Sunday, June 19, 2011

summer brunch (& happy father's day)

We're wrapping up another Father's Day, and I have an announcement to make:  I have the best dad in the world. I know, I know, many of you probably thought your father or husband held that title, and I'm sure those men are all perfectly lovely human beings. To me, though (and I speak for my sister here as well), my dad wins.

So, what do you make for the best dad in the world on Father's Day? Brunch, obviously.

Brunch is an institution in Charleston, and there are a ton of great places to go (a few of my favorites:  High Cotton for food, Triangle for mimosas, Fuel for everything). But I was visiting my parents at Edisto Beach, and homemade brunch holds a special place in my heart anyway...not least because it means I can crawl back to my bed after the inevitable food coma that comes along with two meals in one.

We had a small group today, just my mom, my dad, and me, but the good thing about small groups is you can make a lot of different dishes without too much trouble. Our menu included light blueberry muffins, not-so-light cheddar and cream strata, fresh tomatoes and watermelon, mimosas, and the star of every show, bacon.

And now I'm really sad I didn't bring any leftovers home with me. But hey, at least I have pictures.

summer brunch menu
blueberry crunch muffins (recipe follows)
cheddar & cream strata (recipe follows)
sliced tomatoes 
sliced watermelon

blueberry crunch muffins
adapted from america's test kitchen 
makes a dozen
per muffin:  199.7 cal, 2.1g fat, 45.8g carb, 1.0g fiber, 4.5g protein, 6+ weight watchers

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 c packed light brown
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c plain nonfat Greek
1 1/2 c blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin or line it with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all-purpose and cake flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

In a small bowl, melt 1 tbsp of the butter. Add 1/4 cup of the flour mixture, remaining brown sugar, and cinnamon, and mix together with a fork to make a crumbly topping. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, use a mixer on medium-high speed to beat remaining butter with granulated sugar until thoroughly combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

Using a mixer on low speed, alternatingly add flour mixture and yogurt to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Gently fold in blueberries.

Fill each muffin cup with about 1/2 cup batter, then sprinkle crumb topping over them all. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with a few crumbs attached.

overnight cheddar and cream strata
adapted from america's test kitchen
serves 4
per serving:  353.6 cal, 21.4g fat, 22.3g carb, 1.6g fiber, 18.3g protein, 9+ weight watchers

does this look like a US state to anyone else?
1 tbsp unsalted butter,
a few slices dense white
   bread (I used sections of
   an epi I had left over)
4 oz sharp cheddar, grated
3/4 c whole milk
1/4 c heavy cream
4 large eggs
1 shallot, minced
handful of parsley, chopped
dollop of dijon mustard
1/4 tsp hot sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

Grease a small casserole and line bottom with bread. Butter tops of bread and sprinkle with half of cheddar.

Whisk together milk, cream, eggs, shallot, parsley, mustard, and hot sauce. Pour over bread and top with remaining cheddar. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap dish and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. You can also speed up the browning process by broiling for a couple minutes at the end.

my dad ate all the bacon before i could get a picture of it (who am i kidding? i ate most of it.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

an unseasonable salad

There was a time back in the dead of winter (which in Charleston translates to temperatures consistently in the fifties) when I ate brussels sprouts at least three times a week. I roasted them, sauteed them, put them on pizzas and in omelets. To my surprise I liked them raw as well as cooked, and a salad I found on food52 became a regular menu item for me. I talked about this salad A LOT, as anyone who spent more than 10 minutes with me during that period can attest.

But the bounty of spring and summer made me forget about the miniature cabbages that had served me so well in January and February. I moved on to salads of baby lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, and sweet corn. Brussels sprouts left my life as suddenly as they had appeared.

Then, this Sunday I saw a tiny basket of them at The Vegetable Bin, my favorite source for produce in Charleston. I took all of them. I made my winter salad again. I'm not ashamed to say I licked the bowl.

brussels sprouts salad
adapted from food52
4 small servings, or 2 large
per large serving:  238.5 cal, 16.3g fat, 21.1g carb, 4.1g fiber, 6.2g protein, 7+ weight watchers

This is a very flexible recipe. You can use whatever cheese you want, or omit it altogether for a vegan version. I've replaced the cheese with nutritional yeast with some success. The salad could also easily be turned into a light main dish by adding some protein; chickpeas work perfectly.

1/4 lb brussels sprouts (about 12 large),
   trimmed and sliced thinly
2 ribs celery, diced
2 c arugula, chopped
1/4 c dried cranberries
1/4 c crumbled feta
2 tbsp chopped toasted walnuts
juice of half a lemon (about 1 tbsp)
2 tsp oil of your choice (I used
salt and crushed red pepper, to taste

It's a salad. Toss all ingredients together and serve! 

Monday, June 6, 2011

beets: a love(/hate) story

I always think I love beets. They make any dish more beautiful with their deep magenta color and jewel-like sheen. But when I'm honest with myself, I realize that beets are my food version of a "small dose" friend:  fun with a group for a night out, but too much of them and I want to gag. (Sorry if that's a little too graphic and/or mean; I promise no one who is reading this falls into that category of friend!)

just look at them...anyone would be tempted!

So, of course I bought a giant bunch of beets at the market on Saturday, and now I have to eat all of them. Last night I roasted a few, and I'm looking for different things to do with them that aren't totally beet-centric. Today for lunch I made this sandwich, and it was everything I could ask for:  crunchy and melty, sweet and savory, comforting and refreshing.

So, if you find yourself with an extra beet or six, give it a shot.

open-faced beet and brie melt
serves one, but is easily multiplied
no nutrition facts for this's too imprecise.

hard roll, or sandwich-sized
   section of baguette
1 small beet, roasted*
1 ounce brie
a few toasted chopped
1 leaf lettuce
a few leaves of fresh basil
red wine vinegar, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Set broiler on high. Cut roll in half and beets and brie into thin slices. Top each half of roll with beets and brie, and broil until cheese is melted and brown in spots. Remove from oven and top with walnuts, lettuce, basil, vinegar, and salt and pepper.

Tell me this isn't delicious, whether you love beets or not.

* I like to peel my beets when they're raw, wrap them individually in foil, and roast them in a 425-degree oven. Depending on their size, it takes 45-60 minutes to get them to fork-tender stage.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

really, really easy lime bars

I can't help myself. Whenever I'm invited to any event that includes food, I immediately volunteer to bring dessert. Even when I have one free hour between the time I volunteer and the event.

Last night was one of those times. As I always do, I considered making brownies, but since it's summer and all, I thought something cool and citrusy would be better-suited to the weather. I found a few lemon/lime bar/pie recipes that looked interesting, but in the end I pretty much made up my own based on what I had in my apartment and what was easy. (In this case, "easy" meant only one cooking method [oven] and no pastry blender required for the crust.)

Overall, I was very pleased with the results. The bars' only less-than-appealing feature was their 1970s avocado green color, which resulted from my addition of two drops of green food coloring. So, I recommend skipping the food coloring, and if you want to give the bars a little color just top each of them with a small twist of lime.

really, really easy lime bars
makes 16 bars
per bar:  188.9 cal, 7.3g fat, 27.0g carb, 0.4g fiber, 3.8g  protein, 5+ weight watchers

1/2 c butter, softened
1/3 c sugar
1 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c old-fashioned oats
1 14-oz can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
5 large egg yolks
1/2 c lime juice (fresh preferred, but I used bottled)
Powdered sugar, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter an 8 x 8" baking pan.. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar using a mixer on medium speed. Add flour and oats and mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined. Press mixture into pan, and place in oven (once it is preheated, of course). Bake crust for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another medium bowl (or the same one, if you feel like washing it first), combine condensed milk, egg yolks, and lime juice. Mix on medium speed until combined. Pour over partially baked crust and bake for 20-25 minutes more or until center is set and edges are lightly browned.

Cool on counter for half an hour, then move to refrigerator to chill. When ready to serve, sift powdered sugar on top and cut into squares.