Sunday, March 5, 2017

Blueberry Sauce and Swedish Pancakes

What's the difference between a Swedish pancake and a crepe? Not much, in my kitchen. Some quick online research yielded a comment that they are pancakes that "come in different languages". Hmmmmm, funny but not definitive. Both items are flat-not-puffy ultra thin pancakes, frequently rolled or folded around a filling. I typically make Swedish pancakes for breakfast or dessert with a sweet filling or sauce. Crepes have been a bit more versatile as tasty wrappers for either savory or sweet fillings. Not much of a difference, other than the addition or omission of sugar in the batter. No matter, we enjoy them both no matter what the label.

RL has a serious sweet tooth and relishes the sauce or filling more than the thin pancakes. He loves this tasty homemade blueberry sauce as a topping for pancakes, waffles, crepes, ice cream or just straight off the spoon. While huckleberries and lingonberries are flavorful alternatives, those berries aren't readily available even in season, so blueberries are my berry of choice. Seattle groceries stock 3-pound packages of frozen blueberries year around, so the home freezer always holds bags of berries when local berries are out of season. During late-summer cruising in SE Alaska we head for berry patches accessible from dinghy or kayak, or stay on high alert to avoid sharing the site with hungry bears. 


Blueberry Sauce aka Blueberry Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
Generous pinch of cinnamon
1-1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups blueberries (frozen or fresh)
1/3 cup water
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
grated zest of half a lemon (optional)

Grate a small lemon and set the zest aside. Juice the lemon (you will have extra), straining out the seeds.

Combine sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Add the berries and stir to mix.

Add the water and lemon juice and cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring occasionally. Avoid a hard boil or it may bubble up over the edge of the pan. Keep the sauce warm until ready to use, or reheat gently. Again, keep an eye on it so it doesn't boil over. Add the lemon zest, if using, just before serving.

Swedish Pancakes
yield: 8-10 pancakes

2 eggs, beaten
1-1/8 cups milk
1 generous cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
grated zest of half a lemon

Use a medium bowl and combine eggs, milk, flour, sugar and salt. Beat by hand (or use a blender or mixer) until smooth and lump free. Add the melted butter and whisk or blend to incorporate. 

Heat a skillet (cast iron or non-stick) over medium-high heat. Use a ladle and pour 1/4-cup (2 oz) batter into the middle of the pan while tilting the pan to swirl the batter so it spreads out to coat the bottom (similar to making crepes). Cook until bubbles form and the bottom surface browns. Flip and cook to brown slightly on the second side. Add a line of blueberry syrup down the middle, plus any optional fillings, and keep warm in a very low heat oven Repeat with the remaining batter.

Serve 2 or 3 pancakes per plate on warmed plates and offer additional warmed Blueberry Syrup, jam or powdered sugar.

Other Swedish pancake or crepe recipes:
Apple Pie Swedish Pancakes 
Cinnamon Apple Crepes 
Crepes Milanese 
Herbed Sourdough Crepes (for Cannelloni or Enchiladas)
Mushroom-Filled Crepe Purses
Stacked Crepes (with Ginger Chicken Filling & Coconut Sauce) 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Chicken with Fennel and Oranges

The classic Spanish/Moroccan/Sicilian combination of oranges and fennel contributes mightily to brightening up the monotone gray days of winter. No, it can't add blue skies and sunshine, but oranges add color and a bright citrusy flavor, while aromatic fennel provides texture and a mild licoricey note. Add some sweet, anise-flavored Pernod and oh my! there's something special happening here.  

Fennel and citrus play nicely together, but while we enjoy them both separately, I don't often think to pair them. I have served oranges and fennel together in an Orange, Fennel and Olive Salad

or occasionally afloat as a stovetop preparation for freshly-caught Halibut Sicilian Style. 

Then a colorful Pinterest photo brought me to a recipe for this chicken dish. Lucky me! it's a winner straight from the oven, then later in the week shredded in a rice bowl and finally diced in a stovetop hash.  
Spring seems ever so far over the horizon, some big page flips of the calendar away, but meanwhile this entree will brighten up Seattle's occasional gray wintery days.  

Oven-Roasted Orange Chicken with Fennel
inspired by a Pinterest link from Foolproof Living, who adapted a recipe from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem.

1/3 cup Pernod
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons orange juice (I used an orange mango mix)
3 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons grainy mustard (I used smooth Dijon)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

2 1/2 lb. chicken thighs
2 fennel bulbs; washed, cored and cut into fat wedges
3 oranges or 6 clementines, sliced into thin rounds
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
bouquet of fennel fronds for garnish

For the Marinade:
Mix Pernod, olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, mustard, brown sugar, salt and pepper in a large ziplok bag.
Dry the chicken thighs with paper towel. Place chicken thighs, fennel wedges, orange slices, thyme, and fennel seeds into the bag of marinade; toss to coat. Refrigerate and let it marinade at least for 2 hours or overnight.

To Cook:
Pre-heat the oven to 475 F Degrees. 

Place the chicken thighs, presentation side up, in a single layer, into a large ovenproof glass pan. Arrange the fennel wedges and orange slices over and around the chicken thighs. Pour the marinade over all. Cook, uncovered, in the preheated 475 F oven until juices run clear, about 45 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon and move the chicken thighs, fennel wedges, and orange slices onto a warmed serving plate. Cover and keep warm; set aside.
Pour the juices into a small wide skillet or pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer until somewhat thickened and reduced to 1/2 cup.

To Serve:
Place a serving of rice on each serving plate, top with chicken and drizzle some sauce over the top. Garnish with fennel fronds and serve.


Or... serve on the warmed platter with a pitcher of sauce on the side. Wild rice pilaf makes a tasty accompaniment.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Feijoada - an all-in-one-pot soup version

Reputed to be the national dish of Brazil, possibly reflecting a Portuguese influence (link), feijoada is the perfect comfort-food antidote to a cold snowy day... or a chilly wet weekend... even a bracing sunny day. Simple enough to whip up for family meals, it might also please company at a soup and bread feast. Our first introduction to feijoada was ages ago, as guests at an open house feast hosted by friends who were home again following a multi-year posting in Brazil. Their feijoada presented various cuts of grilled pork and pork sausages piled alongside spicy, soupy beans, some greens and bowls of fluffy rice. Both the event and the meal were memorably delicious.

A classic feijoada would include a variety of meat selections, typically pork; some smoked or cured, some fresh, some spicy and some mild. Dried beans would simmer on the stovetop for hours to soften, perhaps 1/4 of the cooked beans reserved to puree and thicken the juices. Traditional side dishes might include collard greens, garlic rice, thinly sliced oranges, and perhaps some tiny hot peppers.    

This isn't that; it's a soup more "in the spirit of" a traditional feijoada. Reminiscent of Cajun red beans and rice, yet totally different, we loved this soup on day one. On day two the beans had soaked up much of the broth, turning my feijoada into more of a stew, still flavor packed and satisfying. This substantial bean and pork soup/stew now ranks high on the list of our favorite winter comfort food recipes. What's your favorite meaty bean soup?

Feijoada - a non-traditional soup version
adapted from recipes by Bernice Ojakangas, Soup and Bread Cookbook  and Sheila Lukins, All Around the World Cookbook

2 cans low-sodium black beans, rinsed & drained
4 slices thick-cut bacon, in 2" dice 
or use 1 TBS olive oil (bacon grease adds more flavor)
3 cups yellow onions, chopped 
3 cloves garlic, peeled & minced or pressed
8 to 12 oz  of smoked sausage (Falls Brand Chorizo), 1/2" dice
1 can (14-oz) diced low-sodium tomatoes 
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp red-pepper flakes
1 can (14-oz) low-sodium beef broth, heated
2+ cups hot, cooked rice
pickled jalapenos, sliced (optional)
grated zest from 1 orange
1 orange, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

  1. Drain and rinse the black beans, repeat, drain again and set aside.
  2. Cook the bacon pieces (or just heat the olive oil) in a large, wide-bottomed pot over medium-high heat to render the fat. Add the onion & garlic; cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. 
  3. Add the diced sausage; cook until browned slightly and some fat is released. Add the tomatoes, cumin, red pepper flakes, drained beans and half of the heated broth. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until heated through, adding remaining broth as necessary.
  4. Serve in individual bowls over a mound of rice and top with the chopped orange chunks, orange zest, parsley and jalapenos (if using). Or cool the soup and refrigerate, letting the flavors develop and meld, then reheat to serve. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

In My Kitchen - Jan-February 2017

2017 arrived with a mixed bag of weather; welcome days of glorious sunshine, several heavy rainstorms with strong winds, occasional days of dense fog... and then a dump of wet, heavy snow. I love the local fairyland appearance after a fresh snowfall, but not so much the associated challenge of negotiating Seattle's hilly terrain. So my old Mustang convertible never left the garage and I didn't break out the crosscountry skiis to ski around the neighborhood. I DID reorganize some cabinets and continue to weed through the bookshelves in between bouts of drinking therapeutic hot toddies and gazing at the world outside. 

In my kitchen...
how is it that frequently used items always migrate to the front of any storage space while the odd bits and pieces eventually disappear from sight. That was the case with a long-forgotten antique pickle server. The quantity of tarnish indicates it has been a long time since this piece appeared at a dinner party. Now comes the decision whether to discard or repurpose... I'm still considering. 

Purchased on a whim for a kitchen sushi class with Hilary (link), this plastic hand roll (temaki) stand needs a new home. The two of us had great fun playing with different sushi devices and presentations, but this item hasn't been used again. It landed in the donation box, along with several other "treasures".

In my kitchen...
RL swears the kitchen tilts southward due to the weight of my cookbook collection. He's teasing, but I have run out of convenient storage space. Years ago a Food Blogger Cookbook Swap (link) sent me wandering through the stacks of books then filling up cabinets and shelves, rediscovering scads of forgotten treasures along the way. The challenge continues; I'll never cook my way through the existing collection, yet it is hard to resist the lure of a new cookbook. Solution: we delivered three large cartons of books, cookbooks and some other non-fiction, to the local library, a donation for their annual booksale fundraiser. I'm still working to reorganize the remaining 200+ books by topic, cuisine and/or chef and continue to find new recipes to try.

We enjoy food with a flavor bite, so Southwest, Tex-Mex, Mexican dishes frequently top the favorites list. Storebought tortillas are plentiful locally in various sizes, weights and ingredients. Availability and  laziness on my part meant the tortilla press, comal and tortilla warmer had migrated to out-of-sight storage locations. It's decision time again - put them to use in the next month or two, or send them off to a new home. Omigosh, sudden memory flashback to a wonderful weekend of cooking classes with Jane Butel in New Mexico eons ago with BFF Betsy. 

In my kitchen...
Yes, I've done some actual cooking lately. Big pots of hearty soups and stews kept us fueled during winter-weather lunches, comfort food for body and soul. A new-to-me recipe for feijoada was the latest winner, but how could it miss with smokey Basque chorizo and black beans in a fragrant and flavorful sauce? Recipe to follow soon. 

In my kitchen...
Alaska dreaming and cruise planning fills many hours every winter, with RL handling boat prep items and me considering itinerary and dining issues. Inevitably we drift to reminiscing and skimming our ginormous collection of images from nearly 17 years of Alaska cruising. Recently a 3-pound package of frozen, store-bought blueberries recalled memories of floating up against a steep bank at high tide to harvest some fat, ripe huckleberries. (link) RL held onto some overhanging branches to keep the skiff in place while I picked berries... until we heard crashing foliage and noticed movement on the far side of the berry patch. Grizzly bear? Mmmmm, maybe. At home this month commercial blueberries made scrumptious blueberry syrup and filling for Swedish pancakes, but I'm looking forward to picking wild berries once again in SE Alaska... with a scout and without animal company. OK, maybe a worm or two.

What's happening in your kitchen lately? Multi-talented Liz (writer, cook & traveller) hosts a monthly gathering of cooks from around the world who share thoughts and views into their kitchens. Click over to her blog, Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things, and enjoy... or join in the IMK fun.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Coconut Macaroons easy, tasty cookie from only 5 ingredients.

I had a mad craving for something sweet, just one small bite, and I wanted it right now! No, a piece of fruit wouldn't do, neither would cinnamon toast. Dark chocolate baking chips didn't appeal and the freezer held no ice cream. Dang! there was a serious shortage of tempting sweets in my kitchen. Emergency averted - Coconut Macaroons to the rescue. Note: not the fancy, fussy meringue-based European macarons made with almond flour, egg whites, and sugars, then filled with buttercream, ganache or fruit curd. No way!  These macaroons were the sticky mounds of coconut and condensed milk; Mom's midwestern version with crisp, browned exterior and a soft, chewy centers. Macaroons, not macarons.

My holiday cookie enthusiasm left extra packages of shredded coconut and cans of sweetened condensed milk in the pantry. I'm not wildly fond of coconut desserts, so it's easy to forget about macaroons. Suddenly, these cookies seemed perfect - it was a semi-emergency.  Fast and easy to prepare, those unfussy mounds of coconut were the perfect solution to my sudden sweet tooth craving. RL loves macaroons, so none were wasted after I enjoyed one or two... or maybe three.

Occasionally I dip the flat bottoms in melted chocolate, or drizzle zigzags of melted dark chocolate across the tops. Chocolate dresses up the appearance, even tempting coconut-averse chocolate lovers to try a coconut macaroon. This time I baked a half-batch and skipped the chocolate dipping or drizzles. The cookies lasted several days, their exteriors initially crisp but growing soft and chewy after a stay in the cookie jar. No complaints were registered with the cook, however.

Easy Coconut Macaroons

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
5 cups shredded coconut (sweetened, moist, Bakers brand)
1/4 tsp salt
1 small can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp almond extract (or substitute vanilla extract)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a cookie sheet, or cover with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

2. Mix flour, coconut and salt together in a bowl. Add condensed milk and vanilla; stir well by hand to make a thick batter.

3. Use a cookie or ice-cream scoop to form cookies; place on baking sheet, allowing an inch or two of space between cookies. Bake for 15-20 minutes*, or until just golden brown. Remove from pan at once, and cool on baking racks.

*Baking time will vary with size and height of scooped cookie and with different ovens. The boat oven bakes small versions of these cookies in 12-15 minutes. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Swedish Apple Custard Cake

Two years ago, almost to the day, I posted an update to a Serious Eats/Dorie Greenspan recipe for Fresh Apple Custard Cake. Deemed just "okay" from the first bite, I keep tweaking the recipe looking for something more... moreish flavorwise. My variations on Dorie's apple cake have all been fragrant, moist, custardy and applely, but a bit bland, lacking any notable flavor pop. 

Additions of lemon zest, almond extract and apple pie spice have upped the flavor impact, but never quite hit the mark. Then I found several online recipes for Swedish Apple Cake with Custard Sauce that sent me in another direction. Orange extract and grated orange zest plus ground cardamom were the new flavor additions of choice.

Still moist and fragrant, almost a cake and not quite a custard, the latest variation has met two-thumbs-up approval. The orange and cardamom somehow boost the appleness of the cake, providing an interesting combination of flavors in each bite. The custardlike filling negates the need for a custard sauce, though a dab of honey Greek yogurt made a fine topping. Hmmm, a scoop of homemade Cardamom Ice Cream would turn this morning treat into a scrumptious dessert. 

It's fun to play with recipes, adjusting ingredients but keeping the character of the original dish. Orange and cardamom will remain key flavor elements in my version of this custardy cake, but nuts might join the party next time.

Swedish Apple Custard Cake
Slightly adapted from 'Baking Chez Moi' by Dorie Greenspan


3 medium cooking apples (Granny Smith), cored & peeled
a generous 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted and cooled
Grated zest of 1 medium orange
Confectioners’ or granulated sugar, for dusting (optional)


Place a rack in the center of the oven; preheat to 400 degrees F. (My oven runs hot, so I began with a 400 F oven, then lowered the temp to 375 F after 20 minutes and rotated the pan.)

Butter or spray an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Slice the apples quite thin, about 1/16 th inch thin, 
"elegantly thin, but not so thin that they’re transparent and fragile," according to Dorie.

Use a small bowl and 
whisk  together the flour, baking powder and cardamom. Set aside. 

In a larger bowl whisk the eggs and sugar together for a minute or two until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the orange extract and vanilla, then the milk and finally the melted butter and orange zest. 

Sift the flour mixture into the bowl in 2 or 3 additions and whisk until smooth. 

Add the apples and gently fold into the batter using a rubber or silicone spatula, turning to coat each thin slice with batter. Scrape the mixture into the parchment-covered pan and smooth out the top so the apples lie flat.

Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until golden brown and uniformly puffed, 40-50 minutes. (55 min in my oven) Be sure the middle of the cake has risen and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack; allow to cool and set up for at least 15 minutes.

Unmold the cake bottom-side-up onto a plate and peel off the parchment paper. Flip it back onto a second plate and cut into squares. Dust with powdered sugar or cinnamon/sugar mix (optional). Cut and serve.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hearty Rye Sandwich Bread with Caraway and Dill

Rye bread has multiple personalities, have you noticed? Seeded or unseeded? Structurally sturdy enough to handle the savory components of a grilled Reuben sandwich, or soft and tender? Boldly seasoned rye complements the strong flavors of spicy pastrami, grainy mustard and dill pickles, while other rye recipes produce bread lighter in flavor, color and texture. Cut it thick for Reubens, or use a single thin slice of dense sourdough rye bread packed with seeds and grains to provide the base for a more refined display of smorrebrod toppings. It is hard to choose just one favorite rye bread.

My bread baking efforts typically involve French bread baguettes or sourdough boules. I must have been hungry on Monday morning while watching Pasadena's Tournament of Roses Parade on tv. Old memories of Pasadena dining events popped up, some involving rye bread. Dad loved the 'world famous' pastrami from The Hat on north Lake Street. He rarely ate at the restaurant, preferring instead to order a pound or two of the delicious brined, smoked meat wrapped for takeout, a treasure to build into Dagwood-style sandwiches on rye at home. Dad's creations were piled mile-high and ahhhh-mazing!

Mother/daughter shopping adventures on south Lake Street often ended with a stop at the iconic Konditori (long closed), a notable bakery and cafe in the midst of a favorite shopping district. I can't recall a single pastry, but oh! my, those amazing open-faced sandwiches are still dreamworthy. Small, thin slices of rye slathered with butter &/or dill sauce and topped with tiny shrimp, dill fronds, slices or wedges of boiled egg... maybe a few opaque rounds of cucumber... "Oh my, yes! let's order another."

Photo: my version of a smorrebrod treat

Rye bread moved to the top of the Must Bake List (sorry RL, sweets have to wait for another day). A thick King Arthur cookbook provided the basic recipe and included some unusual items: potato flakes and dill pickle juice. I added dried dill weed to the mix, and proceeded with this intriguing recipe.

The dough was tacky, as the reciped noted, but I resisted adding more flour to the bowl. My stand mixer didn't care, carrying on without issue, but hand-kneading would have been a sticky, messy chore. It took 2 hours for the dough to nearly double in size for the first rise, longer than a typical rising time for non-rye yeast loaves in my 66 degree kitchen. The second rise, covered in a greased glass loaf pan, ran a full 90 minutes. After 40 minutes of baking in a preheated 350 degree oven the bread did not require the suggest tent of aluminum foil. In fact more browning would have been welcome. Hmmmmm, it's time to recheck the oven's temperature.

The aroma alone of this loaf stirred my appetite, making the wait for the first taste a difficult exercise in patience. It was worth the wait! One freshly-cut warm slice, slathered with salted butter, was so tasty that I promptly had another, this time toasted and topped with a slice of white cheddar. Mmmm, the rye flavor, balanced with caraway and dill and just a hint of sweetness, is a very good thing. We might have to arm wrestle to see who gets the last slice.

Photo: Hearty rye toast with melted cheese
This hearty rye makes excellent toast and even better open-faced sandwiches; new smorrebrod combinations tempt me daily. Stored in a plastic ziploc bag the remaining bread was still soft and seemed fresh on day four. And now it's gone. I have some plans to tweak the next rye loaf, not that it needs adjustment, but now I'm ready to try a Swedish limpa with some cardamom, orange peel and anise or fennel... or maybe a molasses dark rye... or... 

Sandwich Rye Bread with Caraway and Dill
Base recipe from The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook , King Arthur Flour Co., 2001

1 loaf, 16 slices

2 cups (8.5 oz) AP flour
1 cup (4 oz) dark rye flour
¼ cup (1.4 oz) light rye flour
1/3 cup (.75 oz) potato flakes
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon dill weed
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
¼ cup (1.75 oz) vegetable oil
¼ cup (2 oz) dill pickle juice
1 cup (8 oz) water

If you use instant yeast, mix together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Otherwise, proof the yeast in water and wait for some action before proceeding. Add the oil, pickle juice and water; mix until a shaggy mass forms. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes to allow the flours to absorb the liquid and give the yeast a head start.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes, until firm and smooth though somewhat sticky. (Kneading in a stand mixer is highly recommended!) Place into a greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover the bowl loosely and let the dough rise until doubled, roughly 1-2 hours depending on your kitchen temperature.

Move the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into an 8-inch long roll. Place in a lightly greased 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf pan. Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap and let rise until barely crowned over the edge of the pan, approximately 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the bread for 35 minutes, until deep golden brown and the internal temp registers 190 F. on an instant-read thermometer. If the bread spears to be browning too quickly, tent it loosely with aluminum foil, shiny side up, for the final 10 minutes of baking. (NOT an issue in my oven.) Remove the bread from the oven, take it out of the pan, and cool it on a wire rack before slicing.

Note: delicious as is or toasted, but especially recommended for a Reuben Sandwich, Patty Melt or Open-Faced Smorrebrod.

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