Tuesday, April 21, 2015

savory little scones



Are savory little scones just biscuits?

I got my mitts on a spectacularly delicious cheddar and spinach scone that was somehow left unsold at the market a few weeks ago. When I warmed it up for breakfast the next morning, I was amazed at the transformation the heat brought out in it. I thought of nothing else for days whilst conjuring up my weekly cooking plan (which almost always involves cheese). I pondered the cheese counter at the market and decided on one of my favorite cheeses, Fontina Val d'Aosta.
I've used  Fontina in scones before and it was great in a frittata I made recently. I usually just smash a big hunk into a chunk of fresh baguette or melt it onto a slice of baguette with a big pinch of sweet Italian sausage smashed down on it and baked for 10 minutes for quick toasties. This is the real Italian Fontina, not that red wax coated, rubbery, bland, Danish doppelganger one finds at the supermarket.
Fontina Val d'Aosta is a classic Italian cheese made in Northern Italy. It's a raw, washed rind cow's milk cheese. It's a stinky cheese. I love stinky cheese.  It's texture and flavor depends on how long it has been aged. It can be semi-soft to firm and the flavor can be mild and rich or more robust and intense as it ages. Raw milk cheeses are lovely because the flavor enhancing bacteria hasn't been heated out of it. The washed rind adds even more complex flavors.
The Fontina we get at the market is just the right balance. It's got a great funk and a smooth buttery paste. It's pale cream in color and riddled with tiny eyes. The 45% fat content makes it super rich and creamy.
My first attempt, these crazy good scones, many, many moons ago set me on a course of savory scone nirvana. Yet, I google-thon'd, searching for a recipe for a basic savory scone dough using buttermilk ('cuz that's what I needed to use up) and I came upon this one at The Kitchn.
If there's anyone out there who actually reads this blog, you may be familiar with my Three Amigos, my go-to home made condiments: caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, and slooowwww roasted tomatoes. These guys, added to my favorite food in the world~ cheese....well it's a battle for the  starring role in any of these killer savory scones: caramelized onions & blue cheese, chives & goat cheese, cheddar & jalepenos and these:

Roasted Tomato, Fontina, & Dill Scones
adapted from The Kitchn


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup frozen unsalted butter cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup Fontina Val d'Aosta, grated
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons whole buttermilk
1/4 cup chopped roasted tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 egg lightly beaten


In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients. Scatter the frozen butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter pieces are the size of small peas. Add the cheese, buttermilk, tomatoes and herbs. Pulse until everything is just combined. The dough will be pretty shaggy but hold together when pinched between your fingers.
Spread a large sheet of parchment paper over a work surface and turn the dough onto it. Using a bench scraper and working the dough as little as possible, shape, press and flatten the dough into either a 1 1/2 inch thick round, if you want larger scones or a 1 1/2 inch thick rectangle, if you will be making mini scones.
Slide the parchment onto a sheet pan and chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
Slice the round into 8 wedges, or the rectangle into 2 inch strips then 2 inch squares then slice each square diagonally across to form little wedges.
Return the wedges to the parchment/sheet pan with some space in between each piece. Cover the pan with a sheet of plastic wrap and return to the freezer for at least another 30 minutes or until you're ready to bake them. If you're planning to freeze any of the unbaked scones, continue to freeze for a minimum of 1 hour total. Remove the frozen scones from the sheet pan and transfer into a freezer bag removing as much air as possible. Place the bag inside a second freezer bag and remove air.
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Place the scones on a parchment lined sheet pan. In a small bowl,  beat the egg with a fork. Brush each scone with egg. Sprinkle with pinches of maldon sea salt (I added fresh za'atar-a Middle Eastern herb blend- to finish these off) and bake for 15 minutes until golden, rotating the sheet pan half way through. Let the sheet pan rest on a cooling rack for 5 minutes and transfer the scones directly onto the rack to continue cooling. Serve them while they're still a little warm. Uneaten scones can be left to cool completely and then stored in an airtight container at room temperature.




Monday, April 6, 2015

Enchiladas Verdes & Cilantro Lime Rice


This is one for the "Possibly-Even-Better-the-Next-Day" section of the cookbook in my head...Leftovers to Love or something like that...but these enchiladas (and the rice) are so good that leftovers may be a wild dream.
I frequently make big batches of enchiladas along with rice and beans to get myself set up for a week of quick & easy dinners. I love enchiladas and I've been making and refining my recipe since Jr. High Home Ec. Yes, I'm that old.
Many months back I was inspired by a staff meal concoction our chef made of leftover enchiladas verdes that he'd chopped up and tossed with rice and kidney beans. It was so delicious and all I could think about for the next few days was how to recreate this ASAP. I planned the majority of my weekend around it.
First up was a first-Enchiladas Verdes. I've been cooking Mexican dishes all my life and have never ventured toward the tomatillo. Green sauce? no thanks. That was then.
I pulled out my trusty Big Book of Cooks Illustrated and found exactly what I was looking for. True to form, I still spent an hour+ in a Google-thon, looking for the next best thing. Turns out there wasn't, but I already knew that didn't I? All I wanted was for it to be tomorrow already with enchiladas a done deal, cold and congealed sitting in my fridge.
While the chicken was poaching, I made a up the batch of tomatillo sauce and then prepared about a dozen enchiladas, enough to fit the pan and mistakenly made burritos with the rest of the chicken. Burritos are another great make ahead meal and though I was happy to have them later, I should have made more enchiladas. They looked amazing fresh out of the oven (I took pics but night time photography in my kitchen is pointless). I ate two right away and they tasted even better than they looked. I love, love, loved them. The tangy/spicy tomatillo sauce was beautifully balanced by the pepper jack cheese. I used Vella pepper jack, hand-made locally in Sonoma. It's super moist, flavorful and sinfully spicy, something you just can't get in a supermarket block cheese.
I reheated the enchiladas again the next day, which is what I photographed here so the tomatillo sauce isn't as bright as it was when I first pulled it out of the oven. The mess of a drizzle is a crema made with sour cream, lime juice, salt and cayenne pepper.
I don't know what I was thinking, but I re-heated the cilantro lime rice and some black beans I had in the freezer. I cut up the rest of the enchiladas and tossed everything together while it was warm. What a trainwreck. It all turned to mush, but man-o-man it was tasty. I ended up using it as a burrito filling, but in retrospect it would have made pretty awesome fritters.

Note to self: triple this recipe next time and be lovin' on leftovers all week long!
.
Enchiladas Verdes
Cooks Illustrated

4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
3 garlic cloves minced
1 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 ½ pounds tomatillos
3 poblano peppers
1 – 2 ½ teaspoons sugar
½ cup fresh cilantro
8 ounces pepper jack cheese 
12 corn tortillas
Vegetable oil spray

Crema
½  cup Sour cream
Juice from one whole lime
Salt
Cayenne pepper


1.   Turn on the broiler. In a large skillet, heat oil and add the onion, tossing to coat with oil and cook until they begin to soften about 3 minutes. Add the cumin and 2/3 of the garlic and cook another minute until fragrant. Add the chicken broth and the chicken breasts cover and cook until the broth starts to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked to 160 degrees, 15-20 minutes. Reserve the broth and let the chicken cool.
2.   Roast the poblanos either in the broiler by slicing down one side and spreading open. Scrape out the seeds and veins if you want less heat, otherwise leave them be. Lay the peppers on a sheet pan or the broiler pan and roast until the skin is blackened. You can also do this over the open flame of the stove top leaving the peppers whole and turning with tongs. Either way, once blackened place the peppers in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap and let them steam and cool down a bit. Then scrape the blackened skin off.
3.   Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the tomatillos: remove the papery skin and stem, slice in half across the widest part (the equator). Lay the tomatillos, cut side up on a parchment covered sheet pan and brush them across the top with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until tomatillos are soft and begin to brown, about 20 minutes.
4.   In the food processor add the cooked vegetables, sugar, salt, remaining garlic and ¼ cup of the reserved broth. Pulse until the sauce is still a little chunky.
5.   In a medium bowl, shred the chicken with two forks. Stir in the cilantro, grated pepper jack and salt to taste.
6.   Transfer the sauce into the skillet and heat. One at a time, dip a tortilla into the sauce so it softens enough to roll. Lay the tortilla on a plate, place about 2 tablespoons of filling in the middle and roll up. Lay the enchilada seam side down into a casserole dish and repeat. Pour the remaining tomatillo sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup cheese over the sauce and cover tightly with foil.

7.   Bake the enchiladas until heated through and the cheese is melted and serve. Drizzle with crema and sprinkle sliced scallions on top 

Cilantro Lime Rice
Martha Stewart

Prepare white rice:
1 cup white rice
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Into the blender:
½ cup cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water

Toss into cooked rice

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Spinach & Roasted Tomato Frittata


I love frittata's, but the only time I ever make them is when I do the big family breakfast at my sister's on Christmas morning while everyone is still asleep. I make them with the leftovers from our Christmas Eve appetizer party. My sister-in-law always brings the Costco cheese plate and for the last two years, my niece has taken to make what she calls an Astro Weenie Veggie Tree, cocktail weenies and bite-sized crudites skewered with decorative toothpicks onto a big foil covered styrofoam cone -it's pretty awesome but her ambition is undermined by her late-to-the-party timing. By time she's finished chopping and constructing the thing, everyone's already gotten into the sweet and sour meatballs and salami cream cheese roll ups, no one wants veggies. The next morning I deconstruct and cut up whatever is left from the sweet and sour meatballs (usually nothing) and anything else my sister has languishing in the fridge. It's always a crowd pleaser.
This is not that frittata. This is my take on a food52 recipe that showed up on my news feed awhile back, the day after the rare occasion we get leftover frittata in the breakroom at work. I thought, why don't I ever make frittata's for myself? They make great leftovers, the perfect thing to reheat with a small salad when I get home from work hungry.
I had a basket of cherry tomatoes teetering on the edge of the compost bin and it all came together. I slow roasted them. I usually always have feta in the fridge so that night I pondered the cheese selection at work and decided on the Fontina Val d'Aosta, the real deal, made in Italy~a semi-firm, raw milk full flavored cheese. All this time I'd been using fake fontina: fontina style cheese, the red waxed Danish version one finds in the supermarket. There's a big difference. Real Fontina is so much more flavorful and it's more firm than fake fontina which is downright flabby by comparison. 
True Fontina is a great snacker. I had a piece that was a little over 6 ounces. I shredded the 4 or so ounces for the frittata and "tasted" through the remaining bit that I had originally planned for my after-work grilled cheese toast, savoring bite after bite. By the time the frittata came out of the oven the rest was gone.
I love to let a little piece of cheese linger in my mouth for as long as I can. It's like candy.


Spinach & Roasted Tomato Frittata
adapted from food52

1 pound cherry tomatoes sliced in half
1 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch spinach chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
10 big basil leaves sliced into ribbons
7 eggs
4 ounces shredded Fontina cheese
4 ounces feta
salt
pepper


  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, toss the tomatoes with a glug of olive oil, salt, pepper and dried thyme or oregano.
  3. On a parchment lined baking sheet arrange the tomatoes, cut side up so they're not touching. spoon any remaining liquid left in the bowl on top of the cut halves, refilling any that have hollowed out during the tossing. 
  4. Roast for 30 minutes
  5. Heat oil and garlic in a 12 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach and cook down until it is just wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Whisk eggs in a big bowl. Add the cooked spinach, fontina, 3/4 of the chopped basil. salt & pepper.
  7. Pour the mixture back into the skillet, top with the tomatoes pressing them down into the mix. Sprinkle on the remaining basil and crumbled feta.
  8. Cook on the stove top, over medium heat until the bottom is just set, about 3 minutes. Slide it into the oven and cook until set, about 15-17 minutes

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Leek Bread Pudding

I've been eager to try this recipe since Daniel, one of my customers at the market told me about it. He had a basket of leeks, cream, croutons, thyme and Gruyere. I asked him what he was making- "Leek Bread Pudding".
I was intrigued, never having made bread pudding before. I'm a huge fan of the lovely leek and if there's cheese in the mix, count me in. "Wow! that sounds great. Where'd you get the recipe?" Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home, it turns out. Daniel said he'd just made it for the first time earlier in the week and it was so good he wanted to make it again. I laughed because I do the same thing. If I make something new and it's really great I'm already planning my next shopping trip after my first bite. I like to make it again right away to make sure it's as good as I think it is. If it's just as lovely the second time around it'll become part of the repertoire.
When I Googled the recipe, the first thing to come up was Smitten Kitchen's adaption of Keller's recipe so I knew I was golden 'cuz everyone knows how much I love me some Smitten Kitchen. SK's recipe halves the Ad Hoc proportions to fit in a loaf pan and is more suitable for a small family meal as a side dish whereas the Ad Hoc recipe seems more inclined to those folks who entertain on a larger scale than me. Keller's proportions call for 3 cups of heavy cream AND 3 cups of milk. It's hard to carry that much dairy on the handle bars of my bicycle. In the meantime, I got the book from the library. The pictures are very pretty.
This turned out quite well in spite of a few.. uhmm.. substitutions
I used a variety of crusty freezer loaves I get from the day old bread basket at the market to make the croutons. The recipes suggests making croutons with brioche or a pullman loaf which are less dense and crusty.  This was a spontaneous decision when I found leeks at my local produce market yesterday. It was my day off so I didn't get the good stuff and ended up buying a block of supermarket swiss cheese instead of the Emmentaler or Comte the recipe suggests. I also forgot to buy chives so I just added extra thyme.
So yeah, there were a few flaws. It was still delicious so I know it'll be extra awesome next time.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cheddar & Jalepeno Scones

Finally, I got around to making the Cheddar & Jalepeno Scones again. I was in a savory scone zone last year, inspired by some great savory brioche that we were selling at the market.  Last year I made them with Cabot Vintage Cheddar, a beautiful, moist, aged cheddar with a wonderful zippy flavor. It's a waxed cheese, which keeps all the moisture in as it ages and develops all kinds of tasty goodness. It's moisture makes it a great melter and it's my go-to everyday cheese.
This time I changed it up a little and used Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. It's also an aged cheddar but it's drier, a little saltier and savory-er. These are pretty great, even if I did wimp out on the jalepeno heat by scraping out the seeds and ribs. I used 2 large jalepenos, but Serrano peppers can be used as well. I will be making these again with a little more heat.
I bought a large net bag of jalepenos from my neighborhood Chinese market and I just happened to have the Cooks Illustrated: The Science of  Good Cooking checked out of the library. I share their chosen method for storing chile peppers for more than a couple of days, should you find yourself with an abundance of chiles:
Cut the chile's in half lengthwise and submerge them in a jar with a brine of one tablespoon salt to one cup of water. Rinse the chile's off when ready to use. CI does not recommend freezing fresh chiles (unless you can flash freeze them in a cryo-vac/seal-a-meal kind of deal). You'll end up with mushy peppers when they thaw.


Cheddar Jalepeno Scones
adapted from The Kitchn

1 tablespoon butter
2 large jalepeno peppers, seeded, ribs removed and finely minced
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup frozen unsalted butter cut into 1/2" cubes
1 ½ cups good aged cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons whole buttermilk
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 egg lightly beaten
Maldon sea salt to finish

In a small sauté pan, heat butter over medium-high heat. When the bubbling subsides add the jalepenos and sauté until soft, 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool completely.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the dry ingredients. Scatter the frozen butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter pieces are the size of small peas. Add the cheese, buttermilk, jalepenos & cilantro. Pulse until everything is just combined. The dough will be pretty shaggy but hold together when pinched between your fingers.

Spread a large sheet of parchment paper over a work surface and turn the dough onto it. Using a bench scraper and working the dough as little as possible, shape, press and flatten the dough into either a 1 1/2 inch thick round, if you want larger scones or a 1 1/2 inch thick rectangle, if you will be making mini scones.

Slide the parchment onto a sheet pan and chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Slice the round into 8 wedges, or the rectangle into 2 inch strips then 2 inch squares then slice each square diagonally across to form little wedges.

Return the wedges to the parchment/sheet pan with some space in between each piece. Cover the pan with a sheet of plastic wrap and return to the freezer for at least another 30 minutes or until you're ready to bake them. If you're planning to freeze any of the unbaked scones, continue to freeze for a minimum of 1 hour total. Remove the frozen scones from the sheet pan and transfer into a freezer bag removing as much air as possible. Place the bag inside a second freezer bag and remove air.

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Place the scones on a parchment lined sheet pan. In a small bowl,  beat the egg with a fork. Brush each scone with egg. Sprinkle with pinches of maldon sea salt and bake for 15 minutes until golden, rotating the sheet pan half way through. Let the sheet pan rest on a cooling rack for 5 minutes and transfer the scones directly onto the rack to continue cooling. Serve them while they're still a little warm. Uneaten scones can be left to cool completely and then stored in an airtight container at room temperature.






Sunday, December 7, 2014

Breakfast Tacodillas

Breakfast Tacodillas, originally uploaded by michele wynne.
Breakfast is and always has been my favorite meal, long before it became a regular in my kitchen, it's always been my favorite meal for dining out.
This is a pretty typical breakfast when I can remember to do it and it's super simple. All you need are some corn tortillas, eggs, cheese and fresh herbs. I also include caramelized onions, roasted peppers and tomatoes when I have them on hand or some corn salsa.
The inspiration for my taco-quesadilla hybrid came about one morning whilst I was noodling around the blogosphere and other time-leeching internet diversions. That day, the hours I spent elsewhere, some how led me to these two recipes that changed the little kitchen for the greater good.  This is a mash-up from my two favorite foodie blogs. I've been making some version of this at least once a week since this taco recipe from Smitten Kitchen caught my eye...then something directed me to this quesadilla recipe from 101 Cookbooks.
Breakfast for one~3 tacodillas:

Assemble whatever assortment of ingredients you have on hand: 2 eggs, 3 corn tortillas, salsa, cheese, herbs etc. I'll usually use whatever cheese I have on hand, but I find fresh goat cheese, feta, or blue cheese or Brie (used here) to be my cheeses of choice.
For this one I used Brie and the last crumbles of some Pt. Reyes Original Blue, caramelized onions, and thyme.
In a small bowl beat the eggs with some salt and pepper. Heat up a little oil in a small non-stick skillet. When the oil is hot, pour in about one third of the eggs, enough to spread to the size of your tortilla. Let the egg set for about 30 seconds and then lay the tortilla over the egg and let that set for another 30 seconds or so until the egg is fused to the tortilla. Carefully flip the whole thing over. Sprinkle some cheese on top of the egg and let it begin to melt. Add any other layers of ingredients. Slide the tortilla onto a plate, folding it in half as you lay it down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Apples & Bacon

I'm auditioning brussels sprouts for a potential role in my Thanksgiving contribution this year. Brussels sprouts are a relatively uncharted territory for me as I was one of those haters for most of my life. I began my conversion a couple of years ago when I came across a very simple recipe in one of Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbooks. The photograph was delicious and I'd been trying to broaden my veggie horizons by focusing specifically on vegetables that I'd thought I hated (eggplant and squash rounded out the top 3 vegetables I've managed to avoid all my life). The brussels sprouts were pretty darned good. I felt accomplished, adventurous, and virtuous. Then I moved on.
In preparation for the upcoming holidays, I was asked if I'd be up to bringing a home made holiday dish to a staff meeting at the market and talk about how to shop for it and how to prepare it, providing printed copies of the recipe. This is an example of how we live Bi-Rite's mission statement: Creating Community Through Food.
The first thing that came to mind were brussels sprouts. I don't know why, because I've never prepared them since that first time but it seemed like the perfect occasion to revisit.

So, as usual, I embarked on a recipe Google-thon and landed on two recipes that morphed into this:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples & Bacon
adapted from Michael Symon at cookingchanneltv.com
and backtoherroots.com

1 ½ pounds brussels sprouts-trimmed and halved*
1  large tart apple, such as a Granny Smith or Pippin-cut the same size as the brussels sprouts
8 ounces slab bacon-cut into ¼ “ lardons (cubes)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Pre heat the oven to 450 degrees.
In a large bowl, toss the brussels sprouts and apples in 2 tablespoons of olive oil using your fingers to get all of the pieces coated. Transfer onto however many sheet pans you'll need so you can spread the pieces out so they are in one layer and not touching each other. You may need to roast in batches to achieve this. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
When roasting vegetables it’s important not to crowd the pan or else everything will just steam and not brown.
Roast for 20 minutes** or until the vegetables start to blacken. Halfway through the roasting time, remove the pans, toss the vegetables around and switch places on the racks if you have more than one pan going,
Cook the bacon until crispy. Drain onto a paper towel and drain the fat into a small Pyrex type bowl.
Turn the heat back on under your now empty, but brown bottomed bacon skillet and deglaze with balsamic vinegar scraping up that great stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan and let the balsamic cook down a little and thicken. Turn off the heat and whisk in the maple syrup and a couple of tablespoons (or more) of bacon fat. Toss the cooked bacon back into the pan and stir. Add your roasted vegetables and toss those around a bit to coat.
If you want to get fancy you can add toasted nuts or dried cranberries or top with crispy fried onions or shallots.
*I bought bagged brussels sprouts which contained a variety of sizes. To achieve uniformity, cut the large ones in quarters, the medium ones in half and keep the tiny ones whole. You can also buy them loose and choose ones that are uniform in size. I like the variation of crispiness you get from the differences in shapes and sizes. Save the loose leaves and roast those last. They're like kale chips and add another dimension to the dish. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn like mine did.

**cooking time will vary depending on how large your brussels sprouts are.

I'm gonna go all out and do a big batch of these. The leftovers make a great fritatta the next morning and a nice garnish for soup.