Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans, Cranberries, and Orange Zest

This holiday season has been one of the most productive I have had in a while in terms of my baking ambitions – I’ve been meaning to make lots of complicated desserts that I otherwise would never get enough time to bake, and I finally got around to making a lemon meringue pie, a lemon cheesecake on a graham cracker crust, drizzled with raspberry syrup, and finally, some chocolate, lemon, vanilla, anise, and lavender macarons! And while I am excited to blog about all these baking adventures, I have to admit I am getting a little tired reading about desserts. Since these were not the most straightforward desserts, I spent a fair bit of time reading on how to avoid common mistakes that can occur with each of them. So for now, I will be writing about something savory, and return to writing about baking once I am over my sugar hiatus.

Maple roasted brussels sprouts with toasted pecans and cranberries

I never really ate brussels sprouts in India, and I have to admit that I was not a huge fan of them when I first tasted them in the US. But they have grown on me over time, especially as I have realized that pancetta and bacon does really elevate their flavor once they’ve been roasted. These ones are slightly healthier than using pork products, as it mostly uses the nuttiness of pecans, the tartness of cranberries and oranges to complement the roasted brussels sprouts. Roasting them in maple syrup also evens out the extreme tartness from the cranberries. Depending on your taste, you can decrease the maple syrup or decrease the amount of cranberries you put in this dish, so that you do not feel like it either too sweet or too tart. Plus, this dish looks so festive!

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans and Cranberries

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds/1 kg brussel sprouts, washed
  • 5.3 oz/150 g fresh cranberries
  • 3.5 oz/ 100 g pecans
  • Zest of an orange
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • A little freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  • Pre heat the oven to 350 F.
  • Place the sprouts on a large baking tray, add the orange zest, olive oil and maple syrup, stir it, and cook in the oven for 10 minutes. At that point, stir it to ensure even browning and bake for another 10. After these 20 minutes, stir again, and then bake for another 10 minutes. (30 minutes in total)
  • Now toast the pecans in a small pan for about 5 minutes, stirring them frequently
  • After cooking the sprouts for 30-35 minutes, add the cranberries and pecans and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the brussels sprouts are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.
  • Serve hot with a little sea salt, black pepper and a squeeze of orange if you like.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

This year’s December issue of Bon Appetit got me really excited – while I am more a of pie or tart person, their ideas for 25 days of Christmas, each with a different cookie got me really excited about baking cookies. And even though I did not end up using any of their 2015 recipes (instead using one in their 2003 edition), I ended up settling on Mexican wedding cookies – butter-rich confections, that are often confused with Russian tea cakes. Unlike Russian tea cakes, which are made with walnuts or hazelnuts, Mexican wedding cookies use pecans. They are tender, buttery, crumbly, full of coarsely ground pecans, that are finally dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Too late to try them for you Christmas cookie exchange? Bake them anyway for the holidays – these are not sweet, which means that it’s easy to wipe them out post-dinner!

Mexican Wedding Cookies

The main thing to watch out for in this recipe is the temperature of the butter. When beating the butter at the beginning, make sure it is at room temperature, otherwise it will not mix properly. On the other hand, if the butter is too warm, it may start separating and may not become fluffy. For mixing and creaming, butter should be about 65 degrees F. The best way to get frozen or refrigerated butter ready for creaming is to cut it into chunks. Avoid using the microwave. When the butter is still cold, but takes the imprint of a finger when gently pressed, it is ready to be creamed.

Further, once the dough is prepared, make sure to chill the dough. This will ensure that the cookie does not start separating and/or spreading once in the oven. If the butter is cold, the cookies will hold their fairly circular texture.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit (May 2003 issue)

Makes around 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Using a mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy.
  2. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then pecans.
  3. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes to an hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Working with half of the chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls (I used a melon baller). Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart.
  6. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 14 minutes.
  7. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let them cool 15-20 minutes. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough.
  8. Once cooled, gently toss  cookies in remaining powdered sugar to coat completely. You may need to dip the cookies in the powdered sugar again before serving!

Mexican Wedding Cookies

What are your favorite cookies to bake for Christmas cookie exchanges?

Green Chile and Chicken Stew

One of my favorite part about going to farmer’s markets when I was living in Charlottesville was finding a large variety of vegetables that I don’t normally find in my sad New Haven grocery stores. Given my proclivity towards spicy foods and Mexican flavors, I had been looking for a recipe that would use a variety of peppers. I finally found this stew, which turned out to be a perfect dinner. And you can actually find these peppers throughout the year, so this should not be a dish that you can only make seasonally.

The only issue is that this recipe does take a fair bit of time (over an hour), so if you’re looking for a quick dinner on a weeknight, this is not the recipe for you. With the amount of time taken to roast, peel and seed some pretty spicy peppers, this is more of a weekend project. And remember to wear gloves when seeding some of these peppers, especially if you wear contact lenses! As someone who has made the mistake of taking off her lenses after chopping jalapenos earlier, I can say that sometimes even soap doesn’t take off that capsaicin :-/

Green Chile and Chicken Stew

Recipe courtesy Bon Appetit

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, trimmed, stems and leaves separated
  • 2 large onions, chopped, divided
  • 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked
  • 4 Italian frying peppers
  • 4 poblano or Hatch chiles
  • 3 jalapeño peppers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Steamed rice

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 450°. Combine chicken, cilantro stems, 1 onion, and next 6 ingredients in a large pot. Add water to cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer very gently until chicken is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and let cool slightly; shred into bite-size pieces. Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl; set aside.
  • Meanwhile, arrange tomatillos, peppers, and chiles in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally, until charred, 15-20 minutes. Green Chile and Chicken Stew
  • Transfer peppers and chiles to a a paper bag and let steam for 15 minutes, then peel and seed. Not sure how to peel roasted peppers? Click here
  • Combine peppers, chiles, and tomatillos in a food processor and purée, adding reserved broth from the chicken as necessary, until a coarse purée forms.
  • Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add remaining 1 onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and caramelized in spots, about 15 minutes. Stir in tomatillo purée and remaining reserved broth; bring to a simmer.
  • Remove from heat and add chicken. Serve stew over rice and garnish with cilantro leaves

Pies! And Recreating S’mores as a Pie

Given that I never ate a pie growing up, I have no idea where my obsession with pies comes from. Ever since I’ve moved to the U.S, I’ve made pies both during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I’ve already decided which delicious pies will become a part of my family recipes that I pass down. My favorite is this pumpkin and maple-glazed sweet potato pie with a graham cracker crust.  There are three reasons in particular why I have found this pie irreplaceable: 1) unlike most pumpkin pie recipes, I have found that cooking the pumpkin puree with autumnal spices such as cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon, actually makes a huge difference to the depth of flavor compared to just mixing these spices into the batter 2) Pumpkin puree might be delicious, but most people might get sick of the canned pumpkin flavor throughout the pie. The addition of roasted sweet potatoes adds new flavor and a certain amount of freshness that compliments the pumpkin 3) Roasting the sweet potatoes in maple syrup actually gives the kind of sweet taste that is desirable, instead of the sickly sweet corn syrup taste that is present in most pies.

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The second is a bourbon spiced pecan pie. I do not care much for pecans, but my partner a) loves pecans, and b) is obsessed with Alton Brown. And I have to admit, his recipe for bourbon spiced pecan pie will win over many people who have the same feelings about pecans as me. Now this recipe takes way longer than than a usual pecan pie recipe, but is absolutely worth it. It involves toasting with pecans with a bunch of spices such as cumin, cayenne pepper, dried orange peel, and cinnamon. This goes a long way in adding depth of flavor to what can be an otherwise very sweet recipe. Second, this recipe has introduced me to the wonder of Lyle’s Golden Syrup. There is nothing that I hate more in the American baking pantry more than corn syrup. Thousands of studies have shown it’s not great for you, and if we have to eat something that’s not great for us, it should at least taste great, right? Except that corn syrup just has a one-dimensional cloying sweetness, and golden syrup is a wonderful substitute to overcome this problem. Thirdly, the crust has bourbon in it – which you can very much taste when you take a full bite of the pie even with the filling. So this recipe is also a keeper.

This year I have been inspired by a pie party that my friends and I had a few weeks ago. One of my friends made a lemon meringue pie, and I am excited about incorporating a lighter pie, something that adds acidity and freshness, to the Christmas dessert course this year. And finally, if you clicked on this post hoping to find a recipe for a pie, here’s one for a s’more pie that I took to the above mentioned pie party. It’s fast to assemble, and fun to serve (think a brulee torch and people excited by fire). The only downside is that this pie is incredibly rich, so you will probably not realize how stuffed you are until it is too late!

S'more Pie

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

Ingredients

For the crust:

How to make a graham cracker crust

Filling and topping:

  • 7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not more than 70% cacao; not unsweetened), finely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature for 30 minutes
  • 2 cups mini-marshmallows (highly recommend the Whole Foods ones!)

Directions

  1. Prepare the graham cracker crust in 9-inch pie plate and heat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Bake the graham cracker crust until crisp, 12 to 15 minutes, then cool on a rack to room temperature, about 20-30 minutes.
  3. While the crust is cooling, prepare your filling. Put chocolate in a large bowl. Bring cream just to a boil in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan, then pour hot cream over chocolate.
  4. Let stand 1 minute, then gently whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
  5. Gently whisk in egg and a pinch of salt until combined and pour into graham cracker crumb crust (crust will be about half full).
  6. Cover edge of pie with a pie shield or foil, and bake until filling is softly set and trembles slightly in center when gently shaken, about 25 minutes.
  7. When the pie is out of the oven, add marshmallows on top of the chocolate while it is still warm so that they stick to the chocolate.
  8. Let cool for 15-20 minutes and then using a brulee torch, toast the tops of the marshmallows, and serve while it’s still warm.

Smore2_opt

Slow Cooker Enchilada Soup

I just got to Seattle for Thanksgiving break, and I am surprised that it is way colder (and freezing) in Seattle than in Connecticut. I feel like winter is finally here and I can’t believe that I still have not shared one of the soups that has become a part of my regular weekly meals over the last year and a half. I love this soup because a) it’s made in a slow cooker – it literally takes 10 minutes of prep, and then you can leave it in the slow cooker to cook for 6-7 hours b) it consists of some of my favorite Mexican flavors c) it’s incredibly soothing yet filling during the New England winter.  Though I have been in love with the slow cooker ever since I have acquired one, this is truly one of those meals that you can prep before leaving home during the day, and come back to a find a fragrant, delicious meal waiting to be eaten!

Chicken enchilada soup

Recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
  • 2 cups good-quality chicken stock
  • 1 1/4 cup (or 1 10-ounce can) red enchilada sauce (my personal favorite is Rick Bayless’ Frontera Red Chile Enchilada Sauce)
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with juice
  • Half of a (15-ounce) can whole-kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 white onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more/less to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Chopped fresh cilantro,
  • Diced avocado
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Tortilla chips

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to a slow cooker except for the cilantro, avocado, cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips, and stir to combine. Cook for 3-4 hours on high heat or 6-8 hours on low heat, until the chicken is cooked through and shreds easily. Use two forks to shred the chicken.
  2. Serve warm, with garnishes such as cilantro, avocado, cheese, and tortilla chips.
  3. You can also refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 5 days

Peach and Lemon Ice-Cream

I seem to have jinxed this extended summer weather by getting excited about the lack of cooler temperatures in my previous post. And even though the air is much cooler now, there are still a ton of peaches from apple picking at Lyman Orchards last weekend that I have to eat or bake. This peach and lemon ice-cream is great for wrapping up the summer. It’s quick, does not require a custard as a base, and hardly requires any active prep time.

And, of course, since I’m still in denial about the onset of pumpkin spice season, my next post will focus on making a quick peach and strawberry tart.

Peach & Lemon Ice Cream

Recipe adapted from the Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book

Ingredients

  • 2 cups freshly peeled ripe peaches, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • Equipment: Ice-cream maker

Ingredients

  1. Combine the peaches, 1/2 cup sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring the mixture every 30 minutes or so. This step is very essential, so do not shorten the time – the peach juice is more likely to mix with the lemon juice the longer they stay in this mixture.
  2. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, around 2 minutes. Whisk in the remaining sugar, a little at a time. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend. Finally, pour in the peach juice and blend.

    Whisking the peach juice into the cream mixture

    Whisking the peach juice into the cream mixture

  3. Transfer the mixture to an ice-cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Once the ice cream starts stiffening (around 5 minutes before it is complete), add the peaches, then continue freezing until the ice-cream is ready. The ice-cream may additionally need to be stored in the freezer in a container for about 30 minutes before it completely firms up.

Tomato Soup with Arugula, Croutons and Parmesan

I couldn’t be happier about the delay in cooler temperatures during this New England fall. One of the things it means is that we get to enjoy summer fruits and vegetables for much longer than usual – this tomato soup uses some ripe, juicy, beefsteak tomatoes from Connecticut. I also got to pick  juicy yellow peaches from Lyman Orchards this week, which I have never spotted any of these past years when I have gone apple picking. While I’m excited to try and use the bounty of apples and peaches that we picked for some desserts during the coming weeks, in this post I want to concentrate on the last (and yet, pretty good) summer tomatoes that are still around.

This soup does not use any cream or much fat, so it’s great for a light lunch or as an appetizer. The sharpness of the arugula compliments the sweet, acidic, juicy, ripe tomatoes and the croutons provide great texture. This dish is also great for using bruised or over-ripe tomatoes.

Tomato Soup with Arugula, Croutons and Parmesan

 

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit – August 2015 issue

Ingredients

  • 2 thick slices country-style bread, torn into bite-sized pieces (I used ciabatta)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp thyme leaves (or 2 tsp dried thyme)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs beefsteak tomatoes, cut into large wedges
  • Hot sauce (though I used my favorite Pirate Blend seasoning – highly recommended for adding heat to any dish!)
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 1 oz Parmesan, shaved

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Toss bread with 2 tbsp olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and season with salt. Toss after 3-4 minutes and bake for 4-5 minutes more, until golden brown and crunchy (total time of 8-10 minutes). Set croutons aside.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Toss onion, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until onions are brown, around 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until they release their juices – about a minute or 2.
  5. Add 1 cup water and bring to a boil.
  6. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture. Or alternatively, transfer mixture to a blender and blend until soup.
  7. Taste and add hot sauce or other spicy seasoning. Season with salt and pepper as needed
  8. Serve soup topped with arugula, shaved Parmesan and croutons.