 

Tip the cooked gemelli into a serving bowl, add the sauteed bacon/onion/garlic mixture to it, mixing well.  Add two egg yolks, and toss well, to let the yolk coat the pasta and create a creamy sauce.  Add pasta cooking liquid as necessary or desired to loosen the mixture.  Grind a generous amount of black pepper over all, and give one final toss. 

Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.  Pass cheese at the table.