Friday, February 12, 2010

Now I Can Say I've Tried It: Kumquats

Their bright cheery color and sweet size alone win me over with kumquats — not to mention the name. It just kinda rolls of the tongue. But it turns out I love the taste, too. It's not surprising since I'm a huge citrus fan, but I was always daunted by the thought of peeling each little itty bitty orb. Silly, I know now. I never realized you can eat the skin. Just pop the whole thing in your mouth for a bright burst of tart yet sweet.

I thought for my first try other than tasting one on its own, I would bake them into a quick bread. But while digging around online, I came across this thread on Chowhound. It has so many more great suggestions. I ended up throwing together a salad suggested by one commentor who had tried a similar one at Zuni.

Farro Salad with Kumquats
feta cheese
sliced kumquats
spring onions
arugula, beet greens, or other leafy green
Toasted pine nuts or walnuts, optional

Cook farro as directed. Mix all and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

I know, I know. Not exactly an exact recipe here, but come on. It's a salad. It's up to you. Put in however much you feel like. Add to it. Subtract. Skip the kumquats all together — well, don't go that far. They're the best part!

I had actually never tried beet greens either. I chopped them quite small in the salad since they are so bitter raw, but it was a perfect blend with the bright, tart citrus flavor.

I even blanched more of the beet greens, squeezed them dry and threw them in an omelette with some scallions. I guess my body was craving some dark leafy greens to make up for all the things like buffalo chili, Swedish meatballs and spare ribs we've been having in honor of winter!

I still have a handful of kumquats left in the refrigerator and may just try that quick bread yet.

Have a great weekend — try something new if you have the chance! You can check out some of the other new foods I've tried here and here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blog It Forward Mashup

Heads up! The 'Blog It Forward' mashup starts today! Organized by Victoria over at sfgirlbybay, this event will feature 300 bloggers posting about what inspires them. Every day from now until March 24 a different set of blog will feature a post about what inspires them personally and then link to the day before and the day after's blogs. For more details, read here, check out the schedule and today's opening posts:

Creature Comforts

Design for Mankind

Heart Fish

Hula Seventy

Ink on my Fingers

Oh, Hello Friend

Paper Pony



Smile and Wave

Check 'em out and find some new lovelies!
I'll be posting as part of the mashup on March 4. Watch for that super charming logo!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Homemade chocolate wafer icebox cakes

I've been carrying around Allysa Torey's Chocolate Wafer Icebox Cake recipe from Magnolia Bakery in my recipe box for years now. With just four ingredients including store-bought cookies, it was just too simple to let go. I finally made a plan to whip it together to take to a Super Bowl party along with the buffalo chili I had made. That was before I went to the grocery — chocolate wafers were nowhere to be found. I got home and dove into google, immediately landing in the wonderfully awesome Smitten Kitchen. I'm so glad I did. Deb has made this simple recipe even more decadent and wonderful: hello homemade wafers and individual portions!

I have a food processor that is sadly too small to make this — and many other — recipes. Fear not, it is still doable. I will give directions for both techniques.

Chocolate Wafers
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert

Makes 55 to 65 1 1/2-inch wafers.

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c. plus 2 Tb sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
14 Tb (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
3 Tb whole milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

By hand: Whisk together the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Cut butter into about 12 chunks and add them to the bowl. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter, two knives or your fingertips until formed into crumbs. Combine the milk and vanilla in a small cup. Add to the bowl and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon until the mixture begins to form into a ball. Transfer the dough to a large cutting board and knead a few times to make sure it is evenly blended.

In food processor: Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times. Cut the butter into about 12 chunks and add them to the bowl. Pulse several times to mix thoroughly. Combine the milk and vanilla in a small cup. With the processor running, add the milk mixture and continue to process until the mixture clumps around the blade or the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a large bowl or a cutting board and knead a few times to make sure it is evenly blended.

Form the dough into two logs each about 8 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the log in wax paper or foil and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour, or until needed.

Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the logs of dough into slices a scant 1/4-inch thick or thinner. (If you slice them as thin as you can to make them extra crispy and delicate, watch the baking time carefully. It will be less.) Place slices one inch apart on the parchment paper to allow room for them to spread. Bake, rotating the baking sheet from top to bottom and back to front about halfway through baking, for a total of 12 to 15 minutes. The cookies will puff up and deflate; they are done about 1 1/2 minutes after they deflate.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheets on racks, or slide the parchment onto racks to cool completely. These cookies may be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks or be frozen for up to two months.

Note: These cookies should crisp as they cool. If they don’t, you’re not baking them long enough, says Medrich — in which case, return them to the oven to reheat and bake a little longer, then cool again.

Icebox Cupcakes
Much easier to eat than an entire cake, these cupcake sized treats are perfectly rich and chocolatey. The cream covered wafers soften up into a cake-like consistency when stored in the the refrigerator overnight.

As Deb at Smitten Kitchen says, the wafers are just a little too big for the average cupcake liner. Simply press down the sides a bit and you'll have no trouble. You could make the wafer a little smaller, but either way works just fine. This recipe makes about a dozen cupcakes, but this will vary depending on the size and thickness of your cookies, and the height of your stacks. Five apiece worked well for me.

1 batch of Chocolate Wafers (recipe above)
1 cup whipping cream
1 to 2 spoons of powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Whip cream with a spoonful or two of powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla or any flavoring of your choice, until the whipped cream holds firm peaks. Spread about two teaspoons whipped cream between each cookie, to the edges, and stack them until you reach the height you’d like. If you spread whipped cream on top of the final cookie, you will end up with a softer lid — a good thing — though a brown cookie on top looks neater.

Set them in the fridge at least overnight or up to a day. The cookies will soften as they set, and become cake-like.