Saturday, March 23, 2013

Orange and Walnut Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread cookies are rather simple to make.  This recipe has a subtle nutty aroma, and the sort of orange you select for zesting strongly influences the final result's smell.  If you have no turbinado sugar, you can easily substitute white sugar, but I also recommend adding a couple pinches of shaved dark chocolate to the batter.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup / 120g butter, unsalted, at room temperature.
190g / 1.5 cup white flour
1/4 cup / 55g turbinado sugar
10 walnut halves, ground
note: you want the largest pieces no larger than 3mm
zest of one small, aromatic orange
1 t / 3mL vanilla extract
Approximately 30 walnut halves
note: or more, depending on how thin and small you cut your cookies

Procedure:

Combine butter, zest, and sugar.
Mix in chopped walnuts flour, and vanilla and combine until dough is homogeneous.
Roll the dough into a tubelike shape and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375˚F / 190˚C.
Cut the dough into thin cookie slices.
Top each cookie with a walnut half.
Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway if you have poor convection.
Allow to cool, and serve.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Chocolatey Banana Bread

Banana bread is a very convenient way to use up blackened bananas.  This recipe for banana bread contains a high amount of whole grains, with chocolatey undertones and chopped nuts for complexity.  It is a good bread for breakfast, with a dough that is not too moist or too dense, thanks to the combined efforts of the baking soda and sour cream.

Ingredients:

1 cup / 120g whole wheat flour
.5 cup / 50g rye flour
.5 cup / 65g white flour
2 t / 9g baking soda
2 T / 11g cacao powder
3 T / 25g dark chocolate, chopped and/or shaved
1 cup / 200g turbinado sugar
.75 cup / 180mL milk
1 tsp / 5mL vanilla extract
.25 cup / 55g coconut oil
3 very ripe bananas
2 eggs
4T / 58g sour cream
10 hazelnuts

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 375˚F /
Sift together flours, cacao powder, shaved chocolate, and baking soda.  Add sugar and stir.
Mash bananas into a paste in a separate bowl.
Melt coconut oil and stir into bananas.
To banana mixture, incorporate milk, vanilla extract, eggs, and sour cream.  Stir until
homogeneous.
Chop hazelnuts roughly.
note: a mortar and pestle is ideal for this.  Shoot for chunks the size of pebbles.
Once the oven is ready, quickly divide mixture into two standard (8' by 3' / 21cm by 8cm) pans.
Top with hazelnuts, and bake for 45 minutes.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Healthy Chocolate Covered Fruit

In Russia, it is rather common to serve tea with small candies.  A popular sort of small candy is chocolate-covered dried fruit, stuffed with a nut.  This recipe recreates these candies, but while it is very tasty, it is also very ugly.  Do not let the appearance discourage you!
This procedure can be used as a guide for lots of different fruit and nut combinations.  My very favorite is prunes with toasted almonds.
The chocolate sauce can of course be substituted with simple melted chocolate.  The charm of the coconut-oil based coating is that it smells very strongly of coconut, and you control the amount and type of sugar as well as cacao powder.  If you do choose to use melted chocolate instead, know that the layer of chocolate on each fruit will be much thicker.
In such a simple recipe, quality must be high.  Use good chocolate, aromatic coconut oil, soft dry fruit, and toasted nuts for candies worth serving with tea.

Ingredients:

18 dried apricots, whole
18 walnut halves
3T / 50g extra virgin coconut oil
3T / 25g cacao powder
2T / 25g sugar

Procedure:

Melt the oil and sugar.  Stir in the cacao powder, making sure to avoid clumps.
In each apricot, make a long slice, so that the apricot becomes a pocket.
Place one nut in each apricot.
Dip apricots in to the chocolate mixture, and place on a piece of parchment paper.
Move to a cold place.
At this point, the chocolate coating will be rather thin on the fruit.  If you wish to make it thicker, allow coating to dry and quickly redip the candies.
Allow the coating to harden completely, and serve.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Yeast-Risen Rhubarb, Blackberry, and Ginger Dessert Bread

As spring comes around, it is difficult to think of anything but yeast-risen rhubarb, blackberry, and ginger dessert breads.

The yeast really makes this recipe's dough a hybrid of bread and dessert, with a texture which allows it to be pulled apart instead of crumbling.  The ginger adds a somber note to its smell.
This recipe is great to be served alongside breakfast.  With enough sugar to be sweet, but enough berries, whole wheat, ginger, and savory aspects to its taste to be satisfying.  The current baking time yields a cake with a cracked, smooth crust and a moist, poundcake-like inside.
To get a drier, more bread-like dough, you could try baking it either for an additional ten minutes, or at a higher temperature (425˚F / 220 ˚C), keeping a cover on top of the dough as is bakes for 30 minutes and removing it in the last 10 minutes.
If you wish, you could cut this bread into slices and make it act as a fancy sandwich.  Spreading it with mascarpone and adding strawberries is very good indeed.

Serving suggestion.

Ingredients:

1.5 cup / 240g white flour
1cup / 170g whole wheat flour
1 cup / 410g turbinado sugar
1/3 cup / 80mL almond oil or butter
2.5 cup / 300g rhubarb, cut into pieces and washed
1/2c / 70g blackberries
3T / 7g grated ginger
2 eggs
3/4 cup / 240mL milk
2 heaping t / 10g active dry yeast
handful strawberries or blackberries (optional)

Procedure

Heat the milk until it is warm to the touch, as close as possible to (but not over) 37˚C / 98˚F
note: in the microwave on high power it is reached in 50seconds, be sure to stir before using thermometer
Mix sugar, white flour, milk and yeast, and let sit for 1-2 hours in a place as close as possible to 37˚C
Mix in the eggs and additional almond oil.
Sift in the extra flour, then add the berries, ginger and rhubarb
Pour dough into a greased baking pan and let sit for half an hour in a warm environment
If so desired, after the half hour, line the pan's edges with sliced strawberries or blackberries
note: I forgot to do this.
Bake at 350˚F/180˚C for 40 minutes.
Let sit in the turned-off oven for 7 minutes if you are not satisfied with the brownness of the crust on the bread.
Remove from oven and let cool under a cotton cloth until warm.
Serve with milk.






Thursday, March 7, 2013

Grapefruit Greek Yoghurt Parfait

This is a tasty, protein-rich yoghurt recipe.  You could either make it for breakfast, or prepare it in a small jar-like container and have it for lunch.  Many elements in the recipe can be adjusted to suit what you have in your kitchen.  I will definitely be using this greek yoghurt-mascarpone base for more lunches, and look forward to trying out new ingredient combinations.

Ingredients:


1 cup / 250g Greek-style yoghurt, plain
note: I use nonfat, and the amount of mascarpone added masks the sour taste.
2 T / 32g mascarpone
1T / 21g honey, ideally one with a strong flavor such as buckwheat honey
3-6T / 30-60g oats, rolled or steel-cut
1 segment of grapefruit
Pinch of grapefruit, lemon, or orange zest
Splash quality vanilla extract
Handful blueberries




The greatest charm of a parfait in a clear container is that the
fruit, oatmeal, and yoghurt often fall into a face-like shape.

Procedure:

Combine the honey and mascarpone, mixing well
Add in Greek yoghurt and scrape the grapefruit segment's pulp into the mixture, do not get any of the fibrous walls into the mix
Add vanilla and zest.  Mix until homogenous.
Layer blueberries, oats, and yoghurt mixture into a container or bowl.
Let sit overnight, chilled, or at least for two hours.





Saturday, March 2, 2013

Restaurant Review: Cumin

To celebrate my birthday, my parents and I decided to go to a restaurant in Cincinnati called Cumin.

We arrived just as the restaurant opened.  The first thing that struck us was the decor, which was very tasteful.  After we ordered our dishes, and in between courses, we often supplemented our conversation with comments about the color scheme, the lighting, and the very cool backlit wooden wall.

The menu wasn't massive, but each item sounded so interesting that it was very hard to make up our minds on what we wanted.   We ended up ordering two courses each.  Our waitress often checked up on us, and offered good advice on what to order.  After she collected our menus, she brought out a basket with bread.







The bread, which was with white flour, was accompanied by a farmer cheese spread.  The bread itself was very very good, with a soft, bubbly center surrounded by shock of crispy crust.  It was so warm and steamy that it must have been baked and sliced right before serving.
The farmer cheese spread we suspected to contain farmer cheese, called tvorog by russians, as well as heavy cream, and just the right amount of salt to go well with the bread.

I am not anywhere near baking with yeast well, but I seriously hope to learn to make a bread similar to this someday.





As we munched the bread, we could hear and smell our first courses being made.  I ordered the "Scallop Terrarium" ( I found it on the online menu, and its description says Butter baby potatoes, bacon jam, wheat grass, “dirt”), my father ordered a heart of palm salad, and my mother ordered the daily soup, which was a tomato-basil bisque with ricotta.  I could not find their dishes' formal titles or their descriptions on the online dinner menu.  
All three dishes were brought at the same time, and all were presented beautifully.  I didn't manage to photograph neither the palm heart salad nor the soup, but both were very well-crafted in terms of ingredients.  The soup was comforting, while the salad was tangy and was tastefully garnished with black caviar.
I was completely delighted with the scallop terrarium.  The major flavors were bacon, smoke, and the scallops' natural sweet taste.  The bowl you see was brought out covered in saran wrap, which was removed to let out a smokey-smelling fog from the bowl.  The edible "dirt" was nutty and sweet, but we could not discern the exact ingredients.  I strongly recommend this dish to anyone who likes bacon and adorable, creative dish presentation.


After our first course, we were feeling very full, and worried that we would not have space inside of us for any more food.  Thankfully, while the chefs prepared all of our foods fresh, we got to wait, digest, and enjoy each others' company.
For the main course, I ordered steamed buns with pork belly, cabbage, and fermented curry paste.  My mother ordered seared monkfish with lobster tortellini, and my father ordered a venison (poblano pepper, celery root, currant glaze, coffee grounds, arugula, venison reduction).  I did not manage to get photos of everyones' dishes, only the pork buns.
The dishes arrived just as we finished feeling completely stuffed, excellent timing.  The venison was very flavorful and not overcooked at all.  The monkfish, too, was cooked just right, and the lobster tortellini were large and had a good amount of stuffing.  The monkfish was garnished with bits of caviar, and both plates had very pretty sculptures of ingredients and sauces scattered around the meat.
As for the pork buns, I was completely blown away.  I have a large sweet tooth and my favorite dishes are normally sweet, but in this case, the best meal of the night for me were these pork buns.  The buns were made of baozi dough, and there were fresh greens placed atop a wonderful slice of pork belly.  I've never had pork belly before, but its smooth texture was so great that I must have it again.
I was unladylike and devoured the two buns using my hands.  I hotly recommend this dish to everyone who likes baozi and chinese spices.







After we finished our second course, we were incredibly happy with our meal and life in general.  The service in Cumin was very attentive.  Our table was cleared by a cheery gentleman, and the regional manager of Cumin and its sister pizzeria later came up and spoke to us.  He told us of his plans for remodeling the interior of the restaurant soon, including painting over this wall.
We will miss these paintings, but look forward to seeing how Cumin will look after being modernized some more.
The manager also explained to us that although Cumin used to be an Indian restaurant, it had switched its type of cuisine five years ago.  Cumin had kept its name to avoid losing regular customers, but also caused a lot of people to expect Indian food when they visited.  








After being enlightened about the restaurant's history (before speaking to the manager, my parents and I wondered whether Cumin was an avant garde Indian restaurant, or perhaps Native American?) we were presented with dessert menus.  Despite being very full, we decided to party it up and order desserts, too.
My mother ordered a raspberry clafoutis, my father ordered a root beer float made with vanilla gelato and a chocolate chip cookie, and I ordered a hot-cocoa Madagascar vanilla gelato dish.  The online dessert menu displays different foods than these, which means that the desserts must be rotated often.  Excellent.
The raspberry clafoutis had fantastic dough, it was a custard/cake hybrid.  The gelato served with it, although I don't recall the flavor, was light and fruity.  The clafoutis were garnished with toasted and sweet brazil nuts, whose earthy flavor was an unexpected and much needed accompaniment to the dessert.







My choice was also very good.  The hot cocoa sauce indeed tasted like hot cocoa: the chefs totally nailed the
mysterious element which makes hot cocoa different from chocolate.   The coffee whipped cream which garnished the sauce was subtly sweet.  The vanilla gelato was not too fatty, like ice cream would have been.
In a very sweet gesture, upon learning that my parents and I were celebrating my birthday, the cook staff put a candle in my ice cream!









My dad greatly enjoyed his root beer float.  Cumin managed to make this dessert fancy, with high quality root beer and excellent gelato.  I'm not sure whether this photo captured the cookie's size well, but it was genuinely massive, approximately 2cm tall and 10cm long.  It was great for sharing, with a texture similar to a dense scone.

Putting a pleasant end on our evening, as we left the restaurant, we noticed that a bird had made its nest in the center of Cumin's "m".  It looks charming, almost intentional, as it is very symmetrical placement.
In conclusion, we had a great time at Cumin, and will be returning again.  We must also check out the sister pizzeria, M Wood Fired Oven.  

Cumin Restaurant
3520 Erie Ave.
Hyde Park, Cincinnati
(513) 871-8714

note: the opinions for this review are my own.
Cumin Eclectic Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 1, 2013

Natto Shiitake Soup

This recipe is for a very busy soup.  The broth is flavorful, although for me there were too many ingredients and not enough liquid.  The most important flavoring ingredients here are the chives, dash, miso paste, and dried shiitake mushrooms (which impart a different flavor than fresh ones).  The rest of the ingredients are more or less dynamic, so you can easily substitute or add vegetables and protein sources.  I recommend still including some form of seaweed, however it is not necessary.
The current ingredients yield two normal or one massive serving.
Next time I make this soup, I will keep the ingredients the same but add closer to 2.5 cup / 600mL water.

Ingredients:

1 small turnip
1 small carrot
1T / 3g dashi granules
1-2 chives
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1T / 7g brown rice miso paste
4 strands dried seaweed
1T / 3g dulse flakes
1 package / ~80g natto
1.5 cup / 355mL water
1 filet of fish (included in procedure) or tofu, cubed

Procedure:

The night before making this soup, steam raw fish fillets until they are cooked to your liking.  Into the steaming liquid, add copious garlic, ginger, and parsley.
note: I had rainbow trout, steamed it for 25 minutes, and added approximately half of a sliced root ginger, ten sprigs chopped parsley, and three cloves garlic.
The night before, also submerge the shiitake in cold, filtered water, or cover in hot water for 30 minutes before beginning to cook.  After soaking, cut each mushroom into fourths.  Slice the stems into thin rounds.
Slice the turnip into thin rounds.  Cut the carrot into matchsticks.
The dulse flakes are responsible for the soup's
ugliness, but also for much of its flavor.
Place turnip, water, dashi granules and soaked shiitake into a pot.  Bring to a boil and quickly reduce heat to medium-low.
note: if you want your carrot soft, you can add it to the water in this step, as well.
Cover your seaweed strips in cold water and let them sit for five minutes as you do the next step.
While the seaweed soaks, mash the natto and the miso paste together, to make it more or less one mixture.  Stir it into the soup.  Add chives, and carrots, if you did not to so previously.
Remove the seaweed strips from the water and rinse them very well.
Into a bowl, place your fish fillet or sliced tofu.  Garnish with seaweed strips, and pour broth over.
Sprinkle dulse flakes on top and serve immediately.