Sunday, September 30, 2012

Autumn Dessert: Butternut Squash & Pear Crisp

I'm really enjoying the cool weather and yummy fall foods that we've been having lately. I love that fall weather actually encourages you to be outside and be comfortable while you're there, unlike summer where you're sweating and sticky the whole time. The air feels nice and crisp and the leaves are beginning to burst into color. Autumn is my favorite season, hands down.

I also love the puppy cuddles that come with cool mornings and evenings, even if they are just using you for warmth.

I was in the mood last weekend for a crisp of some kind and went sleuthing for something other than just your run of the mill apple crisp. When I stumbled upon a Bon Appetit recipe for pumpkin and pear crisp, I knew I had found the one. I substituted butternut squash for the pumpkin, and pecans for the walnuts because that's what I had. This was a delicious dessert that we enjoyed for a few days. I especially appreciated that you bake the crisp in ramekins. It made my weekday post dinner ritual that much easier. 

Butternut Squash and Pear Crisp (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Streusel Ingredients:
¼ cup old fashioned oats
¼ cup pecans
1 large egg white
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup (½ stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½" cubes
3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
½teaspoon ground cinnamon

Compote Ingredients:
2 cups ¼" cubes peeled, seeded butternut squash (about ½lb)
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 ½ cup water
3 large pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4" cubes 
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Streusel Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375℉. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until crumble forms. 
2. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden and crispy, occasionally breaking up clumps, 18-20 minutes. Let cool. 

Compote Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375℉. Bring first 8 ingredients to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer until squash is just tender, about 7 minutes. 

2. Add pears and vanilla; cook uncovered, stirring often, until pears are tender, about 10 minutes. 

3. Transfer pumpkin and fruit mixture to a medium bowl. Simmer syrup in pan until reduced to ½ cup, 3-5 minutes. 

4. Arrange 8 6 oz. ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Divide compote among ramekins. Drizzle each with 1 tablespoon reserved syrup.

5. Bake until filling is bubbling at edges, 25-30 minutes. Top with streusel and serve. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Daring Bakers September 2012: Empanadas

Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she decided to tempt us with one of her family’s favorite recipes for Empanadas! We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our Empanadas as creatively as we wished!

I know, I know. I'm two days late in posting. Blame my job or my procrastination, either way I'm late. One of my goals now that school has been happening for a full month is to do a better job blogging. Right now that means two specific things: posting on time for challenges and taking the time to take better photos. Hold me to those things, people! Please!

This was a delicious recipe that was perfect for the cooler weather we've been having lately. Something about meat and veggies baked in dough just screams autumn comfort food. We had the inaugural fire in the fireplace in our house and enjoyed the feeling of bellies full of yummy empanada as we relaxed last weekend.

I'd made dessert empanadas before (okay, I mostly cheated with canned apple pie filling and probably store-bought dough) and was looking forward to trying the savory kind. I could have made this a little easier on myself by buying a rotisserie chicken instead of roasting my own, but with whole chickens under a dollar a pound I couldn't really justify not doing the whole recipe from scratch.

Chicken and Bell Pepper Empanadas

Dough Ingredients:
5-1/3 cups (1280 ml) (750 gm) bread flour

2 cups (480 ml) of lukewarm water (about 85°F/30oC)
1 satchel (1 tablespoon) (15 gm) dry yeast or (1 oz) (30 gm) fresh yeast

2 teaspoons (10 ml) (11 gm) salt

4 tablespoons (60 ml) oil (you can use oil from the pan where you have cooked the filling)
1 large egg, for egg wash

For the filling:
1 3-pound chicken
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 medium Spanish onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 ripe plum tomatoes
1 fresh thyme sprig
2 bay leaves
½ cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons sweet pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)

Dough Directions:
1. Measure out all the ingredients. Sift the flour into a big bowl and make a well in the middle. Rub the yeast in with your fingers.

2. In a small bowl, mix the water and the salt.  Using your fingers or a wooden spoon, start adding the water and mixing it with the 
flour-yeast mixture. Keep on working with your fingers or spoon until you have added 
enough water and all the flour has been incorporated and you have a messy ball of dough.

3. On a clean counter top, knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes
(You could do all the above using a stand mixer, in that case mix the ingredients with the 
paddle attachment until mixed and then switch to a dough hook and knead on low for about 6 

4.Clean and oil the big bowl you used for mixing and place the kneaded dough in it. Cover it 
with a napkin or piece of linen and keep it in a warm, draught-free place for approximately 40 to 50 minutes.

5. Once risen, turn the dough back into a floured counter and cut it in half. Cover one half with the napkin to prevent drying.

6. Spread the other half of the dough using a rolling pin. You can use a piece of wax paper over the counter, it will make it easier to move the dough around. Depending on the shape of your oven pan or cookie sheet, you will make a rectangle or a round.

7. Now, the thinness of the dough will depend on your choice of filling and how much bread you like in every bite. For your first time, make it about 3mm thin (about 1/10th of an inch) and then adjust from that in the next ones you make.

Filling Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375℉

2. Season the chicken, inside and out, with salt and pepper and place on a rack set on top of a baking sheet. Roast the chicken for 45 minutes and let cool. Remove all of the meat from the chicken, discarding the skin and bones. Shred the meat and set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the peppers, onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and peppers are tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes in half. Place a grater over a mixing bowl. Rub the cut surface of the tomatoes over the grater until all of the flesh is grated. Set the pulp aside and discard the skins.

5. Add the thyme and bay leaves to the onions and peppers and continue to cook until the mixture turns brown, about 5 minutes more. Add the wine and cook until it evaporates.

6. Stir in the tomato pulp and pimentón, reduce the heat to medium and cook slowly until the oil separates from the mixture and the tomato becomes dark brown in color, about 20 minutes more.

7. Add the shredded chicken and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat, season to taste with salt. Transfer the mixture to a strainer set over a mixing bowl to drain and let cool. Discard liquid.

To Assemble:
1. Turn a 13x18 inch baking sheet over on a work surface and brush the back of the pan with olive oil. Transfer one rectangle of dough to the baking sheet.

2. Spoon the filling into the center of the dough and spread to about 1 inch from the edge. Beat the egg in a small bowl with a little water and brush the egg wash along the edge of the dough.

3. Place the second rectangle of the dough on top of the filling. Fold the dough over, crimping the edges to seal. Brush the top of the dough with the remaining egg wash and prick the dough with a fork to allow the steam to escape.

4. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Allow the empanada to come to room temperature before slicing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Daring Cooks September 2012: Paella

I know, I'm a little late in this posting, but better late than never, right? I swear, now that school has started I'm lucky to remember my name at the end of the day much less how to cook.

Our Daring Cooks’ September 2012 hostess was Inma of la Galletika. Inma brought us a taste of Spain and challenged us to make our very own delicious Paella!

I was so excited when this challenge was posted, paella is a dish I love to eat, love to make, and I have fond memories of my trip in Spain every time I eat it. The first time I ate paella I was a little nervous when the waiter put the plate down in front of me- there were crawfish placed around the lip of the plate just staring at me. I avoided the crawfish and their creepy eyes, but as soon as I had my first mouthful I was enamored.

When I got back from the trip my first request for a birthday present was a paella pan. Since then I've made the dish quite a few times but always when I know I'm going to be feeding quite a few people. This time around we invited friends over and planned a night of sangria, paella and Monopoly. One of our guests is not a big fan of seafood so I adjusted the recipe to accommodate his tastes as well as those of us who love shrimp. I am saving the recipe that Inma gave us for another time, I'm very interested to try another very authentic recipe.

I have one very yellow photo of this dish because I was too busy cooking and talking and drinking sangria to take more. But this is really a beautiful dish and wonderful to eat!

Paella (adapted from Williams Sonoma)

½ tsp saffron threads
1lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup roughly chopped canned peeled tomatoes
2-3 lbs chicken pieces (I used thighs because that's what I had this time, I've also done it with a whole chicken that I broke down into pieces)
2 cups short grain rice
2 tsp smoked paprika
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth
½ cup water
½ cup red bell pepper strips, 1/4 inch wide
½ cup thawed frozen peas
2 lemons, each cut into 8 wedges

1. Preheat oven to 350℉.
2. In a paella pan (or large skillet) over medium heat, cook chicken pieces in 1-2 Tbs olive oil for 15 minutes, turning from time to time. Remove and keep warm.
3. Toast saffron in paella pan, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl, let cool and crumble with fingers, set aside.
4. In another bowl, combine the shrimp, 2 Tbs of olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
5. In the paella pan over medium heat, warm 2 Tbs olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes have darkened slightly, 6-7 minutes.
6. Add the rice, saffron, and paprika and cook, stirring constantly, until the grains are evenly coated with the tomato mixture, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, chicken broth, and water and season with salt and pepper. Spread the rice evenly over the bottom of the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
7. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven. Cook until rice has absorbed most of the liquid, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven.
8. Arrange the chicken evenly around the pan and press into the rice. Place the shrimp on top. Lay the bell pepper strips over the seafood and scatter the peas on top. Re-cover the pan with the foil and return the pan to the oven. Cook until the shrimp are opaque and the chicken is cooked through, 17-20 minutes, removing the foil during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
9. To create a brown crust on the bottom of the rice, set the pan over medium-high heat and cook, turning the pan occasionally so the bottom browns evenly, 4-6 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve the paella with lemon wedges alongside.