Tag Archives: Butter

Spicy Arugula Spread

This is a recipe that almost wasn’t.  It came about last Sunday night while I was preparing beer bread and chai truffles for a food swap the next day.  I was really nervous about going to the swap, in part because I wasn’t sure whether my dishes would be fancy enough for all the foodies in attendance. This is a common fear for me. I call it Potluck Anxiety, and it tends to sneak up any time I take a large batch of treats to a social gathering. Potluck Anxiety is usually really annoying but in this instance I’m glad I had it, because otherwise I might have never made this spicy arugula spread.

Thanks to Potluck Anxiety, I was doubtful that my beer bread would be okay as a standalone dish at the swap. I thought, why not make an herb butter to gussy it up? I wasn’t working from a recipe, just from the vague idea that pesto and butter together would make a good herb butter.  So off I went. For the pesto, I improvised using whatever I could find in the fridge: some arugula, green onions, pecans, garlic, salt, and olive oil.

When I tasted the pesto I enjoyed it so much that I almost kept the whole batch for myself.  Luckily, Potluck Anxiety told me that bread alone wouldn’t cut it, and I pushed forward in the quest for herb butter. To my cup of arugula pesto, I added 4 tablespoons of salted butter.

No bueno. The butter did nothing but turn the pesto into an oily mess! I could have resolved this by adding more butter, but I had used the last of it for the beer bread. What to do?

As a measure of desperation, I threw some cream cheese into the processor with the buttered pesto. The flavor of the spread was definitely improved by the cream cheese, but I thought it was still too strong to pair with my mellow beer bread.  Not wanting to be wasteful, I put the finished cream cheese-butter-pesto mixture into a crock in the fridge and forgot about it.

The night of the swap, I was a mess. I had loaded my car and pulled out of the driveway by the time I remembered the arugula spread in the fridge. In the throes of Potluck Anxiety, I turned around to get it mostly because the little orange crock was so cute.  Boy, am I glad that I did!  While the spread was sitting in the fridge overnight it mellowed into a lovely, spreadable, spicy dip. Perfect for pairing with crackers or whole wheat beer bread.  By experimenting with the leftovers, my husband Rami discovered that this spread makes a great pasta sauce if you warm it up in the microwave.

This story has two happy endings. First, I ended up with a new potluck recipe that is easy to put together and a real crowd pleaser. Second, I met a wonderful group of friends at the food swap. There were all sorts of cooks at the party: some were fancy, some were not so fancy, and of them all were kind and accepting. I suspect I will probably have another case of Potluck Anxiety before the next time I see them; my fingers are crossed that I’ll get another winning recipe out of the deal!

Spicy Arugula Spread (makes about 1.5 cups)
4 cups arugula
4 peeled garlic cloves
1 bunch green onions, root tips and limp green tips removed
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons salted butter
4 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon salt

Place arugula, garlic and green onions in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade.  Pulse until veggies have broken down into very small pieces.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse until completely combined. Mixture will be very soft from the heat of the food processor; store in an airtight container overnight to firm up the spread and allow the flavors to mellow. Enjoy in place of butter on breads, as a dip for crackers, or warm with pasta.

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.

Advertisements

Cheddar Kale Muffins

image courtesy Howard Walfish

These savory muffins call for a whole head of kale, plus protein-rich cheddar cheese, making them a healthy and filling option for breakfast on the go.  You’re going to have to take my word for it that these muffins look good. I made a batch of them for us to take on vacation to San Diego, and I was in such a hurry to pack them up that I forgot to take a picture!  They were great travel food; not too smelly on the plane, and a big step up from any of the airport snacks.

Cheddar Kale Muffins (yields 12 regular-sized muffins)
1 head kale, washed and dried
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cup milk
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 12-muffin pan with paper liners. Chop thick stalks off of kale and slice remaining leaves very finely. In a heavy skillet over medium heat, saute chopped kale in olive oil for about seven minutes, stirring occasionally, until kale is very tender and starts to look a little dry.  Set cooked kale on paper towels to drain and melt the butter in the skillet.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together milk, melted butter, egg, minced garlic, and cooked kale until the egg is completely beaten. Add flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and cheese.  Stir until just combined; do not over mix.

Fill twelve prepared muffin cups with batter– about 1/4 cup per muffin– and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. The finished muffins will be slightly browned and a toothpick inserted into a muffin should come out clean. Remove the pan from oven and allow muffins to cool completely before eating. The kale flavor in the muffins is very strong while the muffins are hot; it mellows as they cool, resulting in a great breakfast treat.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery, and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Tangerine Shortbread

In a pinch for a last-minute hostess gift or holiday bake sale offering?  These zesty shortbread cookies come together in less than 40 minutes and have just four ingredients: flour, butter, sugar, and the Oasis Gardens tangerines from this week’s local box.

Don’t let the simple ingredients fool you; these Christmas cookies taste fancier than the recipe lets on.  They have the golden color and tender texture of traditional shortbread cookies, but the tangerine zest in the dough gives the finished cookies a fresh flavor. You can use the zest of any citrus fruits you have on hand, though I prefer the mild sweetness of tangerine.

Tangerine Shortbread (makes about 30, 1×3 inch cookies)
2 tablespoons tangerine zest
1 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour

Making these cookies is a cinch.  The first step is to use the fine side of a box grater or microplane to zest the tangerines.  The chef in this video is demonstrating with a lemon, but the zesting process is the same for all citrus:

After you finish zesting the tangerines, pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with baking parchment. Next, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the tangerine zest in the food processor. Pulse until the zest and sugar are combined.  If you have a stand mixer, use it to mix the zesty sugar and butter until creamy.  Then add two cups all-purpose flour and mix at low speed until just combined. The dough will be very thick and crumbly.  If you don’t have a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar in the food processor. Then, move the mixture to a separate mixing bowl and work in the flour by hand. (I did this both ways and needed to add about a tablespoon of water along with the flour to hold the dough together when I was working it by hand. The cookies turned out about the same both ways.)

Once dough is combined, pat it or roll it into an even, half-inch thick rectangle. Use a bench scraper or knife to cut the dough into whatever shape you like. (N.B. Go for easy shapes like diamonds, rectangles, or squares with this recipe. Since the dough is crumbly, it will not cooperate with foo foo snowflakes or round shapes. You also want to avoid re-rolling it since that will result in tough cookies.)

Gently move the cookies to your cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the bottom edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before eating.  These cookies keep for up to ten days at room temperature in an airtight container, and they freeze well, too.

Click here for the printable version of this recipe.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery, and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Challah Pear Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce

I first read about Confituras’ Salty Caramel Pear Butter in one of my favorite Austin food blogs, Local Savour.  I knew right away that I wanted to use it to make Christmas cookies, and last Wednesday I bought a jar of pear butter from Stephanie herself just for that purpose.  Well.  Sort of.  I never actually made it to the cookies because as soon as I sampled a little of the pear butter, I ended up eating half the jar.

I still needed to make something for dessert that night, so I came up with this challah pear pudding with salty caramel sauce.  For the recipe I used cinnamon challah from  UT’s Challah for Hunger, incorporating into the dessert flavors from Confituras’ Salty Caramel Pear Butter.

Wowza, what a great idea!  This bread pudding is easy to prepare, indulgent, and fancy enough for serving at a holiday dinner where you want to impress. And while I made my own salty caramel sauce, topping the dessert with Confituras’ Salty Caramel Pear Butter is just as tasty. (I know, since that’s what happened to the other half of my cookie-making jar.)  A recipe of this bread pudding along with a few 8 oz. jars of pear butter would make a creative and delectable holiday hostess gift.

Challah Pear Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce (Serves 8 )
Bread Pudding:
1, one-pound loaf cinnamon or plain challah bread*
3 ripe pears
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (omit if using cinnamon challah)

Salted Caramel Sauce:
1 cup white sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon salt
OR top pudding with 8 oz. Confituras Salted Caramel Pear Butter

Prepare bread pudding: Preheat oven to 325 degrees and butter a 2-quart baking dish.  Cut challah bread into 1-inch slices, the cut those slices into 1 inch cubes.  Set aside.  Core and dice pears (no need to peel them) and set aside.  Heat butter, brown sugar and white sugar in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave for 90 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds with a wooden spoon to keep mixture from scorching.  Carefully pour mixture into a large mixing bowl and whisk in milk.  Add eggs, nutmeg and cinnamon, whisking until mixture is well combined.  Add challah and fold together with a rubber spatula until bread cubes are coated.

Pour 1/3 of the pears into the prepared baking dish and cover with 1/2 the bread mixture.  Repeat, and top the casserole with the remaining 1/3 of the pears.  Use the rubber spatula to smoosh down the pudding so that it sits in an even layer in the dish.  Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for an hour in preheated oven, or until pudding springs back. Remove foil in last 10 minutes of baking so that the top of the bread pudding is golden brown.

To make salted caramel sauce:  cook 1 cup white sugar in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.  It will take about 8 minutes of frequent stirring for the granulated sugar to transform into an amber-colored caramel.  At that point, remove the pan from heat.  Slowly add one cup heavy cream to the melted sugar, stirring constantly.  (Mixture will bubble and foam; this is good.) Add butter and salt, stirring until caramel is thickened and a little glossy.

Here’s how the sugar looks during the transformation from granulated white stuff to amber-colored caramel:

Top the finished bread pudding with caramel sauce and serve warm.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

*I’ve mentioned UT Challah for Hunger on my blog before, and they are one of my favorite local food sources. The group of UT students sells regular, cinnamon, and chocolate chip challahs for just $5 every Wednesday on the west mall of campus, with proceeds benefiting Darfur. Unfortunately, this past week was the students’ last time to bake for the year, and they won’t be back in action until late January. (In the meantime, you can get your challah fix on Fridays at Upper Crust Bakery in the Rosedale neighborhood.)

Spiced Beet Whoopie Pies

These whoopie pies sandwich a layer of fluffy cream cheese frosting between two pillowy mounds of spice cake.  They’re like a cross between a gingersnap, a cupcake, and a cloud from Care-a-Lot*. Perfect for holiday gatherings, or for eating by yourself during a claymation movie marathon.

Pumpkin has become a popular ingredient in holiday whoopie pies, but it makes the cake stickier than I like.  I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart’s and Rachel Ray’s recipes for pumpkin whoopie pies, using beet puree in place of the pumpkin.  The beets give the finished cookies a soft, cake=like texture, and an earthy flavor that’s not too sweet.  The beet flavor in this recipe is complemented by a blend of traditional holiday spices: cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, and nutmeg. (I would have added cloves and ginger if I had them on hand.) Don’t skimp on these spices!  The taste of beets needs a big spicy kick to balance it out.

Spiced Beet Whoopie Pies
(makes 8 large desserts; each serving 2 people or one very hungry elf)
Cookies:
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup beet puree, from 1 large beet or several mini beets (instructions below)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon cardamom
1/2 tablespoon allspice
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2/3 cups flour
Filling
4 tablespoons butter, softened
4 tablespoons cream cheese
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk, as needed for texture

First, make beet puree. I used 6, ping pong ball-sized beets to make 3/4 cup puree.  One or two large beets would work, too. Place whole, unpeeled beets in a saucepan and cover with water.  Boil for at least half an hour, until flesh is tender and can be pierced with a fork.  Drain beets and allow to cool. Once beets can be handled safely, remove skin with a paring knife or your fingers and puree cooked beets in a food processor.

Next up, make the cookies. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.  Combine in a food processor 3/4 cup beet puree, 8 tablespoons softened butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract.  Process until mixture is smooth and well combined. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and dried spices. Carefully pour the beet mixture into the mixing bowl, and use a rubber spatula to fold the beet mixture and flour mixture together.

Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measuring cup, portion cookie dough into 16 mounds, spaced evenly onto each baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes, until springy to the touch. Remove from oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, cream 4 tablespoons softened butter with cream cheese.  Add the confectioners’ sugar 1/2 cup at a time, mixing on low until blended and then at medium-high speed until fluffy. Depending on the weather, the frosting may reach the appropriate texture before the full two cups of sugar are mixed in.  If necessary, thin frosting with a little milk.

Spread cream cheese frosting on the flat side of half the cookies; top with remaining cookies.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge for at least an hour and up to three days before serving.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

*Remember Care-a-lot?  I like to think that even Professor Coldheart would get into the holiday spirit if he were served beet whoopie pies at a Festivus party.

Rosemary Lemon Cornmeal Cookies

I’m planning a little series of Christmas cookie posts this month, loosely titled “The 12 Cookies of Christmas.” (For the most part, I have just been calling it that in my head since it’s such a cheesy title. Let’s not call it that out loud, okay?) Each of the twelve recipes will feature locally-sourced ingredients in a holiday-cookie-exchange-ready format.  Get ready for beet whoopie pies, apple spice cookies, meyer lemon bars, and other holiday treats, just waiting to fill your Santa shaped cookie jar.

Rosemary’s sweet, pungent flavor and green needles remind me of Christmas trees, so when I was planning the series, I knew I wanted to kick things off with these crispy lemon rosemary cookies.  The timing couldn’t be better since Meyer lemons are finally in season here in Austin.  This recipe also features eggs from Ringger Farm and cornmeal from Homestead Gristmill, near Waco, Texas.  The course texture of the Homestead’s cornmeal enhances these cookies’ crunch, and I find these cookies to be more flavorful than ones I’ve made with nationally distributed brands of cornmeal.

Rosemary Lemon Cornmeal Cookies (yields 32 cookies)
adapted from “Cornmeal Cookies,” by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley
Cooking Light, May 2008

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary needles
1 tablespoon grated Meyer lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a cookie sheet with silpat or baking parchment. (Don’t skip this. The finished cookies are very delicate and will lose their shape if they stick to the pan after cooking.)

In a small bowl, sift together flour, cornmeal, baking soda, and salt.  In a large mixing bowl, beat softened butter, sugar, rosemary, lemon rind, and lemon juice until creamy, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Add egg and beat until well combined.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat until just blended.  Dough will be very soft.

Spoon dough by heaping teaspoons 2.5 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Cookies will spread while cooking, so take care not to put dough too close to the edges of the baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 11 1/2 minutes, until lightly browned and almost firm. Remove from oven and cool on pans for 2 minutes or until firm. Remove firm cookies from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Pie

Making a Thanksgiving with all local produce is a noble goal, but I was pretty bummed when I discovered there are no organic pumpkin growers in Central Texas. Yes, there are occasional rumbo squash and ornamental pumpkins at the farmer’s market, but those are pretty pricy and there’s no guarantee to get one for the big turkey day.  Luckily, sweet potatoes are readily available from lots of local growers this time of year, and they make an excellent substitute for pumpkin in many recipes.

Sweet potato pie is a popular Southern dessert in its own right, and it has been a popular dish in America since colonial times. According to Lynne Olver’s fantastic Food Timeline, recipes for sweet potato pie have been published in American cookbooks since the 18th century! Interesting tidbit: pumpkin pie recipes appear in America about 50 years earlier than sweet potato dishes, since sweet potatoes as we know them likely came to the southern colonies on slave and other trade ships from West Africa.

Besides being an interesting conversation piece, this sweet potato pie is an easy and inexpensive addition to my Thanksgiving potluck menu.  It sets up a little firmer than pumpkin pie, so it travels well and retains its lovely, creamy texture at room temperature. This recipe also uses regular skim milk (or whatever kind your family likes), so there’s no need purchase special processed canned milk. Another plus, since sweet potatoes keep well (store in a cool, dark pantry), you can stockpile them from regular CSA deliveries in advance of the big day, cutting down a bit on special Thanksgiving food purchases. To save a little work on Thanksgiving day, I’m making the pie crust ahead of time and storing it in plastic wrap in the freezer.  Before making the pie, I’ll let the crust thaw in the fridge for a day or two and proceed as usual.*

Sweet Potato Pie
Crust:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup very cold shortening or butter
3 tablespoons ice water
Filling:
1 large sweet potato (about 2 cups, mashed)
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
juice of half a lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Prepare pie crust: mix flour and salt in a small bowl.  Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender, two butter knives or your fingers, until mixture is crumbly and blended. (The largest pieces of butter should be about the size of green peas, completely coated in flour. In my crust, below, the butter pieces were too big and it was a little tricky to work with.)  Add ice water one tablespoon at a time, continuing to blend dough with a fork, until dough consistency is even. It’s okay if it’s a little crumbly at this point. Form dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. The dough keeps will keep in the fridge up to 48 hours, and in the freezer for about a month.

After dough is chilled, roll it out on a floured surface until it is large enough to cover your pie plate.  Transfer the rolled dough to the plate by rolling it up on the rolling pin and unrolling it over the plate.  Use your fingers to smooth the dough into the plate, the trim away excess dough with scissors or a sharp knife.  Press the tines of a fork along the edge of the crust to make a pretty pattern in the dough and secure the edge of the crust to the pan.

Prepare filling: Wash sweet potato and pull out any strings from the peel. Poke holes in sweet potato with a fork. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, until potato is tender.  Wait for potato to cool. (I popped the whole cooked potato in the fridge overnight before making the pie the next day. It turned out fine.) Set butter out in a mixing bowl to come to room temperature. Use your fingers to peel skin from cooled potato, and add peeled potato to the mixing bowl.  Use an electric mixer to cream the potato and butter. (My mixer is a little weeny, so I had to use a fork at first to get the potato mushed enough for the mixer to handle.) Add one at a time: white sugar, brown sugar, milk, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla and spices, making sure to mix the pie filling well between each addition.  Once the filling is smooth, pour it into the prepared crust. Set the pie plate on a cookie sheet, and bake in preheated oven for 55 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  The pie filling will puff up like a souffle while the pie is cooking, but don’t worry– it comes down and firms up just fine! Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold, preferably with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

* A note about my pie crust.  You can see in the pictures above that when I made this pie crust, the dough was hideous. There were some large, uneven chunks of butter and a few patchy bits of flour.  I was convinced I’d ruined the whole thing. Well. I decided to use it anyway and the crust turned out fine. Flaky and delicious and better than those perfect-looking store bought crusts. If, like me, you are a little scared to tackle a homemade pie crust: Have faith! You can do it! Don’t give up! And when in doubt, go ahead and use that ugly homemade crust. There will be sweet potato filling to cover it up, anyways.