Monday, November 08, 2010

steel cut oatmeal on a cloudy autumn day


We all need more foods like steel cut oatmeal, food that is at its best when autumn has woken you up with its coldest, cloudiest day.

I can take little credit for the delicious bowl pictured above; cowboy made breakfast happen on Saturday.  These steel cut oats were toasted and then slow-cooked on the stove top.  Each spoonful was creamy with chewy kernels that popped in your mouth, in a way that rolled oats could simply never hope to do.  On top: locally grown California persimmons (they are back in season!), toasted walnuts, and a generous sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon.

Adapted from Chowhound
Makes 4 servings

1 cup steel cut oats
4 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups heated 2% milk (we used soy, which also works well)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch salt

Toast the steel cut oats in a skillet over medium heat until they are golden and have a nutty aroma.  Bring water to a boil.  Add the toasted oats and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and allow to cook uncovered, stirring periodically, for twenty minutes.  Add the hot milk, return to a slow boil and then reduce to a simmer for another five to seven minutes, stirring about every minute or so while the oats thicken.  Stir in the brown sugar, spices, and salt.  Turn off the heat and let stand five minutes before serving.

Toppings can easily be whatever you have on hand - sliced apples or pears, dried cranberries or raisins, toasted nuts, maple syrup, brown sugar...

On a side note, besides being such a creamy, nourishing treat, homemade steel cut oatmeal also reminds us of how cost-effective it can be to invest time in making good food.  Whole Foods sells bulk organic steel cut oats at about $1.49 per pound.  That translates to roughly $0.51 of oats for this whole batch (which serves 4 people).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Birthday Cheesecake


A dear friend recently had a birthday, and I determined that I would make her a cake.

My first thought was "cupcakes!"  And then I realized that cupcakes aren't really special anymore.  Pretty, trendy "cupcakeries" have sprouted up everywhere (and I mean everywhere - they even travel by truck), making the treats ubiquitous, and too common.  I'm ready for the cupcake era to be over (same goes for frozen yogurt).

So I turned in the opposite direction - to classic, old-fashioned, vintage cheesecake.  A cake with a crust of crushed graham crackers and melted butter, and a filling made from 2 1/2 pounds of cream cheese, 7 eggs, and 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  If that's not a celebratory food, I don't know what is.

The recipe for the crust and filling are courtesy of Ina Garten.  The topping/decoration, which is done before putting the cheesecake in the oven, is my contribution.  I took the incredible raspberry liqueur from Alameda, CA's St. George's Spirits (technically Aqua Perfecta Framboise Liqueur) and drizzled it in concentric circles on top of the cake.  With a butter knife, I drew lines from the center to the edge of the pan, making quarters.  Then I drew lines back towards the center, halving each of the quarters.  (Be sure to wipe the knife often so you don't mess up the pattern.  And don't cut deeper than you need to.)  Jamie Oliver does a nice job describing this technique in his White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake recipe - just another reason to be a fan of the man behind Food Revolution (check out his Ted Prize speech) and Jamie's Home Cooking Skills.

Barefoot Contessa Family Style (2002)

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.  If desired, drizzle a topping on the cake and create a pattern as described above.

Put the springform pan on a sheet pan (to catch any leaks).  Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees F and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.

Top with raspberries and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When I started business school, I had nonchalantly declared that I would, of course, be cooking and posting more frequently. The writing part has only been semi-fulfilled.  But the pleasant surprise is that fun food activities have become a regular part of the MBA experience.  From making Tortilla Espanola with Chorizo last weekend for my class ("cohort"), to running a "donuts on a string" eating competition yesterday at the Haas Cal football tailgate, to visiting Chez Panisse Cafe for lunch with the Haas Culinary Club, to planning a Macaroni & Cheese Feast (everyone brings their own variation) for next weekend, there have been few dull moments in my culinary life.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

healthy granola bars


Before grad school started, I determined that I would make healthy homemade granola bars on a weekly basis, to enjoy with my morning brewed coffee (organic beans from Cole Coffee, brewed one cup at a time with my manual drip Melitta cone filter).  I also planned to make healthy pasta salads with steamed mixed veggies that I would bring for lunch.

"Before" is the vital word.  Healthy granola bar made it through one week of "math camp" (before classes even started).  Healthy pasta salads made it through zero weeks.  A high percentage of my diet last week consisted of Clif zBars and Extreme Pizza.  And Diet Coke (huge fail).

I don't have a recipe for my granola bars, and I did not adapt it from anywhere.  I simply went to Berkeley Bowl and let the bulk section inspire me (this is my idea of a Great Time).  I can tell you that I used walnuts, dried cherries, toasted oats, toasted wheat bran, golden flax seeds, honey, butter, and little bit of salt.  I do not know the ratios.

But I am committed to making them again.  Next batch will be better (not as crunchy/brittle), and I'll keep track of the actual amounts.

Monday, September 06, 2010

fried green tomatoes


Tomatoes right now are just too good, and we have been consuming them in any form offered.  After being re-introduced to the art of perfectly fried green tomatoes at Digs Bistro (Berkeley, CA) a few weeks ago and delighting in Boot and Shoe Service's (Oakland, CA) version a week later, I knew I had stumbled upon my latest audacious cooking adventure!

My usual obsessive searching unearthed a recipe that uses flour, panko bread crumbs, AND cornmeal, and it seemed that this triumvirate of breading would certainly result in the ultimate of fried green tomatoes.  Thank you, Neely's!  (First time I've used any of their recipes).  This one is entirely worth the mess (wear an apron).  The breading has a satisfying crunchy character, while still preserving the delicate flavor and texture of the tomato inside.  Please start with good quality green tomatoes and note that a thermometer is helpful for regulating the temp of your oil (a meat thermometer will do for those without a fry one).


Fried Green Tomatoes
by Patrick and Gina Neely (Epicurious, April 2009)

6 hard green tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk (yogurt works fine, like Straus brand or Trader Joe's European Style)
Dash hot sauce
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups Japanese panko bread crumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying

Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Place the flour on a plate. Whisk together the buttermilk and hot sauce in a shallow bowl or a pie tin. Whisk together the cornmeal and panko bread crumbs in a separate pie tin.

Working with one green-tomato slice at a time, coat the tomato first in flour (knocking off excess), then in the buttermilk, then finally in the cornmeal— bread crumb mixture. Transfer the breaded slice to a baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining slices. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line a second baking sheet with paper towels. Heat 3/4 inch of vegetable oil in a medium skillet to 350°F.

Working in batches, fry the tomato slices until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked tomatoes to the prepared baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Keep the cooked tomatoes in the warm oven while you fry the remaining slices. Serve the tomatoes warm.

PS. Digs Bistro also makes an incredible early girl tomato soup - subtle flavors of summer with a memorable garlic crouton.  Our dessert came with the joy of Three Twins Organic Ice Cream - Madagascar Vanilla topped with hot fudge and whipped cream (plus a real cherry!).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

memories from españa


Bread rubbed with fresh tomato, topped with jamon serrano, drizzled with olive oil, grilled, and folded. The #1 most amazing food we ate. 2 euros each.

I went to Greece to see ancient ruins. I remember octopus salad, gyros sandwiches, chicken souvlaki, and ouzo. I remember in Japan golf cart-like trucks, loaded with whole tuna, dashing through the fish market...a steaming bowl of curry ramen...sticky natto...takoyaki carts on the street.

I remember that Laura and Mary in Little House in the Big Woods looked forward to homemade maple syrup poured over snow and that Bilbo Baggins served up scones and cake in The Hobbit.

Please, though, do not ask me what archaeological sites I saw in Crete, or what Bilbo actually did after tea time. I have a horrible memory for anything I can't taste.

Cowboy and I took two weeks this summer to eat and drink our way through Spain. We traveled from Madrid to Seville (and Triana) to San Sebastian to La Rioja (including Logrono) to Barcelona. Here are some of my best memories from the trip:

Cafe con leche, every morning with breakfast (desayunos). Like a latte, it combines a strong shot of espresso with steamed milk (whole by default - and worth it). Normally about 1.20 euros ($1.50 USD).

Tinto de verano, the most refreshing summer drink - one part unaged red wine (joven), one part lemon Fanta (con limon) or club soda. Typically 1.20 euro per glass ($1.50 USD). Paired here with a lomo montadito (grilled pork loin sandwich) at a little bodega in Triana, next to Seville.

San Sebastian was all about the pintxos, Basque for pinchos, or small tapas in the form of sliced crusty bread with delicious toppings, usually involving some - or many - forms of seafood.

According to the tourist books, the pintxos bars in San Sebastian all try to out-do one another in creativity. I found that the places in Parte Vieja (Old Town) served similar (good) fare - but in Gros, on the other side of the bridge, there was a lot more risk-taking (Bar Bergara pictured above).

Pan! Oh, I love a culture that takes bread seriously (I also appreciate Germany for this). Since bread is such a critical complement to so many dishes in Spain, the panaderias offer an awesome variety to choose from. There are no mediocre $4 bricks here. We're talking under $2 for any fresh loaf you fancy.

Jamon iberico, Spanish cured ham from the black-toed pig (the highest quality of which is acorn-fed, jamón ibérico de bellota). At the risk of getting food snobby, I'd describe the experience of eating jamon iberico as tasting a complex Bordeaux or Napa cab, where the flavors unfold, flex and change, and the finish is long. You can find jamon iberico for about 16 euros per platter at tapas bars (they carve the slices off the leg, right at the bar), and, as you can see from the photo of the carniceria above, you can buy it to enjoy at home from 85-168 euros/kilo (or about $50-100 per pound). Just remember that U.S. Customs does not allow you to bring it back to the States with you!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

monkey bread


Some people wake up early on weekends to go biking (cycling) or running. Some people chase their kids around and feed their puppies.  Cowboy and I, well, we make waffles...pancakes...and monkey bread. 

Monkey Bread
Slightly adapted from AllRecipes 

(we took the bread machine short-cut for the dough, but bread bakers could very well do step one - mixing, kneading, and rising - by hand)

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup water
1 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup raisins or 1/3 cup chopped, toasted nuts (like walnuts or pecans)

1. Remove baking pan from machine. Place yeast, flour, ground cinnamon, salt, white sugar, 2 tablespoons butter and water in the order that is recommended for the bread maker. Select dough cycle and press start.
2. When dough is complete, place dough on floured surface and knead 10 to 12 times.
3. In a medium saucepan on low heat, melt one cup of butter, stir in brown sugar and raisins or nuts. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat.
4. Cut dough in one inch chunks. Drop one chunk at a time into the butter sugar mixture. Thoroughly coat dough pieces, then layer them loosely in a greased Bundt pan, staggering layers so you're plopping each dough chunk over a space between two below. Let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until dough is just over the top of the pan, 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F (190 degree C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes or till golden brown. Remove from oven, place a plate face down on top of the pan and, using oven mitts to hold plate on pan, turn over both until bread slides out onto plate. Serve warm.

This is the perfect buttery, sugary brunch party crowd-pleaser.  (Much easier to make than sticky buns!)  Let your happy guests pull away their own pieces from the loaf.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

hello, here I am again

I recently moved on from my role in marketing/product development at Jamba Juice.

Long term readers may have noticed the inverse correlation between my workload at Jamba and my attention to Bribe Me with a Muffin. Project complexity/pressures up, posts down.

As a graduate school student, I will write more. The year 2010 is also "Bribe Me with a Muffin's" 5th Year Anniversary, and I think it is time for some healthy evolution in my writing. Your feedback is very welcome.

I want to end by saying that working at Jamba was great in many ways. As you might imagine, somebody needs to taste the new smoothie flavors before final recipes are sent to stores, right? Yes. Sometimes 100 times over (and it never got old). Finding happy customers Twitter-ing about my products gave me a trusty, on-demand mood-enhancer (Boost?) at any time of day. But the best part was working with such talented, super cool, exceedingly kind teammates, who made amazing things happen. (Awesome people, thank you.)