November 23, 2012

Moroccan Carrots

This cold carrot dish (doubled to feed a larger crowd) worked well as a lively side for our Thanksgiving table. The recipe comes from The Essential New York Times Cook Book.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

1 pound carrots
1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
A few cranks from your pepper grinder
2 teaspoons olive oil

Peel the carrots and slice them into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Steam for approximately 10 minutes, until tender but slightly firm. Drain. Dress with the remaining ingredients. Toss well. Cool to room temperature and then store covered in the fridge to marinate for several hours. Toss again before serving.

Notes: These carrots keep well, so making them farther in advance is fine.
The original recipe called for adding a Tablespoon of chopped cilantro. I left it out because we didn't have any on hand. If you have cilantro, add it to give another fresh layer of flavor.

November 21, 2012

Lemon Sorbet (with Buttermilk)

Immediately after culturing my first quart of homemade buttermilk, I began trying to figure out what I could do with it. This tangy dessert has a fresh lemon flavor without the ice-iness that you sometimes find in commercially available lemon sorbets. It is based on the Almond and Buttermilk Sorbet recipe from The Essential New York Times Cook Book. This sorbet require advance plannings. And an ice cream maker. If you don't keep the cylinder for your ice cream maker in the freezer, remember to put it in when you start the buttermilk. Time matters and they really do work best if the cylinder is frozen for 24 hours before you start churning.

Lemon Buttermilk Sorbet

1/3 Cup lemon juice -- Fresh is fantastic. Bottled works fine.
1 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup light corn syrup
2 Cups buttermilk

How to:
1.Combine the lemon and sweeteners in a small sauce pan and simmer over medium low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Then let it cool back to room temperature.

2. Combine the lemon syrup and the buttermilk and chill. To speed the process, put them in a freezer bag, Seal it well and immerse it in a bowl of ice water.

3. Churn in an ice cream maker.

4. Remove to a freezer safe container with a tight lid. Put a sheet of parchment paper flush to the top of the sorbet. Then put on the lid and stash it in the freezer for a couple of hours.

This sorbet is sturdy enough to stand up to some mix-ins like a little fresh lemon zest stirred in after churning.

The original recipe  called for taking 1/2 Cup of whole raw almonds, roasting them briefly in a small dry skillet on medium-high heat, pulverizing them in a food processor with 1/4 C sugar and adding that to the lemon syrup and buttermilk before churning. I haven't done it since we don't cook with almonds, but it sounds delicious.


Cultured buttermilk is incredibly easy to make, keeps well for a week or so in the fridge, and really is wonderful in pancakes and baked goods. Making buttermilk is very easy. But it does require some advance preparation.

Some things you need to make buttermilk:

1. Buttermilk culture. I order from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company which has a user friendly website. Look in the "ingredients" section under cheesee cultures and mold powders. Once you have the culture, store it in your freezer.
2. A thermometer. I had thought I could use my candy thermometer with its handy clip, but then found that its dial starts at 100 degrees. For buttermilk you need one that reads accurately at lower temperatures. There is such a thing as a cheese thermometer, but I don't have one. So I use my meat thermometer and just keep dipping it in. Not as convenient as a thermometer that clips to the pan, but workable.

3. A clean mason jar with lid

Cultured Buttermilk

1 quart whole milk (not ultrapasteurized)
1 packet (1/2 teaspoon buttermilk culture)

How to:
Heat milk in a medium saucepan until it reaches 72 degrees. Stir in the buttermilk culture. Transfer to clean jar. Set lid on top, but don't screw it on. Let the jar sit out at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours (or until thickened). Then refrigerate until ready to use. Keeps for a week or so in the fridge.

A note on timing: If I prepare the buttermilk in the evening, it isn't ready by the time I go to work the next morning. It is ready by the time I get home in the afternoon.

What to do with buttermilk? Buttermilk is fantastic in scones. Buttermilk can also be great in cakes. It's a key ingredient in ranch dressing. Where buttermilk really shines -- sorbet.

November 15, 2012

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

This modification of the Sour Cream Ring Cake recipe in Bakin Without Eggs, produces a cake that's dense, nutty and not too sweet. A great brunch dish.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

1/2 Cup granulated sugar
3/4 Cup brown sugar
1/4 Cup butter - softened
1 Cup sour cream
1/2 Cup skim milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 Cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 Cup quick rolled oats
1/4 Cup poppy seeds
1/3 Cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a Bundt cake pan.

Sift into a mixing bowl the flours and leavening. Stir in the oats and poppy seeds.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugars and butter. Mix in the sour cream. Mix in the milk, vanilla and lemon juice.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Stir to combine. Do not over mix.  When almost fully combined, fold in the pecans.

Spoon into prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean or with a few crumbs. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes or so. Invert onto plate or wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Variations: The recipe from which I was working did not call for poppy seeds, but I think they are a nice addition. This is a pretty sturdy dough and you can vary the mix-ins a little by substituting other nuts or seeds or adding small amount of chopped dried fruit. 
The original recipe called for twice as much vanilla, so don't be afraid to add a little more.
Or heighten the citrus flavor by adding fresh orange or lemon zest with the dry ingredients.
Add zing with some grated ginger and smal chunks of crystallized ginger.

November 10, 2012

So much better than Jello

I love Jello. I'm an adult and I should know better. The artificial colors alone should put me off. But I do love it. Fortunately, as an adult I have discovered that it is very, very easy to make something equally delicious with many fewer chemicals. With just a few minutes of work and your favorite juice, you can make fruit gelatin.

Fruit Gelatin
(makes 4 Cups -- that's 8 half cup servings)

4 Cups of fruit juice
2 envelopes gelatin

Use a medium sized bowl. Measure 1 Cup of juice into it. Sprinkle both packages of gelatin into the bowl and let it sit.

While the gelatin is soaking, bring the other 3 Cups of juice just to a boil in a sauce pan.

Pour the hot juice into the bowl. Stir to combine and thoroughly dissolve the gelatin.

Pour the gelatin mixture into one large pan or several smaller serving dishes.

Chill for several hours.

Variations: Use your imagination and pick your favorite juices or blends. Today we enjoyed using a blend of apple, cranberry and pomegranate juice. It was a hit.

Optional fruit: Fruit can be added to the pan or serving dish before the gelatin mixture is poured in. Today we sliced in fresh strawberries. Frozen blueberries are also nice. If you have canned mandarin orange slices, those are nice too.