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oatmeal made alluring

By on Mar 15, 2014 in breakfast, for one | 0 comments

Oatmeal. What, not tantalizing enough? Nutella. Now I have your attention. You love it, right? Everyone does. I make it from scratch on a regular basis. But one cold winter morning, I had none. And I wanted it. And there was no way I was venturing out into the zero degree morning to get the ingredients to make some. Rummaging about, I decided to make oatmeal, a lovely bit of steel-cut oats I make on a fairly regular basis. Oatmeal, notably, is not nearly as sexy sounding as Nutella. To put it in perspective, my mother refers to my steel-cut oats with the not so flattering moniker of “Colon Blow,” but she means no disrespect to their flavor (or nutritional value.) After years of making them, despite knowing the time it takes to make them, anything less seems like eating lightly seasoned wallpaper paste. As I pulled out the ingredients for the base oats, I clapped eyes on my unsweetened cocoa powder. Bump down a shelf, a few hazelnuts from the last batch of homemade Nutella hanging out in a plastic bag. A quick swivel of the head and bananas came into view. Pre-coffee neurons shook off sleep and began to fire, waking that part of my brain that remembered the main thing that makes unsweetened cocoa powder actual chocolatey goodness is sugar, and OH MY you are going to add brown sugar to that oatmeal! And wait! Nutella is simply cocoa and hazelnuts, a few hazelnuts wouldn’t hurt, so let’s just toast some of those up, and, well, there should probably be fruit, so why not some sliced bananas? And while we’re at it, why not sauté up those bananas in a little butter, get a little of that glorious Maillard effect on them, get them all shiny, releasing the warm tropical flavors from within that might, just might, for one moment, make you forget the frost slowly creeping up the insides of your kitchen window. You see, the beauty of oatmeal is the blank palette it presents to you. It can be as simple as a swath of real maple syrup and a touch of brown sugar. It can be juiced up with finely diced granny smith and a swirl of cinnamon. It can go a touch off path and be laced with dried figs and cardamom. Or, on a cold morning where you crave chocolate but have none at your immediate disposal, you can fake some chocolate hazelnut goodness. Winter isn’t letting go quite yet, and there are some cold mornings ahead, so why not experiment a little with some steel cut oats of your own? Add in some raisins, some craisins, some nuts, some berries, see what you like. A personal favorite is adding fresh blueberries in while it simmers. They explode and turn the whole thing purple. Just one piece of advice: if you are serving this to others, leave the “colon blow” moniker out of the picture. Steel-cut oats: Serves 1 generously, so just multiply up from there: Scant tsp. of unsalted butter 1/3 cup steel-cut oats 1 ¼ c. hot water 1/3 c. milk (I use whole, the flavor and richness is better) 1Tbsp. brown sugar (or more, to your taste) 1 ½ tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (for the chocolatey option) pinch salt maple syrup (optional) Add-ins to your liking (dried fruit, whole fruit, nuts, spices, etc.) For the banana, I sliced up a whole one into 1/2” slices, ate 1/3 of it, and sautéed up the other 2/3 in a small skillet with a bit more butter. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Toss in the oats and cook, stirring constantly, until they start to brown a little and you get a lovely nutty smell coming out of them, about 1-2 minutes. Once the oats are smelling all nutty, pour in the hot water, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. Go make a pot of coffee. After 15 minutes, pour in the milk, and add in any dried fruit or blueberries, if you are swinging that way today. Cover and cook for ten more minutes. Remove from heat, stir thoroughly, then add in the brown sugar, salt, and a touch of maple syrup (an excellent universal sweetener.) Add in any nuts or spices you like at this point. For one serving it doesn’t take much. A pinch of two of spice, a few nuts. Stir everything up, taste, adjust if you need to, then find a quiet place to sit and eat. And ignore the snow outside. (I occasionally go a little over the top and toast some nuts in a 350 degree oven for five minutes before I add them in, and occasionally melt a tsp. more butter in a small skillet and sauté up fresh fruit before I throw it in. It makes a lovely addition.)...

a quick popover

By on Feb 16, 2013 in breakfast, quickie | 0 comments

  Fraternal twin popovers with a shared chocolate chip gene. Just add fresh coffee and you have a glorious Saturday...

rise of the popover

By on Jan 24, 2012 in baking, breakfast | 2 comments

After weeks of raising a wary eyebrow to the kitchen, eschewing all self-held beliefs about cooking at home and dining on an endless line of sandwiches from the local sub shop, one morning the cook arises to brilliantly cold winter sunshine. She stands in the kitchen, hair a wild mass, bleary eyes surveying the pile of dishes she neglected to do last night because she did not want to empty out the dish rack. Her eyes raise again to this strange world outside where the world appears full of light and life, and somewhere, deep in the recesses of her brain, there is a click. Dishes get put away, dirty ones get washed, and somewhere in the middle of that the oven gets heated to 425°, and a fresh clean small bowl and whisk are pulled out, and the decision to stop writing her food blog in the third person constantly is thrown out the window. One egg is cracked in, clean fresh-smelling flour is added, a bit of milk, a dash of vanilla, salt, and sugar are swiftly whisked together. Two ramekins are greased up and the batter divided evenly between them, then slid into the hot oven. All of this before I have even had the wherewithal to make coffee. 25 minutes later, there is a delicately sweet scent wafting out of the oven and a gigantic French press of coffee waiting to kick my brain into overdrive for the day. The addition of sugar has added an extra alluring bit of crunch and lusciously deeply browned crust to these delightful morsels, which have exploded to over five times the size of the batter that was poured in. The proof of their airiness is locked in crisply outline bubbles of air along the surface, each cranny holding a promise of how rewarding such a simple assembly of food can be. I pour a generous mug of coffee, adulterating it to my liking, and crack open the popovers, letting forth a glorious cloud of gently sweet steam. In one last run of inspiration, a generous scoop of a Nutella-esque substance (not really Nutella, since it has high fructose corn syrup in it, and this was purchased at a store that will not carry items with HFC in them) is slathered on the steaming halves, melting into impossibly tempting chocolate-y hazelnut puddles that flow into the larger air bubble caverns. If only every morning could be this grand. I really need to cook more. (seriously, how beautiful are they?)   Popovers, just like before (makes 2) note: I have made these before and posted on them, but to save you the search…   1 large egg 1/3 flour 1/3 milk splash vanilla extract (probably only 1/4 tsp., if I was pressed to give an amount) generous pinch salt really generous pinch sugar (again, maybe 1 1/2 tsp., if you want to get all precise) butter for greasing 2 ramekins   Preheat oven to 425°. Generously grease the ramekins. Seriously, don’t be stingy. This makes it so you can just pop those suckers right out as soon as they come out of the oven, and trust me, you want to do this as fast as possible. They start to deflate the second you pull them out of the oven, like a surly souffle. In a small bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients until thouroughly combined. If you see lumps, well… then you’re doing it right. Keep whisking, they’ll disappear, I promise. Divide equally amongst the ramekins. Slide into preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. While baking, make some coffee. Have to remeasure the beans for grinding three times because the cruel irony is that you need the coffee to have enough presence of mind to properly measure the coffee will not happen until you actually have the coffee. Be grateful when it appears to be brewing properly. Check on them after 20 through the window. They will have exploded into delightful golden brown clouds. When they are good and golden brown, remove from oven, swiftly run a knife around the edge of the ramekin, and they should just pop right out. Cut in half, being careful while you do, since they will vent a lot of REALLY HOT steam. Top with Nutella-esque stuff, or just butter, or a bit of butter and jam. Eat while drinking sweet glorious...

another cranberry

By on Nov 23, 2011 in breakfast, experimenting, fail... or not, fruit | 0 comments

Thanksgiving. Christmas. The food part of the holiday season kicks off in earnest tomorrow. Turkey, potatoes, sweet potatoes, with and without marshmallows, green beans doused in condensed soup and onions that emerge from a can and yet are suspiciously supposed to be “fried,” scads of warm dense pies filled with all manner of fruit and nut. And inevitably… the cranberry. A great deal of us were introduced to cranberry sauce via the can. If you were very lucky, you could make the “sauce” slide out in one solid quivering log. More often than not it had to be scooped out into an eery dark mass that was sparingly scooped onto the plate in an obligatory holiday act, then poked and pushed around to make more room for stuffing. In more recent times the home cook has been inundated with a hundred different ways to make cranberry sauce from scratch, a task only a few steps more complicated than opening a can. This garners our ruby friend a hair more respect on the plate, but it is still competing with the stalwart old standards that are set to bust the belts of everyone seated at the table. So why not make our tart little friend something other than a side at a holiday table? Why not enjoy the cranberry for simply being… a cranberry? A tart fruit that smacks you in the face and rises above other challenging strong flavors. A fruit that cooks so easily, needing no peeling or chopping, just drop into a pot and stir while watching the skins slowly stretch and pop (much like the bellies around the holiday table.) Why not use it to top off some yogurt? Scintillating cranberries play well with the mellowed out bite of crystallized ginger. Regular sugar is too blase for the feisty little berry. Honey, now there is a sweetener worth the time of the cranberry. Enough to add a little complexity, but not so much as to take away from our ruby diva. A splash of water, a bit of time in the pan, where the cook can take delight in smashing the bursting morsels, a little bit of cooling, and voila. A simple little compote, tartness tempered by a bit of sweet, topping off smooth, lovely, cool yogurt., a base that lets the diva swim around and sing like the Esther Williams of the breakfast world. Maybe you add orange zest in, maybe orange liqueur, maybe some jalapeno, or maybe you use only the cranberry and honey, just enough to take the edge off. This cranberry sings solo, it is no backup to turkey or any other vegetable. Try it. You might like it. Cranberry Sauce Option #543 6 oz. whole cranberries 3 Tbsp. honey (my preference, use more or less if you like… start out with 2, see how you like it, go from there) app. 2 Tbsp. crystallized ginger, finely chopped 1/4 c. water   Add all the ingredients (reserve 1 Tbsp honey) into a small saucepan. Set over medium heat. Stir often, especially once the cranberries start to cook and burst in earnest. It keeps the number of messes from the cranberry explosion down. Cook until all the berries have burst (making sure to take some childish joy in smooshing some of them against the walls of the saucepan.) Taste for sugar, add more if you like. Let cool to room temperature. Plop a good spoonful onto a bowl of straight up plain yogurt (or vanilla, if you don’t like plain.) Stir it up, enjoying the pink swirl. Add as much or as little as you want.   Notes: You will definitely notice the chunks of ginger, which will sort of turn jellyish when cooking. I might consider either pureeing this for real in a blender before adding, or trying ground ginger in place of the crystallized. It also might be good with a bit of a liqueur. I am not overly fond of cranberry and orange, although it does work well, but adding orange zest or Grand Marnier would likely work wonders in here, too. And I was totally serious about adding jalapeno. But that… that is another recipe....

blueberry popover overload

By on Aug 16, 2011 in baking, breakfast | 0 comments

Living in the Midwest, you appreciate the lush rush of color that summer brings. Greens of every shade imaginable painting every surface that was a dark grey forbidding twig not four months before, explosions of almost every color imaginable bursting out of flower beds, even weeds get into the game, dandelions swaggering about with their bright yellow heads, daring you to pluck them from the ground. And then there is the food. Farmer’s market eggs appear, their yolks positively orange, tinting everything you make with them a hue you thought only possible with chemical additives and causing you to look up city laws on poultry ownership, despite the frozen cold urban fact that window boxes of herbs are about the best you can hope for in raising your own food. Fruit abounds, practically bursting with the sweet summery juices held within, lasciviously eying you from their vivid and naked piles as you slowly stroll by, mouth ever so slightly agape as you drift into a reverie thinking about what it would be like to sink your teeth into one of those. Who are you to resist the call of these lush colors, these temptations of freshness that seemed so remote as you stood in the frozen food aisle in January? You are nothing in the face of a perfect pint of blueberries. An egg is cracked into the bowl, glowing with the beta carotene locked therein. A quick whisking, just until the yolk has broken and swirled through the whole mass of eggy goodness. A scant bit of flour, a matched bit of tart, fresh buttermilk, a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar, whisked until smooth and set to wait. Two ramekins are generously buttered, the oven heated. And now for the blueberries. They still have the delicate pale dust of their bloom clinging to their dark indigo skins. Generous handfuls are scooped into a sieve and gently washed. A couple of them are popped into the mouth, for the cook must always be testing. A few more. A few more. A few more are grabbed from the pint and washed to make up for the deficit. The oven softly dings, bringing you back to the task at hand before all the blueberries disappear. A small bit of the golden batter is poured into the ramekins. The blueberries are summarily dispersed between the two, and it is not long before it hits critical mass… you can barely see the batter below. The rest of the smooth batter is poured over the masses of blueberries. It manages to cover them, but barely. Everything is slid into the hot oven, where natural chemistry takes over, and the popover base manages to loft in the heat, despite the heavy mass of berries. One by one, the blueberries succumb to the heat, their pale insides swiftly colored a vivid magenta hue as they explode through their skins. They themselves try to escape the popover mass, the juices mixing with the already damp batter, bubbling and roiling over the edges, but ultimately… they are defeated. The popover never rises high, but it contains the blueberries. The baked popovers are swiftly flipped out of their ramekins, a small cloud of steam expelling forth as they collapse. These are not items of beauty. A swift fork into the middle reveals that the mass of blueberries merged with the batter to create a sort of brilliant pudding in the center of a delicately crisp shell. A pat of salted butter is added and immediately melts into the pudding. With every bite, summer bursts forth, all sweet and hot, lightly crisp on the edges, sweaty with juice. In four months this will be a memory brought out as the pale snow falls outside. But for now, it is still summer, in all its brilliant juicy glory. Blueberry Popover Overload (this isn’t actually new, I make popovers all the time, this was just striking due to the large amounts of blueberries and the surprising little mass they made inside) 1 egg, lightly beaten 1/3 cup flour 1/3 cup buttermilk generous pinch salt generous pinch sugar 1/2 – 3/4 c. blueberries (I didn’t measure, I just kept adding them…) 2 small ramekins, generously buttered.   Preheat oven to 425º. Whisk together the egg, flour, buttermilk, salt, and sugar until smooth. Set aside. Wash the blueberries and shake off as much water as you can. Pour a small amount of the popover batter into the bottom of each ramekin. Start adding in the blueberries. Don’t completely cover the bottom, but add more than you think you should. Pour the rest of the batter evenly over the blueberries. This likely will not actually cover the blueberries entirely, but try to at least splash some on the top of them. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet for easy handling and slide the whole thing into the oven. Bake for about 25 minutes. The vast quantities of blueberries, due to their sheer volume and liquid exuded, will not let these loft up through the air like a normal straight up popover, but it will still be tasty. These are not show popovers, they are just eatin’ popovers. After 25 minutes, slide them out of the oven, run a knife around the edge and invert them onto a plate, then flip them over again so the top is facing up. Be careful, these...

cherry chocolate scones

By on Aug 8, 2011 in baking, breakfast, dessert | 1 comment

Gently sweet cherries burst with luscious bright juices, taunting the pile of warm dark chocolate, daring it to a contest of flavor. Every contest needs a venue. In this case, a warm buttery scone. Feathery soft flour falls gently into a bowl, followed by a hint of sugar, a pinch of salt, some baking powder. Rich yellow butter get cuts in, followed by a vivid fresh egg, the velvety scented extract of vanilla, and rich milk, a veritable rush of dairy. The batter comes together swiftly, and the stage is set. Cherries and chocolate giddily dive into the batter and are swirled in, creating a sticky dense faintly sweet mass. A few quick flips with a dough scraper and the sticky mass is formed into six rough balls that are gently laid on some parchment paper. One last bit of dressing, a smattering of vanilla sugar sprinkled over top all, and the contest stage is set. For twenty minutes, the cherries and the chocolate fight for dominance. In the end, the chocolate melts into oblivion and the cherries slump, exhausted, into the dough. They gaze at each other through the shimmery dense heat, and solemnly declare a truce. But ultimately, there is still a winner. The tongue of whomever eats one of these.   Cherry Chocolate Scones – makes six large scones 1 generous cup of dark cherries, pitted and chopped. 2 oz. extra bittersweet chocolate, chopped 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour 2 tsp. baking powder 1 Tbsp. sugar 1/2 tsp. salt 7 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 1 egg 1/2 cup milk 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract   Preheat oven to 425°. Parchment line a baking sheet.   In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your hands, cut in the butter until coarse crumbs are formed. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and vanilla extract. Pour into flour mixture, mix just until combined. Add cherries and chocolate and mix gently, just enough to combine. This will be a very sticky mass. If it feels too sticky, add a splash more flour, but you want this to be a wet dough. Empty bowl onto a floured surface and shape into a rough rectangle. You can flip it, but try to handle as little as possible. Using a dough scraper, cut into roughly six pieces. Use the dough scraper to pick up each piece and roughly form into a ball, then gently lay the balls onto the parchment. Sprinkle the tops with vanilla sugar (just sugar with a vanilla bean pod shoved in it, if you don’t have such a thing, regular ol’ sugar is fine). Place into the oven, bake for 15 minutes. If a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean, they are done. Let cool on the pan. These will be fairly delicate, and delectably buttery. Notes: The cherries lose some of their punch all cut up. I would be tempted to use whole cherries or alternately get dried cherries and soak them in a little brandy before adding them. I don’t have brandy, but this would seem a reasonable excuse to get some. But then again, not pitting and cutting cherries means you are denied the slightly uncomfortable sight of cherry juice bleeding all over your fingers and sink.  ...