Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fennel Potato Mash

My love affair with fennel continues!  Sometimes a new recipe occurs to me because I lack the ingredients for what I wanted to make.  Sometimes it’s because I am feeling lazy and one dish that provides both the starch and vegetable for our meal appeals.  And other times, inspiration strikes when a search through the vegetable bin in my refrigerator turns up an ingredient I had forgotten I’d bought.  This particular dish resulted from all three.  An occurrence I liken to the confluence of the stars.  Because the resultant dish was delicious and fresh.  I hope you like it too.

About 10oz or 285g potatoes
2 medium bulbs fennel
2 generous tablespoons butter (or more, to taste)
1 3/4 oz or 50g freshly grated Parmesan or other hard cheese
Sea salt
Black pepper
Trim the tough green stalks off of the fennel bulbs.  Discard the tough stalks and mince the fronds.  Set aside.

Cut the hard root end off of the bulbs and slice them vertically.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters.   I missed taking a photo of this step but I think you can handle it.

Put the potatoes and the sliced fennel into a pot of water with a teaspoon of salt and heat to boiling on the stove.   Cook until the fennel and potatoes are both fork tender.

Remove from the heat and drain off the water.  With a potato masher, mash the potatoes and fennel until they are as smooth as you normally like your mashed potatoes, adding in the butter and salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon it all into a serving dish.   Mix the Parmesan with the minced fennel fronds and scatter the mixture on top of the mashed potatoes and fennel.

Isn’t that pretty?  And it tastes good too!


Monday, June 24, 2013

Jalapeño Cheddar Muffins #MuffinMonday

Anyone who has ever been a new kid in school will understand my overwhelmed feelings the first day I walked into the fourth grade classroom at St. Thomas More back in 1972.  I was nine years old and had been living overseas since I started school.  This Catholic grade school in Houston, Texas was just as foreign.  And I was one of the only children in the whole student body with divorced parents.  An oddity.  Every grade had two homerooms and each homeroom had 30 children.  So many more students than I was used to.  I gradually got to know the other girls and boys in class and joined the Girl Scouts.  I made friends with a small group of girls that are still among my best friends today.  We picked up a few more in high school to round out our gang.

Last weekend, instead of baking these cheesy spicy muffins for posting today, I was celebrating our collective fiftieth birthdays in the party city of New Orleans.   We rented a house in the French Quarter and worked our abs by laughing harder and more often in those three days than I have laughed for years.  There is nothing like a group of friends who know your old secrets and keep them, except when they make a great story when you are all together.

We have so many inside jokes and shared adventures and traditions but one of my favorites is that we always take a photo at each wedding of all the girlfriends with the groom.  Here's the one from our wedding more than 27 years ago.

My sweetie (Isn't he handsome?!) with my beautiful friends.  

And here we all are now.  Seven of us have been friends for more than 40 years!  We just met the immobile girl in the middle.

So, I am baking muffins this morning on actual Muffin Monday and our chosen ingredient is peppers.  If you have been reading along for a while, you know I love spicy things and cheesy makes everything better.  These are perfectly both.

2 cups or 250g flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon English mustard powder
16 oz or 450g extra sharp cheddar
2-3 jalapeño peppers
1-2 Fresno peppers
2 eggs
1 cup or 240ml milk
1/4 cup or 60ml canola

Preheat oven 350°F or 180°C and prepare muffin pan by greasing or lining with paper muffin cups.  When I am baking with cheese, I find that the paper liners stick to my muffins so I usually just grease the pan.  You might want to do the same.

Cut 12 thin slices off of the skinny ends of your peppers and set aside to use for decoration before baking.  Chop the rest of the peppers finely, removing the seeds first, if you don’t like things too spicy.

Grate your cheese.  Set some aside for sprinkling on top of the muffins before baking.

In a large bowl mix together your flour, baking powder, mustard powder and salt.  Add in the big pile of cheese and stir until well mixed.

In a smaller bowl, whisk your milk, canola oil and eggs.

Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Now fold in the chopped peppers.

Evenly distribute the batter among the muffin cups.

Top with the extra cheese and one slice of pepper per muffin.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan.

Remove the muffins from the muffin pan and finish cooling on a rack.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

Even before I became a food blogger and got in the habit of posting recipes for you lovely people a couple or three times a week, when I went on holidays, my favorite ones included accommodation with a kitchen:  Vacation rentals from VRBO or most recently from airbnb which allow you to choose the number of beds and bathrooms and well-equipped kitchens.  Right after hanging out on a beach, my favorite holiday activity is poking through foreign markets and grocery stores and cooking up my discoveries.  I know this is contrary to many folks’ idea of a get-away.  In fact, I’ve been told it’s abnormal and eating out and not having to cook is the whole idea of a holiday.  What can I say?  At least my hobby is useful. :)  What’s your favorite thing to do on holiday?  Ever bought a weird ingredient?

What I bought on this trip to Ecuador: plantain flour, quince paste and rib stock cubes.

This week’s Muffin Monday ingredient is oatmeal.  Since I was visiting my father and his wife and I had no idea what their kitchen was like, I brought along some of those little foil cups.  They work pretty good, if you don’t mind that they spread out a little, your muffins end up flattish on top and sometimes a little batter oozes over the sides while baking. 

For the muffin batter:
1 1/2 cups or 190g all purpose flour
1/2 cup or 45g oatmeal
3/4 cup or 170g dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup or 240ml milk
1/2 cup or 115g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1/2 cup chocolate chips (plus extra for sprinkling on after the crumble)

For the crumble:
1/4 cup or about 30g plain flour
1/4 cup or 50g dark brown sugar
2 rounded tablespoons or 30g soft unsalted butter
1/4 cup or 22g oatmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven 350°F or 180°C and prepare muffin pan by greasing or lining with paper muffin cups or putting those little foil muffin cups on a bigger baking pan.

In a large bowl mix together your flour, oatmeal, dark brown sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a smaller bowl, whisk your milk, melted butter and eggs.

Prepare your topping by mixing together the crumble ingredients with a fork.  Set aside.

Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients and stir until just combined. 

Now fold in the chocolate chips, keeping a few back for topping, if desired.

Evenly distribute the batter among the muffin cups. 

Top with the crumble and scatter a couple of reserved chocolate chips.

Gently press down into the batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Remove the muffins from the muffin pan. 


Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street, a culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week.  Drop Anuradha a quick line to join her on this journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.  Make sure to go and check out what my fellow bloggers have come up with this week!

Plus learn all you ever need to know about muffins, right here at Muffin 101.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Barbecue Beans and Pork Ribs

Barbecued beans and pork ribs cooked with loads of flavor make a great meal for Sunday Supper or anytime.

Since we are celebrating fathers today at Sunday Supper, I thought a manly meal was most appropriate.  And there is nothing more manly than barbecued beans served alongside barbecued pork ribs that have been tenderly baked and then slathered with barbecue sauce and grilled over an open charcoal flame.   If you want to throw together a green salad, that works too, but many men will find it quite superfluous.  Our Sunday Supper host this week is none other than our illustrious leader, Isabel from Family Foodie. creator and chief motivator of the Sunday Supper group.

I’d love to write a tribute here to my father, but, the truth is, I just don’t know where to start.  Maybe it’s a daughter thing, but my father has always been larger than life for me.  He is a man of intense intelligence and quick wit, with the softest heart.  My parents divorced when I was nine years old so time with Daddy has always been precious.  Let me tell you one story.  Many years ago, summer of 1983 to be precise, Daddy had just moved from Jakarta to Brunei.  In the days pre-internet, the only way I could let him know that I was headed his way was to make a very expensive transatlantic phone call or to ask his Dallas office to send him a telex.   As a poor college student, I chose the latter.

I arrived in Bandar Seri Begawan, after more than 30 hours of traveling, exhausted but elated to be there.  No one was at the airport to greet me.  Since this was my first visit, I suddenly realized that I didn’t even know Daddy’s address or phone number.  I approached the counter of the local car rental company and asked if they had a phone book I could borrow.  Mercifully, they did and Daddy’s office telephone number was listed there.  The lady behind the counter was kind enough to dial it for me and Daddy’s secretary put me through.  My father’s response to hearing my voice was succinct.  “Stacy, you screw up!”  Yet somehow Daddy made it sound like an endearment.   He roared up to the airport to collect me.  And he took the afternoon off and we went home.

Daddy is a great storyteller, a trait he inherited from his own father, a raconteur from way back.  (His advice has always been to never to let the truth get in the way of a good story.)  Lots of his tall tales involve the exploits of his daughters and I have heard him tell the story of my first arrival in Brunei many times over the years.  I think that he has a certain pride in our ability to travel alone and land on the ground, feet first, even in strange land.  This week I am visiting my father and my stepmother in their current home of Ecuador.  I reminded him of that old story, and his own snippy response.  Never mind that it has been 30 years, he had the good grace to blush.  It’s so great to share the laughter.  Now let’s cook some beans and ribs.

I made these dishes a while back and took the photos in less than ideal conditions so my apologies for the poor lighting.

For the beans:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup or 60ml apple cider vinegar
6 oz (by weight) or 1 cup or 170g dried cannellini beans
1 can (14.5 oz or 411g) chopped tomatoes
1/2 small can (3 oz or 75g) tomato paste
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons sea salt
1- 2 teaspoons cayenne (depending on how spicy you like your beans)

For the ribs:
1 rack of baby back pork ribs per person
Sea salt
Black pepper
Olive oil
Barbecue sauce (I usually make my own but use whatever sauce is your favorite.)

First, preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and put the ribs in an oven safe baking pan.  Season them liberally on both sides with sea salt and black pepper.  Give the ribs a good drizzle of olive oil and add a cup of water to the pan.

Cover with foil. When the oven reaches the correct temperature, put the ribs in and set a timer for one hour.

Now get the beans started.  I use a pressure cooker because I prefer to keep the beans whole.  I find that if I start with soaked beans and cook them in a normal pot, by the time they are soft enough for me, they are also a big mush.  The pressure cooker cooks them through without them completely disintegrating.

Put all the bean ingredients into a pressure cooker with enough water to cover the beans plus about two inches or 4cm.

Close the lid and turn the fire on high and bring to a boil.  When you hear the ch-ch-ch noise of the steam start, turn the fire down to medium low.  The pressure should still be making an audible ch-ch-ch, just more quietly.

Cook for about 40 minutes and then remove from the stove.  Allow the pressure cooker to cool enough until it is safe to open.

Open the pressure cooker and test a bean.  If they are cooked or very close to cooked, put the pressure cooker back on the stove, without the lid, and cook until the liquid reduces to your desired thickness.   Or, if sticking seems to be problem, put the beans into a non-stick skillet and do the same.  Some folks like their beans runny but when it comes to barbecue beans, I think thicker is better.  Use your own judgment.   Taste the salt and pepper and add more if necessary.

Meanwhile, about 15-20 minutes before your ribs are done, light your grill.   When the coals are ready, remove the ribs from the oven and take off the foil.

Grill the ribs, applying the barbecue sauce of your choice liberally on one side and then the other.

Turning the ribs every few minutes, until the sauce is cooked on and the ribs are sticky.

This only takes about 15 minutes.


Dad’s Favorite Main Dishes
Dad’s Favorite Appetizers and Sides
Dad’s Favorite Desserts