Monday, December 27, 2010

Cauliflower & Caramelized Onion Quiche

I'm about to do the unthinkable.

I'm blogging about non-Christmas food over the Christmas holiday.


But I'm doing it anyway.

Did you know that I idolize the Smitten Kitchen blog? No? Well, maybe it's time I make that confession. Deb at the Smitten Kitchen blog has been rolling out mouth-watering recipes for years now, even though I only discovered her about a year ago. Aaaaaand she's developing her own cookbook. Can't wait for that bad boy to come out.

As I was perusing her blog one day, I stumbled upon a recipe for something very near and dear to my heart: a Cauliflower and Caramelized Onion Tart. Cauliflower, caramelized onions, cheese and quiche are things that I adore and would make in a heartbeat. So of course I knew I had to make this.

Unfortunately, I don't have a tart pan, so I decided to throw everything into a pie crust and call it a quiche (ahem...tart pan's make nice belated Christmas gifts...).

Cauliflower & Caramelized Onion Quiche
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Cauliflower and Caramelized Onion Tart
  • 1 head cauliflower (~1lb), cut into 1-inch flowerets
  • 3 1/2 tbsps olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1 frozen pie crust
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large eggs
  • ~ 6 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp habanero sauce
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère cheese (can be swapped with Swiss or Comté)
  • 1/2 cup Fontina cheese
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Make the Cauliflower:
1) Preheat oven to 425°F.
2) Toss cauliflower with 2 tablespoons olive oil and spread out on a baking sheet.
3) Sprinkle the cauliflower with salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes and toss to combine.
4) Roast in the oven for 15 minutes before turning the cauliflower over.
5) Roast another 10-15 minutes, or until tender and slightly browned.
6) Cool the cauliflower and chop roughly.
7) Reduce oven temperature to 400°F.
Blind Bake The Pie Crust:

1) Use a fork to prick the bottom and sides of the pie crust.

2) Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. If the crust puffs up in the oven, just push it back down gently while still warm. No one will ever see it. (If you're really fancy, you can weigh the crust down with baking beans or raw rice. Just line the crust with parchment paper first.)
7) Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
Make the Onions:
1) Heat 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat.
2) Add the onions and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
3) Saute until the onions are caramelized and light brown in color, stirring periodically. This took me about 45 minutes but it may take you more or less time.
Assemble the Quiche:
1) Spread the onion over the bottom of the crust.
2) Top the onion with the cauliflower florets.
3) Whisk together the eggs, mascarpone, milk, 1/4 tsp black pepper, and habanero sauce.
4) Mix together all the cheeses in a bowl. Toss to incorporate.
5) Add all except 1/2-3/4 cup cheese to the egg mixture.
6) Pour the egg mixture over the onions and cauliflower florets.
7) Sprinkle the top of the quiche with the reserved cheese mixture.
8) Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly brown on top.
9) Remove from the oven and cool before serving. Can be served warm or at room temperature.
The flavors of this quiche represent very tasty comfort food to me. FYI...In case you were wondering, I would cook/bake with cauliflower more often if I didn't think this blog would suffer from it.) I love that the cauliflower has a meaty texture which is complimented by the salty/sweet combination of cheese and onions.

I made some slight changes to Deb's recipe, since I'm obviously partial to things that she's not and vice versa. For example, I don't really care for mustard. I always remove it from a recipe whenever I can. This case was no exception. I also added more cheese to the recipe. If you're a regular visitor to this blog, this is nothing new. I always add more cheese to a recipe when cheese is called for. That is because there is never enough cheese. But I'm about to make a confession.

I think I added too much cheese to this quiche.

You will probably never hear this confession again. Let me explain...Between the mascarpone, Gruyère , Fontina, and Parmesan cheeses, the entire quiche became too messy. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the taste of this quiche. However, the ability of the quiche to stay together leaves something to be desired. (I had to chill the quiche in order to take suitable pictures. As you can see from the picture of the slice above, it was already starting to fall apart.) So that's my only gripe about this quiche and it's totally my fault. Next time I'll probably remove a half cup to a cup of the cheese from the recipe. Other than that, I will still claim that this is another winner brought to you by the Smitten Kitchen blog!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Potato Chickpea Salad

Aarti Party is back for Season 2! I'm so excited. I watched her season premiere last Sunday with my roommate and we just can't wait for more episodes to come.

A few weeks ago, I got a hankering for some Indian food so I turned to an Indian-inspired potato salad that I saw Rachael Ray make on "30 Minute Meals". This recipe had been hanging out on my "To Do" list for a while, so I decided it was time to get serious with it.

I knew the first thing I had to change about Rachael's Lentil-Potato Salad was the lentils. They've gotta go. Lentils are something that I try out every year or so and then realize that I still dislike them. Since I did make an attempt to eat them a few weeks ago, I can check that task off my annual To-Do list. Still awful.

Interestingly enough, I'm (very slowly) beginning to conquer my aversion to beans. Beans have also been on my "naughty" list since I was a kid. But in the past few years, I've begun to enjoy soybeans (aka edamame) and chickpeas. I don't know if there's room in my culinary repertoire to add any more beans, but we'll see. In the meantime, I decided to replace the lentils with chickpeas in my version of this potato salad.

Potato Chickpea Salad
adapted from Rachael Ray's Lentil-Potato Salad recipe
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced into uniform-sized pieces
  • 4 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas (15.5 oz can)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock (you can use vegetable stock if you like)
  • 1 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
  • 3/4 tsp coriander
  • 3/4 tsp garam masala
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
1) Add the potatoes to a pot of salted, boiling water. Cook until fork-tender, about 10 minutes.

2) In the meantime, add 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium pan over low heat. Saute the shallots, and garlic until softened.

3) Add the chickpeas and peas to the pan and allow them to heat through for a minute or two.

4) Remove the chickpea mixture from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

5) In a blender or food processor, add the chicken stock, cilantro, and ginger. Blend until the mixtures is smooth and incorporated.

6) Add the drained potatoes, cilantro mixture, and chickpea mixture in a large bowl.

7) Add 3 tablespoons oil to the bowl, along with all the spices and salt and pepper, to taste. Toss to combine. Serve warm.

Let's face it, I'm a fan of carbohydrates, so this side dish is right up my alley. One of the things that I thought I could skip in the original recipe was boiling the potatoes with an onion and a bay leaf. In the end, I think this would have helped to season the potatoes more thoroughly. If you do end up boiling the potatoes with the onion and bay leaf, you may not need to add as much spices to the recipe as I did.

If you're enticed by a blend of soft potatoes, chickpeas and peas then this would definitely be something you're interested in. The peas are sweet when they pop in your mouth and they balance out the meaty texture of the chickpeas. The blended cilantro brings all the elements together and acts as a fresh dressing that you can taste with each bite. I personally enjoy this Potato Chickpea Salad with a little bit of tamarind sauce on the side, just for that extra tangy and sweet flavor.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Eggnog Cupcakes

I'm comin' through for the holidays...with some eggnog cupcakes!

(I like this picture. It was taken approximately 2 seconds before this cupcake fell sideways and spread the pretty eggnog frosting all over a few Christmas tree branches. Oops.)

Our holiday party was last weekend and I decided some festive cupcakes were in order. Usually I'd alter an existing recipe or try to create a new one, but since I hadn't had time to practice recipes earlier, I figured I'd go with something tried-and-true: Eggnog Cupcakes!

I first heard about eggnog cupcakes when I was searching for a cupcake to make for last year's holiday party. I love eggnog, but I wasn't sure how it would translate into cupcakes. In the end, they lost the 2009 holiday cupcake battle to the Peppermint Patty Cupcakes. This year, as I was searching through my extensive list of bookmarked cupcakes, I found a reference to the eggnog cupcakes again. Since they took a backseat at the last holiday party, I figured they deserved to stand out this time around.

Eggnog Cupcakes
recipe slightly adapted from Annie's Eats
yields 12 cupcakes
  • 1/4 cup Nassau Royale Liqueur (but you can use any dark rum or bourbon you like)
  • 1 cup eggnog
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
1) Preheat oven to 30 degrees F.

2) Combine rum, eggnog, vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

3) In a large bowl, combine the nutmeg, sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

4) Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Whisk together until the ingredients are just combined. Don't overbeat the batter.

5) Ladle the batter into 12 cupcake liners.

6) Bake for 18-20 minutes. (If you care, my cupcakes baked in 18 minutes.) Cool before frosting.

Eggnog Frosting
recipe slightly adapted from Annie's Eats
makes enough frosting to pipe onto 12 cupcakes*
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 6 tbsp eggnog
  • 2 tbsp Nassau Royale Liqueur (but you can use any dark rum or bourbon you like)
  • 2 generous pinches of nutmeg
  • 3 - 3-1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1) Using a mixer, cream the butter for a few minutes.

2) Add eggnog, rum and nutmeg. Allow the ingredients to combine.

3) Add the confectioner's sugar slowly and in increments. This will make the frosting light and fluffy.

4) Frost the eggnog cupcakes.

* If you happen to head over to the Annie's Eats website, you'll notice that I doubled the frosting so that I would have enough to pipe onto 12 cupcakes. If you're planning on only spreading the frosting onto these cupcakes, then you may not need to double the recipe.

I'm so glad I decided to make these. The cupcakes were moist because the recipe uses vegetable oil instead of butter and you can really taste the eggnog in both the cupcake and the frosting. You can also taste the booze. Very delicious holiday combination in my book!

However, I think my favorite thing about these eggnog cupcakes is that the batter can be thrown together by just whisking everything in one bowl. OK, two, if you count the separate bowls for the wet and dry ingredients. On a sad note, I was a little disappointed that I wasn't able to properly capture my new gingerbread cupcake liners in a picture, but there's always next year!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Balthazar Restaurant: A Review

I haven't done a review in a while, so there's no better time than the present. Actually, looking back through my blog posts, Ive never reviewed an actual restaurant, so this will be a first.

Several few weeks ago, my friend Anjelika introduced me to Balthazar Restaurant, which is a French restaurant in NYC's Soho district. After a leisurely brunch there, I was hooked. So when my mom visited me over the Thanksgiving holiday, I decided we should go back again. Wow, I'm glad we did.

As soon as my mom and I arrived, we were informed that since we were early (we showed up at 9:30am), we couldn't place an order until 10am, when Brunch is served. We chose to sit anyway and our server Carol came over to introduce herself. Best. Server. Ever. If you go there, you should request to sit in her section. For real.

My mom and I each ordered a cappuccino and Carol provided menus so that we could peruse the brunch possibilities. However the cappuccino kept stealing my attention. It was amazingly thick and creamy with just the right amount of foam on top of the espresso and milk. I heart caffeine.

Carol stopped by again and discussed each menu option with us so that we could make informed decisions. In the end, we chose two appetizers and two entrees. Carol received our order just prior to 10am and I think we were the first order into the kitchen for Brunch that day!

Appetizer 1: Onion Soup Gratinee

My mom thinks this is one of the best onion soups that she has ever had. And she's had a lot of onion soups. The cheese and bread were salty and thick. The soup underneath was rich and flavorful with onions and broth. This was a pretty filling appetizer, but we pressed on...

Appetizer 2: Warm Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart

This is by far my favorite appetizer at Balthazar. The mix of goat cheese and caramelized onions is exceptional and the warm flaky crust that goes along with this ain't half bad either. A small arugula salad with sweet, roasted tomatoes accompanies this tart.

So in short, we may have pigged out on cappuccinos and appetizers before getting to the big meal. Maybe.

Entree 1: Scrambled Eggs in Puff Pastry

This was my mom's choice for an entree. She really liked the fluffy eggs and the crisp, fresh mushrooms and asparagus that came with it. The buttery, flaky puff pastry was the perfect vessel in which to serve this.

Entree 2: Brioche French Toast

This was MY choice for an entree. I had it the last time I was there with Anjelika and I chose to have it again this time, since it was that good. The crust of the brioche was flaky. Yet the center of the brioche was soft and just melted in my mouth. And of course, it came with thick, warm bacon on top of it. (I moved the bacon to the side so you could see the brioche in this picture.) Everything's better with bacon. Drool.

All of the above was promptly devoured. As it should be.

I cannot wait to head back to Balthazar. There are so many other items that I would like to try on the menu. I just wish it wasn't so tempting to order tried-and-true favorites. I should really do these restaurant reviews more often. They're pretty tasty!

PS - Sorry about the dark photos. I took them with my camera phone and it doesn't have a flash!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Spicy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

I love ramen. Yep, I said it. I love ramen. I know it's "uncool" and it only costs about 35 cents per package, but there's something about those noodles that is so comforting. I hardly ever make pre-packaged ramen anymore and I think it's this blog's fault. I'm too busy making other dishes!. Well, now I'm bringing ramen back...

I actually had a few leftover ramen packages in the cupboard and I wanted to make sure I used them up. Those expiration dates really creep up on you quickly. I also wanted to get my chicken fix for that half marathon that I'm not training for anymore, thanks potential stress fractures in my left leg. Thanks, thanks a lot.

One recipe that I had bookmarked to try was Joelen's Spicy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup. Since the days and nights are getting colder, chicken noodle soup would be the perfect thing to warm me up.

Spicy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup
slightly adapted from Joelen's Culinary Adventures
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp habanero sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3-1/2 (3 ounce) packages of dried ramen noodles
  • 3 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced
1) Combine the broth, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and habanero sauce together in a large pot. Bring the broth mixture to a boil.

2) Add the chicken to the pot and simmer, covered, over medium-low heat until the chicken is cooked all the way through. This will take only a few minutes so don't walk away!

3) Discard the ramen noodles' seasoning packets. Place the ramen noodles in the broth and stir . The noodles will be done in a minute or two.

4) Stir in the scallions and cilantro before serving in bowls.

This was one of the easiest recipes I've ever thrown together. I'm pretty sure it took me less than 30 minutes from start to finish. AND I was taking pictures along the way. To me, this soup actually tasted like it was straight from one of those ramen noodle containers. Now I don't know if you consider this to be a good thing or a bad thing, but I'm a fan. Judge all you want.

One problem I ran into was that I didn't have enough broth. Next time I think I'll have to either use another cup or two of broth and then adjust the seasonings accordingly, or decrease the amount of ramen noodles and chicken that I'm using. The original recipe doesn't call for the amount of noodles and chicken that I used in the recipe above, but I didn't want to have an extra chicken breast and a half bag of ramen noodles left over. I'll have to update this post with my changes when I make it again. It may be a while though. This cold weather has me itching to make more soups and I've already got a few new recipes in sight.