Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fava Bean and Goat Cheese Dip with Radishes


After being so thrilled to find all of those beautiful fava beans at Canino's  Mexican Market here in Houston, I knew I was set to make this delicious looking dip in Martha Stewart's April issue.  We had a busy weekend with many activities beginning to wind down for the school year.  I knew there might be some fast food runs here and there so I wanted to make something healthy for at home.




My son's "Odyssey of the Mind" team qualified for the state competition. That would keep us quite busy for half of the weekend.  His team was challenged to build a contraption that would perform a "simple" task like hammering.  They had to come up with a skit and tie the contraption to a storyline that included a famous person from history.  They created a story line about a lost invention of Leonardo da Vinci. 



The ingredients that went into this dip were simple but so aromatic. It was a wonderful dish to pull together because it is so visually appealing.  The lemon zest and juice with the fresh snippets of tarragon made my nose buds tingle.


Fresh Fava Beans from the market




The soft goat cheese is a perfect partner for the mild fava beans and the sharp crispness of the radishes.
I just cannot believe I haven't eaten radishes until now.  They are so good...well...especially spread with this dip.


Fava beans are the prettiest color green.  They are fun to shell because the pod is so big that they really "snap" quite satisfactorily!


The team did a great job.  Often I had to chuckle at the variety of pieces and parts teams were carting up and down the hallways.  All items for costumes and apparatus must come from scrap parts so some of the uses of foil, candy wrappers, soda cans, and whatnot were pretty amusing.  The judges were wonderfully kind and supportive of the kids.  Many of them had funny hats that they wore during the competition to create a light-hearted mood.



As the school year draws to a close, events like this help mark the end of so many new experiences for us here in our new home of Texas.  This was a tough move for all of us but we are finding our place slowly but surely in this metropolis.  We enormously appreciate the diversity of cultures all coming together in this city.  We always feel like we've just tipped the edge of discoveries waiting for us here.

Fava Bean and Goat Cheese Dip with Radishes


Fava Bean and Goat Cheese Dip with Radishes Recipe:
(adapted from the April issue of Martha Stewart Living)

Ingredients:

2 pounds fava beans, shelled
1/2 cup soft goat cheese (4 oz)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest,
plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon water, plus more if needed
1 bunch radishes, halved if large

Prepare an ice-water bath.  Bring a saucepan of salted water to boil.  Cook fava beans until tender, 1 to 2 minutes.  Drain, and transfer to ice-water bath.  Let cool.  Drain, and peel beans.

Pulse beans, goat cheese, oil, tarragon, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a food processor until just combined but still chunky, about 6 or 7 times.

Stir in water.  Add an additional tablespoon water if mixture is too thick.  Transfer to a bowl.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Sprinkle with pepper just before serving.  Serve with radishes. (Snippets Notes:  I found these imported thin crackers at Whole foods that had bits of figs and hazelnuts in them.  I know, it sounds odd but in addition to the radishes, they also added a nice crunch)

Ingredients:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sinful Cinnamon Rolls


Doesn't every culture have its form of the classic cinnamon roll?  
Isn't that a wonderful thing?  
I am always wondering about the first person who decided to add the ingredients of cinnamon and butter together, spread it on bread dough and roll it up for slicing.  What creativeness in the kitchen.


I came across this simple cinnamon roll recipe after deciding this year, I was going to delve into the baking arena.  I tried it once and thought the deliciousness of the outcome was just beginner's luck.



I tried a second and third time with this recipe and met with succulent success each time.  Something like this, cinnamon rolls, seemed so scary to me for so many years.  So, I made them yet again to see if it really was possible to continue duplicating yumminess,  BUT this time froze them ahead of time to simplify holiday prep time.  From freezer... to thawing... to oven they were sweet deliciousness.



I just love spreading the cinnamon butter mixture all over the pillowy dough.  Then, using dental floss to gently and cleanly slice through the rolled dough is nothing short of amusing fun.


I put my dough in muffin tins because I liked how they all come out the same size. 




{I know, a little "Type A" here...}



I've made these with two types of frosting.  The cream cheese frosting sits up nice and thick on top of the cinnamon rolls (Shhh...I use Pillsbury frosting in the can. Yum).  






A glaze type frosting cools transparent and has less presentation but is so tasty.  I just melt a stick of butter and then keep adding powdered sugar until it looks nice and glazy.  I also cannot resist adding a tsp. of vanilla to it.

S.Kenney 2011
S.Kenney 2011
These easy cinnamon rolls originally entered our house around Christmas time but they are becoming a year round holiday request. 

Spring is here, Spring is there, Spring is soon going to be everywhere!
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend.  Whether you celebrated the Spring tidings with the Easter bunny and Easter baskets or the religious celebration of Easter, relaxing and being together with loved ones is a holiday everyone needs.  I can tell from everyone's beautiful blogs, that sugar was definitely involved and consumed!








Sinful Cinnamon Rolls:

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup margarine, softened
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Mix in margarine; stir until melted. Let cool until lukewarm.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 1/4 cup flour, yeast, sugar and salt; mix well. Add water, egg and the milk mixture; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has just pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.
  3. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, softened margarine.
  4. Roll out dough into a 12x9 inch rectangle. Spread dough with margarine/sugar mixture.(Snippet's Note:  Be sure that the butter isn't too soft. It will drizzle and ooze off of the dough.) Sprinkle with raisins if desired. Roll up dough and pinch seam to seal. Cut into 12 equal size rolls and place cut side up in 12 lightly greased muffin cups. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until browned. Remove from muffin cups to cool. Serve warm

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sweet Petite Cupcakes with Sugared Flower Petals


With the flutter of incoming Spring, all sorts of "rites of passage" events begin unfolding all across the U.S.  One of the most important to juniors and seniors in high school is "The Prom".






In our homeschooling world, we have what is called "The Gala".  It is quite similar to a prom, but without the king and queen aspect.  


For a teen girl, this means shopping for formal dresses and pretty sparkly shoes, pampering the nails and toes, and booking a hair salon for that romantic and elegant "up-do".




But the swirling thoughts in this mother's mind were "What should I bake for the pre-party?".  It should be something sweet, elegant and petite.   I eyed these hydrangea flowers at the market.  They were so soft, fragile, and velvety.








Something with sprinkles and flowers sounded like a good idea.  Little petite cupcakes.


The girls spent the day in full girlie preparation for the evening Gala.  Toes were polished, hair was curled up in ringlets.  My daughter and her sweet friend Mary are huge Jane Austen fans and this is their modern day version.


I spent the day making crystalized flower petals.






When I snipped off a hydrangea petal and held it upside down, it was in a nice little heart shape.  These could be the adornment for the tip of my petite cupcakes.






The limosine was parked outside.  The belles of the ball and the dashing young gentlemen all arrived. Along with the fun and frolic came my petite cupcakes with their crystalized flower petals.  Photos were capturing the moment and sweet bites of small treats were savored.






The day was ending for my baking quest to make  little sweets to bring for their gathering.  The night was just beginning for these young ladies and gentlemen, who were all swept  into the waiting limo, ready for hours of dining and dancing.






Sweet Petite Cupcakes with Crystalized Flowers:


Cupcakes:
(adapted from Martha Stewart's cupcake recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time; scrape down bowl, and beat in vanilla.
  3. Add flour mixture and milk alternatively, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  4. Divide batter evenly among liners, about three-quarters full each. Bake until golden and tops spring back to touch, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer pans to wire rack; cool completely.


Frosting:


I must admit.  My first batch of frosting was a dismal failure.  At room temperature, the butter cream frosting I made started to droop and sag on the cupcakes.  I decided to buy canned cream cheese frosting.  It worked beautifully.  It has the texture and strength to really sit up and hold the sprinkles.  


Flowers:


Whisk the whites of one egg until bubble and frothy.  Take a small paintbrush and lightly coat the flower petals.  (Snippets Notes:  I do one or two petals at a time and then sprinkle with sugar)  Lightly sprinkle the petals with sugar.  Let air dry in a safe spot over night until stiff and sparkly!  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Poached Rhubarb with Saboyan Cream

Poached rhubarb with Kirsch Sabayon

I decided I wanted to make a variety of spring dishes to celebrate the turning  of seasons.  I was so inspired by that Mexican market and the bundle of vanilla beans I discovered there.  It seems that in every other program of "The Take Home Chef", Curtis Stone is hailing the necessity of using REAL vanilla, straight from the pod.  As he excitedly scrapes his knife  along the slender skin of the pod, I can't imagine that tiny bit of mushiness can be that impactful.

But it most certainly can.  And, now I have experienced its beautiful-ness myself.

Did you know that a vanilla bean is the stamen of an orchid and is native to Mexico? I most certainly did not know this. No wonder there were buckets of them at Canino's market.     And small tidbits like this, just give us fodder to procrastinate many times during our day.  We are intrepid googlers and it only takes an "I wonder why...." to get the googling going...

Vanilla Bean goodness...all bottled up
When my husband and I had recently graduated from college, we were both hired by the same company.  I moved from NYC and he from Missouri way up to Michigan.  We were introduced to the stalky plant called rhubarb because it seemed to dominate a section of our yard.

Vanilla beans from Canino's market

Our neighbors spotted it growing there and asked if they could have a bunch.  We had never heard of rhubarb, being a midwestern and a southern couple.  It certainly didn't look appetizing or even pretty for that matter.  We figured it was some sort of pink celery that they wanted to slice up in a salad.

Vanilla seeds scraped from the orchid pod.  Oh the smell! 
A few hours later, they knocked on the door and proudly presented to us a fresh out of the oven rhubarb crisp.  We all sat down and had a bowl of this dessert with a scoop of ice cream.

Rhubarb.

Now we know.  Who knew?  Who cares?  Rhubarb = Amazing!

I looked at our stalky overgrown patch of it in our yard with new felt pride.


I came across this recipe using rhubarb and thought that it reminded me so much of that spring so many years ago.  We were so young.  We had our first house.  Life was so simple and sweet.  We had money jingling in our finally employed pockets.  Rhubarb Crisp certainly helped add to the sweet newness of everything in those post college and newlywed years.


What I quickly learned here in the South is that rhubarb is not easily found.  It is a northern plant.  It likes cold soil and close to freezing temperatures.  That must have been why Patrick and I weren't familiar with it from childhood memories.  Cold is also certainly foreign to Texas.  People at the grocery looked at me very quizzically when I asked where is the rhubarb.  I read the recipe again and still really wanted to try it out.  Finally...I found a bunch and snatched it up realizing it probably travelled pretty far to get into my recipe.

S. Kenney - 2011 (not rhubarb, just my pretty flower!)

The colors in rhubarb are subtle but very beautiful.  It reminded me of this flower that I photographed recently.  Only in the spring time do you see such vibrant jewel tones as flower buds present candy colors that are fresh and clean.  Rhubarb is the perfect spring plant and represents the season well.

rhubarb...poaching in sugary syrup

At first, when I was making this spring dessert, I thought it was going to be rather uninteresting and plain.  The rhubarb boiling in the pan did look like chunks of pink celery.  I was a little nervous the 3 eager critiquers here would be feigning politeness.  Especially after the Easter Bird's Nest cake!

The Sabayon cream is mainly whipped yolks and sugar.  The recipe called for elderflower liqueur. Patrick and I went out to a new wine shop that just opened here in town.  After passing in front of two liquor stores, we remembered that we now live in Texas.  Closed on Sundays.  Closed ALL DAY on Sundays.  Grrrrrr.

S.Kenney 2011

I decided to replace this elderberry liqueur with kirch (cherry) liqueur because we had some at home.  Again,  the entire presentation didn't look like too much at this point and I thought perhaps I had hit a recipe that was photographed to look like much prettier than in reality.

Trust me.  This was not the case.

After my first taste of the poached rhubarb with a small dollop of the cream on the spoon, I experienced profound happiness.

Oh. My.Word.  If spring could be scooped into a bowl, this is IT!

The rhubarb is sweet and syrupy, earthy and rustic in presentation.  The sabayon cream is velvety, rich and deeply floral in nature.  The two pair sublimely together.  The colors are fresh, sweet, and delicate.
I will definitely be experimenting more with poaching fruit and adding a cream to it.

S.Kenney 2011

What a light dessert.  Spring is a short season.  Before the heavy heat of Texas descends, I need recipes like this.  Its the season of long walks.  Baby spiders are beginning to weave their web of seasonal change and sparkle in corners and crevices.

Poached rhubarb with saboyan cream

The air feels fresh and clean.  The wind blows soft and cool.  Overnight it seems, baby shoots of flowers open and dominate the fields.

A walk in the neighborhood

I wonder if we'll see another adorable family of little ducks like we saw last spring.  I'll have to tuck my camera with me and be on the look out.  One thing is for sure, the herons are flapping their graceful long wings and creating such artistic pleasure as they dominate the sky with their lanky physique.

To all those coming out of long, harsh winters in the North, you should celebrate one fortunate fact.  Rhubarb is a Northern plant.  It is spring bottled up in a relatively unattractive stalk.  Its a gift to the northern climate for sure.

Poached Rhubarb with Elderflower Sabayon
(Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, April 2011)

Serves 4
3 cups water
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped, pod reserved
1 strip (2 inches) lemon zest
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons elderflower liqueur, such as St.-Germain, or any other sweet, floral liqueur
(Snippets Notes: Due to it being Sunday, all liqueur stores were closed so I used Kirsch which is cherry.  We thought it tasted wonderful)

1.  Prepare an ice-water bath.  Bring water, 2 cups sugar, the vanilla seeds and pod, and lemon zest to a boil in a wide, shallow saucepan.  Stir.  Reduce heat.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add rhubarb, and simmer gently until just tender, 3 minute. (Snippets Notes:  Important not to over cook.  Don't go too far away from the bubbling mixture. If over cooked, it is instantly mushy)  Transfer to a bowl set in ice-water bath.  Let cool completely.  Divide among 4 bowls.

2. Whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, the egg yolks, and the elderflower liqueur in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Cook, whisking constantly, until sabayon is tripled in volume, frothy, and warm to the touch, 6 to 8 minutes.  (Snippets Notes:  Do not walk away.  I went to pour a cup of coffee and within 1 minute I had scrambled eggs and had to start over.  Baby, baby, baby it)
Serve immediately over rhubarb.
3 cups

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Houston's Canino's Mexican Market! Wow!



All of the hard work of the high school Junior year is coming to a climax.  Testing, testing, and more testing for Madeleine.  SAT's, ACT's, Subject tests, and AP tests will fill up the next 2 months.  I registered her to be tested at our local high school nearby.  

A few days before the test, as I checked our paperwork, I noticed we had a rather big...Problem.  

Houston is ridiculously HUGE.  There are 2 high schools with the exact same name in this gi-mormous city.  One in our neighborhood...

And...one clear across Houston about 45 minutes away.  Yes, she was registered at the latter.

Who would have guessed?  Not me, apparently!

So, we packed up early Saturday morning and trucked over, at the crack of dawn, to the OTHER high school for testing.

Never one to miss an opportunity for something to explore, I had heard about this huge Mexican outdoor market in that area of Houston called Canino's Farmer's Market.



Poor Madeleine...hours of testing ahead of her. But, what was a mother to do, however, with all of this enviable spare time?  After dropping her off with pitiful look on my face that said, "I'm so sorry you have to take hours and hours of testing",  I rather feverishly sped away.  I was in search of this much talked about market. 



Arriving at Canino's Farmer's Market was like crossing a line at some point on the drive and entering a completely different culture.  

Holy Guacamole!  Arriving at the market, I couldn't help but think this market is huge!   I definitely felt like I had left the U.S. and journeyed south into the lands of Mexico.  This must be what everyone is calling a "Staycation"!



Come along  as I explore this vast market and meet the wonderful Mexican population of Houston.  Here is where everything for the Mexican, Central and South American kitchen can be stocked for authentic South American dishes.  I trundled home with all sorts of new items to discover in my kitchen.



Huge mounds of cactus leaves told me that I wasn't at my nearby Kroger anymore.  This market is a moving feast for the eyes...a cacophony of sounds for the ears...an enticing array of aromas for the nose... and a passion for food and culture that so, so warms my heart.



Peppers, peppers, peppers were everywhere.  All different shapes and colors, bursting with glossy hues of red and green and yellow.  

Trucks  were loaded with produce.  The air was stimulated with hustle and bustle as stalls opened, families with children all worked together to unload more and more food, and snippets of Spanish rang throughout this enormous market.  

Isn't this little girl precious with those rosy cheeks?  She was so sweet and helpful trying to answer my questions about tomatillos, cactus, and yucca roots.  

Many items at this market were jarred like tomato relishes and peaches.  Corn grinders lined the tops of stalls to make the popular and delicious tortillas.  

Thank you ACT tests for taking hours and hours because I was moving at a snails pace trying to savor and devour this enormous venue.  Items I had never seen before were overhead, in bins, crates, and baskets.  Produce of every color, shape, and texture was spilling out of every corner.





After about an hour of wandering the market and trying to calm my senses and take in all of the new sights and sounds, I began to smell the most enticing aromas.  Grilled onions, corn, slow cooked beef met my olfactory organs and worked their magic leading me straight to the back of the market.





Fresh baked tortillas with grilled vegetables and slow cooked beef and pork were being sold in delicious looking soft tacos.  People were lingering around these stalls ordering their food and generally relaxing with one other.  The weather was beautiful and it felt like a perfect Spring day.  

I wasn't hungry a minute ago but with the hypnotic allure of these gorgeous smells, all of sudden I seemed to be starving!

I decided to get in line with the locals and indulge in one of those soft tacos.  Somehow, I didn't seem to blend because there were quite a few stares coming my way.  This little guy was so cute.  He watched my every move so I'm sure it was evident that I wasn't a "local".  



How does this look?  Delicious?  Yes ma'am it was.  The pork was grilled and spicy.  The onions and peppers were hot and caramelized.  A thick slice of avocado rested on top.  I scooted right up to the little metal bar and ate my soft taco with everyone else.  I don't speak Spanish but we laughed and mmm'd and aaah'd over our barbequed meal.  







Re-energized again, it was time to explore what appeared to be another entirely new section of the market.  Peppers, peppers, and more peppers awaited me at almost every stall.  

I have been wanting to make this spread that I saw in Martha Stewart's magazine.  It calls for fresh fava beans.  I couldn't find them anywhere.  I was hopeful that they might show up here.  And they did!! Looky here...

I also have been shocked at the price of fresh vanilla beans in my local grocery store.  Here I came upon a barrel filled with vanilla beans for a fraction of the cost.  Another recipe came to mind that I now could make.....

Prickly pears and bulging sacks of cinnamon certainly caught my attention.  I'll be googling how to cook Mexican dishes with these items when I get home.

Finally, after sampling sprinkles of spices over cool watermelon, roasted peanuts, and a tasty lime flavored soft taco, it was time to end my "staycation".  

As I got back in the car and crossed that imaginary line somewhere and left behind the beautiful culture of Mexico, I worked hard on re-installing that pitiful pained look on my face as I picked up my bedraggled and brain-worn out daughter.  

"How was it, sweetheart?" I whimpered expressively with a countenance of complete understanding and pity.  "I thought of you toiling away in there hour after hour.  Why don't we go home and I'll make you....perhaps...

Fava bean salad, 
or something with fresh vanilla beans possibly, 
maybe... something with cinnamon (lots of it), 
prickly pears, 
yucca roots?"  

Off we went went, back to suburbia knowing that however her testing went, I'm sure there will be good things to eat!