Friday, July 26, 2013

Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookies and Company!


Last year I received a message from a friend asking if I had a recipe for Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookies.  Nope, never heard of them....she explained that they are made on the central coast and that they are a "little piece of heaven".  Well, we go to the coast...why haven't I seen this place?  I did a little searching and sent a few links to my friend.  It seems that a number of ladies out there have tried to replicate the recipe.  That is such a tough thing to do.

On a recent trip to the little town of Cayucos on the Central California Coast, what did I spy....the Brown Butter Cookie Company...home of the original Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookie!


I have now tasted Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookies and yes, they are a little piece of heaven and yes, they are addictive and no, they do not share the recipe! (Darn...the pounds gained from eating so many cookies and darn, they don't share the recipe!)

This sent me back to the web.  I found two different recipes and decided to "just pick one".



Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookies

1 1/2 sticks of butter
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
Sea Salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325° F. and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until it starts to caramelize.  It should smell nutty and you should see brown bits at the bottom of the pan.  BE CAREFUL NOT TO BURN IT as you will have to start all over.

Pour the brown butter into a medium  bowl and stir in the brown sugar and vanilla.  In a small bowl whisk together the flour and the baking soda.  Add the mixture to the butter and sugar.  Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Roll the cookies into balls (about the size of a large marble) and sprinkle with sea salt.  Press the top of the cookies lightly.

Bake 15 minutes or until  golden brown.  Overcooking will make them  dry and crumbly.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


I was at my daughter's house and I was happy to have my granddaughter help baking!

Here's the report.

Taste:  The flavor wasn't as rich as the original.  They weren't as sweet and the browned butter flavor wasn't as distinctive.  (Maybe I didn't brown it long enough.)

Texture:  They seemed just a bit dry.  They cracked possibly due to the dryness.  Might this be the stiffness of the dough?   I adjusted the baking time along the way and it didn't seem to help.  

Conclusion:  More sugar, brown the butter longer, use less flour and decrease the baking time....


Miss S. and I appeal to all bakers.   We would like your thoughts and some ideas on how to improve the cookies.


Did we have difficulty eating them?  Absolutely not!  

We even stole her daddy's beautiful Michael Lax dish from the 1950's for serving.  It is from the "Capri" line.  Thank you, Mr. K.  We were very careful.

I am sharing today at Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm.





Saturday, July 20, 2013

Puro Fairtrade Coffee Review


Recently, I was offered some coffee to review.  Never having  reviewed a product before, I wasn't certain if that was something I wanted to do.  But, I do love to smell coffee beans and since the wonderful aroma of coffee brewing is heavenly, I decided why not....I enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the morning and sometimes with a little snack in the afternoon!  Besides, it is not just coffee...it is the environment!

Puro is certified by the Fairtrade Foundation and owned by the Belgium Company, Miko which has been roasting coffee for 212 years!  I was very impressed with how important the environment is to Puro.  Through the Puro brand, alongside Fairtrade, they want to communicate the threat to the rainforest and the need to preserve it. 

Did you know that after oil, coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world?  Imagine the amount of coffee consumed every day all over the world. By putting messages on their cups and sharing their stories and videos with clients and consumers, they believe that they can help to make a difference. They want to show other companies that the people and our planet are just as important as profit. 

They have teamed up with The World Land Trust to help make their dream a reality.  The World Land Trust is a UK based land conservation charity whose patron is Sir David Attenborough. The World Land Trust conserves biodiversity by protecting threatened habitats and in co-operation with local partners and communities, helps to ensure they are managed sustainably.

Thanks to Puro's ethically and environmentally conscious consumers, Puro has saved over 8,511 acres of rainforest in Ecuador, Columbia and Brazil.  The land has been purchased and is protected against logging.  New species have also been found in the area since they became reserves:  1 tree, 12 orchids and a frog!!  This is a company that I can get behind.  A company that is reinvesting in the countries where their coffee is grown and preserving the environment is a good thing!

You may be interested in this short clip about the Puro story.


When the package arrived I was really excited!  It came in a wooden box lined with burlap.  Inside were three packages of coffee:  Puro Organic, Puro Noble and Puro Fuerte as well as individual packets of hot chocolate and brown sugar!  Let the fun begin....


Each bag had a hand-written label telling the type of coffee, origin. and a description.

Puro Organic:  
Type: Fairtrade, Organic, Shade Grown
Origins: Peru and Honduras
Finest Arabica content: 100%
Description: This amazingly delicate blend is distinctive in flavor. It combines beautifully soft notes of chocolate with tangy citrus.  

To me this was a light blend making the cup of coffee perfect for an afternoon break...when it is time for things to slow down.   It made for a nice and relaxing break!

Puro Noble
Type: Fairtrade, Shade Grown
Origins: Peru, Honduras, Guatemala and Congo
Finest Arabica content: 80%
Premium Robusta content: 20%
Description: Rich and lively medium roast with hints of fruit and hazelnut.

This made a very nice cup of coffee!  One that could be enjoyed anytime of day and perfect with a little snack.  It will help to "keep you going"...

Puro Fuerte

Type: Fairtrade, Shade Grown
Origins: Peru, Honduras, Guatemala and Congo
Finest Arabica content: 50%
Premium Robusta content: 50%
Description: A fragrant, dark roast with a touch of spice and a full body.

This was my favorite "good morning" cup of coffee!  It was cup of robust wake-me-up!  I like the dark roast, it was fragrant and had a great flavor that was perfect for my morning cup.  This coffee is the perfect match to the Banana Snack Cake that I made to accompany this robust cup of coffee.



No cup of coffee is complete without a little snack.  The Banana Snack Cake I made was best with the Puro Noble and the Puro Fuerte.  Both of those blends stood up to the snack.  

Puro Coffee can be found in Europe, Australia and most recently, Canada.  It is the coffee served at all National Trust sites and in some restaurants and businesses.  Making Puro Coffee available in the United States is in the works...look for it....enjoy a great cup of coffee and help to save the environment at the same time!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Banana Snack Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting



It seems that there are always bananas in the basket waiting to become a bread or a cake or something. They don't seem to last as long as they used to.  Or maybe it is because there are only two of us in the house.  Whatever the reason, when I saw  this moist cake recently posted by the Brown Eyed Baker, I knew that it was the answer to my banana problem.  (Michelle's blog is amazing.  There are so many wonderful things to bake..if you have never stopped by, do so!!  You will have fun cruising through her great recipes.)

The cake lived up to every expectation.  It was bursting with banana flavor, it was moist and the layer...thick layer of cream cheese frosting made it oh so tasty.  This is a great little snack cake...nothing fancy, just great with coffee or tea, a cake that can be served anytime of day.

Banana Snack Cake 
with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk (I used the Cultured Buttermilk Blend for Baking as I didn't have any buttermilk in the house.)

Frosting
8 oz. cream  cheese, at room  temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (one stick)
Pinch of salt
4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the Cake
Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  (If you are using the dry Buttermilk blend, it is added to the dry ingredients here.)

Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and oil together on  medium speed until  completely combined. Add both eggs and beat to combine, then  add the mashed bananas and vanilla extract.  Beat until combined.  Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in parts, alternating with the buttermilk (water if you are using the dry Buttermilk blend) until combined.  Use a rubber spatula to give the batter one last turn and then  pour it into the prepared baking dish.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and it tests clean with a toothpick or thin-blade knife.   Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

For the Frosting
With an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese, butter and salt  on medium speed.  Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar until it has combined.  Add the vanilla extract, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy.

Spread the frosting over the cooled cake.  Cut the cake into squares and serve.  Leftovers should be covered  with plastic wrap or placed in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


One of these days I will learn how to cook for two.  In the meantime, I continue to share with the neighbors.

I am participating in Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage and Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Shrimp and Pasta Puttanesca


We had an amazing dinner last week.  I am drawn to the briny, sharp, spicy flavors that are typical of a puttanesca.  But, I have never made the dish and decided that if I enjoyed it so much, then I should figure out how to prepare it.  There was only one problem.....it called for anchovies.  Anchovies bring back memories that make me frown and wrinkle my nose....they are pungent; they are fishy.

When I was growing up, we would go for pizza on occasion and my dad always ordered pizza with anchovies.  How gross...besides the fact that they were smelly and I was insistent that I could smell them, they tasted awful....how to quickly ruin a pizza outing.  He didn't change his ordering habits but instead of making me eat them, he was happy to eat my share.  Of course, I had to find the little buggers to get them off before taking a bite and I still contend that they left a taste and smell on my piece of pizza even when they weren't there!!

I know that I am not alone when it comes to strong feelings about anchovies.  I know that there must be others who shy away from them too.  Childhood memories should not dictate today's dinner...(unless of course, it is liver and that will never cross the threshold here.)  I guess it was time for me to put on my big girl panties, buy a can of anchovies, and make the sauce.  I only wrinkled my nose a couple of times during the process as I kept hoping that I wasn't ruining the sauce....

I was so happy to see the anchovies "melt" into the dish...I could only smile as they disappeared.  But, they brought such a complexity of flavors to the dish that I can't imagine having it without them.  There, I said it...I cannot imagine making a puttanesca without anchovies!  It was a delicious meal with layers of flavors that had me going back for more....more than once!

Thank you, Danielle for digging out your magazine and making such a winning dinner!  I was excited to be assigned Danielle's blog, Mostly Food and Crafts for this month's Secret Recipe Club.  Danielle is a stay at home mom who loves to cook and loves to craft.  She makes some delicious meals and has spent many hours crafting with her children.  What a lucky family!

Her recipe motivated me to try a dish that I have never prepared:  Shrimp and Pasta Puttanesca!  As I didn't have any marinara sauce on hand, I made some adjustments to the recipe and made my own sauce.  This was so worth my anguish over anchovies!!  Next up is her Spaghetti alla Carbonara!!


Shrimp and Pasta Puttanesca
adapted from Mostly Food and Crafts via Real Simple

1 pound pasta (I selected linguini.)
2 Tbsps olive oil
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 Tbsp capers, roughly chopped
1/3 to 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3-4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

1 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 1/2 to 2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup chopped parsley

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano when served.

Place the tomatoes in a saucepan.  I mashed them to create a bit of a thick sauce.  Simmer until reduced to a good saucy consistency.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add 2 Tbsp kosher salt.  Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until al dente.  Drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the pasta water.

In another large pot, heat the oil.  Add the onion, garlic and anchovies and cook  over medium heat, stirring, until the onion is lightly browned and the anchovies have broken down.  Add the shrimp to the pot and cook until the shrimp begin to  turn pink, about 2-3 minutes.  Turn the shrimp and add the capers and olives.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce, parsley and the red pepper flakes.  Cook, stirring, until fragrant about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Add the pasta and some of the reserved pasta water to the mixture.  Stir and toss gently over medium heat until the pasta is well coated. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve sprinkled with fresh parsley and freshly grated Parmigiano.

PRINTABLE RECIPE

The fear of anchovies is gone...I would say that moderation and the fact that they melt into the sauce is the reason...if I can't see it, it isn't there!  If my Dad was still with us he would have loved this meal.



Friday, July 12, 2013

Marinated White Beans


In the town where I live there is one dish that everybody knows...Maison Jaussaud's Marinated White Beans!   If you ever tasted them, then you probably tried to replicate the recipe.  Wow!  They were delicious.

Maison Jaussaud's was a French chateau-like restaurant that was open in the fifties and sixties. they served French cuisine, their waiters were dressed in tuxedos and they had headliner entertainment. Before Johnny Carson made it big, he was on-stage at Maison Jaussaud's.  Over the years, California governors and senators, as well as actors, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Charles Laughton were hosted at the restaurant.  What memories....I was so excited to have dinner there after the Winter Formal my senior year of high school.  One felt elegant going to such a "fancy restaurant"!  I know that we all played "our part"!

The appetizer that was served to all patrons consisted of a crystal boat-shaped dish filled with vegetables along with a dish of their marinated white beans and  wonderful soft French Bread.  There could have been other items but I don't recall....I could have made a meal on the beans!

There are many recipes floating around out there that are purported to be the Jaussaud's Marinated White Beans.  Most of the recipes have bell pepper in them...I don't recall that bell pepper was among the ingredients but what does a high school kid know...  Well, I know that I don't like the taste of bell pepper dominating my marinated white beans!!  So, this recipe does not have pepper.  It is a very simple, but tasty marinated white bean.

My youngest daughter discovered the recipe and asked if I would make it for her as she was cooking for a camping trip....sure, white beans, anytime!!  I asked about adding other ingredients and was told to "just make the recipe the way that it is written...but make sure that they have a taste."  Sounds like an oxymoron to me.  Yes, I adjusted the recipe...I had to add more vinegar.  It is the one ingredient that you cannot skimp on.  Since the recipe calls for equal parts of vinegar and oil, I just added 2 Tablespoons additional red wine vinegar....I would suggest adding vinegar by taste the first time you make them....

Marinated White Beans
adapted from Caitlin Dentino

1 cup dried small white beans, soaked and rinsed (Canned beans also may be used...2 cans of small white beans, drained and rinsed)
3 ribs celery, thinly sliced, including the leaves if using the center ribs
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, plus 2 Tablespoons
1/4 cup Canola oil
2 T. chopped parsley
1 very thin green onion (This is optional.)
Salt
Pepper
Dash of red pepper flakes

Pick over beans, rinse.  Place in a large pot and add water to about 2 inches about the beans.  Bring to a boil.  Let boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat and cover.  Let stand for an hour.  Test beans for doneness.  If the beans are not done, simmer for an additional hour.

In a small dish, add the garlic and vinegar.  Let it sit while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

In a large bowl, add beans, celery, parsley, garlic and vinegar.  Stir to combine.  Add the oil a little at a time, stopping once the salad is lightly coated.  Add a dash of red pepper flakes with salt and pepper to taste.

The beans get more flavorful the longer they marinate.  I make them early in the afternoon  for an evening meal.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


These were a special treat!  We loved them and I know they will be made again soon...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ricotta Lemon Pound Cake with Blueberry Sauce



I took advantage of the two days of reasonable temperatures to bake.  Thank goodness for the reprieve...who in their right mind would turn on an oven when the temperatures are hitting 110° F!  I must admit that those temperatures make 102° F. look good!  It was really a no-brainer....get the cake baked for the Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge before it got hot again.

The two ingredients for the Dessert Challenge this month were lemons and blueberries. Additionally, it is also National Blueberry Month....I wonder if that had anything to do with the selection of blueberries as one of the ingredients.   To me, those are two reasons to pull out the blueberries that we picked on our trip to Oregon and brought home.  Mr T's purchase last summer was a gadget to vacuum seal food items making them easy to freeze and travel home...basically, it was for fish and berries.

There are quite a few lemon and blueberry recipes but having adoration for the pound cake and absolutely loving the Ricotta Orange Pound Cake with Strawberries that I made a few years ago, I knew that I was going to be making a Ricotta Lemon Pound Cake with a Blueberry Sauce.  There couldn't be a better dessert.


Ricotta Lemon Pound Cake 
with Blueberry Sauce

1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature (additional to grease the pan)
1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1 Tbsp
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lemon, zested
2 Tbsp Limoncello
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Blueberry Sauce (see recipe below)
Lemon Whipped Cream (see recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Grease a 9 X 5 X 3 inch loaf pan with butter.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir to combine.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, ricotta, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  With the machine running, add the eggs one at a time.  Add the vanilla, lemon zest, and Limoncello until combined.  Add the dry ingredients, a small amount at a time, until just incorporated.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until a tooth pick comes out clean and the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 50-60 minutes.  Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Using a mesh sieve, dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar.

Prepare the Blueberry Sauce.

Prepare whipping cream, flavoring it with grated lemon peel and lemon juice.

To serve, slice the cake and serve with a spoonful of blueberry sauce over the top of the cake.  Add a dollop of Lemon Whipped cream.

Blueberry Sauce

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup sugar (The amount may be adjusted to suit your taste.)
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp cornstarch, mixed with 2 Tbsp cold water
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the blueberries, sugar, water and lemon juice.  Stir frequently but gently and bring to a low boil.

Mix the cornstarch with the water in a small  bowl.  Slowly and gently stir the cornstarch into the blueberries,  Simmer the mixture until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, approximately five minutes.

Remove the sauce from the heat and gently stir in the lemon zest and vanilla.

Lemon Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp lemon zest
2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a chilled mixing bowl.  Using an electric mixer, beat until soft peaks form.

This may be made two hours in advance, covered and stored in the refrigerator.


Mr. T wanted to use some of the blueberry sauce for pancakes....not a bad idea...


If you would like to join the fun and participate in the monthly Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge, you will find the information you need,  here.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Watermelon with Sweet Balsamic Syrup


It has been way too hot here to do much cooking.  In fact, I have done very little cooking and less blogging.  One could say that I took a bit of a vacation from both cooking and blogging.  The thought of heating up a kitchen with outdoor temperatures already reaching 110° F. was more than my mind could handle!

That being said, it was tough to even think of walking into the kitchen to prepare something for our get together on the fourth.  (Thank you, Carol, for hosting.)  I was assigned appetizers. Hmmm...it had to be something cool and refreshing; like Ceviche de Camaron, Watermelon with Sweet
Balsamic Syrup and Mr. T's popular guacamole.  (The shrimp are a favorite of ours and perfect of a warm day.  That recipe can be found here.)

Mr. T. had brought home a beautiful  watermelon and what is more perfect than fresh watermelon on a warm day?  I remembered seeing a recipe by David Lieberman for watermelon with a balsamic syrup.  The combination intrigued me and since I had everything I needed and wouldn't have to go out into the heat...it was definitely a winning combination for me!

The watermelon  was refreshing and the syrup was a nice addition.  I am not big on garnishing with mint...it is always too strong for me, but others enjoyed it.  It is definitely easy and worth giving a try!

Watermelon with Sweet Balsamic Syrup

1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 large watermelon
6 fresh mint leaves, chiffonade

Combine balsamic, sugar and water  in saucepan.  Heat over medium-high heat and reduce slightly until syrup consistency.  This takes about 10 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.

Cut watermelon into small wedges.  Drizzle cooled balsamic syrup over the watermelon.  Garnish with a chiffonade of mint.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


Wasn't that simple?  Just right for a very hot day when the heat has zapped your energy!