March 26, 2015

Lemon Chickpea Shallot Casserole

In case you missed it, Bunsen Burner Bakery now has a home on Facebook.  You can find the page here – a great way to receive notifications of future recipes if you don’t subscribe via e-mail or an RSS feed!

Everyone who cooks or bakes has something they just can’t seem to master in the kitchen.  I know so many wonderful chefs who don’t like to bake, or hate making bite-sized appetizers, or have never had a loaf of bread properly rise.  Inversely, it seems even more common to love to bake, but have no interest or talent when it comes to cooking savory components for dinner.  I enjoy both baking and cooking, but my own personal kitchen nemesis has always been the seemingly simple casserole.

lemon chickpea shallot casserole

Yes, that’s right, the casserole – the one-dish meal popular with 1950s housewives everywhere.  Believe me, I’ve tried my fair share of casseroles in the kitchen, but I’ve never found one that I’ve actually liked.  I’m unsure if this is because I’m doing something wrong, or if my husband and I just aren’t “casserole people”.  It doesn’t matter how many people swear that their husband thinks this particular casserole was the best thing they ever ate… mine always just says “meh” in response to my attempts.  And yet despite all the failures, I keep trying – because I love the idea of the casserole.  A one dish meal that can be prepared ahead of time and popped in the oven as soon as you get home from work?  It sounds amazing, especially for those nights that I don’t leave the lab until 8pm and don’t have the time or energy to start cooking a complex dinner at 9:00 at night.

lemon chickpea shallot casserole

All this considered, you can imagine my shock when even my chickpea-disliking husband willingly ate this casserole, and even dared to say that it was good.  For him, it falls firmly in the “side, not main dish” category, but it’s easy enough to grill a chicken breast while this is in the oven and call it dinner.  For me, it’s a perfect dinner or lunch on its own, or something I’d even serve to casual company, accompanied with a nice, crisp salad and something delicious for dessert.  It’s a modern take on those heavy cream-of-something laden casseroles from the 70s – fresh and bright, with lemons and shallots, warm and creamy inside with a nice crispy parmesan crust.  Make it the day before and pop it in the oven after work, make it the day of, or make it well ahead of time and freeze it; you really can’t go wrong.  And if I can manage to make this casserole, I assure you that you can, too.

lemon chickpea shallot casserole

Lemon Chickpea Shallot Casserole
Adapted from Not Your Mother’s Casseroles*

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2/3 cup panko or dried bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped herbs (I like a combination of parsley and oregano)
  • olive oil, for drizzling

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F and lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
  2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl.  Add in the cottage cheese, yogurt, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese.  Stir in the chickpeas, rice, shallots, garlic, and lemon zest and juice.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the herbs.
  3. Spread the mixture into the baking dish and top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 45 minutes, until golden and bubbling.  Allow the casserole to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

*Amazon Affiliate Link

March 24, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Scones

My weekday morning routine is pretty standard and boring: wake up, walk dog, go to the gym, head to work.  In between the gym and work, I stop by Au Bon Pain and get a medium oatmeal for breakfast.  Sure, I could bring in my own oatmeal, but stopping at ABP means I also get a complementary giant cup of ice, which I can use to keep my water ice-cold for at least half the day (I hate drinking room temperature water, but we have no potable ice available in the labs).  Of course, the oatmeal at ABP is right next to the bakery display cases, which means every morning I do a little mental debate between oatmeal and oh, say, a bagel with cream cheese, a croissant, AND a scone (because why just have one?).  Fortunately, I always make the better decision, but after eyeing the scones up for the past 8 months, I really wanted to bake some of my own.

chocolate chip cinnamon scones

Unfortunately, I didn’t want to be left with an entire batch of scones to eat by myself (because I know I would, and that totally defeats the purpose of dragging myself to the gym, which I really really hate).   But then my friend and fellow neighborhood resident @Dr24hours went to Spain for 10 days (so jealous) and asked if I’d bring in his mail and check on his house in his absence.  The weekend before his return, we had a particularly snowy day (enough snow that his flight was cancelled and he enjoyed an extra day in Madrid!) and I spent the afternoon baking a batch of scones to leave in his kitchen to welcome him home.  Yeah, I’m a pretty awesome neighbor – what can I say?

chocolate chip cinnamon scones

Most scone recipes out there call for forming a flat-ish disc of dough and slicing into 8 wedges, like a pie.  You can certainly do this, but I prefer to very gently roll my dough out and cut with a biscuit cutter, or use an ice cream scoop.  Why?  Well, it’s easier to portion out the dough – instead of 8 giant scone wedges, I was able to get 20 round scones.  This makes it easy to share while still having a taste (or two) yourself.  I’d feel awkward dropping off six wedges that fit perfectly into a circle with two pieces missing, but never think twice about leaving someone a dozen circular scones!  These scones are still light, despite rolling them out, but have just the right amount of crunch on the outside.  Definitely don’t overbake them – my dog distracted me for one of the batches and they came out a little too crispy for my liking.  We kept a few at home and found that they were still soft three to four days later, so go ahead and bake a batch at night and enjoy them for breakfast the next morning!

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Scones
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup miniature chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.  Use a box grater or microplane to grate the frozen butter into the bowl and toss to combine.  Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse sand.
  3. Whisk together the cream, egg, and vanilla in a small bowl.  Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and stir together with a rubber spatula just until everything appears moistened – do not overmix.  Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Work the dough into a ball with floured hands and place between two pieces of wax paper.  Very, very gently, roll the dough out with a rolling pin, to a thickness of about an inch and cut with a 2 to 2.5-inch biscuit cutter.  Alternatively, scoop the dough with an ice cream scoop.  Place the cut or scooped dough onto the baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden but cooked through (don’t overbake!).  Remove from the oven and cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.  Leftover scones will keep for 3 to 4 days at room temperature, or frozen for several months.

March 19, 2015

Garlic Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits

I love baking yeast breads, but there's no denying that it's a time commitment.  Even if the hands-on time isn't much, waiting for the yeast to rise means that a freshly-baked loaf of bread really isn't a weeknight option. Biscuits make a great quick alternative, and drop biscuits make it an even easier option since there's no rolling and cutting the dough. I like to make mine extra garlicky and add in some shredded cheddar (because cheese makes everything better) and serve them alongside soups, stews, or chili as an alternative to traditional crusty breads or cornbread. I think that this particular batch was paired alongside a very hands-off batch of red beans and rice from the crockpot (recipe forthcoming), making the entire dinner a perfect "stuck at work late" weeknight option.

garlic cheddar buttermilk biscuits

These have obviously been my go-to drop biscuit recipe for quite a while, since I found the picture below in my “foods to blog” folder with a “created” date back in 2011!  (Sidenote: I love looking through my very old pictures of foods I never got around to blogging on my prior not-food-related blog… it’s always such a flashback to old apartments, memories of fun nights with friends, and dishes long forgotten.)  I only make these biscuits two or three times a year, since we don’t eat much bread at home, but they’re always a hit, and oh-so-simple to make.  They also reheat beautifully – just pop them back into a 325F oven for a few minutes the next day, and they’re just as good as the first day!

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Garlic Cheddar Buttermilk Drop Biscuits
Yield: 12 biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, frozen or very cold
  • 1 cup cheddar, grated
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and garlic powder.
  3. Grate (or cut into small cubes) the butter into the flour mixture and blend with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse sand.  There will still be pea-sized lumps of butter in the mixture.  Stir in the shredded cheddar.
  4. Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the buttermilk.  Mix gently with a spoon until the dry ingredients are just moistened and the dough comes together into a lumpy ball.
  5. Scoop the biscuits onto the parchment lined sheet, roughly 1/3 cup per biscuit.  Bake for 15 minutes, until the top just starts to turn a light golden brown.

March 17, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

Let’s backtrack several weeks to the Super Bowl.  I mentioned back in this post what I made for our Super Bowl party.  Desserts were challenging – I didn’t want to make anything like cake or pie, which requires cutting and serving, but I made most of my go-to bite-size desserts at one of the two parties we hosted in the previous two months (our annual Chrismukkah party and our New Years Eve party).  Add in the fact that I was busy most of the weekend, meaning there wasn’t much time for baking ahead of time, and my oven was doing double-duty on the day of the party with all the savory components.  Enter the need for a simple no-bake, no-utensils, one-handed dessert… like this chocolate chip cookie dough dip.

chocolate chip cookie dough dip

Who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookie dough?  99 times out of 100, I find the unbaked batter for any cake, cookie, tart, muffin, etc., tastier than the actual baked product.  But raw dough generally has eggs, and while I may be willing to take that risk for a bite or two, I’m certainly not going to serve something with raw eggs to any guests.  Why not just take my normal chocolate chip cookie recipe and leave out the eggs?  Well, it’s dense… really dense.  And while that might work just fine if everyone was going to dig in with a spoon, I wanted something lighter and fluffier, so people could scoop up the dip with the dipping vehicle of their choice (brownies, graham crackers, nilla wafers, pretzels, etc.).  Folding in some freshly-whipped cream did exactly this, making a scoopable dip with all safe-to-eat-raw components.  The dip was a big hit, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say the thought crossed my mind of making a scaled down version of this dip since then, for my own personal snacking pleasure.  I’ll definitely be making this again for parties – it’s so quick and easy, and I generally have all the ingredients on hand for a very last minute dessert!

chocolate chip cookie dough dip

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip
Adapted from: Erica’s Sweet Tooth

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • dipping sides: brownie bites, graham crackers, nilla wafers, pretzel bites, apple slices, bananas on toothpicks, etc.

Directions:

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat together the melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  With the mixer running on low, add in the flour and salt until just incorporated.
  2. Add half of the whipped cream and beat until smooth.  Fold in the other half of the whipped cream with a rubber spatula, until just mixed.  This will take a little time, but don’t rush it – folding slowly is the key to keeping the dip light and soft.
  3. Add in the chocolate chips and fold until incorporated.
  4. Serve with sides and refrigerate any leftovers.

March 13, 2015

Five on Friday (03.13.15)

1) Housekeeping.
Housekeeping… of the blog variety, sadly, not the “have someone come and scrub my shower until it sparkles” ultimate luxury variety.  I’ve been doing some behind-the-scenes work on Bunsen Burner Bakery, including a new design, a freshly-updated recipe index, and finally starting a Facebook page.  Friends have been telling me to start a facebook page for quite a while now, but I kept holding off – after all, doesn’t everyone who read blogs use an RSS feeder?  Yeah… it’s not 2005 anymore, and it turns out that lots of people prefer getting post updates in Facebook.  Duly noted.  If you’d like to follow along via Facebook, go ahead and like Bunsen Burner Bakery here – and go ahead and like a few posts so future updates will show up in your facebook feed.  Don’t worry, I won’t post too much – so far it’s just been twice a week with new recipe updates.

2) Osteria.
Two weekends ago, we went to Osteria for dinner.  Osteria has been on my “need to visit” list since well before I moved to Philadelphia – since 2009, to be specific.  Back in 2009, I was living in DC still in grad school, my husband was living in Philadelphia doing his residency, and  “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” aired a pizza episode, in which Marc Summers named the margherita pizza at Osteria as the best pizza he ever ate.  I promptly informed my husband that we needed to go one of the weekends when I came up to Philly to visit.  Fast forward 6 years and we finally made it.  Osteria is another Mark Vetri restaurant, and like his others, it did not disappoint.  Osteria clocks in at #24 on the Philly Mag Top 50 list, so we were also able to cross off another restaurant from our goal list.  We split the wood grilled octopus, the margherita pizza (of course!), the francobolli ravioli with royal trumpet mushrooms, and the swordfish braciole, and the fried biscuits with meyer lemon cream for dessert.  I’m not sure I’d say it was definitively the best pizza I’ve ever had, although I’m not sure what I’d choose to put ahead of it – I don’t think pizza is particularly memorable for me, no matter how delicious.  We really enjoyed our dinner and I’d certainly recommend it, although in terms of Vetri restaurants, I still think Amis brings more to the table.

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3) Pumpkin BOYB.
Pumpkin is located right in our neighborhood, and we’ve certainly walked by it dozens, if not hundreds, of times during our tenure in Philly.  It’s also ranked #4 on the Top 50 list, and yet somehow, we never stopped in for dinner.  We remedied that this week, and trekked on over in the pouring rain for dinner.  It’s a charming tiny little restaurant, with only about 10 tables, bordering between cozy and snug.  It’s a farm to table style restaurant, focusing on local, seasonal ingredients, so the menu changes day to day.  We split the octopus (we’re big fans and tend to order octopus whenever it’s an option) as an appetizer and the farro as the daily side, and then I had the sea bass and my husband ordered the duroc pork chop (we skipped dessert in favor of a slice of banana cream pie at home).  The octopous was cooked perfectly, and everything else was quite good – but it wouldn’t rank on our personal Top 5 restaurant experience.  Just a note if you plan on going: Pumpkin is a BYOB and cash-only.

4) Talula’s Garden
Last night (it was a busy two weeks, food wise!) we headed over to Talula’s Garden (#28 on the Top 50 list) for dinner and I will just sum it up by saying that it exceeded all our expectations.  It’s a big space compared to so many of the little rowhome-sized restaurants, making it louder than most of the other restaurants we’ve visited, but the entire experience was so enjoyable.  As the name suggests, there is a beautiful outdoor garden area, and we can’t wait to go back and visit again when it’s appropriately warm enough to sit outside.  Talula’s Garden offers an a la carte menu or a $100/person tasting menu – I’m sure we’ll try the tasting menu in the future, but for this trip, we went a la carte.  The restaurant is known for their cheese plates, hand selected by their in-house cheesemonger, so we started with the “World Travel” cheese plate.  There are several different plates from which to choose, and I’d highly recommend that you start off your meal with one!  We split the brown butter glazed potato gnocchi as a pasta option, and were really impressed… neither of us typically order gnocchi, and it was unlike any we had ever had before, so light and fluffy.  For our main course, I opted for the seared day boat scallops and my husband went with the sliced leg of lamb, and we were both extremely happy with our choices.  Also worth noting – the brioche brought to the table after the cheese course was phenomenal.  While we were waiting for dessert to arrive (we split the rose scented chocolate tart with roobios), we both decided that it was a Top 5 dinner we’ve had in the city – but we couldn’t decide which other Top 5 restaurant it pushed out of our personal list.  It’s surely a great problem to have – so many good restaurants, it’s impossible to rank them all!

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5) Weekend.
I’m heading straight from work to the gym (missed my normal morning working today), and then it’s the weekend!  My husband was on call all last weekend, so it will be nice to have a little time to spend together.  My parents are coming down to visit Saturday and Sunday, but we have no real plans other than dinner reservations at another new-to-us restaurant and brunch reservations at our old favorite, Parc (I promise, these past weeks are not normal for us in terms of dining out – we usually go a month or two between dining out, rather than multiple times per week!).  Unfortunately, while it’s finally warming up, it’s supposed to rain and rain and rain all day Saturday, so we’ll probably wind up stuck inside most of the weekend. 

Anyone else have any exciting weekend plans?

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