Savory Waffles, Part 1

savory.waffles.1There are officially four days left in the school year. That’s it. Done. First year of teaching over. Shit. If I could share with you the mountain range (roller coaster is far too tame a term) that this year was, I would. The ups and downs though are ones that only the four walls of my classroom and the nineteen people who have grown within them will know.

While at times I felt like we were climbing Mountain Everest in the midst of the largest snowstorm of all time, I would still opt for making the trek. After all, I have come out of the storm and into the sunlight, not at the peak of said mountain, but many steps closer. With each heavy footfall along the way, I learned an unimaginable amount about teaching, about my students, about myself.

I told my coach at our end of the year meeting, “I’ve always considered myself to be very self-aware, but wow have I learned a lot about who I am this year. A lot.”

Still, I was rarely surprised by my self-realizations, except for one: Never, never, never did  I think I could love so much. I love those kids. I love them. More than the whole wide world, whole wide galaxy, and whole wide universe.

Les amo,

Ms. Woll

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Savory Waffles

adapted from Aretha Frankenstein

My roommate, Jake, was the brainchild of these waffles. Eating chicken and waffles at Longman & Eagle one morning, he asked, “Do you think you could do savory waffles?” He really meant, “Can you please make savory waffles and then let me eat some?” His questions sparked research, which sparked attempt after delicious attempt to perfect this savory waffle recipe. There are a number of different ingredients you could add to these waffles besides the bacon, Swiss cheese, chives, and beer I use below. Lamb, mint, and carrots with a hint of cumin. Rabbit with apricot jam and emmental. Scallions, soy sauce, and shrimp a la a Korean pancake. Sweet corn, blackberries, and cornmeal substituted for some of the flour. I even have a version with pickle juice brewing in my head. May the experiment continue.

Serves 2 to 4

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (not the stone ground kind!)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup whole milk or buttermilk (or a combination)

1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter

1 egg

3 slices bacon

1/3 cup light beer

1/3 cup freshly shredded Swiss cheese

1/3 cup chives

In a small bowl whisk the maple syrup and Dijon with a fork. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix well. Add the milk, vegetable oil, and egg and mix well. Let the batter sit for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat. When hot, lay down the bacon in a single layer and let the strips cook for a few minutes without moving. Once they start to curl up, flip the slices over to the other side and cook until they are crispy, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, remove bacon from the pan and place on a cutting board. Let cool slightly; then chop or crumble into small pieces. Set cutting board with bacon aside.

Mix the beer into the batter. It should fizz slightly. Add the bacon along with any of its grease on the cutting board, the Swiss cheese, and chives. Mix just until combined.

Heat a waffle iron to its highest setting. Butter both sides of the iron and follow the directions on your waffle iron to cook the waffles. Serve immediately with the Dijon maple syrup or hold in a 200 degree oven, directly on the rack (don’t stack them or they’ll get soggy). These also can be refrigerated or frozen and reheated in a toaster oven. If you plan to do this, let the waffles cool on a cooling rack. Then, wrap in plastic wrap or seal in a gallon sized plastic bag.

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Rellenitos

rellenitos.1There are eight school days left until the end of the year. Eight. Then I will have tackled year one of teaching. And to think some crazy parents out there trusted me with their children for an entire year. Wow.

The end of the school year means summer and summer means a lot of time on my hands. While I have big plans to prepare for next year, I also have big plans to take care of myself. To go to the gym, to cook real dinners, to watch a movie without falling asleep in the middle, to go out for a drink on a weeknight. It will be epically beautiful.

Said time on my hands though, also brings to the surface this uncurable travel itch. Guatemala, Guatemala, Guatemala–the country where I learned to make rellenitos–is calling my name. So begins the epic battle between money and my heart. Even if Guatemala doesn’t end up in my summer plans thanks to my bank account, transporting myself there via these rellenitos certainly will.

Rellenitos

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

4 plantains, cut in half (the peels should be black)

1 cup drain black beans

1/4 cup liquid from beans

3 oz milk chocolate

Fill a pot with 6-8 cups water. Add sugar and cinnamon and whisk until frothy. Gently place the halved plantains in the pot and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, continue to boil plantains for another 5 minutes. Using a fork, remove the plantains from the pot. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove the peel. Place the flesh of the plantain in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. (Do not walk away from the food processor as the plantains puree quickly. If they become overly pureed they start to liquify, in which case the only solution is to run to the grocery store, buy more plantains, and start over.)

In the bowl of a food processor (Yes, you need to wash out the bowl between uses. Sorry.), puree the black beans with their liquid until the mixture is smooth. Meanwhile, in a saute pan, melt the chocolate over low heat stirring constantly. (If you have a double boiler, now would be a good time to employ it.) Once the chocolate has melted, mix in the beans until well combined. Remove from heat.

Add vegetable oil to the bottom of a saute pan so that it makes a thin layer. Heat until the oil begins to shimmer. As the oil is heating, take a spoonful of the plantains and spread it in the palm of your hand. The puree should be about a quarter of an inch thick. Add a heaping teaspoon of the black bean chocolate mixture in a line in the center of the plantain puree. Fold the plantains over the black bean chocolate mixture to make an oval shaped dumpling. Place in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a fork or spatula, flip the rellenito and fry for another 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the pan and place on a plate. Serve immediately or toss in a 200 degree oven to keep warm.

Continue the process of forming rellenitos and frying until you have used up all the pureed plantains and/or black bean chocolate mixture. You may need to add more oil as you continue to fry.

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Whole Wheat Shortbread with Raspberry, Jalapeno, and Goat Cheese Jam

raspberry.jalapeno.cookie.1Sometimes I make a certain dish or recipe simply because I want to. Other times, I make them – once, twice, three times, tweaking with each rendition – because they tell a story. These cookies tell a story…

I’ve recently been meeting a lot of new people for a myriad of reasons, which I will indulge you in at some future point. For now though, the important thing to note is that, as a result, I’ve been talking a lot about who I am to people who have no basis for understanding me. As I’ve talked about me, I’ve noticed a recurring theme: I spend a lot of time also talking about my dad. Maybe it’s our mutual love for food and the hours we’ve spent together in the kitchen. Or maybe it’s our obsession with the St. Louis Cardinals and our even greater one with Illini basketball. Or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m one of those lucky girls who has the type of dad most only dream of. Regardless, my dad has had an impact on my life more profound than I’ve realized.

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And this impact includes a deep love of shortbread. I have memories of my dad noshing on a box of trefoils, the Girl Scout shortbread cookies that most write off as “boring”, and of my mom making giant batches of the buttery cookies for him. When I saw a recipe for jam shortbread in Bon Appetit several falls ago, I dog eared it with my dad in mind. Then I left it sitting in the back of my head until recently when, knowing I was Czech, my friend Laura asked me to cook for an Eastern European composer focused concert she was performing with her chamber group. I immediately turned to kolachky. Too time consuming though, I decided to whip up a batch of these shortbread and claim them to be some kind of new wave, trendy kolachky with a twist.

The original version had just plain, old raspberry jam in the center. They were good. But good, as we all know, is not great. Luckily, I had quadrupled the recipe and tossed the extra dough in the freezer. I mulled over what I could do with it. Blueberry galette with lemon zest? Cherry tomato tart? Rhubarb anything? Finally, my mind wandered back to the Evanston farmers market, the one I religiously woke up early for each Saturday morning, and the man with the jam.

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Oh, the man with the jam. On my first visit to his stand, he recommended the raspberry jalapeno jam. I was hesitant. It sounded strange. But when he said he liked it spread on toast over cream cheese, my hesitancy disappeared. Done. Done. Done. I bought a jar. The next time I returned, I bought three. Just in case an apocalypse hit or something. You know, better safe than sorry.

That dough in my freezer could be just the perfect canvas for a version of that jam with goat cheese, mostly because I had a giant log in my fridge, in place of cream cheese. So the experimenting began. The rest is, as they say, history. Especially because Jake ate the entire plate in a night. Yes, I helped, because like father like daughter, I love my food.

Whole Wheat Shortbread with Raspberry, Jalapeno, and Goat Cheese Jam

adapted from Bon Appetit and inspired by “the farmers market guy with the jam”

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

10 1/2 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature

1 large egg, room temperature

1 large egg yolk, room temperature

6 tablespoons raspberry jam

4 tablespoons goat cheese

15-20 grams jalapeno (depending on the amount of heat you want)

Preheat oven to 400°. In the bowl of a food processor combine the raspberry jam, goat cheese and jalapeno. Mix until well combined scraping down the bowl frequently. The mixture should be an even, pink color. Set aside.

Whisk flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add butter; using your fingertips, rub in butter until coarse meal forms. Whisk egg and yolk in a bowl; add to flour mixture; stir just to blend.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Measure dough by 2 tablespoonfuls and roll into balls. Place on prepared sheets, spacing 2″ apart. Make an indentation in center of each ball; fill each with 1/2 teaspoon of the jam mixture.

Bake cookies until golden, 12–14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Egg Quesadilla

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I discovered a recipe for omelet like quesadillas on Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101 cookbooks, two or so years ago. My mind was blown. Like most people, I love quesadillas. After all, cheese falls second on my “irresistible food list” only to the perfectly prepared baked good. (I’m looking at you buttery, flaky, hip hugging scone.)

Also, like most people, I can’t afford the fatty indulgence of a quesadilla with any sort of regularity. In comes this updated version. Here, a single egg is beaten and cooked to set on a tortilla. The tortilla and egg are flipped to allow the former to brown and the later to cook through. Fillings and toppings are added and viola, breakfast (or lunch or dinner)! The beauty, no need for excessive cheese to create flavor and fill you up. The other beauty, endless options for preparation. In addition to the recipe below, here are some of my other favorite flavor combinations:

- Queso fresco and black beans mixed with cumin, smoked paprika, and lime

- Goat cheese and spinach (with the latter preferably sauteed with garlic and red pepper flakes)

- Cream cheese and loads of herbs

- Avocado smashed with a hint of lime and chopped mint all spread in the center

But really, just use whatever you have in your kitchen. (Note my version that follows. Leftover steak from an Argentine restaurant, nearing its life expectancy rapini, and slivers of cheese from one of the seven wedges adorning my refrigerator.)

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Egg Quesadilla

inspired by 101 cookbooks

Serves 1

1 small egg

Salt

Small splash of olive oil

1 corn or whole wheat tortilla, room temperature

Adobo sauce, to taste

A bit of chihuahua cheese (white cheddar, Monterrey jack, or any other type of mild, white cheese should work too)

Cilantro, chopped (optional)

Beat the egg and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Beat the egg really well, so it’s uniform in color.

In your smallest skillet, over medium heat, add a tiny splash of oil. Let it heat, then add the egg to the pan. Let it set for just 10-15 seconds. Place the tortilla on top of the egg. The top of the egg should still be a bit runny, so it should attach itself to the tortilla as it sets. When you feel like the egg has set enough not to run, flip everything.

Add several drops of adobo sauce over the egg and then sprinkle on the cheese and cilantro, if using. Let cook until the cheese has melted and the tortilla has browned. Fold the tortilla in half and serve. (Alternately, if your tortilla is browned but the cheese isn’t melted yet, after you add the adobo sauce, cheese, and cilantro, fold the tortilla in half in the pan. Stick the whole pan in a hot oven for a minute. Once the cheese is melted, remove the pan from the oven and serve.)

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Baked Oatmeal

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I am a list person, a list person of epic proportions. This isn’t the first time you’ve heard about this trait, I know, and it likely won’t be the last. My list making obsession has become even more intense as of late as my life has spun into chaotic mode once again. I may have even proudly posted one of my completed “to do” lists to Facebook last Sunday. And yes, I did instragram it. (I know you all were wondering.)

Naturally, when I took today off from work to make a long overdue trip to the doctor’s office, I also wrote myself a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to do list. At the top of my Friday list was baking this oatmeal.

My mom introduced this recipe to me over the summer after picking up Heidi Swanson’s latest cookbook, Super Natural Everyday, from the library. She made it. We ate it. The verdict: ok. Then the next morning rolled around. We heated slices up in the microwave. Drizzled some maple syrup on top. Grabbed forks. Ate it again. Verdict number 2: I think I’ll have just one more slice.

Overnight the oats had taken on a firm, but chewy texture and the butter magically shone through. The tartness of the blueberries paired flawlessly with the sweetness of the syrup and the bananas, oh the bananas. I had anticipated a kind of slimy texture because, really, bananas can be kind of slimy, especially when they’re baked. Instead, I would describe them as almost melting into the oatmeal giving it a unique smoothness. Flavor wise, they added a hint of tropicalness that reminded me of my adventures in Central America and my recent trip to the Dominican. On a cold, snowy day in mid-April (No, I did not make a mistake. It was in fact snowing today and it is actually April.), baked oatmeal was exactly what I needed.

Baked Oatmeal

from Super Natural Everyday

I actually like this recipe better the next day. I recommend making this the day before and, once cooled, sticking it in the fridge. The next morning, cut yourself a slice and toss it in the microwave or oven. Drizzle a touch more maple syrup over the top and dive in. The dish lasts in the fridge for about a week, so if you’re just feeding yourself, you now have breakfast for the week!

Serves 6 generously, or 12 as part of a large brunch spread

2 cups / 7 oz / 200 g rolled oats

1/2 cup / 2 oz / 60 g walnut pieces, toasted (see page 219) and chopped

1/3 cup / 2 oz / 60 g natural cane sugar or maple syrup, plus more for serving

1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

2 cups / 475 ml milk

1 large egg

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2-inch / 1 cm pieces

1 1/2 cups / 6.5 oz / 185 g huckleberries, blueberries, or mixed berries

Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C with a rack in the top third of the oven. Generously butter the inside of an 8-inch / 20cm square baking dish.

In a bowl, mix together the oats, half the walnuts, the sugar, if using, the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, if using, the milk, egg, half of the butter, and the vanilla.

Arrange the bananas in a single layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle two-thirds of the berries over the top. Cover the fruit with the oat mixture. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture over the oats. Gently give the baking dish a couple thwacks on the counter top to make sure the milk moves through the oats. Scatter the remaining berries and remaining walnuts across the top.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and the oat mixture has set. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Drizzle the remaining melted butter on the top and serve. Sprinkle with a bit more sugar or drizzle with maple syrup if you want it a bit sweeter.

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Persimmon Bread

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I wish I had a warm piece of this bread sitting in my stomach as we speak. Sadly, this was a mid-January creation when, you know, persimmons were actually in season. Yes, I am just getting around to posting about it. Maybe by April I’ll have posted about my new favorite kale salad. (Hint: It’s from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.)

My lack of posts is testimony to the chaos this year has thus far brought with it. I would indulge you with stories, but I feel like playing catch up is irrelevant at this point. Instead, I’ll share with you this: I had never had persimmon before this bread. Really, never. In fact, I don’t know that I had ever even heard of a persimmon until two winters ago when a friend’s mom Facebook messaged me. She’d gotten persimmons in her CSA box and was wondering if I had any genius recipes. Since this was my first encounter with even the term “persimmon”, I clearly had no recipes up my sleeve. What I did have was my computer and that meant I could search for ones. My search led me to a variety of different persimmon uses: in a salad, topping prosciutto, or baked into bread. That winter came and went without any persimmon experimentation falling upon my kitchen.  Then, this winter hit and everywhere I turned I saw persimmons. Obviously, I opted for the bread being the baked goods lover that I am. After a brief stint of chopping and stirring my apartment was filled with the sweet, floral scent of a James Beard worthy bread. It was gone in two days.

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On a side note, I made it a goal of mine to hit 100 posts by the end of 2013. So far I’ve posted twice this year. Um, fail. I have 42 posts to go and approximately 41 weeks until the end of the year. A post a week…here I come!

Persimmon Bread

adapted from James Beard’s Beard on Beard via David Lebovitz

If it’s persimmon season, aka winter, you can stock up by peeling, pureeing, and then freezing your persimmons. In regards to the bread, using the higher amount of sugar will produce a moister and, of course, sweeter bread. The bread will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. You can also wrap and freeze the bread.

makes two 9-inch Loaves

3½ cups sifted flour
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 to 2½ cups sugar
1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2/3 cup Cognac, bourbon, or whiskey
2 cups persimmon puree (from about 4 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons)
2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
2 cups raisins, or diced dried fruits (such as apricots, cranberries, or dates)

Butter 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with a piece of parchment paper or dust with flour and tap out any excess.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree then the nuts and raisins.

Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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Thai Cabbage Salad

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Sometimes words come easily. They fall together in my head at the most unrelated of moments: while I’m driving, cleaning, shopping. I mutter them under my breath hoping that by spitting them into the air these words won’t disappear.  Sometimes though, they do not surface so effortlessly. I have, unfortunately, been in this latter stage for the better part of six months. My brain is dried like a raisin by the end of the day when I have a moment to stop. Instead of powering through, it shuts down. Off. Chau. Nos vemos. It can barely process T.V. much less compose a post.

So, while I have actually been cooking quite a bit, I have been posting approximately not at all. My recent kitchen adventures have included persimmon bread, chocolate cake, ginger muffins, frascatelli, and a whole roasted chicken. Yes, I have cooked all of this and shared none with you. Scandalous, I’m well aware. Equally as scandalous is this: I have fallen in love with the salad section of the new Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I’ll admit, when I first cracked open the book, I skipped straight to dessert. Feeling the need for a post Christmas health kick though, I soon decided to turn to the dreaded salad section. Now, let’s be real, the salad section is never exciting. It’s the part of a cookbook you look at through forced obligation, because 1. it’s pretty much illegal to skip over any section of a cookbook and 2. you can’t live off of brownies and cake and ice cream, or you could, but shouldn’t.

I surprised myself by mentally bookmarking a number of the salad recipes, including the Vinegar Slaw with Cucumber and Dill. For some reason though, unbeknownst to me, when I went grocery shopping for the ingredients to make the salad, dill was sold out. Who knew dill was a high demand ingredient in the dead of winter? “Fine,” I thought to myself, “I’ll just use lemongrass. Close enough, right?”. Um, no. With lemongrass sitting on my kitchen counter though, I began to chop and mix and stir liberally adjusting the original recipe. I added thai chili pepper for kick, garlic because why not, lemon juice for a fresh acidity, and sesame oil for a subtle nutty flavoring. Then I called it “Thai Cabbage Salad”. I’m not sure it actually qualifies as “Thai”, but it does qualify as tasty, that much I can say with certainty.

cabbage.salad.1Thai Cabbage Salad

Inspired by The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Makes enough for 12

1 medium hear green cabbage (about 2 pounds), cored and thinly sliced or shredded

1 large seedless or English cucumber (about 1 pound), sliced in round discs as thinly as possible

2 tablespoons lemongrass, finely chopped

2 Thai chili pepper, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely diced

1/4 cup white vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons kosher salt

4 teaspoon sugar

Toss the cabbage, cucumber and lemongrass together in a large bowl. Whisk the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Pour the liquid over the salad, and let it marinate, tossing the cabbage occasionally. After 1 hour, it should be a bit wilted and crunchy, at 2 hours, the flavor is even better.

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