Saturday, April 18, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Yes, this post is overdue. Can anyone say they were really on the edge of their seat? I thought not. 

Easter, to me, is all about breakfast. Sure, I like Easter dinner; when I was a child it always included ham and green bean casserole, and this year we were hosted by some wonderful neighbors who fed us delicious grilled salmon. But the breakfast...Easter breakfast should always include something sweet, to my mind, and so it is an excellent day for making cinnamon buns or french toast. This year, I set my mind on having homemade danish to accompany our shirred eggs, home-smoked bacon, oven-roasted onion potatoes, and Bellinis. I've made the danish recipe once before; it's by pro pastry chef Sherry Yard and was a feature for The Daring Bakers, which is how I heard about it. It's a nice dough, subtly scented with orange and cardamom, smooth and silky to the touch. It's fairly easy to work with, provided you allot yourself enough time: from start to finish, flour to baked good, this takes 11 hours. Unfortunately for both Mom and me, my oven stopped working two days before Easter, and so I hauled lots of groceries to her house to get things done. I called her at 9:30pm the night before Easter, asked her to preheat her oven, and said I'd be there in a bit. I showed up around 10, popped the danish in the oven, and we stuffed glassine bags with Easter cookies and drank wine until the danish were golden brown and puffed. I wasn't too sad that my oven had stopped working. 
The danish recipe makes enough dough for two braids, but I like to do one braid and one set of individual danish. The individuals were shaped into 'spandau', or envelopes, and filled with sweetened cream cheese and a rhubarb-vanilla compote. 

The big braid was filled using Sherry Yard's recipe for spiced apples, as well as my personal addition of frangipane. Hubband loves the almond flavor, and I think it compliments the apples perfectly. 
We brought dessert over to our neighbors, as they were providing dinner. With Hubband's invaluable help I settled on making my good old carrot cake recipe, as it's simple, delicious, and fitting for the season. (Rabbits like carrots.) The cake was baked, just like the danish, the night before at 10pm in Mom's oven, then blanketed in cream cheese icing on Sunday afternoon. I had leftover fondant at home from a project that never got off the ground, and decided to try my hand at a little cake decorating. Some grass, flowers, a rabbit, and a bee were all I could muster in the time I had. Each got attached to the cake and brushed with a little luster dust, and off we went!
The carrot cake didn't fail me. As always, it was soft and super-moist, and I was pretty pleased with the decorations considering they were only my second time playing with fondant. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Weeknight Dinner

I've gradually gotten back into cooking, first in my trusty office chair, then standing on one leg, and now, finally, I'm back on my two feet! Hubband and I worked together to make this a few weeks ago, while I was still on one leg. He made it possible for us to eat outside in the garden, which was a huge treat for me, having been stuck in the house so long! 
We shared one of the thick NY Strips that I butchered up and individually froze; Hubband grilled it after we concocted a dry rub of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, cumin, clove, chili powder, and cayenne. The rub turned into a flavorful crust after a meeting with the grill, and I sliced it and laid it alongside some simply roasted Brussels sprouts (olive oil, salt, and pepper) and our surprise side of the night. I don't even know what to call it, but it really ended up being the star of the dinner! I thinly sliced a yellow onion and caramelized it along with two zucchini that needed to be used up. When they were soft and browned, I added a minced garlic clove, a tiny minced jalapeno from our garden, fresh thyme, and a half can of creamed corn leftover from corn muffins, then finished with a little butter and pepper. The corn added wonderful sweetness that played with the caramelized vegetables, but the little hint of garlic and spice kept a great balance.
It was a great weeknight dinner!

Zucchini-Onion Side Dish
Not only does this dish lack a snazzy name, I don't have an exact recipe, as this was yet another case of me making something up on the fly with whatever I had. This should be close enough. 

1 med. yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 med. zucchini, thinly sliced width-wise
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced jalapeno, seeds and rib removed
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 can of creamed corn
1 Tb butter, unsalted
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. 

Place a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, spray with a little nonstick spray or add about 1 Tb olive oil, and add onions. When they are translucent and beginning to brown around the edges, add the zucchini slices. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until onions and zucchini are both deeply browned and limp. Add garlic, jalapeno, and thyme leaves and stir until fragrant. Add creamed corn and heat through, then stir in butter to finish. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.