Parmigiano–Black Pepper Popcorn

December 30th, 2008

I love popcorn. Who doesn’t? Oh, another thing I love is cheese, so when my eyes fell upon a recipe for parmigiano-black pepper popcorn it seemed like a match made in heaven.

Aaron and I got to work shredding cheese, grinding pepper and popping corn. Ok, so it takes a little more time than pushing a buttons on a microwave, but come on.. it cheese and popcorn which is bound to equal delicious! We made the mistake of making the whole recipe, which was way, way too much, but oh how tasty it turned out. The addition of olive oil really adds a nice flavor to the popcorn, as does the little bits of black pepper. It’s a great way to add a little pizazz to your popcorn and would be a lovely snack for a new year’s party.

Parmigiano Black Pepper Popcorn

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (preferably clarified)
1 tablespoon best-quality extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, toss together cheese, pepper, and salt until well combined.
Using an air popper, pop corn kernels into a large bowl.*
While corn pops, combine butter and olive oil in a small bowl; stir well.
As the large bowl begins to fill, alternately drizzle olive oil over popcorn and sprinkle with cheese mixture, occasionally tossing to coat.
When popcorn stops popping, use your hands to toss everything together and ensure ingredients are evenly distributed. Serve immediately.

* I cooked my popcorn on the stovetop. It still turned out delicious.

thumbprint cookies

December 29th, 2008

Well, it may be past Christmas, but there’s always more room for cookies in my book. Although, if you’re making any new year’s resolutions about eating healthier, you may want to slip these in before January 1. So let’s get baking before the new year!

I followed this basic recipe for an all-in-one dough I found in Everyday Food. It’s a nice dough for a variety of cookies, but I really love the way it provides a nice base for fruit. The process is pretty simple, just make the dough, chill it, then use a scoop to form the cookies and instead of using your thumb, use a measuring spoon to create a bowl for the fruit. I used some sugared raspberries that I had in the fridge, but any kind of jam would be lovely. If you want to get crazy I suppose you could use chocolate or something, but I really like the way the fruit balances the richness of the dough.

When I pulled my cookies out of the oven, once again they didn’t look quite like they were suppose to. (I made these before reading the butter article in the Times.) They still looked nice, they just spread a bit, next time I’ll use chilled butter. But I have to say, these were so good. The dough was super rich and buttery while you got just the right amount of fruit to offset the richness. Delicious!

Cookie Dough
based on this recipe from everyday food

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract OR 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 jar of jam

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy.
Add egg yolks, one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition. Reserve egg whites. Add vanilla and lemon extract or zest.
With mixer on low, add flour; mix just until combined. Wrap in plastic; chill until firm, about 1 hour. To make ahead: Refrigerate up to 2 weeks, or freeze up to 3 months.

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove chilled dough from refrigerator. Using a small scoop, place round of dough on cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart.
Using the bowl of a 1/4 teaspoon, make an indentation into each cookie.
Whisk the egg white with 1 teaspoon water and brush each cookie with the wash.
Spoon 1/2 teaspoon of your chosen jam into each cookie.
Bake for 13-15 minutes.

i’m off!

December 24th, 2008

Aaron, Maude and I are hitting the road and driving to Michigan to spend some time with family and friends. After a few cold days there, we’re hopping on a plane to vacation in Argnentina and Uruguay. Woohoo! I’ll still be posting, just not as frequently, so please bear with me.

I hope you have an excellent holiday season! Stay warm and safe, Cheers!

candied citrus peels

December 23rd, 2008

With all the chocolate and cookies being passed around this holiday season, I thought it might be refreshing to mix it with a bit of citrus. Martha’s magazine was filled with a bunch of recipe I intended to make this year, but this one for candied citrus peels was the only one I got to; which is funny considering my not-so-great adventure with candied ginger earlier this month.

You can use whatever citrus fruit you’d like, but I chose limes and lemons because they’re my favorite. The first round of peeling the fruit isn’t so bad if you do it correctly by making a bunch of slits from end to end and then peel it away. The next round gets to be a bit of a hassle because you have to manage to separate the pith from the peel, which isn’t the easiest thing. I did the best I could, but still managed to have a little white on each piece.

Now the easy part comes when you don’t have to do anything plus you get a bonus byproduct. After rinsing the fruit peels in boiling water a few times, you just let them soak in sugar water for an hour or so until they’re translucent. Once they’ve reached that point you let them cool in the syrup. Once properly cooled, you’ve got yourself four cups of citrusy simple syrup (I’m still working on a tasty happy hour to use it in). Now all you’ve got to do is roll the peels in sugar and shazam, you’ve got lovely citrus peels.

These turned out better and believe it or not were easier than the candied ginger. They taste kind of like fresh, sugared gummy candies. The biggest downfall is they take a lot of time and don’t produce a ton candy, perhaps 2 cups. But I always think it’s good to try something like this to see just what it takes to make it.

Candied Citrus Peels
from Martha

2 grapefruits, 3 oranges, or 4 lemons*
4 cups sugar, plus more for rolling
4 cups water

Using a paring knife, make 6 slits along curve from top to bottom of each citrus fruit, cutting through peel but not into fruit. Using your fingers, gently remove peel. Reserve fruit for another use. Slice each piece of peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Using a paring knife, remove excess pith from each strip and discard.
Place strips in a large saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then drain. Repeat twice.

Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Stop stirring. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Add strips to boiling syrup, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until strips are translucent, about 1 hour. Remove from heat, and let strips cool in syrup. (Strips in syrup will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 weeks.)
Using a slotted spoon, transfer strips to a wire rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet. Wipe off excess syrup with paper towels, then roll strips in sugar. Arrange in a single layer on a wire rack, and let dry for at least 30 minutes. Sugared peels will keep, covered at room temperature, for up to 2 weeks.

* I used 3 lemons and 3 limes. I think you could even use more fruit, it just depends on how many you feel like peeling.

three layer peppermint bark

December 22nd, 2008

One of my favorite holiday treats has to be peppermint bark. Mmmm, I love white chocolate paired with crunchy cane cane pieces. I received a jar of crushed peppermint candy a while ago, which just made me one step closer to this delicious treat. Then I saw this recipe on orangette and just had to make it. Honestly, I didn’t think peppermint bark could get much better, but after reading the raves, I just had to try it.

This recipe takes considerably longer than my usual recipe, which just involves one layer of chocolate and a little crushing. With this one, you need to lay three layers and let each one cool before you put on the next. Luckily it was rainy and cold outside, so I didn’t mind so much. The first layer is creamy white chocolate topped with crushed peppermints. Next is a chocolate peppermint ganache sort of deal, then it’s covered with another layer of white chocolate and peppermints. So indulgent!

After letting each layer set, I brought it to the table to start cutting and tasting. As I started trimming the edges my layers started to come apart, which made me a little frustrated. I let the chocolate be for a little bit thinking it might just still be too cold from the freezer. In the end, about 1/3 of the pieces broke apart and the rest looked lovely and whole. But let’s talk about taste, because that’s what really matters, right? Oh yum! That extra layer of dark chocolate really takes it up a notch and keeps you coming back for more. It’s all sweet, but the flavors depths of the dark chocolate against the white play well together as does the peppermint pieces and the peppermint in the chocolate. Even if they did break apart, these were definitely worth the extra work.

Three Layer Peppermint Bark

rainy sunday

December 21st, 2008

french press coffee

December 19th, 2008

This isn’t your typical happy hour beverage, but it certainly makes me happy. I’m a big coffee fan but I don’t have a traditional coffee maker at home. I do, however, have a few french presses that up until a few weeks ago I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know how to properly use. The problem was I didn’t know the right ration of coffee to water, so I was always getting wonky coffee.

Oh how things changed once I received a new french press with measurements printed right on the press. Two scoops of coffee, two cups of water and a five minutes later I have one hell of a coffee. If you’ve never had coffee made in a french press, you’re really missing out. It’s one of the best ways to get the full flavor out of your coffee beans.

Have a great weekend!

How to use a french press

for a single serve press
2 heaping tablespoons coffee beans, coarsely ground
1. Boil 2 cups of water.2. Put coffee beans in french press and pour boiling water over top.

3. Put the cap on the press, but don’t press the screen down. Let it sit for five minutes.

4. Press the screen down and pour your coffee.


holiday gift wrap

December 18th, 2008

Call me geeky, but every year I look forward to coming up with wrapping paper ideas for all my holiday gifts. Back in high school I started saving grocery bags and made my own stamps that I decorated the paper with. I’ve moved on from stamping the paper, but I still love the look of kraft paper so I buy a roll from the office supply store that lasts forever.

This year I’m jazzing my kraft paper up with strips of red and white tissue paper and red and white thread. It’s super simple but I think it gives the kraft paper a fun, modern feel. With only a few supplies, you can create a multitude of unique holiday packages.

Super Fun Gift Wrap

1 roll kraft paper
2 or 3 types of tissue paper*
2 or 3 embroidery threads from a roll

Wrap your gift with kraft paper.
Cut a strip of tissue paper that’s long enough to wrap around the package. Think about the ratio of tissue paper to kraft paper. I like to vary mine, so some packages have thin strips of tissue, some have wide bands.
Wrap the tissue around the package and tape on the bottom.
Wrap the thread around the package a few times and tie it off. Attach a tag and tie another know in the thread.

*I bought the polka dot tissue at the Container Store. The white tissue with red squiggles is reused tissue paper from Anthropologie.