December 31, 2012

Coconut Friands

These were the sleeper hit of the season!

I generally tend to have dried coconut around the house - it's wonderful in a lot of baked goods, perks up a bowl of oatmeal, and makes a nifty sambal or chutney. A spoonful in a choco-banana smoothie almost turns a breakfast beverage into a party single handedly.

For all of that, I don't often feature coconut in all of its glory all that often. Sure, I've made the odd macaroon in my day, who hasn't? People like coconut macaroons. But! I suspect that people would probably like coconut friands even better.

I found this recipe on the delightful Girl Cooks World blog, where she subtitles them "little coconut tea cakes", which is a very good description to highlight the differences between friands and macaroons. She also differentiates them from the potentially related financiers, for which she also has a few recipes (and boy, they look good!).

These are gluten free (Girl Cooks World is quietly, entirely gluten free), which makes them an excellent treat to take to festive occasions where such bounty might be thin on the ground. Your gluten-free friends will be delighted, and so will anyone else who tries them. I halved the recipe, with excellent results (as listed below), but you can certainly "double" it again to get 24 lovely little cakes. Don't worry, they won't have a chance to get stale.

Coconut Friands

Makes 12 mini tea cakes

2 large egg whites
3/4 cup finely shredded unsweetened dried coconut
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons superfine rice flour
1 1/2 tablespoons potato starch
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Spritz a 12-whole mini muffin tin with cooking spray, generously. Set aside.

Whip the egg whites until smooth and frothy, but not stiff. Add each of the remaining ingredients, in order, stirring well with a spatula between each addition.

Divide the batter between the muffin-cups. Bake for 17 - 20 minutes, or until the edges are tinged with gold. Remove from the oven, and carefully invert over a rack. A quick tap on the bottom of the pan should remove any stragglers, or you can use a little fork to help lift them out. Re-arrange so they are all right-side-up, and allow to cool at room temperature. Dust with confectioner's sugar, if you like.

Excellent, hot or cold.

Next time I make these, I plan to add a little lime zest in with the sugar. Doesn't that sound delightful?

December 10, 2012

Smoked Tuna Skillet Dinner

I didn't grow up with tuna noodle casserole. My mother didn't buy canned fish, and the only pasta casserole that she made was a (delicious) baked spaghetti. I was highly sensitive to fish when I was young, we considered an allergy even though it wasn't a true anaphylactic risk. It was fairly unpleasant, and when the rest of the family was having fish, I usually had a fried egg instead. Also, I hated peas with the fiery intensity of a thousand suns. I'm over both of those things now, but you can only imagine how shocked my poor mom would be, if she could see me making this dish.

The beauty of not having a childhood tradition to draw on for tuna + noodles is that I don't have any sense of nostalgia forcing my hand in terms of specific ingredients, methodology or presentation in order to get it "right." I just get to mess around with some tasty food, and share the results with you.

This is a grown-up sort of skillet dinner - the smoked tuna is quite strong, so you don't need as much of it as some other recipes might suggest. If you can't get smoked tuna, you may wish to use a little extra of the regular kind, and perhaps add a drop or two of liquid smoke to get a similar effect. This recipe was adapted from Eating Well.

Smoked Tuna Skillet Dinner

Serves 4

200 g broad German egg noodles
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
100 grams cremini mushrooms
2 teaspoons Mushroom Base (I use Better than Bouillon)
2 tablespoons dry Sherry
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 cups 1% Milk
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
160 grams Smoked Albacore Tuna
1 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons Panko-style bread crumbs

Position rack in upper third of oven and preheat broiler.

Meanwhile, heat butter in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened. Add sherry and cook and stir until evaporated. Shake together the milk and flour until smooth. Add milk and pepper and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Then, stir in the dry noodles, along with an extra cup of hot water (the pan will be very full). Cook and stir until the noodles have absorbed the extra water, and are tender, and the sauce has thickened. If it starts looking too dry, add a little more water, a couple of tablespoons at a time. Stir in tuna (broken into small chunks), peas and 1/2 the Parmesan until evenly incorporated.

Sprinkle the casserole with panko and the remaining Parmesan. Broil until bubbly and lightly browned on top, 3 to 4 minutes. The broiler does dry the dish out a bit more (the one pictured is actually a little drier than I wanted it to be), so if you think it's just right going in...keep a close eye on it, or add an "insurance" tablespoon of water to loosen thing up.

There's not a lot of vegetables in this, obviously, so a nice broccoli on the side is a good idea (or tossed green salad, or other tasty plant of your choice).

December 01, 2012

Pork Breakfast Sausage

We wanted to have breakfast in, today. However, it was already quite late, and while we had eggs, we had no bread-stuffs (not even tortillas!), no potatoes, no bacon or sausage, and no mushrooms or tomatoes to grill. We had eggs and cheese, but nothing else to round out into omelettes, for example. Last week's "clean the fridge" efforts had been a little too effective.

However, all was not lost! On my way home last night I impulse-purchased a package of fresh ground pork. Because that's the kind of impulse-buying I do - not candy, not chips, oh no. I buy raw meat. And sometimes broccoli, but that's a different story.

We live close to a lovely Italian bakery, so I sent Palle out for bread (to serve as a toast raft for scrambled eggs, as you can see from the picture). While he was gone, I put the coffee on and started mixing up some homemade sausage. It didn't take long at all, and I had a nice ball of sausage meat ready for shaping and cooking when he arrived with a fresh loaf of Tuscan bread.

These have a fairly pronounced fennel flavour - if you do not want fennel to be quite so prominent, reduce the fennel seeds to 1/4 teaspoon. If you are aiming for a spicy sausage, add a 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne (depending on the level of heat that you want), and a big pinch of chile flakes to your spice mixture.

If you are watching your sodium, you might want to cut the kosher salt back to 3/4 teaspoon, but these are already lower in sodium than many sausages on the market.

Pork Breakfast Sausage

Makes six patties, or 9 sausages (about 3 servings)

500 g medium ground pork
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Combine the salt, paprika, fennel, granulated onion, and peppercorns in a spice grinder (or molcajete) and grind until fairly smooth (if you like a bit of bite from your fennel and black pepper, stop grinding sooner, so that there are chunky bits). Combine spice mixture with the ground pork, mixing well with your fingers to get it all worked through. The paprika will slightly darken the overall colour of the meat.

You can use this right away (as I did this morning), but it would be even better to make it up the night before, and let the flavours combine in the fridge overnight.

Divide into six pieces, flatten into patties (or roll into sausage shapes) and fry in a medium-hot skillet until cooked through, turning as needed to get a nice golden-brown colour over the whole surface.

So there you have it! Rather simple, and easily made even before the coffee has brewed: delicious sausage without preservatives or bread fillers, just pork and flavour.

We were pretty excited by how well the sausage turned out, and are already plotting and scheming future sausage endeavours. I am planning to make some up for the freezer - after all, sausage is good to have on hand: pizza, pasta, sausage & potato dinners, and skillet dinners of all kinds, as well as the breakfast applications. I think I might make some up as meatballs, too - can you visualize a sausage meatball breakfast platter? I'm getting hungry again just thinking about it!