Carrot Zucchini Bread (or Biscotti) with Candied Ginger

I decided to make Janet Fletcher’s Carrot Zucchini Bread with Candied Ginger yesterday to bring to my seminar class and make the afternoon a little more bearable. (I knew better than to keep it home for myself with Alex out of town.)

What is difficult about the recipe is that you need 2 – 8x4x2 inch loaf pans and I only have one up here in Seattle (the other is at home in SF). I decided to improvise with a much smaller stoneware baking dish that my mom bought me for Valentine’s Day a few years ago. What I failed to remember was that smaller + stoneware = shorter baking time. When I opened the oven after an hour, I had an extremely over-baked loaf of bread along with one that needed additional time in the oven. Ever the optimist, my friend Sharon suggested that I slice the over-baked loaf into small pieces to bake again, transforming them into biscotti. Genius! I did as she suggested and baked them for an additional 10 minutes on each side and voila, 8 carrot zucchini candied ginger biscotti were born. The other loaf came out perfectly. And by perfect, I mean ever so slightly under-baked in the middle.

I’m happy to report that I had a piece of biscotti for breakfast this morning with my coffee and a slice of bread after lunch for dessert. Not only did I get my cake, I got some biscotti too.

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Recipe Testing (Mafe’)

Update: The recipe made it through testing! It’s up on the Leite’s site here.

I am on my second round of recipe testing for Leite’s Culinaria and am happy to say that my latest dish was absolutely delightful! I made a mafe’, a West African stew with meat simmered in a sauce that is thickened with peanut butter and has a sweet-salty flavor.  Traditionally, you can use lamb, mutton, beef, or chicken but the peanut sauce is what truly defines the mafe’. I opted for lamb tonight since I knew Alex would like it (and I’m slowly becoming a fan of lamb myself after a delicious ravioli we had at Cantinetta last weekend). I added butternut squash, cabbage, parsnips, and potatoes to the stew before adding natural, smooth peanut butter to the final product. Wow. I hope this makes it to the website so that I can share the recipe with you! In the meantime, do a Google search for “lamb mafe” and let me know what you come up with.

Puree Crecy

I was happy to put the fresh young carrots from my produce box to good use this morning by making carrot soup from the cookbook I mentioned yesterday. It was a very straightforward recipe and the only active time was spent chopping the vegetables at the beginning and then using an immersion blender to puree the soup. It’s a simple soup without any spices other than salt and pepper (most carrot soups add ginger to make it a bit more complex), but I liked that it tasted like buttered carrots in liquid form. Call me weird but I’d make it again. It’s not too filling yet still very comforting given all of the cold wet weather we’ve been having.

The original recipe can be found here.

January 22 is Official Soup Swap Day!

It’s been a cold wet week up here in Washington so I’ve been relying on my (dwindling) soup supply to keep me warm and sated. I just picked up Clifford Wright’s The Best Soups in the World cookbook from the library and am anxious to try a couple of his recipes this weekend for the next round of soup swap. So far, the black-eyed pea and coconut and the cream of carrot with ginger soups look the most intriguing. I’ll report back after I have the chance to try them out.

I realized today that Sharon and I have been “swapping soup” for three months already as of Monday 1/24. How fitting since I also just realized that 1/22 is the official Soup Swap Day, an event that has gone international in the last five years. Apparently, the movement began in Seattle by resident Knox Gardner who grew bored of the large pots of soup he made to combat the rain and cold. Sound familiar? I just read an interview he gave where he described “taking the soup out of your freezer and feeling like your friend made this present for you to eat in the darkest part of winter”. I couldn’t agree more.

Happy soup-making this weekend!

Soups and Snow

I just looked outside and realized that it’s snowing! I hope it sticks around for a few days. I’d love the opportunity to make another snow angel in Seattle before we move back to San Francisco. With all of the cold weather we’ve had lately, I’ve been busy making soup to stay warm. My two latest concoctions have been a sunchoke soup and a red chard, lentil, and barley soup. The first wasn’t all that exciting but the second is quite good. I’m mostly happy because I didn’t really use a recipe. Instead, I used some homemade chicken broth and just added all of the goodies from my CSA box. As soon as it’s cool enough, it’s going into a pasta jar for the first soup swap of the year!

Chard and Lentil Soup with Barley

6.5 cups homemade chicken stock
3 TB olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finally chopped
Huge bunch of chard (I used red), ripped into medium-sized pieces
2/3 cup green lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 TB tomato paste
1/2 cup pearl barley
salt and pepper
**Parm and olive oil to drizzle on top of each bowl

Bring your stock to a boil. In another pan, heat the oil on low heat and add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot. Stir occasionally for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are lightly browned. Stir in the chard and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the lentils and tomato paste- continuing to stir for another minute. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil, and add the barley. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the grains are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into a soup dish and drizzle with high-quality olive oil and parmesan cheese.

Leite’s Culinaria Recipe Testing

On December 31, 2010 at 7:41 am, I received what might have been one of the most exciting emails of the decade. After a year had passed since applying, I was accepted into the ranks of recipe testers for the James Beard Award-winning site, Leite’s Culinaria. You have no idea how thrilled I am about this!

If you haven’t visited the site, I highly recommend doing so now. If you remember the saffron, cinnamon, almond chicken dish that I made a few months ago, that came from the Leite’s website. Over the weekend, I spent a lot of time poking around on the website and realized that anything labeled “Testers Choice” means that several recipe testers gave it the highest possible score during the evaluation. These would be excellent recipes to start with if you are interested in trying something from their site. What I love about Leite’s is that they often feature the best recipes of any given cookbook so you don’t have to keep buying $30-60 books every time your favorite author publishes a new one.

So, what does becoming a recipe tester entail? I’m now a part of the Leite’s team as a volunteer! Rather than embarking on a totally different career (again) and enrolling myself in cooking school, I now get to expand my cooking repertoire and hone some new cooking and baking techniques by regularly testing recipes for them. This will definitely help me attain my goal of hosting more dinner parties in 2011! (However, no promises on the outcomes.)

While I’m not allowed to post the recipes themselves, I will be able to write about my experiences in testing them. What is especially cool is that if I have any questions about the recipes or techniques involved, I can ask the experts for help. This will surely be an awesome adventure and I look forward to sharing it with you – my loyal readership of 7 🙂

Thanks for joining me and happy new year!