Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cranberry Orange Scones

I think a good scone is one of the most perfect baked goods.  In my opinion, a good scone is light and flaky, with a touch of sweetness, and most importantly, it can stand on its own.  It does not need jam or heaven forbid, more butter to make complete.  It is perfect all by itself, along side a cup of coffee or tea.

I think Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, is the queen of scones.  She is also the queen of cream and butter.  I have experimented with her scone recipes for a while now, and I've decided that low fat buttermilk is an acceptable substitute for heavy cream in her scone recipes.  I have tried to reduce the amount of butter she uses, but quite frankly, if you reduce the amount of butter too much it changes the texture and the integrity of the scones.  If you are not willing to use some butter in a recipe, don't bother making scones.

The key to making good scones is making sure butter your butter is ice cold and work quickly.  As a matter of fact, your buttermilk or cream should be very cold as well. If you handle the dough too much, the heat from your hands will melt the butter and will result in dense scones.  You want to see small bits of butter in your dough. This dough freezes well too.  You can mix up a batch, cut them out and freeze them before you bake them.  I put the cut-out scones on a pan lined with a silpat, place the pan in the freezer, and freeze for about an hour.  After they are frozen, I remove them from the pan and pop them into a ziplock freezer bag and keep them for a rainy day. When you want to bake them, just pop them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat, brush with egg wash, and sprinkle with sugar.  They do not need to be defrosted and take just 5 minutes longer to bake.
This recipe makes a lot of scones.  I made a batch for our October staff meeting along with Pumkin Ginger Nut Muffins that can be found on Simply Recipes.
I think I ended up with 20 scones.  Obviously, you can change the yield by using a different sized cutter.  If you don't want 20 scones, cut the recipe in half. I usually cut the recipe in half, and still freeze half.  It's a good idea to only bake as many as you will consume in a day or two. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Last Dinner, Late Nite Turkey Burgers

As I sit and think about this past week, I get kind of sad.  I always feels so relaxed and content when I visit Matt in Florida; it always makes me sad to leave.  When I am here, I can be as mindless as I want it to be.  I make an effort not to look at the clock, drink way too much coffee in the morning, and plan my day as it unfolds.  This trip was low key.  We just wanted to spend some time with Matt and Lauren and decided to forgo the usual obligatory Orlando theme parks.   My days were spent sleeping in, doing some shopping at my favorite SteinMarts (yes I went to 2 of them), taking a stroll on Park Avenue in downtown Winter Park, catching a movie downtown and spending a long day at the Mount Dora craft fair.
Leather rockers with double elbow room....nice!  Wish the movie was better.
Everyone needs an alligator muffler....don't they?
We were able to get in a little time at the pool, I had time to write, and let's not forget our afternoon at the Black Hammock biker bar in search of alligators.
Matt is not a biker
Me and Matty
It's safer to dance on tables when alligators are around
The guys in the background gave us their recipe for fried gator!
I guess you can't swim in this lake!
We ate well too.  We had excellent Thai food at Sea Thai, yummy BBQ at 4 Rivers and Lauren's famous turkey tacos at home, YUM.  I did not do any cooking until last night.  Since Matt was working late, and Lauren worked all day as well, I decided to whip up a batch of late nite Mar-a-lago Turkey Burgers.  Yes, it was a relaxing trip.

I love cooking in this kitchen.  Why???  I HAVE SPACE!!!!  At home, I am very methodic when I cook.  I have to be.  At the condo, I can cook with reckless abandon... I love having space!
So let's get down to cooking....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Apple Spice Cake

It seems as if cake and desserts have undergone somewhat of an evolution over the past twenty years.  Dessert is so much more sophisticated than it used to be.  Maybe it really isn't, but since the advent of The Food Network and the internet, it sure seems that way.  Sophistication has its place, but sometimes I just want to make a cake that is homey and nostalgic.  I came across this Apple Spice Cake recipe on this site.  After reading all the comments, I had to give it a try.  This is one of the simplest cakes in the world to make.  It satisfied my nostalgic urge, that just-like-mother-used-to-make kind of cake.  It was heavenly with a cup of coffee and stayed moist for days.   My dad would have loved this cake.  He was a no-nonsense cake kind of guy; he didn't go for cakes with mounds of frosting.  He loved coffee cakes, pound cakes, pies and anything my mom would bake in this pan.

I have a nice bundt pan, but to add to the nostalgia, I thought my mom's old tube pan would be appropriate.  It's an old soldier.  This pan has to be at least 50 or 60 years old and bakes cakes like a charm.  I line the bottom with parchment or wax paper so it doesn't leak....this pan has been through a lot.  I tweaked the recipe just a little to reduce the amount of fat.  I also used a combination of brown and white sugar, just because I like the brown sugar - cinnamon combo.  I hope you like it too.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chicken Scarpariello, My Way

A few weeks ago, Paul and I decided to try a local Italian restaurant for dinner.  When I saw chicken scarpariello on the menu, I immediately thought of the first time I ever had the dish.  It was at Carmine's in New York's theater district.  I remember it being aromatic and tart with lemon.  I had it again at one of my favorite Italian Restaurants, King Umbertos.  It was quite different from Carmine's version, but still delicious.  Umberto's recipe was less lemony, but had the addition of pepperoncini, mushrooms, and a lot of wonderful sauce.  I can't remember where I had my third scarpariello experience.  All I recall was a boneless version, with hot cherry peppers and a dark sauce, very different from the other two.  It was then that I came to the conclusion that every chef has their own interpretation.  That brings me to my most recent dinner at my neighborhood restaurant.  Although our calamari was outstanding, Paul's penne a la vodka was excellent, my chicken scarpariello was....BORING!  It was then that I decided I needed to make this dish myself; and am I glad I did!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash ... (and Friends) Soup

I don't know why it took me so long to discover butternut squash, it just did.  I don't remember my mother ever cooking it when I was a kid.  Looking back on my childhood, it would be fair to say we were a squash-less family.  We ate our vegetables, but they were more along the lines of string beans, peas, carrots, and broccoli.  Mostly frozen vegetables were served in our house, with the exception of holidays.  Holidays always commanded fresh vegetables.

When I moved out of my parent's home,  I headed west to California, the land of fresh vegetables. While living in Santa Cruz,  I had a brief stint with vegetarianism.  I had an open mind and found the joys of fresh produce: artichokes, arugula, lettuce that was not iceberg, brussel sprouts and squash.  I also learned that there were many ways to cook vegetables as well. Vegetables could be more than an obligatory lump of green on your plate. I discovered one of my favorite ways to cook winter squash was roasting.  Roasted butternut squash has a wonderful depth of flavor and can stand on its own.  It doesn't take much of leap to know that if you take that roasted squash and puree it with some broth, you'll have the start of a really good soup.  Add a few other ingredients to the mix and you'll have something special.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

End of the Season Gazpacho

My beloved tomato plants took a severe beating in yesterday's storm.  I'm not sure whether it was the wild wind or the deluge of rain, but they look like hell.  The ground is covered with tomatoes.  I am going to glean what I can and hope that the remaining soldiers can hang on a bit longer until the season's first frost.

Earlier this summer I experimented with some gazpacho recipes.  I decided that I like my gazpacho to have some texture and chew.  For that reason, I loved Ree Drummond's gazpacho.  Her technique of adding finely diced and minced vegetables to the pureed vegetables worked perfectly for me.

This gazpacho is a wise way to use up some of those extra tomatoes and random veggies you may still have in your garden.  It tastes fresh and clean and is relatively quick to make. Just be sure you leave enough time to chill it before serving.  If you are good with your food processor, you can do most of your dicing and prep with it.  Just be sure not to pulverize the veggies.  Do the dicing in small batches.  Serve the gazpacho as a first course or have a big bowl for dinner.  If there are any left-overs, it makes a delicious lunch although I must warn you the raw garlic becomes more pronounced.