August 22, 2014

Baked Peach French Toast

Unlike my husband (and, apparently, most of society), I’m not a big breakfast fan.  He could happily eat breakfast foods for every meal; I’d be happy bypassing them all together.  Aside from huevos rancheros and everything bagels with whitefish salad, I’m just not that into breakfast -- I’m the person who always walks past the omelet and waffle bar at brunch and go straight to the salads.  Given my general anti-breakfast stance, I’m definitely not a fan of the traditional baked french toast casserole.  I’ve tried a variety of recipes, and most of them are too sweet, either too dry or too soggy, and often involve cream cheese (a common theme I bring up in multiple posts: I loathe cream cheese in sweet things). 

This baked french toast, however?  It’s delicious, and that means a lot coming from someone who doesn’t like breakfast.  It’s rich and decadent, without being overly sweet (I always serve it with a side of maple syrup for those who do like sweet breakfasts).  It’s pretty enough to serve to guests when it’s baked in a springform pan.  It’s a perfect way to showcase seasonal fresh fruit (peaches are my favorite, and so delicious this time of year!).  It has more of a bread pudding like consistency than too-often dry french toast. And best of all, it’s a great way to use up leftover bread.  I can never finish a loaf of bread before it get stale, so I wind up freezing quite a bit.  The stale bread is perfect, easily soaking up the liquid.  Challah is my favorite bread for this (though there are never leftovers when I bake a fresh loaf of challah!), but this time around, I used a package of frozen hamburger buns, left over from our 4th of July party.  Even with bland, commercial bread, this is still a winner.

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Baked Peach French Toast
Adapted from The Pastry Queen

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf bread
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cup milk (any variety – I use nonfat)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • fresh fruit, for serving

Directions:

  1. Cut bread into cubes and place in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks, heavy cream, milk, sugar, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon and pour over the bread.  Toss bread cubes until most of the liquid is absorbed.
  3. Pour into a greased 8- or 9-inch springform pan, and press down lightly on the bread to spread evenly.  Refrigerate a few hours or overnight, until all liquid is absorbed into the bread.
  4. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes, until browned.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan and remove the ring.  Top with fruit and cut into 8 wedges to serve, along with maple syrup or powdered sugar.

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August 20, 2014

Garlic Naan

When I posted the recipe for eggplant curry last week, I mentioned that I also made naan.  This was actually my first time making naan – I have no idea why it took me so long.  I don’t make bread frequently, and every time I do, I question why I don’t do it more often.  There’s something so incredibly cathartic about kneading dough by hand and (not-so) patiently waiting to see if your dough rises.  I think I might try working my way through a variety of yeast breads this fall; I’m already daydreaming about chilly fall days with the kitchen door open, football on the TV, and the scent of fresh bread coming from the oven.

Back to reality… and upper-80s summer weather.  This naan was a peace offering to my husband, going alongside the vegan and gluten-free (two of his least favorite food descriptors) eggplant curry.  The process is incredibly simple, though a bit time consuming if you don’t have a large workspace on your grill.  Since I was stirring the curry simultaneously, I chose to make these on a grill pan on my stove, but the whole process would have gone much quicker if I used my outdoor grill.  This recipe makes quite a lot (16 pieces based on the size I used), but it’s worth making the full batch, since they freeze well.  I let the naan cool, wrap individual pieces in aluminum foil, and then store them in an air-tight bag.  When you’re ready to use them, put them right in a 450F oven (straight from frozen) and cook for 6 or 7 minutes.  All the deliciousness, with the work done ahead of time!  What’s not to love?

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Garlic Naan

Ingredients:

  • 1 (0.25 ounce) package dry active yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 – 4.5 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup butter or ghee, melted

Directions:

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl.  Let this stand for ~10 minutes, or until frothy.
  2. Stir in sugar, milk, the egg, and salt.  Add in the flour, one cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.  Start with 4 cups ,and add the additional half cup if necessary while kneading.
  3. Knead the dough for ~8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth.  If the dough is really sticky during the kneading process, keep sprinkling the additional half cup of flour onto the dough.
  4. Oil another large bowl, and transfer the dough into this bowl.  Cover the dough with a damp cloth.  Set in a warm space and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour, until doubled in volume.  If you don’t have a warm spot to use, place the dough into an oven which was preheated to 180F.  Turn the oven off as you insert the dough, and let it sit with the door shut for the hour.
  5. Punch down the dough and knead in the garlic.  Pinch off small handfuls of dough, roughly the size of a golf ball.  Roll into balls and place on a large tray.  Cover the dough with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size again, about 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat a grill or grill pan (or heavy-bottomed skillet) to high.  Roll each ball of dough out into a thin circle and grill for 60 seconds, until puffy and lightly browned.  Brush the uncooked side with the melted butter, and then flip and cook another 1 to 2 minutes, until the other side is browned.  (Note: since I had limited space, I had a nice little assembly line going: roll out one piece of dough and add to grill pan, go back and roll out a second piece of dough and add that to the grill pan, flip the first piece, roll out a third piece, flip the second pieces and remove the first piece and add the third piece to the grill, and so on and so forth.)

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August 15, 2014

Rhubarb Simple Syrup

I’ve mentioned before that I split a full share of our CSA with friends.  Most of the time, it works out great – it’s a better variety of vegetables and costs less per person for more produce, and in the spring when we’re overwhelmed with leafy greens, it’s a relief to hand over half of all that kale.  The downside, however, is that sometimes you’re left with not-quite-enough of something to do anything.  Case in point: rhubarb.  We received a bunch of rhubarb in our box a month or so ago, and half went off to our friends.  I was left with 5 stalks of rhubarb, which wasn’t enough for any of the standard rhubarb recipes – strawberry rhubarb pie, rhubarb bars, etc.  Sure, I could have downsized the recipe, but I’m not a strawberry fan so strawberry rhubarb pie doesn’t excite me, and a lot of rhubarb bars contain cream cheese (I feel very, VERY strongly that cream cheese is a savory only item and belongs on bagels and not in desserts).  So what else to do with the rhubarb?  Rhubarb-infused simple syrup.  I like to bake, I like to eat baked goods, but I truly love a good drink.

I’m a bourbon and whiskey girl, but summer calls for gin (or tequila… or rum if you’re on a tropical island and there are tiny umbrellas involved…).  I used my rhubarb-infused simple syrup in a Rhubarb Collins.  Pair the rhubarb solids from the simple syrup-making process with some cheese and crackers and a nice city roof deck, and you have the perfect summer happy hour.  We enjoyed just this combination with my parents when they visited earlier this summer, and it was truly delightful.

The rhubarb-infused simple syrup is delicious, and the things you can do with it are endless – drizzle it over ice cream, stir a little into your morning oatmeal or yogurt, add a dash or two to lemonade, use it as as your liquid for a poke cake – but really, why would you want to do anything other than make yourself a drink?  Happy Friday, friends – enjoy your weekend, perhaps with a rhubarb beverage.

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Rhubarb-Infused Simple Syrup:

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 stalks rhubarb, chopped
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine the rhubarb, sugar, and water in a heavy bottomed sauce pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Lower the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft, about 20 minutes.
  2. Strain the rhubarb mixture through a fine mesh strainer, collecting the liquid.  Press the solids with the back of a spoon to extract more syrup – you will be able to squeeze out quite a bit more.
  3. Pour the syrup into an airtight bottle and store in the fridge for several weeks.  The solids will last for a week or two, refrigerated, and are delicious on crackers or toast.
  4. To make a Rhubarb Collins, combine 45 ml gin (3 parts), 30 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 parts), and 15 ml rhubarb simple syrup (1 part) in a tall glass with ice.  Top with soda water and enjoy!

August 13, 2014

Eggplant Curry

I love eggplant, and since we all know that the smaller version of anything (puppies, kittens, eggplants) is infinitely more exciting than the full size version, I was delighted to find baby eggplants in my CSA box.  I traded away my half of a cantaloupe for the other half of the eggplants (I love splitting a full share and the resulting CSA box bartering!)… and then they sat in my refrigerator for a few days while I forgot about their existence. 

One of the reasons I love our CSA so much is that it eliminates the need for regular grocery shopping – with a weekly delivery of fresh produce, I just keep a few basics around, and can generally come up with something for dinner.  Even without grocery shopping for a few weeks, I was able to pull together everything for this makeshift curry, which I served with homemade naan (recipe to follow) and spicy green beans (from the CSA).  I didn’t have any coconut milk around the house, but I did have unsweetened shredded coconut, used in a recent granola-making adventure.  Combine 1 cup of water with 1/2 cup of shredded coconut in a blender, and presto: “homemade” coconut milk.  If you’re picky about texture, I’d pass it through cheesecloth, but I just poured the liquid and remaining little shreds into the curry together.

I’ve made other eggplant curries in the past which haven’t really been my husband’s cup of tea.  I’m not sure if he just happened to like this version more, or if he’s just being a good sport now that we’re easing back into living together – but either way, I’ll take it!  (Or perhaps it was the homemade naan that appeased him… yeast breads are certainly the way to his heart.)

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Eggplant Curry

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 pound baby eggplant
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 serrano peppers, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons tumeric
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • rice, cooked, for serving

Directions:

  1. Cut off the tops of the eggplant, and cut a deep X through the bottom, without cutting all the way through the eggplants.
  2. Heat the coconut oil in a large, heavy bottom pan over medium-low heat.  Add the eggplants, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove the eggplants from the pan.
  4. Add the onions, serrano peppers, and garlic, and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the ginger and spices and cook, stirring for about a minute.
  6. Increase the heat to high and stir in the coconut milk.  Bring to a simmer for another 5 minutes, until slightly thickened.
  7. Return the eggplants to the pan and stir until heated through.
  8. Serve over rice.

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August 10, 2014

July 2014 iPhonetography

Another month, another overload of animal pictures.  My life can basically be summed up as such: work, cook, bake, play with animals, and it appears my photos reflect that.  My husband also moved back home, so now he shows up in an occasional picture or two.  It’s been nice settling into a normal marriage of seeing each other everyday, eating dinner together, sharing household chores – it only took us 6 years of married life to get here!

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1) Friends of ours came over for dinner, and brought along two unused scratching posts for my foster kittens.  They took to them immediately, and by the next morning, were able to climb all the way to the top of the tallest one.
2) We hosted a few friends for a 4th of July BBQ . The night before, I realized I had zero festive decorations, so I decided to make a wreath.  A few hours, a few pounds of hot glue, and quite a bit of melted skin, and voila – a wreath!  It’s been outside since the 4th and is still holding up well, so I’m hopeful the effort will at least net me a few seasons worth of use.
3) My initial cake plan fell apart (literally… one of the cakes crumbled away when I was trying to remove it from the pan), so the good old fashioned patriotic trifle made another appearance this year.
4) Fireworks!  We found the best spot behind the art museum to watch the fireworks last year, so we returned again this year and brought the dog with us.  I thought my husband was insane, since so many dogs are terrified of fireworks, but she was too busy people-watching to notice them going off, until the grand finale. 
5) Foster kitten!
6) We took Dreidel swimming in the Wissahickon Creek for the first time.  She wanted to keep her paws on the bottom the whole time, but she seemed to enjoy herself, and this was the first time we let her off leash in an open space.  She didn’t eat any small dogs or children, or chase any deer, so we’re calling it a win!
7) I always have a few empty cardboard boxes in the “kitten room”, and they love to sit in them.  Completely unprompted, Dreidel spied an open box in the kitchen and climbed right in.  I love that she’s started to pick up behaviors from our little foster kittens!
8) After so many years of living apart, it is so, so nice to come home to my two favorite faces every day after work.  I always work later, so we’ve fallen into a nice little routine where Scott and Dreidel walk halfway to my work and meet me, and we all walk home together.  It’s the best part of my day!
9) Our little “niece” Mira turned a year old!  That girl knows what’s up with that delicious cake, baked by her mother!
10) Scott’s first day as an attending!  At his mother’s request, I took a picture of him from his first day of med school, first day of clinical rotations, first day of intern year, and now I have a picture of his first day off to his big-boy doctor job!  (No picture from his first day of residency or fellowship, since we were living apart.)
11) Just another lovely evening in the city.  This summer has been (mostly) so pleasant compared to last year’s miserable heat.
12) Bi-weekly Sunday pack walks through the city with a friend.
13) My kittens were spayed, and had to wear cones of shame for a week.  Despite putting out two bowls of food, they insisted on sharing, even though it meant a cone collision.
14) I headed down into our basement one evening to find Scott fast asleep and Dreidel apparently channel surfing.
15) Behind the scenes for the PAWS calendar shoot.  Domino is a supermodel!
16) July ended with the annual lab picnic.  It was in the mid 80s this year, and an absolutely beautiful day to be outside; quite a contrast from the 100 degree day last year!

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