Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cucumber Salad from "The Frugal Gourmet"

I owe Jeff Smith, once known at TV's "Frugal Gourmet" a lot,  especially for my infamous NYC cheesecake and for this recipe, which is fast, basic and delicious. Yes, Mr Smith did end his life with scandal and disgrace, but as Alton Brown said, "his recipes worked."

And so does this one. It's a very basic cucumber salad, what Jews call "a new pickle", because it only spends a short time fermenting. In fact, I often make this in the afternoon and serve it an hour or two later. Usually with Korean bulgogi. We're that sort of a family. And my Filipina sister-in-law loves this so much that she often asks me to make it for family get togethers.

The only essentials are the cucumbers, the sugar, the water, the vinegar and the onion. You can add dill or other seasonings, but this is fine on its own. Thinly sliced cukes will pickle quicker, but thicker ones last longer in the fridge.  Little "pickling" cukes are idea, but regular large ones work too.

You can also julienne the cukes, which makes for something similar to a Korean banchan side dish. For this same reason, radishes--regular or daikon-- or carrots--sliced or matchsticked--also are great in this dish.

Cucumber Salad               Adapted from "The Frugal Gourmet" by Jeff Smith
2 cucumbers (or a batch of picking cukes, maybe 6-8), peeled andsliced
1 yellow onion thinly sliced
¾ Cup sugar
½ Cup water
1 Cup white vinegar

1. Combine the cucumbers and the onions in a large bowl with a lid or a large canning jar.
2. Combine the sugar, water, white vinegar  in a saucepan and bring it to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Or heat this in a microwave until it begins to boil
3. Pour the liquid over the cucumbers and onions, stir well and chill. Several hours or overnight is best, but you can eat it as soon as you think it's ready!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Better Than Drakes: Cinnamon Crumb Coffee Cake

I never was and never will be a Twinkie fan. They have them in NYC, but the prime local brand was Drake's, whose Yodels, Ring Dings and Devil Dogs were favorites of mine because I am a true chocoholic.
Drake's is apparently a subsidiary of Hostess. Not sure if that was the case when I was a kid.

But I also loved their crumb cakes, sold in little round servings. The cake was slightly dry, but the moist cinnamon/sugar crumb topping balanced it well.

So during this incredibly cold weather (6 degrees is NOT an average temperature in Northern Virginia in January), when I decided I needed to bake something new, I went looking for a coffee cake with those Drake's cakes in mind.

I read the recipe for the one at "Sally's Baking Addiction", read the comments and decided to try it the way one of them suggested, increasing the recipe by 1/2 and baking it in a 9X12 pan.

I cut the cake in half and took one half to work. It disappeared in an afternoon. And this is all that is left of the half I kept at home. We have all been devouring it over the past two days!

This is actually a moister cake than the Drake's and less crumbly than I remember those little cakes being. That makes it a lot nicer (and neater) to eat.  The top was a bit uneven, not picture perfect pretty, but no one seemed to mind.

Sally's blog credits the original recipe for this to a Cook's Illustrated cookbook. Personally I think that Christopher Kimball is a pompous, phoney know it all, and a lot of "America's Best" recipes don't strike me as that wonderful.  And if they're so durn smart why don't they suggest making the crumble for this with a food processor?

I made the flour/sugar/butter mixture the same way I do for the delicious Berry Crumble Cake I got from Baking Bites. No need to cut the butter in by hand or with a fork--it takes minutes in the machine and comes out nicely blended.

I also used part oil and part butter for the fat. An all oil crumble would have been easy even with a fork, but it's not as tasty as butter. I may reverse proportions next time and see if there's any difference in taste or texture.

Speaking of which, I replaced one cup of the flour with a cup of King Arthur's High Fiber blend. It doesn't effect baking at all, and mitigates a little of the guilt when I'm standing at the counter scarfing another piece. Hey,it's FIBER!

You could also get powdered buttermilk at King Arthur Flour, but why pay their shipping charges? Sacco brand buttermilk powder is available at most grocery stores--look for it near the non-fat dry milk or in the baking section.

This is 1 1/2 times the amount in the original recipe, which also uses a springform pan.
The eggs for this should be at room temperature. Put them (still in the shell!) in a bowl of lukewarm water when you start the recipe, and they should be ready to go in when they're needed.

Blend in a food processor or blender:

3 cups all purpose flour (or 2 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup King Arthur Flour High Fiber blend)
1 1/2 cups + 3Tbsp white sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into small pieces
5 Tbsp canola oil

Blend until the butter is cut in. You can pulse this, but simply blending work just fine, just stop and check things occasionally. When this is ready, it will resemble coarse sand.

Set aside one cup of the mixture and put the rest into your mixer, or you can use a large mixing bowl and a hand mixer.

1 1/2 tsp    baking powder
   3/4 tsp    baking soda
1 1/8 cups  buttermilk OR  4 1/2 Tbsp buttermilk powder and 1 1/8 cups water (lukewarm)
      2          eggs  (see note about egg temperature)
      1 Tbsp vanilla
1 cup          brown sugar (light or dark)
      1 Tbsp cinnamon

Mix in the baking powder and soda, then beat in the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and thick--this will take several minutes.

Grease (I use cooking spray) and lightly flour a 9x13 baking pan. Pour the batter in, smoothing it on top.
(A rubber spatula or plastic knife is good for this)

Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon with the reserved crumb mix and sprinkle it all over the top of the cake, pressing it down lightly.

Bake at 350 degrees. Check after 50 minutes, but this should take 50 minutes to an hour depending on your oven.

Cool completely before serving. That is, if you can stand not cutting into it with that smell of cinnamon filling your house................

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Saturday, December 7:Better Than Takeout

Fried rice at home is far better than the restaurant or buffet kind, and that's what the girls had last night, made with leftover beef from that London broil we made a few days ago. The basic recipe, originally from is easy to vary--the Man recently made it Filipino style with canned corned beef while I was away. Don't tell my mom!

The egg topping was the best I'd ever made. It's basically like making an omelet, and I think making sure the pan was very hot when I poured in the egg made a difference. And I always like rolling the egg up chiffonade style and slicing it into strips--makes me feel like a real cook!

The Man and I had marinated wild Alaska salmon fillets I bought at Costco this summer. I like buying seafood there--their farm raised salmon got highest marks in a recent Washington Post taste test, and their care for food safety is well known. The only problem is the large packages, because we don't have a separate freezer, and the fridge freezer is always full. It's one of the main things I long for when I think of moving--that and adequate space for the Man's books and other stuff!

I used half the fillets on the grill in August (they were really good that way), tossed out the box and put the rest of the individually wrapped packets into a big ziplock, along with the cooking instructions I'd cut from the box. I baked them, which is a great way to do frozen fish--no defrosting required. With un-fried rice on the side, of course........

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Friday, December 6: Leftovers and Improvisations

I made Chicken Marengo for the Man's birthday a few nights ago--I'll post about that some time--and he ate the leftovers last night.

The girls had spaghetti and meatballs. This is our usual meatball recipe, made with beef this time. The only interesting thing about it is that SC had made meatballs several weeks ago when I was away taking care of her ailing grandma. She called me and said she'd made way to much meat, so I told her to freeze some of the remaining mix. I simply defrosted the mix in the microwave and it was good to go. I'd have preferred if she'd shaped and individually frozen the meatballs, but there's limited space in our freezer. But I think the next time we do this recipe, we'll double it and freeze half again.

I took some of the girls' leftover spaghetti, tossed it with spaghetti sauce (there's a good basic marinara from Wegmans that we like) and added a can of drained clams. Then I just heated it and ate it. While not gourmet Italian, it was pretty darned good......
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