Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cooking on a Whim - Nutella Granola, Corned Beef Hash and Happy Hour Cookies

Cooking and blogging continue to be sporadic…lately, the mood strikes when I see something on one of the blogs I follow or in my Facebook newsfeed. I really wanted to Cook the Cover of Bon Appetit this month (Savory Short-Rib Beef Pies), but had just made Natchitoches Meat Pies and wasn't motivated enough to track down boneless beef short ribs after striking out at the local market.

My latest whim was inspired by David Lebovitz' Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Granola. I like snacking on granola occasionally, but I thought it would be fun to make a special batch to ship to Tennessee to take on the road for an out of town baseball tournament. I adapted the recipe to include a few of his favorites - Nutella, bananas, coffee, and pineapple. Unfortunately, since this was a last-minute whim, and without thought to overnight shipping cost, two pounds of granola will now be waiting on the doorstep when he arrives home! Sorry FedEx, not paying $90!

I have quickly become addicted to my Nutella version, but would like to try David's Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip version. Please consult his blog for the original recipe and preparation method, but this is a list of what I used in my adaptation (I added the coffee to the pan when I warmed the Nutella, orange honey and brown sugar):

Nutella Granola 

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw macadamia nuts, very coarsely chopped
3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup banana chips
3/4 cup dried pineapple
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground coffee
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup orange honey
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water

A few other recent whims included Bon Appetit's Corned Beef Hash, which I made for St. Patrick's Day dinner….

And Bon Appetit's Savory Black Pepper and Parmesan Cookies, to share at our community's weekly happy hour. 

Walking back from the clubhouse, after happy hour, I caught a glimpse of crisp white sails against the dark sky, and ran inside to grab my camera…Spring was here last week, but has been a no-show this week!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Two-Bite Wonders: Natchitoches Meat Pies

After my first visit to New Orleans a few years ago, my signed copy of Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link's Louisiana and My New Orleans, by John Besh, became two of my most cherished cookbooks. Every recipe I have tried from these books has been fabulous!

The introduction to the recipe for Natchitoches Meat Pies says: Natchitoches, Louisiana is famous for its extravagant display of Christmas lights, but it is also famous meat pies - a quintessential festival snack perfect for backyard barbecues, festivals, and parties. I knew they would be perfect for Jim & Carmen's Annual Time Change Party - they complemented Jim's Pork Chile Verde and pitchers of margaritas very well! Carmen commented they were "off-the-chart fabulous" and she is inspired to throw a Mardi Gras party next year. In that case, I think I'll try the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Pies, also from Real Cajun.

Assembled and ready for frying or baking

Baked Pies

Natchitoches Meat Pies
Slightly adapted from Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana
Makes about 16 pies

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound ground beef (not lean)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
1 medium jalapeño pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water
1 bunch scallions (green and white parts), thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
5 dashes Louisiana hot sauce
Meat Pie Dough, chilled (recipe below)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil, for frying
Sliced green onion for garnish (optional)

In a small bowl, mix together the kosher salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder, ground cumin, black pepper and white pepper.

Seed, dice and chop the tomatoes, onion, green bell pepper and jalapeno and transfer to a medium bowl. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat and spice mix and cook, using a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the meat, for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until the meat is lightly browned.

Add the tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, bay leaves, dried thyme, and Worcestershire sauce and cook, stirring, for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated and the vegetables have softened.

Dust the flour over the meat and add the water, stirring to combine (this should tighten up the mixture enough so it won’t leak moisture when it’s encased in the dough). Remove and discard the bay leaves. Stir in the scallions and hot sauce and transfer the mixture to a baking pan (or dish) to cool for 20 minutes at room temperature. Place in the refrigerator until completely cooled, at least 15 minutes more.

When you’re ready to prepare the pies, heat the oven to 200°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper and a dusting of flour. Divide the dough into four even sections to make it easier to work with. Return three of the sections to the refrigerator. Dust the counter with a sprinkling of flour and roll out the first section until it’s about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 4-inch biscuit cutter (or a similar-size bowl or jar lid), cut the dough into rounds. The scraps can be *rerolled if needed (see Note, below)

Lightly brush the outer edges of each circle with beaten egg. Place about 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each round. Fold the circle over the filling to make a half circle. Using the back of a fork, press around the round side of the circle to seal the pie. Transfer the pies to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining dough sections.

When you fill a baking sheet, place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so the dough stays firm. You can also freeze the uncooked pies. Just freeze them on the baking sheet first, and when they are fully frozen, transfer them to a plastic freezer bag.

To fry* the pies, heat 2 1/2 inches of oil in a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven until the oil reaches 350°F on a deep-frying/candy thermometer. Fry the chilled pies in batches of four or five at a time, cooking for about 8 minutes, until golden. (Frozen pies will need about 12 to 14 minutes.) Transfer the cooked pies to a baking sheet lined with paper towels or newspaper, and keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining pies.

*NOTE: I fried half the pies and found that some of them fell apart while frying (I think these may have been the ones where I re-rolled the scraps of dough). I tried baking the second batch and actually preferred the baked version, and it saved time and a greasy mess and odor in my kitchen. Brush tops of assembled pies with egg wash and bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes.

Meat Pie Dough

5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup ice water

Place the flour and salt in food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse several times until the mixture is coarse. Slowly add the ice water, pulsing just until the dough starts to hold together. Dump dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead with your hands for a few minutes until it’s smooth and evenly blended.

Roll the dough into a rectangle and fold it over itself three times like a letter. Repeat this process four times, reshape the dough to a rectangle, and refrigerate until firm, at least 15 minutes.

Garnished with sliced green onion

Extremely flavorful, slightly spicy filling

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring Forward with Saveur's Glazed Grapefruit Cake

Spring? Did we even have winter? I guess the rain storm that managed to drench me on two of our walks this past weekend, was San Diego's best attempt at winter. Trapper loved it! Newf + Rain = Happy Dog!

It was 80-something today for Jim & Carmen's annual Time Change Party. Fabulous party, as always, and everyone is now itching for Concerts in the Park to get started. Today's party featured Jim's bottomless pot of pork chile verde, tortillas, rice, beans, chips, guacamole, salads, cake, margaritas and wine.

My original plan was to bring Saveur's Glazed Grapefruit Cake to the party, because it is so gorgeous and sunny with the different colored grapefruits. I found some Oro Blanco and Ruby Red grapefruit at Coronado's Tuesday Farmers' Market, which is now steps from my front door, and decided to throw in a few blood oranges for an extra burst of color. I did a test run of the cake on Friday, but then woke up Sunday morning and felt like cooking something different for the party. It's not that I didn't love the cake, especially with my morning coffee, but I was intrigued by the Natchitoches Meat Pies in Donald Link's Real Cajun and felt they would go well with the party menu. Preparing those kept me busy for the morning and everyone said they were fabulous. I guess a blog post is in order for that recipe!

The Glazed Grapefruit Cake is basically a moist, tangy (buttermilk) pound cake, baked in a 9 x 13-inch dish, covered with a layer of sugared, broiled grapefruit slices and drizzled with a grapefruit juice glaze. After making and eyeing the amount of batter, I opted for a slightly smaller, 8 x 10-inch dish to give my cake more height. The cake itself doesn't have much grapefruit flavor, with a few tablespoons of zest. I might be tempted next time to use the method in Thomas Keller's Grapefruit Cake and make a grapefruit syrup for the cake.

Glazed Grapefruit Cake
Slightly adapted from Saveur
Serves 8


Combination of different colored grapefruit and blood oranges (1 pink, 1 red, and 1 white grapefruit, and 2 blood oranges, peeled/supremed, and and sliced ¼″ thick crosswise, plus 2 tablespoons zest and 3 tablespoons juice
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 2/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted


Heat oven broiler. Arrange grapefruit and blood orange slices in an even layer on an aluminum foil–lined baking sheet fitted with a wire rack; sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Broil, rotating pan as needed, until slightly caramelized, about 7 minutes; set aside.

Heat oven to 325°. Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl; set aside. In another bowl, and using an electric mixer, cream remaining sugar and the butter until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add zest, buttermilk, and vanilla; mix until combined. With the motor running, slowly add dry ingredients until smooth. Spread batter evenly into a 8” × 10” baking dish; bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let cake cool, then arrange reserved grapefruit and orange slices, overlapping slightly, on top.

Whisk juice and confectioners' sugar in a bowl until smooth; drizzle evenly over cake. Let cake sit 30 minutes to set glaze before serving.

I liked the addition of blood oranges

Sugared, broiled grapefruit and blood orange slices

"Winter" moving in for the weekend

Trapper was in Newf-Heaven as the storm moved in