Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kona Kampachi with Meyer Lemon-Thyme Butter

Meyer Lemons

When we were kids I used to drive my brothers nuts singing the "Lemon Tree" song over and over again.

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

Well not if it's a Meyer lemon. With their sweet-tart tang, they're bold enough to make you pucker slightly but sweet enough to eat a slice raw. That's because a Meyer lemon is a citrus hybrid -- a cross between a regular lemon and a sweet orange or a mandarin -- making it less acidic and much sweeter than regular lemons.

Meyer lemons are rotund and have a soft, thin rind that almost glows golden orange when fully ripe. Their flavor is quite complex with brush strokes of bright lemon, shades of tangy lime, and hints of sweet orange.

I buy my Meyer lemons at local farmers' markets, but fortunately most supermarkets carry them seasonally from December-April. Now's the time to buy them while they're at their peak.

Then cook them with some exceptionally flavorful Kona Kampachi,® a sushi-grade Hawaiian yellowtail that is sustainably raised off the coast of Hawaii. Since it has no detectable levels of mercury and has high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids -- which have been linked to a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease -- Kona Kampachi is also healthy for you.

If you can't get to Hawaii to eat some Kona Kampachi, then consider buying some online from Kona Blue. I received my thick, snowy white, incredibly fresh fish fillets courtesy of Hannah.

Though it can be eaten raw, I quickly pan seared the fillets, which because of their high fat content, rendered the fish crispy on the outside and moist and flaky on the inside. Everyone knows that fish and citrus are beautiful together, but eating this succulent Kona Kampachi with browned, buttery Meyer lemons elevated this weeknight dinner to something truly special.

That's why I'm sending my Kona Kampachi with yellow Meyer lemons to Zorra of the beautiful Kochtopf for her International Women's Day event. Celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women this year on March 8th by sending Zorra your yellow food submissions.

I still find myself singing the "Lemon Tree" song when I'm cooking with Meyer lemons, but since my brothers are in RI, now I drive only Jeff nuts.

Kona Kampachi with Meyer Lemon

Kona Kampachi with Meyer Lemon-Thyme Butter
Serves 2
Print recipe only here.

1 1/2 tablespoons butter
the flesh of 1/2 de-seeded Meyer lemon, minced until pulpy
1 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
1 sprig of fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

8 ounces Kona Kampachi fillets
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons olive oil

1 Meyer lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon butter or olive oil

Combine all ingredients for the citrus butter in a small bowl and mix with your fingertips, ensuring that the fruit and seasonings are incorporated into the butter. Set aside.

For the fish, melt butter with olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Rub fish fillets on both sides with half of the citrus butter and place in the hot skillet. Cook fillets for 3-4 minutes, then flip once and cook an additional 2-3 minutes, or until opaque and slightly browned. If you'd like the fish more rare, then reduce the cooking time by half.

Meanwhile, melt 1/2 teaspoon of butter in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add a whole sliced Meyer lemon, and cook for about 1-2 minutes, flip once, and cook an additional 1 minute, or until lightly browned.

Melt remaining half of the citrus butter in the microwave or on the stove top and drizzle on top of the cooked fish before serving. Garnish with additional fresh thyme, if desired.

P.S. This morning I saw Jaime's comment mentioning Elly's (of elly says opa!) Eat to the Beat event. Elly's looking for your music-related recipes (by March 2nd), and this one seems just right, especially since I can't get the darned lyrics out of my head.

You might also like:

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Breakfast Quinoa, Canyons, and Bears, Oh My!

Four years ago Jeff and I took a memorable road trip through New Mexico and Arizona on the way to the Grand Canyon. I don't know what I loved more, the awe-inspiring landscapes or the outstanding cuisine we enjoyed along the way.

Of all the meals we savored, breakfasts were the most memorable. We had spicy veggie burritos, creamy skillet eggs with chiles, and crunchy blue corn French toast; each morning got better and better.

One morning we rose extra early to go for a hike. We drove to a trail on the outskirts of Flagstaff -- a small yet vibrant college town with great bookstores, niche restaurants, and lots of students wearing hemp clothing. After a grueling hike in which we encountered brown bears and fossil remains (alright, maybe not bears, but we did see several freakishly large squirrels), we made it back to town famished.

We hit the first breakfast spot we found. An enticing aroma of freshly roasted coffee lured us straight into the front door of Macy's European Coffeehouse, Bakery & Vegetarian Restaurant, a quirky eatery offering a delicious array of healthful vegetarian dishes.

Despite my gnawing hunger, in typical fashion, I couldn't decide what to order. As I was debating, a groggy voice behind me said, "Get the breakfast couscous. It's the best thing here." I turned around, and the voice came from a young guy who had an eerie resemblance to Leo from That '70's Show, with long hair and John Lennon glasses.

"Really? I was thinking of getting the steamed eggs," I replied. "Oh, yeah. The steamed eggs. Those are like the best thing here." He wasn't helping. Thinking quickly before we went into hypoglycemic shock, Jeff ordered both the couscous and the steamed eggs for us to share.

As we were leaving, I noticed another guy eating something that looked like a burrito. I said, "Hey, that looks good, what is it?" He replied, "The breakfast burrito. It's the best thing here, man."

Since this is a high-protein, high-fiber breakfast that is great for a post-hike boost, I'm sending it to Suganya of the beautiful Tasty Palettes who would like your healthy breakfast ideas for this month's Weekend Breakfast Blogging.

Though Macy's used couscous with apricots, raisins, and almonds, feel free to substitute any dried fruits and nuts you prefer. Since I love, "the super grain," quinoa, which is higher in protein, I often use it instead of couscous. My current favorite combination is dried cherries, raisins, and pecans, but I also recommend dried cranberries, raisins, and pistachios.

Breakfast Quinoa with Dried Cherries, Raisins, and Pecans
Makes 2 main or 4 side servings
Yields about 2 1/2- 3 cups
Print recipe only here.

1/2 cup dry quinoa, rinsed
1 1/4 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon Smart Balance light buttery spread, melted
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 cup dried cherries
1/8 cup mixed raisins
1/4 cup pecans, lightly toasted

To toast the pecans, place in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Shake the pan handle in a back-and-forth a few times for about 2 minutes, or until nuts are lightly toasted and fragrant.

In a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring water to a boil. Pour the uncooked quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve; rinse and drain. (This helps remove some slight natural bitterness from the grains). Add the rinsed quinoa to the sauce pan, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa absorbs the water, puffs up, and turns translucent. If the water has evaporated before the quinoa is cooked, just add a bit more water. They should maintain a slight crunch when cooked.

Meanwhile, in a small pan over medium-low heat, add butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir until melted. Pour over cooked quinoa, and add dried fruit and nuts. Toss until combined. Serve hot or at room temperature.

You might also like these other healthy breakfasts:

Finally, be sure to check out Ann's delicious Breakfast Couscous and Michelle's Warm Quinoa Breakfast Cereal.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Forget the Oscars, It's Time for the Excellence Awards

Diane of Alberta Postcards and Helene of La cuisine d'Helene have graciously selected me for the Excellence Award.

A visit to Diane's blog is like taking a virtual tour through Alberta, Canada, as she shares lovely photos and musings about her life there. Like most French women, Helene knows how to cook. Be sure to check out her delicious and sophisticated recipes. Since Diane asked me to select 10 bloggers and Helene asked for five, here are my 15 choices.

I really wanted to wear these $8.5 million dollar stunning diamond drop earrings for this announcement, but according to publicists at Harry Winston Jewelers of Beverly Hills, he only loans to movie stars. I guess that means I need to come out with Food Blogga, The Movie. In the meantime, here are the winners:
  1. Jeff, my one and only, of The Derm Blog, for teaching us all about dermatology with wit and humor. Plus he's really cute.
  2. Susan of the Well-Seasoned Cook for writing eloquently about her love of food.
  3. David, the chef behind Book the Cook, for defying all culinary stereotypes with his savory, appetizing traditional British cuisine.
  4. Arfi of HomemadeS for capturing the beauty of food and of life.
  5. Joythebaker for being a talented and down-to-earth chef who enthusiastically shares here culinary expertise with us. I like her style.
  6. Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once for her endlessly inspirational food photography.
  7. Lara of Still Life With for generously sharing her food styling and photography expertise with us.
  8. Gretchen Noelle of Canela & Comino for her honest and humorous perspective on home cooking and delicious recipes.
  9. Peabody of Culinary Concoctions for giving me a sensational sugar high every time I visit her blog.
  10. Amy of Cooking with Amy for her engaging food writing and fascinating insight into global cuisine.
  11. Amanda and Tyler of What We're Eating for their witty and entertaining food dialogues.
  12. Manggy of No Special Effects for his amusing and self-deprecating style. His food is really good, much better than he lets on.
  13. Deeba of Passionate About Baking for sharing her love of family and food.
  14. Ronell of MyFrenchKitchen for her artful photography and lovely watercolors.
  15. Amy of Nook and Pantry for her focus on fresh, seasonal cooking and lovely photography.

And then there was a meme...

I've done these "tell me about yourself" memes a few times now, so I'm running out of ideas! But since Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms and Gattina of Kitchen Unplugged both tagged me recently, here goes:
  1. I'm almost two inches taller than my husband. But don't tell him that, he just thinks it's my hair.
  2. Speaking of hair, I had really long, really curly hair and wore glasses which made people mistake me for Elaine in Seinfeld. One time when we were in Cape Cod, some guy at a gas station kept insisting I was "that girl from Seinfeld." Despite my denials, he thought I was being coy to "protect my identity," and begged for an autograph. After several requests, I gave it to him. So some guy somewhere in the Cape has a map with Julia Louis Dreyfus' (aka Food Blogga's) signature on it.
  3. Speaking of Seinfeld, when Jeff and I started dating, my mom said one night after he left, "Hey, you know who Jeff looks like? That cute comedian with the beautiful teeth." (My mom has a thing with beautiful teeth.) "You mean Jerry Seinfeld?" "Yeah, that's him. Jeff looks so much like him, doesn't he?" (Thank goodness she didn't ask for his autograph.)
  4. No one has mistaken me for Elaine since 1997, when in a moment of spontaneity, I sheared off my long locks. I've had short hair since. Forget bra burning, short hair is what you call liberation.
  5. Throughout my four years of high school, I ate a bowl of Rice Krispies with strawberries on it every single morning for breakfast. That comes out to 1,460 bowls of Rice Krispies! Now, that's a lot of snap, crackle, and pop.
If you haven't done this meme and would like to, then consider yourself tagged!

photo credit: fancyjewelry

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Savoring Creamy Cauliflower Chestnut Soup and Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole holds some magical power over me. I was shopping the week before Thanksgiving when I heard it--

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping on your nose,

Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,

And folks dressed up like Eskimos.

That most mellow of voices (along with Frank and Bing) transfixes me. I hear it, and I'm instantly struck with holiday cheer, which for me, means shopping for foods such as cranberries, pomegranates, and, of course, chestnuts.

Here's the thing with roasting chestnuts. The actual roasting and removing of the nut from its shell is a lot less romantic than it sounds. Every year growing up it was the same thing: We would enthusiastically purchase a big bag of fresh chestnuts, roast them, and then puncture our fingers in a desperate attempt to eke out the tiniest piece of chestnut we could find that wasn't studded with sharp shards of shell or tinged with mold.

Thank goodness someone came up with bottled chestnuts. My mom first bought them a few years ago and sent me some. I removed the bottle top and, in 5 seconds flat, was eating a chewy, moist, chestnut devoid of shell and mold. Bottled chestnuts can be found at most organic markets and Italian specialty markets. I also like Trader Joe's vacuumed-packed chestnuts.

I posted on chestnut pancakes with pancetta and creme fraiche a while back, and now it's time for a comforting bowl of soup. By February, chances are you're getting tired of cauliflower, so perhaps this recipe will re-ignite your interest.

The meaty, smoky chestnuts and fresh aromatic herbs add depth to an otherwise ordinary, creamy cauliflower soup. Use bottled, dried, or -- if you're masochistic-- freshly roasted chestnuts. For a richer soup, I suggest using cream or a mixture of cream and whole milk. For fewer calories, low-fat or skim milk works well.

I'm sending it to Lisa, who along with Holler, is co-hosting No Croutons Required, a new monthly vegetarian soup and salad event. This month they want vegetarian soups that would make carnivores salivate, and I think this velvety, rich, nutty soup fits the bill.

Creamy Cauliflower Chestnut Soup
Serves 4
Print recipe only here.

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, diced (1/2 cup)
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium potatoes, diced (2-2 1/2 cups)
1 medium head cauliflower, florets only (4 1/2-5 cups)
2 bay leaves
4 cups water (or vegetable broth)
8 ounces of bottled chestnuts (about 20 chestnuts, or 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
1 1/2 cups regular milk (or half milk, half cream)
15-20 cranks of fresh black pepper
a generous amount of salt, to taste
1 tablespoon butter at end
more fresh herbs and chopped chestnuts for garnish

In a deep pot over medium heat, saute shallots and celery in butter and olive oil, for about 3-5 minutes. Add diced potatoes, cauliflower florets, bay leaves, and water or broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low, and cook until potatoes and cauliflower are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Add chestnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, rosemary, and sage. Turn off heat, and let cool 5-10 minutes before pureeing.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth and return to the pot over low heat. Add the milk and salt & pepper, and stir occasionally until the soup is thoroughly combined and heated, about 10 minutes. Just prior to serving, stir in 1 tablespoon butter to the soup for added creaminess and depth of flavor.

Garnish individual bowls with fresh herbs and chopped chestnuts, if desired.

Tired of cauliflower and its cruciferous cousins? Then these recipes may be just what you're looking for:
Here are some hearty soups that will keep you warm:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Honeyed Orange Ginger Muffins (Quat, Optional)


It's February, cold, snowy, blustery February. The time when children and adults don their cozy mittens and puffy jackets to go sledding or ice skating or -- best of all -- build snowmen. That is if you live somewhere where there's weather. You know like "cold," "snow," "storm" and, the granddaddy of them all, "blizzard."

Since I'm in San Diego, I won't be building snowmen anytime soon (it was in the '70s earlier this week). So I've been occupying myself with a different winter pastime -- experimenting in the kitchen with the "quats."

After my success with Coconut Lemonquat Cake, I was inspired to keep baking.

So I wrote my next Kitchen Window article for NPR on kumquats, where I have recipes for:

  • Watercress and Endive Salad with Kumquats
  • Kumquat and Dried Cherry Chutney
  • Tilapia with Kumquat Citrus Butter
  • Coconut Kumquat Tea Cake
Now it's time for muffins. I actually made three different versions of this recipe, until this past Saturday, when the stars and elements aligned, creating the perfect muffin. Yes, that's a bold statement to make, but after you taste one, you may agree.

Orangequats (also called mandarinquats) are a citrus hybrid of kumquats and oranges. Don’t let their diminutive size fool you. These remarkably juicy fruits have a big, bold orange flavor that is twinged with tartness. Like kumquats, the entire fruit is edible, including the thin rind. Just watch out for a couple of tiny seeds inside that need to be removed (or spit out, when no one's looking).

Orangequats are wonderful for savory salsas on top of pork and seafood or sliced atop a salad of bitter greens such as frisee. For sweet dishes, try them sprinkled on top of a bowl of vanilla ice cream, sliced and dipped in chocolate, or baked into cakes and muffins.

These sprightly yellow muffins taste and look like sunshine has been baked right into them. When you bite into one, you'll taste hints of honey, ginger, and vanilla and find them chock full of plump, sweet golden raisins and flecks of brightly colored orangequats. So I'm sending them to Lia of Swirling Notions, this week's gracious host of the wonderful Weekend Herb Blogging, created by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen.

Don't despair if you can't find orangequats. These muffins are wonderful with navel oranges as well. I know, I've made and eaten both.

Honeyed Orange Ginger Muffins (Quat, Optional)
Makes 12 muffins.
Print recipe only here.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup freshly squeezed navel orange juice (about 2 oranges)
1/4 cup finely minced navel orange pulp (OR, if using orangequats, 3-4 de-seeded fruits, rinds included, minced until pulpy, about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon navel orange zest (about 1 orange)
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup coarsely chopped golden raisins

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Spray a 12 mold regular size muffin pan with cooking spray.

If using orangequats, then de-seed them by slicing the fruits into rounds with a sharp pairing knife. Using the tip of the knife, gently pluck out the seeds.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, egg, and juice. Add the orange pulp, orange zest, ginger, honey, and vanilla, and whisk until just combined. Add to the flour mixture and stir quickly until well combined. Fold in the raisins. Spoon the batter evenly into the 12 molds.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing each muffin and placing on a wire rack to cool.

You might also like:
Date, Fennel, and Pistachio Scones
Persimmon and Date Bread
Banana Coconut Almond Bread
Warm Banana and Citrus Cups

Other orange-y desserts I've admired:
Orange Poppy Seed Cake with Candied Kumquats
from Swirling Notions
Orange, Chocolate, and Ricotta Cake from Lucullian Delights
Orange Creme Caramel from Trial and Error

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ginger-y Cranberry Walnut Scones (No Elephants were Harmed for this Post)

I tried an experiment this morning. I baked a batch of heart-healthy ginger-y cranberry walnut scones and wanted to know what biologic effects they have, if any. So I fed them to my favorite elephants at the San Diego Zoo this morning, and, lo and behold, they smooched. Eat your heart out David Attenborough.

First she said, "Hey, big fella. You smell good. Watcha' wearing: Come get me? or Don't leave me?"

Then he said, "How'd you get your skin so soft? They been washing you with that Oil-of-Olay in-shower body moisturizer?"

Then they engaged in a big elephant French kiss.
Food Blogga Disclaimer: No animals were harmed in this experiment.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Since Zorra of the beautiful Kochtopf is looking for some homemade edible hearts, I'm sending her my heart-healthy scones. Made with non-fat cottage cheese and yogurt and Smart Balance butter substitute, these scones are low in fat, cholesterol, and calories. They're also filled with antioxidant-rich cranberries and walnuts, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids --the ones linked to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Like my Date, Fennel, and Pistachio Scones from last fall, they are moist and flavorful and will fill your home with the enticing aromas of tart cranberries, tangy orange zest, and spicy ginger.

These would make a great antidote to the chocolate overdosage that will occur across the world today. So eat 'em guilt-free. Your heart will love you for it.

Ginger-y Cranberry Walnut Scones
Print recipe only here.

1/4 cup non-fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon non-fat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground pumpkin pie spice
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons Smart Balance, chilled (butter substitute)
2/3 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (Do not defrost is using frozen berries; it will help prevent them from "bleeding" color.)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts, pecans, or pistachios

Optional egg wash for top of scones:
1 egg (or white only), lightly beaten OR 1 egg mixed with 1 teaspoon low-fat milk, lightly beaten

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

To toast the walnuts, add to a dry skillet over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until aromatic and lightly toasted. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk cottage cheese, yogurt, orange zest, ginger, vanilla, and cinnamon; set aside.

In another bowl, mix dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add chilled butter (in small pieces), and mix with a pastry blender or fork, until a coarse meal forms with tiny pea-sized butter pieces. Add the yogurt mixture to the flour mixture and, using a fork, mix until just combined. Stir in the berries and nuts. Do not over mix or the dough will become leaden.

Using a floured surface, shape the dough into a disk, about 1/2-inch thick. If desired, use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to form scones. Otherwise, with a wet knife (to make slicing easier) cut the dough into 8 triangular shaped scones. Place scones on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet leaving about 2 inches between them.

If using, then brush egg wash over the tops of the scones before baking. It will create a shinier finish, and slightly softer crust. Otherwise, place in oven.

Bake scones for about 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Unfortunately the scones didn't work on the gorillas. Maybe she had a headache.

You might also like:
Banana Coconut Almond Bread
Ricotta Hotcakes
Chestnut Pancakes with Pancetta, Creme Fraiche, and Cinnamon Maple Syrup

Other lovely cranberry treats I've seen:
Coconut Cranberry Muffins from Canela & Comino
Cranberry, Orange, and Chocolate Chip Muffins from Happy Home Baking
White Chocolate and Cranberry Tartlets from Palachinka
Cranberry Harvest Muffins
from Rice and Wheat

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks? Either Goes with Homemade Doughboys

Long before Starbucks, long before McDonald's began serving Starbucks-like lattes, there was Dunkin' Donuts.

Dunkin' Donuts is the epitome of the Northeast -- not fancy, just fast and reliable. I can remember on frigid, gray winter days, your eyes would tear and your nose would run from the biting wind while you waited in the line that snaked out the door.

You didn't mind, though, because the girls behind the counter worked with lightening speed. By the time you made it to the register, you were ready to bark out your order: "Yeah, gimme a dozen donuts. Mixed. And I'll take tree cauffees, two wit cream and shugah, and one black." Five seconds later your order was ready.

I was thinking about Dunkin' Donuts this past Wednesday while I was in line at the La Jolla Boulevard Starbucks. A woman in front of me, who was wearing enormous Chanel sunglasses, tried to place an order:

"Um, I'll have a skinny double mocha latte. And I'll have. Umm. Let's see. Are there nuts in the low-fat blueberry muffins? OK. Ummmmm. Does the cranberry bread have flaxseed in it?"

I thought to myself, "Dear God, if she were in the Branch Avenue Dunkin' Donuts right now (where I have stopped a thousand times in my life), the people in line would have physically carried her out the door and left her in the freezing parking lot still holding her debit card.

Branch Avenue Dunkin' Donuts, Providence, RI

I told Jeff the story when he got home, and we started reminiscing about Dunkin' Donuts, gray New England winters, and how many years have passed since we had a donut. Since I couldn't run out to Dunkin' Donuts to get Jeff a jelly stick (they don't exist in San Diego), and didn't really want to make donuts, I did what my mom would do: I made doughboys.

Jeff and I haven't eaten or made doughboys in over 10 years. So when I announced to him that I was making them this past Saturday, he said, “I don't believe it.” “No, really, I am. It’s for a blog event featuring fried sweets,” I said. “I still don't believe it."

It wasn't until I poured the oil in the pan that it sunk in: "Oh, my god, you really are making doughboys," he said.

As I was forming the doughboys, I pulled a hole in the middle of each one. Jeff looked at me, confused. “What are you doin’?” “I’m making the doughboys, hon.” “But why are you making holes in them?” he asked. “Cause my mother always made hole in them,” I said. “Well, my mother never put holes in them. Looks like we got ourselves a doughboy domestic here,” he said.

Imagine, almost 13 years of marriage, and I never knew he liked his doughboys without holes in the middle. So we did what any successfully married couple would do: we made both. Now you decide how you want to make yours.

I'm sending my doughboys to talented bakers Peabody and Helen who are hosting an event called (a la Dunkin' Donuts) Time to Make the Donuts! That's right, they want your sweet, fried treats by Feb. 12th and will post a round-up on the 15th; so hurry!

Makes approximately 8-10 doughboys.
Print recipe only here.

1 pound basic pizza dough
1 cup canola or peanut oil, for frying
ground cinnamon
granulated sugar or powdered sugar

Lightly roll out a room-temperature pound of pizza dough, just enough to smooth it out and make it easier to work with. Don't over-roll or overwork it, or the doughboys won't puff up nicely. Using your hands, form 8-10 doughboys, with or without holes. Don't worry if they're not exactly the same-- they're not meant to be perfectly shaped or uniform in size.

Use canola or peanut oil since they have a high smoke point. Pour oil, about 2 inches deep, into a deep, wide pan over medium heat (or to 350 degrees if you have a deep-fry thermometer). Otherwise, test the heat by dropping a little piece of dough into the oil. It should quickly bounce to the surface and be surrounded by tiny bubbles. Add 1-2 doughboys at a time, making sure they have room to float in the oil. Using tongs, gently flip doughboys in the oil until they puff up, float, and turn golden brown, about 30-60 seconds.

For toppings, either sprinkle with powdered sugar or with a mixture of granulated sugar and ground cinnamon. And make sure to eat 'em while they're hot!

Homemade Basic Pizza Dough
Makes about 2 pounds of dough.
Print recipe only here.
1 packet of active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups of warm water
5-6 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dissolve in 2 cups of warm water yeast, sugar, and salt. Using a spoon, gently blend. Add 5 cups of all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to start. Blend just a little bit with a spoon; then, using your hands, transfer to a floured surface.
Knead well—adding flour if it’s too sticky—until the dough becomes springy and smooth. It should take a good 5-10 minutes of vigorous kneading. It will be soft and silky when done.
Place the dough in a large, clean bowl coated with olive oil or cooking spray, and rub some olive oil on top of the dough. Cover with a clean, dry dishtowel and let rise until doubled in size (at least 2 hours). Once it’s risen, punch it down.
Leftover dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Coat the inside of a Ziploc bag with some Pam and drop the dough in; that way it doesn’t stick to the plastic. Allow to come to room temperature before rolling out.

Tips for making good doughboys:

*Use the freshest dough possible for lighter, puffier doughboys.
*Make sure the dough is room temperature, not cold.
*Don't overwork the dough when forming the doughboys, or they won't be as light and airy.
*Use an oil with a high heat point, like canola or peanut.
*Don't over-fry the doughboys or they'll quickly become too brown and hard.

You might also like:
Homemade Pizza with Fennel Sausage and Rapini
Spinach, Nutmeg, and Ricotta Calzone
Potato, Rosemary, and Gorgonzola Pizza

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Eat Fennel Then Chocolate This Valentine's Day

Last year I said forget chocolate and eat fennel on Valentine’s Day. This year I planned on saying to eat chocolate and forget fennel. (Not to be confused with chocolate-dipped fennel. Ewwww.)

After tasting this fennel and sun-dried tomato risotto, though, I have changed my mind. Here are three reasons why you should eat fennel again this Valentine's Day:

1. Licorice-flavored fennel is believed to have aphrodisiac qualities (and it's a lot prettier than oysters).

2. The risotto is made with white wine, which if your valentine has enough of, might make it easier for you to steal a few kisses before dessert.

3. Risotto is notorious for being difficult to make. It isn't. It takes about 20-25 minutes and doesn't have to be stirred continuously. However, you could tell your valentine that you slaved in the kitchen making risotto from scratch. That should get you a little lovin'.

When selecting fresh fennel, look for firm, unblemished, pearly white bulbs with tall green stalks and flouncy fronds. Its mild licorice flavor pairs beautifully with the robust and slightly salty flavor of the sun-dried tomatoes. Plus it’s red and white.

I'm sending this recipe to my dear friend, Chris of Melecotte, for her Kitchen of Love Event featuring food with aphrodisiac qualities. Don't miss that round-up on Feb. 12th!

Once you've eaten the the risotto, dim the lights, put on some Lou Rawls (yeah, baby), and open a box of chocolates. Not just any chocolates, gourmet chocolates from

Liquer infused chocolate truffles from J. Emanuel Chocolatier.

Since we're talking about Valentine's Day, why not splurge on luxurious chocolate truffles? Chocolate truffles are confections made with a chocolate ganache center that is blanketed in a hard chocolate shell. The ganache center, a silky blend of cream and chocolate, can be flavored with liquer, fruit, nuts, and other sweet fillings such as nougat and toffee.

The liquer infused truffles I sampled (courtesy of Mark from came in well-loved flavors such as kalhua and ameretto, and more unusual ones like port. Come to think of it, these truffles would go nicely with a glass of port since they're rich and creamy and not overly sweet.

Though traditionally spherical, these truffles are square shaped and beautifully decorated with gold swirls, coffee beans, and white chocolate drizzle. And with a seemingly endless variety of fillings, there's a truffle that will make every person's heart feel full.

After some fennel, wine, and truffles, your sweetheart will surely be feeling amorous. If not, just pop in your favorite DVD and finish off the rest of the truffles. That would put anybody in a good mood.

Fennel and Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto
Makes 2 main or 4 side servings.
Print recipe only here.

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon butter
1 diced shallot, divided
½ cup Arborio rice (risotto)
2 1/2 cups low-sodium broth, or as much as needed
1/4 cup dry white wine
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup fennel, chopped
1/8 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (about 3 tomatoes)
¼ cup heavy cream or half ‘n half
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon butter, optional
Salt and pepper, to taste
Good extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Place pinenuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Shake pan in a back-and-forth motion until pinenuts are golden and aromatic, about 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat broth in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once it's hot, lower to a simmer.

For the risotto, start by sautéing half the shallots in 1 teaspoon olive oil and butter. Add the Arborio rice; toast for about 1 minute. Cook the risotto at a slow simmer, adding heated broth ½ cupful at a time. Most cookbooks will tell to stir continuously; I don’t, and you don't have to either. You can stir occasionally; just make sure the risotto absorbs the liquid before adding more. It will become tender and creamy as it cooks. Season will some salt about halfway through so it blends well, and add the white wine. 4-5 cups of broth works for this recipe, but use more or less as needed. It takes about 20 minutes for the risotto to become completely cooked. Taste it -- it should be wonderfully creamy and thick. It’s best al dente, which means it should still retain some firmness when you chew it.

After about 10 minutes of cooking the risotto, place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the dry fennel seeds and toast for about 1 minute or until aromatic. Then add 1 teaspoon of olive oil, the other half of the shallots, fennel, sun-dried tomatoes, and some salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat until the fennel becomes slightly softened but not mushy, about 7-8 minutes. At this point, the risotto should be cooked, so add the sautéed fennel to it and stir well. Add the cream or half n’ half; stir until mixed in well and heated, about 1 minute. Turn off heat, then add the Parmesan cheese so it will melt more slowly. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Adding 1 tablespoon of butter at this point adds a touch more creaminess, but it's optional.

Plate your risotto, topping it with the toasted pine nuts and some grated Parmesan. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top for an extra Mmmmmm and serve immediately.

Like risotto? Then you'll love this Butternut Squash Risotto with Rosemary, Walnuts, and Blue Cheese.

You might also like:
Sicilian Salad of Fennel, Oranges, and Olives
Almond Biscotti Dipped in Chocolate
Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Quick Chocolate Cinnamon Mousse with Cherries

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Banana Bread with Toasted Coconut and Almonds

Which of the following is the most frequently consumed fruit in the world?

A. bananas
B. mangoes
C. strawberries
D. apples
E. All of the above

If you picked "E," don't feel bad. Just pour yourself another cup of coffee and try again.

I always thought it was bananas, but it's actually mangoes. If you chose "bananas," I'll give you half credit since they're the most consumed fruit in the United States.

Since bananas are only 19 cents each at Trader Joe's, I always have a huge, happy yellow bunch in my fruit bowl. Since they're only 19 cents each, I also have a lot of brown, speckled bananas in my fruit bowl.

What's not to love about bananas? They're fast, easy, non-messy energy food. At only 100 calories per fruit and no fat, they're also a great source of potassium, Vitamin C, and fiber.

The greatest thing about bananas though is that you never have to throw one away. If it's too ripe to eat out of hand, you can toss it in a smoothie, freeze it for a snack, or, best of all, make banana bread.

Banana bread surfaced in American kitchens in the 1930's, at the same time that baking soda and baking powder were becoming popular leavening agents (instead of yeast) for quick breads. By the 1960's, banana bread's popularity burgeoned, and cookbooks commonly listed multiple recipes for it.

Apparently, we have the Australians to thank for introducing chocolate into banana bread -- I always thought my mom invented that on a particularly inspired baking day in the '80's.

Banana bread is so popular, it even has its own Wiki page. (How else would I have gotten all of this information?)

Even though the blogosphere is teeming with banana bread recipes, this one's too good not to share. Made with aromatic toasted coconut, crunchy almonds, and creamy coconut milk, it's one unforgettably moist, delicious banana bread. So I'm submitting it to the lovely Gretchen Noelle of Canela and Comino, who has selected quick breads for this month's Homegrown Gourmet.

What's your favorite way to make banana bread?

This recipe is adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Lots-of-Ways-Banana Cake, in her cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours. Note: You can lighten both calories and cholesterol in this bread by substituting Smart Balance for butter, Egg Beaters for eggs, and light coconut milk for regular. I have made it both ways, and they're both delicious.

Banana Coconut Almond Bread
Print recipe only here.

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
4 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 2 cups)
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
3/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds, toasted

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two 9 X 2-inch round cake pans, or five 6-by-2 3/4-inch mini-loaf pans with cooking spray.

To toast the coconut, place in a dry skillet over medium heat, and gently stir until aromatic and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Keep your eye on it since it burns quite quickly! Remove from heat and set aside.

To toast the almonds, place in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 5-7 minutes.

In a medium size bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon together.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugars and beat at medium speed for a couple of minutes. Add eggs, and beat well. Add the vanilla and coconut milk, and beat until batter is silky. Lower the speed, add the bananas, and beat briefly.

Add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients, and mix until just incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in the coconut and almonds. Divide the batter evenly between the pans.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cakes are a deep golden brown. You'll know they're done when a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then unmold and invert onto another rack to cool to room temperature right side up.

You might also like:
Chestnut Pancakes with Pancetta and Creme Fraiche
Coconut Lemonquat Tea Cake
Heart Healthy Date, Fennel, and Pistachio Scones
Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Lemon

Some other delicious banana breads:
Banana Maple Pecan Bread from Marisa of Slashfood
Banana and Nutella Cake from Bleeding Espresso
Banana Bread with Chocolate and Cinnamon Sugar from Tinned Tomatoes
Banana Chocolate Walnut Bread from The Wednesday Chef

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