April 21, 2011
My Mom always packed my Easter basket with a fun assortment of holiday-themed candy, from jelly beans to chocolate rabbits and marshmallow peeps. And then, the crème de la crème: Cadbury Crème Eggs. I loved the candies themselves for their sheer novelty value: chocolate eggs filled with a fairly convincing fondant impression of yolks and whites. And then there was the clucking bunny ad campaign that aired on television, followed up by a commercial with other bunnies and then a menagerie of other creatures vying for the position of Crème Egg spokesanimal. I was a kid. I thought this was hilarious. And the whimsical television spots only bolstered the eggs’ wundercandy ethos. That said, I was thrilled to find that people have considered the culinary value of these treats beyond unwrapping them and popping them into one’s mouth—they’ve come up with Cadbury eggs for the more adult, discerning palate. Perhaps this year you might want to prepare these seasonal sweets in one of the following ways:
Some creative cooks found ways to make the Cadbury equivalent to classic egg dishes. And if you’re looking for another excuse to use that deviled egg platter gathering dust in your closet, here’s your opportunity to create a festive presentation piece that—with the combination of chocolate, fondant, buttercream frosting and sprinkles—ought to satisfy the most voracious sweet tooth.
If you thought poached eggs swimming in a rich Hollondaise sauce was decadent, what say you to slightly melted Cadbury eggs served atop half a doughnut and a chocolate brownie with a side of pound cake “hash browns”?
No, someone out there hasn’t figured out how to make Cadbury eggs sunny side up (yet). With this recipe, we’re talking about carnival-style, artery-clogging, battered and deep-fried guilty-pleasure food. The video only asserts that you can indeed fry these treats, so you are left to your own devices when it comes to selecting an appropriate batter and frying oil. Perhaps a nice funnel cake batter would do the trick. In the DC area and feeling lazy? Alexandria’s Eamonn’s Dublin Chipper has some for you to try through Sunday.
Do you also have a crepe pan that is dying to be used? Try this variation on chocolate crepes where you fold bits of chopped up Creme egg into the batter. This recipe deserves props for elegant use of the Creme egg as garnish, with fondant frosting oozing all over a plate of artfully arranged crepes.
Yes, this is actually a product that McDonalds rolls out every year at Easter—a regular McFlurry with bits of Cadbury chocolate and fondant whooshed in. However, it’s available only in the U.K., so for us poor unfortunate souls on this side of the pond, we must content ourselves with watching the playful TV promos. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous and innovative, make your own McFlurry at home and work in some gooey Cadbury goodness.
If you’re feeling eggstra (ha ha… hmm) adventurous, you can try making Crème Eggs from scratch. Also, if you’re looking to have some fun with the rest of your holiday goodies, check out Amanda’s post on cooking with Easter candy.
December 9, 2010
All the hubbub about Wikileaks has me thinking about another kind of dish from an underground source…leeks!
When my father-in-law sent us home from Thanksgiving with a bag full of fresh leeks from his garden, I thanked him (diplomatically, of course), but was secretly befuddled. Having seen leeks only in restaurant dishes, I’d assumed they were something smaller, closer to scallions. These were white cylinders nearly as wide as soda cans, lopped off at the top as they grew greener.
After a bit of online research, I learned that late-harvested leeks like the ones I got are bigger than spring ones, with a stronger flavor that’s still milder than most onions. These bulbous vegetables have been called “the poor man’s asparagus” in France, but in Wales, people wear leeks (yes, wear them!) as a treasured national symbol. Ancient Egyptians and Romans apparently loved leeks, too.
Leeks can be cooked in many different ways. A few suggestions:
1) Potato-leek soup. A classic, easy-to-prepare winter comfort food. I made mine without a recipe, first sauteeing some chopped leeks and butter in a saucepan for about 10 minutes, then adding chopped potatoes and broth to simmer for about 20 minutes (until soft), and pureeing it with an immersion blender. I added some plain yogurt, creme fraiche and rosemary for a richer taste and texture, and crumbled a bit of blue cheese on top before serving. Yum. For a more precise recipe, see Pinch My Salt. Simply Recipes also has a creamless version with a kick, and NPR’s The Splendid Table offers several variations on Julia Child’s classic leek and potato soup recipe.
2) Risotto. I’m a little addicted to making risotto, as my husband, Charles, can attest. Cold weather only makes me crave it more. But at least my repertoire is expanding! This caramelized leek risotto from Daily Unadventures in Cooking is phenomenal. Cauliflower or butternut squash would be tasty additions, and if Charles didn’t hate mushrooms, I’d also be trying The Kitchn’s mushroom and leek risotto. (That blog also has a helpful explanation of how to clean leeks.)
3) Latkes. Add another one to Jess’s list of not-so-orthodox latkes! One of my favorite blogs, Food & Style, recently featured an enticing butternut squash and leek latke recipe, although carnivores may prefer these leek and beef latkes. Along the same lines, WGBH’s The Daily Dish has a recipe for shredded potato cakes with leeks and cheese.
5) Bread Pudding. Smitten Kitchen wins the prize for most creative use of leeks with this Leek Bread Pudding recipe adapted from the Ad Hoc cookbook. Doesn’t that look great?
Also, a recipe to keep in mind for spring—Martha Rose Shulman’s grilled leeks with romesco sauce make me dream of warmer weather.
Do you like leeks? How do you use them?
November 16, 2010
Fresh cranberries abound at this time of year, and you may even be ambitious enough to slog through a bog to pick your own, as my friend Bryn did in Massachusetts. (It was fun, but next time she’d prefer to try it without a 30-pound toddler on her back, she said.) After baking all afternoon, she still had 2 bags of berries to use up and was soliciting recipe advice.
So, this entry is for Bryn—and for people like me who buy too many fresh cranberries at the grocery store simply because they’re seasonal and on sale, but don’t know what to do with them!
1. Red and Green: Cranberries can grace your Thanksgiving table in more ways than just sauce. Use them to add color and zing to your green vegetable sides, like these roasted brussels sprouts with cranberry brown butter or wilted kale with cranberries.
2. Red and Orange: They also pair wonderfully with orange vegetables—try Simply Recipes’ butternut squash, cranberry and apple bake, this cranberry sweet potato bake or some roasted carrots with fresh cranberries. I’m also intrigued by the idea of apples and cranberries baked in a pumpkin.
3. Red and Brown: Bryn’s favorite recipe is Mollie Katzen‘s cranberry brown bread, which balances the berries’ tartness with molasses, orange juice and brown sugar. You can find it in Katzen’s “Enchanted Broccoli Forest” cookbook, or see this version on Modern Sage. I can’t wait to try it!
4. Red and White: Baked apples are my latest obsession. Peel the top third of some large apples and scoop out their cores (I used a grapefruit knife and a melon baller), leaving the bottoms intact. Squeeze a lemon over them, using your fingers to coat any exposed parts of the fruit. Stuff the cavities full of cranberries coated in brown sugar, the zest of one orange and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon. Put the apples in a glass baking dish, and pour a few tablespoons of sweet liquid into and over each one—I used pear cider with a splash of maple syrup and cognac. Bake at 325 degrees for an hour, basting occasionally. Top with white chocolate shavings, as this Cooking Light recipe suggests, or a scoop of your favorite white topping, like creme fraiche, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
5. Red and Blue: Make your cranberry sauce more interesting by throwing some blueberries into the mix, as Elise from Simply Recipes suggests, and maybe even some red wine. You can also pair the berries in a dessert, such as Sweet Life Kitchen’s cranberry blueberry pie or Food for Laughter’s cranberry blueberry crumble.
What’s your favorite way to eat fresh cranberries?
October 26, 2010
If Lisa’s post about the connection between chocolate and child labor has made you reconsider your Halloween candy-buying habits, here’s an alternative for you to feed the trick-or-treaters: kale!
Yeah, you’re right—that’s probably not a good idea unless you want your house egged. But did you know that kale has a historic Halloween connection?
According to the book Halloween: An American Holiday, An American History, by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne:
Cabbage and kale, unlikely magical tools that they may seem, were assumed by the Irish to possess great fortune-telling power. The foods were plentiful throughout the British Isles, and young people pulled up kale plants to judge the nature of their future spouses from the taste (a bitter stalk meant a bitter mate), the shape (straight or curved, indicating the condition of the spine), and the amount of dirt clinging to the root (degree of wealth). The divination worked best if the kale was stolen; it was most telling if practiced on Halloween.
This ritual of “pulling the kail” (kale) was so popular that it even inspired poetry. In “Halloween,” written in 1785, the great Scottish poet Robert Burns lyrically describes young people running into the fields, blindfolded, to select their plants on “that night, when fairies light”:
Then, first an’ foremost, thro’ the kail,
Their stocks maun a’ be sought ance;
They steek their een, and grape an’ wale
For muckle anes, an’ straught anes.
Poor hav’rel Will fell aff the drift,
An’ wandered thro’ the bow-kail,
An’ pou’t for want o’ better shift
A runt was like a sow-tail
Sae bow’t that night.
In other words: A silly lad named Will, having pulled up a kale plant with a stem as curly as a pig’s tail, is pouting about his future hunchback wife. Poor guy.
Kale may not have supernatural properties, but its natural ones are pretty potent: one cup of boiled kale is packed with vitamins A, C and K, as well as potentially cancer-fighting isothiocyanates and anti-inflammatory flavonoids. And it can taste fantastic, prepared properly. Try these ideas if you’re not a believer yet:
3. Simply sauteed kale, seasoned with a squirt of lemon juice and crushed red pepper, is one of my all-time favorite foods. It could get even better with toasted cashews.
4. Give it an international twist: Seasonal Chef has seven ideas, ranging from spicy African kale with yams to Portuguese kale-sausage soup.
What’s your favorite way to eat kale?
October 21, 2010
Kohlrabi isn’t the coolest kid in its class. It has a weird name, and looks even weirder. I admit I’ve always ignored it in favor of prettier, more popular vegetables. Why befriend it now?
Well, because kohlrabi is nutritious: no fat, lots of fiber and vitamin C, even some protein. It’s cheap and in season locally. And it’s a member of the Brassica genus, which includes some of my favorite vegetables, like broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale.
So when a thoughtful coworker left a bundle of it at my desk, I tried to embrace the occasion (though not the kohlrabi itself, which smelled like cabbage) and took it home for dinner.
The greens were still attached and looked healthy, similar to collard greens, so I saved those to saute separately. After snipping off the globe’s odd appendages, I peeled away its outer layer with a paring knife—not always essential, apparently, but these were large and fairly thick-skinned—and ate a few slices raw.
The purple variety was spicier, like a radish, while the pale green kind tasted more like broccoli stems. Both would work well in a salad. I sliced the rest up lengthwise to make kohlrabi fries, using this recipe. They had a mild, turnip-like flavor that could have used a stronger partner than just salt—garlic or grated Parmesan, perhaps—but I loved their texture. I’ll definitely invite kohlrabi over again.
Five more ways to eat kohlrabi:
2. Slaw-style. Since kohlrabi has so much in common with cabbage, it makes a great coleslaw. Try the Washington Post’s spicy Asian “kohl-slaw” or if you prefer it sweet, A Veggie Venture’s kohlrabi & apple slaw with creamy dressing.
3. Soup. It’s amazing how versatile kohlrabi becomes in pureed form—you can make a rainbow of soups, from white (creamy kohlrabi soup) to red (beet and kohlrabi soup) and orange (kohlrabi and root vegetables) or green (kohlrabi soup with parsley and dill).
5. Curried. Kohlrabi is popular in Indian cuisine, though it goes by many different names (knolkol and navalkol, among others). Chop it up and create a simple curry or a more complex one like coconut-milk and peanut.
Have you had kohlrabi? How do you like it best?