Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mini Pear Almond Tart

Happy holidays everyone. It's my favorite time of the year - I'm all for decorating and blasting Christmas music and opening gifts. I know Christmas is more than gifts, but I can't help but light up like a kid when I get something I'm been wanting forever, but can't bring myself to buy it.

Like my new mini food processor! It's so adorable and useful and the perfect size.
I told B I wanted one for Christmas (with a stipulation that it had to be small). Although I told him to wait til Black Friday for sales, he bought one immediately and had it shipped.
As this mini prep cuisine food processor was just sitting around my apartment, I couldn't not use it. So I opened it up to make the dough for this pear tart. I'm not a very patient person (I was better as a kid, and actually waited til Christmas)

If you make any kind of pastry dough, getting a food processor for that alone is worth it (never mind processing things like vegetables)
 I love almond tarts and pears were a perfect combination for this. Any hard pear will do, but I recommend bosc pears in particular. You can use canned pears, but I do recommend poaching them as it's easy and you can add so much flavor while controlling the sugar. Poaching is basically boiling and simmering anything in a liquid, ranging from eggs to fruit. When you slice the pears yourself, it's so much prettier.

This pear almond tart is adapted from Epicurious; I made it with my mini 3 inch tart tins, so they're perfect for sharing amongst 2-3 people (or 1 if you're B). Enjoy!

Mini Pear Almond Tart

4 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 Bosc pears, peeled

see recipe for almond tart dough

2/3 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg

PEARS: Boil water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and add pears. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until pears are tender, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes. Let pears cool in syrup and refrigerate (can be made ahead of time).

ALMOND TART DOUGH: prepare as per recipe for almond tart dough  (can be made ahead of time). Once the dough is chilled and ready, preheat the oven to 350 F. Fill your tart pan with chilled dough and bake blind for about 6-8 min.

ALMOND FILLING: Grind almonds in a food processor. Blend in flour, sugar, and butter and then mix in egg. Transfer filling to medium bowl. Cover and chill at least 3 hours (can be made ahead of time).

ASSEMBLY: Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350F.

Take your cooled prebaked almond tart crusts and spread almond filling evenly in the crust. Remove the pear stem, cut each in half lengthwise, and remove out the core. Cut each half crosswise into thin slices. Line the pears on the almond filling so they overlap.

Bake tart until golden, about 55 minutes for a large tart (for my mini ones about 20 min). Cool tart in pan on rack and serve at room temperature, Enjoy!
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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Apple Caramel Cheesecake

A cheesecake is a fresh twist to the classic holiday pies.  I had wanted to make a big cheesecake for a long time, but didn't have a crowd to feed... until Friendsgiving. I decided to shy away from pumpkin, as we had quite the overload, but apples and caramel and nuts are just as fallworthy, and knew I had to make this Apple Caramel Cheesecake when I saw pictures of it online.
Since I didn't have space to bring all my kitchenware from Texas, I didn't have a full size springform pan. I asked my friends and colleagues to borrow any, only to get looks of confusion. However one friend did have one (I don't think she had ever used it since it was practically fused shut, and I wondered if this was actually a real springform pan haha). I finally managed to pry it open with success.

Sadly I only had two bites of this cheesecake before running to my night shift on Thanksgiving dinner, but my friend's husband loved this cheesecake so much he took it all home, and told his non-baking wife to get the recipe to make it for him. There's no better way to say "thank you" to a baker than to eat it all and insist on the recipe :)
The downside of nights is that you don't get good sleep - I could occasionally nap at night but hadn't slept more than 4 hours in a row during the daytime when working the past two weeks because day sleep just doesn't work for me. Since I was exhausted (and feeling lazy), I didn't set up a water bath as I normally do for cheesecake baking, hence the brown edges, but it was just as delicious.

The apple topping takes a bit of time but it's well worth it, and can hide any cracks as a bonus (mine had a lovely split since I didn't use the water bath or have time to cool it as slowly, hehe). You can use store bought caramel, as I did, but there is nothing quite like homemade caramel. This Apple Caramel Cheesecake recipe adapted from Bobby Flay.

Apple Caramel Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups graham crackers, crushed
1/4 cup sugar
6-7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinammon
pinch salt

1 tablespoon orange zest
3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Greek yogurt

1 cup apple juice
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
toasted walnuts
caramel sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

CRUST: Finely grind the graham crackers in a food processor or hand crush with a rolling pin and ziploc bag. Combined the crackers, sugar, salt, cinammon, and melted butter in a bowl. Spray the pan with cooking spray, then pat the crust into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake in the oven until lightly golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove and let cool.

CHEESECAKE: Beat sugar, orange zest, and cream cheese until light and fluffy  Beat the eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla extract. Add the salt and yogurt and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the springform pan with the cheesecake crust. Set up water bath if you want to bake it more evenly with less cracking. Bake until the sides of the cake are slightly puffed and set and the center still jiggles, about 55 minutes.

Water Bath optional: Wrap heavy duty aluminum foil around the bottom and sides. Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan and pour hot water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan; the foil will keep the water from seeping into the cheesecake.

Turn the heat off and let cake slowly cool to room temperature over 2 hours. Cover the cake and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours until chilled through.

Bring apple juice, sugar and vanilla bean to a boil in a large saute pan over high heat and cook until slightly thickened and reduced to 1/2 cup. Stir in the butter until melted. Add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized and soft. Add the apple brandy and cook until reduced by 1/2. Transfer the apples to a plate and let cool slightly.

Top with the warm apple topping, drizzle liberally with the caramel sauce and sprinkle with the remaining toasted walnuts. Serve additional sauce on the side.
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Monday, November 28, 2016

Turkey Cranberry Avocado Panini

Have you finished your turkey leftovers yet? I can't believe it, but we have!
B had the good fortune if being off on Thanksgiving and traded his day off so he could get Friday off too. Although we had a Friendsgiving. B insisted we needed our own bird.

Me: Are you sure you want a whole turkey for just two of us? The smallest I can find is over 9 lbs!
Bryan: Nonsense, one can never have too much turkey!!
We had our own pre feast late lunch before Friendsgiving, then celebrated my alas too brief Friendsgiving, as I had to leave for work.  Then when I went to do my night shift, there was even more Thanksgiving food from the hospital chiefs for the night people.  Needless to say, I could already feel the turkey tryptophan kicking in before we even had our first admission.
Immediately after my overnight shift, we went straight to Black Friday shopping at an outlet mall. This is the sole perk of doing night shifts during the holidays and we (er, I mean, I) had a good haul.

B: Dear God woman, our bank account shrunk!
N: Hey, it's the two $1000 board exams we paid for ... 
B made a fabulous soup with the leftovers, but I needed something more portable for work, so I took our leftovers and made a panini. Turkey cranberry sandwiches are so classic for Thanksgiving leftovers, but the avocado gives a nice twist.
This is the kind of lunch that will make your coworkers look at your sandwich with envy. Secondly, you don't feel like you've gained a million pounds after eating this panini. Finally, it's got a lot less turkey, so you won't fall asleep at work either. That's the mark of a great leftover recipe.

Turkey Cranberry Avocado Panini

4 slices rustic whole-grain bread (2 sandwiches)
8 ounce leftover turkey
1/2 cup leftover cranberry relish
1 small avocado
4 slices provolone
Extra-virgin olive oil

For each sandwich, layer your cheese first, then avocado, then turkey on top of the bread. Top with cranberry relish. Top with the other bread slice

Dizzle olive oil on the top and bottom of the sandwich; heat a panini press. Put the sandwich on the press and close, pressing on the sandwich. Leave until bread is golden browned and the cheese is just melted. If using a skillet, heat the pan on medium heat. Place the bread on the skillet and press down with a spatula. Cook until bread is golden browned and cheese is beginning to melt. To serve, slice each sandwich halfway and serve warn.
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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Pumpkin Ginger Scones with Maple Glaze

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Although I'm working in the hospital tonight on a lovely 14 hour shift, I'm incredibly grateful for this year for two new changes in my life - a husband and a job!
 I'm super thankful for B, whom we're spending Thanksgiving for the first time together married! Our hours didn't coincide very well - on Wednesday night he arrived into Connecticut to an empty, as I had already left for my night shift. Today at least we get a few hours together (at least during the day when I'm not sleeping), before having a quick stop at Friendsgiving before I again head to my overnight shift.
B insisted we have our own turkey as well (Thanksgiving is pretty much a Holy Day for him) even though we already had Friendsgiving dinner.

Me: Just so you know the smallest turkey is around 10 lbs. You want that for just two of us?
B: One can never have too much turkey! Buy it!

 So of course we also make a ton of sides to accompany our own bird for lunch. We'll have two Thanksgiving feasts today.
I'm also super grateful for getting to do Internal Medicine residency at Yale - an amazing place for training and research. I couldn't have found a nicer, smarter, and more fun group of co-residents to work with and hang out. PS. I love having a paycheck for the first time ever :)
I wanted to share these pumpkin scones, as I had some friends over for tea and scones one evening and wanted to bake a fall recipe featuring pumpkin. These are harvest scones adapted from King Arthur Flour topped with a maple glaze adapted from Vanilla and Bean. Getting the right scone texture can be tricky, but this recipe makes amazingly fluffy, flaky scones.
These scones have pieces of candied ginger to give your bite a kick and a maple glaze to sweeten it. Happy Thanksgiving and share what you're grateful for!

Pumpkin Ginger Scones with Maple Glaze

2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each of ground ginger, nutmeg, allspice (3/4 teaspoon total)
1/2 cup cold butter
1 cup minced crystallized ginger, diced
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
2 large eggs
coarse sparkling sugar, for topping

3/4 to 1 cup powdered sugar
scant 1/4 cup maple syrup

PUMPKIN GINGER SCONE: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. Work in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly (I used a food processor). Stir in the crystalized ginger. Add the pumpkin/egg to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together (don't overmix). Dough will should be shaggy and somewhat stiff (not a liquid batter).

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Divide your dough in half and shape two discs. Brush each disc with milk, and sprinkle with coarse sparkling sugar. Freeze the dough for 30 min.

Remove the dough then slice each circle into 6 wedges. Pull the wedges away from the center to separate them.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Bake the scones for 22 to 25 minutes, or until they're golden brown. temperature.  Let cool.

MAPLE GLAZE: Sift the powdered sugar and add the maple syrup. Stir with a fork. Chill for about 5 min in the fridge (adjust the sugar and syrup amounts to desired thickness) . Drizzle with a fork over the cooled scones. Enjoy!
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Monday, November 21, 2016

Garlic Brussel Sprouts with Craisins and Pecans

As I went for a run over the weekend, I noticed so many Yale students with their luggages. It took me a moment too realize that it was the weekend before Thanksgiving, and those lucky people get the whole week off and go home.

Unlike me. Sadly.
For the first time ever, I don't have a Thanksgiving holiday and can't spend it with my family, which bums me out since it's such a big part of my food centric family. You can see some old Thanksgiving recipes on the blog (Pumpkin RollCranberry, Apple, and Pear Crumble, Pumpkin Butternut Squash Soup, Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Soup with Blue Cheese, Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Hazelnut Crust) but as you can see, I haven't posted one in a while.
I'm switching to nights this week unfortunately, so during Thanksgiving, while people are eating, sleeping, then Black Friday shopping at 5am - I'm taking care of inpatient geriatric patients with my 14 hour shifts. Such is the life of residency - the only downside of having a fulfilling job is that people truly depend and need your work 24/7.

When 4th year students ask me for advice on the interview trail, I say, enjoy 4th year as much as you can - it's really the last year you'll have without responsibility (until retirement).
This is a quick and easy Thanksgiving side you can make for yourself or for a large crowd. I love eating brussel sprouts so I don't fill up purely on carbs during Thanksgiving (allowing more room for dessert). The craisins' sweetness and the crunch of the pecans balances out a somewhat bitter brussel sprout flavor.
I used a cast iron pan, but any stove top pan will do; just transfer to a baking dish/pan for roasting. Have a hearty Thanksgiving dinner on my behalf! Adapted from NY Times Cooking

Garlic Brussel Sprouts with Craisins and Pecans

1-2 cups brussels sprouts
4 to 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste
handful of craisins and pecans

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Trim bottom of brussels sprouts, and slice each in half top to bottom. Heat oil in cast-iron pan over medium heat and toss the garlic, sprouts with salt/pepper, craisins, and pecans.

As the sprouts begin to brown, transfer to oven. Roast, turning the sprouts halfway through the cooking, until sprouts are quite brown and tender, about 10-15 minutes.
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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

I can't believe we're halfway past November and I have to to share a fall dessert!

Today I'm sharing pumpkin chocolate chip bread and shedding some fascinating history on canned pumpkin. Pumpkin is absolutely iconic of America, and it was one of the earliest foods brought to Europe from America.
Pumpkins became huge in pop culture - referenced in poetry, literature, and ads - and thus, pumpkins found themselves in the slavery/abolitionist debate (apparently many abolitionists adored pumpkin pie). When Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, people in Confederacy angrily felt Yankee traditions were being imposed on the South, even calling it "Yankee abolitionist holiday" and they already had Christmas - not that one can ever have too many holidays in my opinion (source, source, and source)

This goes to show that we American, even way back in the 1800s, can and will protest about anything. Some things don't change much.
In 1929 Libby’s meat canning company in Illinois decided to branch into pumpkin canning. It was a hit, as people no longer had to roast and strain their own squashes - if you've ever tried yourself, it's certainly a bit of work.  Libby makes more than 80% of the world canned pumpkin, and their pumpkin breed is actually called Libby's, a subtype of the Dickenson pumpkin. They actually look more like butternut squash than the pumpkin for what we think of as a traditional pumpkin (source and source).
I was craving some pumpkin bread (with chocolate chips of course) and whipped up this pumpkin bread recipe adapted from Epicurious.
I liked this recipe because it was perfectly fluffy and kept its shape.  I wanted a big fat loaf of bread, so I made 1.5x the epicurious recipe amounts (reflected below, hence the somewhat unusual measurements) and made some minor adjustments. No skinny flat looking loaves allowed in the house!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
generous 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/8 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves in a small bowl. Beat the butter, sugar, and oil on high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times, until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

Add the pumpkin puree and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated. Mixing on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and 2/3 cup water and mix until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.
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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Coffee Ice Cream

Well, the USA woke up with a bigger jolt than a double shot espresso bring on Wed, Nov 9, 2016 the day after the election. This past week has been such a mix of emotions, and it didn't feel right just blithely posting about food when so much of the world has been in chaos.
I stayed up extremely late at an election night watching party, intending to go to bed early, but we all remained wide awake as the election results started deviating from predictions. I'm sure everyone in the US was sleep deprived the next day (it was not a fun call day in the hospital).
I am saddened by the division, the blaming, and hatred, but I remain hopeful that we can overcome these tough times for a better future.
Here is a coffee ice cream recipe that I made a while back, adapted from Emeril Lagasse. I had bought these coffee beans in Paris on our honeymoon, and the Europeans know how to make a strong coffee. I love my ice cream machine, which B had bought refurbished for my for Christmas a few years ago.
I had to feature this adorable spoon from Milk & Honey Luxuries, my maid of honor gift for my coffeeholic sister. It says "Coffee is my happy place."

Let's make the world a happy place too. Enjoy!

Coffee Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
6 egg yolks

Combine and bring the boil the cream, milk, sugar, and coffee in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.

Beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk 1 cup of the hot cream into the egg yolks to temper it, then add slowly add the egg mixture to the hot cream. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours, preferably overnight

Remove from the refrigerator and pour into the bowl of an ice cream machine. After the ice cream is made, store in a airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.
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