Sunday, April 22, 2012

Acorn Squash, Pear, and Adzuki Bean Soup with Sauteed Shiitakes (vegan)

For my birthday, the fiance gave me a snazzy new vegan cookbook!  I've been itching to try something from it (I have bookmarks all over it with the things I want to try).  Finally, we made something, and it was fantastic!

The fiance was intrigued by the shape of the end of the squash, he just had to take a picture.

It was such a pretty colored soup!  The recipe says to puree just half of it so there are still some chunks in it, but I just decided to puree all of it for a smoother texture.  Either would work!

I love mushrooms, so I'd recommend adding a few more than the recipe calls for.  They add a really interesting texture and umami flavor to the soup!

(If you were wondering, we ate this soup with naan.  Not the most culturally accurate addition, but it was really tasty!)

Acorn Squash, Pear, and Adzuki Soup with Sauteed Shiitakes
Serves 6

2 Tbsp peanut oil
1 large onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 tsp minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 acorn squashes, seeded, peeled, and cut into 3/4 inch chunks (the best way to deal with prepping the squash is to cut it in half, seed it, and then cut it into chunks.  Use a paring knife to slice off the skin)
2 firm Bartlett pears, peeled, seeded, and sliced into thin (not paper-thin) slices, roughly 1 inch long
4 cups vegetable stock
1 - 2 (15 ounce) cans or 2 - 3 cups (cooked) adzuki beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

4 - 6 oz. fresh shiitakes, slice in half
2 tsp peanut oil
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce

Preheat a large stockpot over medium heat.  Saute the onions and peppers in the oil for about 10 minutes, or until the onions just begin to brown.

Add the ginger and garlic, and saute for 1 more minute.  Stirring often, add the salt, five-spice, acorn squash, and pear, and cook for another minute before adding the vegetable stock.  Cover and bring to boil.  Once the soup is boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer briskly for about 20 more minutes, or until the squash is tender.

Puree half (or all) the soup, using either an immersion blender or by transferring half the soup to a food processor or blender, processing, and pouring it back into the the rest of the soup.  Be careful if using a blender - let the soup cool a bit before blending it so it doesn't explode!

add the adzuki beans and lime.  Cover and simmer over low heat until the beans are heated through - 7-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms:
Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the oils and saute the mushrooms for about 7 minutes, until the are soft.  Mix in the soy sauce and stir constantly until it is absorbed (about 1 minute).

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the sauteed mushrooms.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Green Tea Crème Brûlée

I've had a packet of matcha (powdered green tea) sitting in my cabinet for awhile now, just asking to be used for something tasty.  I'd been considering a few things, but finally settled on a crème brûlée for a friend's birthday.  She liked it so much, she went out and bought a torch so she could make her own!

If you're not familiar with matcha, it's a fine-ground, high-quality green tea powder that is used in the Japanese tea ceremony, but has many other culinary uses.  It also has health benefits due to its high antioxidant content.  Bonus!

The original recipe called for only 2 egg yolks, but the result was too runny for my preference.  Although it tasted great, I didn't love the texture, so we tweaked it, and 3 eggs was perfect!

Now, I know you readers have seen plenty photos of the various crème brûlée I've made in the past, so I didn't exactly feel the need to photojournal every step!

This dessert was tasty, and pleasantly not too sweet.  It would pair perfectly with any Asian-inspired meal!

Green Tea Crème Brûlée
(adapted from Amy's Food Adventures)
Make 4 four-ounce servings

3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp matcha powder
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
white sugar for top

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F with the rack in the middle position.
In a bowl, cream the yolks using a hand whisk. Gradually add in the sugar and whisk until well-incorporated. The mixture should be pale and creamy.
Heat the cream and milk in a pan on the stove. Be careful not to boil it.  After it's warm, mix in the matcha powder until the matcha has fully dissolved (and try to break up the little chunks)
Temper the cream/milk into the yolk/matcha mixture. Ensure that you whisk continuously as you add the cream, and add only a little at a time to slowly bring up the temperature. If you add the cream all at once, it’ll cook the yolks and scrambled eggs with matcha is not the goal.
Pour the mixture into ramekins evenly and remove the bubbles on top.
Place the ramekins into a roasting pan and pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake just until the crème brûlée is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes.
Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan, let cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
When the crème brûlée has been cooled, sprinkle white sugar on top and caramelize the sugar using a blow torch.


Monday, April 2, 2012

S'more Cupcakes

My birthday is coming up in a few days, and I was craving a fun and tasty treat.  Time for cupcakes, obviously!  I'd found that a local cupcake place we enjoy had published a recipe of theirs online.  This S'more Cupcake is a favorite of mine, so I was thrilled there was a recipe and that I could give it a try.  And, there was another reason to utilize my kitchen torch.  Awesome.

A fun component to this recipe is the graham cracker bottom/crust with a bit of chocolate melted on top.

After that's baked a bit, you pour in the cupcake batter.  The recipe said it made 24 cupcakes, but it actually made 30 for us!

And then, my favorite part - frosting!

After doing some typical swirls, I tried a more traditional meringue look, and loved it. 

Also provides some good spikes for the torch to...well....torch.

They look like they'd be difficult, but they really were not, at all.  A beautiful and tasty cupcake!

Fiance and friend approved - can't wait to share them with my coworkers!

Chocolate Graham Cracker and Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes

From Trophy Cupcakes as seen on: Martha Stewart
Makes 2 dozen (ours made 30, actually)

* 2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 large eggs
* 1 cup whole milk
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil
* 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* 1 cup boiling water
* 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 squares) - might be helpful to have an extra 1/2 cup for the topping
* 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
* 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
* Marshmallow Frosting


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners; set aside.
2. Sift 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix ingredients together on low speed.
3. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl and continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add boiling water and stir to combine; set cake batter aside.
4. Place graham cracker crumbs, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and melted butter in a large bowl; stir until well combined.
5. Place 1 tablespoon graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Use the bottom of a small glass to pack crumbs into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Reserve remaining graham cracker mixture for topping.
6. Place 2 teaspoons chocolate in each muffin cup. Transfer muffin tins to oven and bake until the edges of the graham cracker mixture is golden, about 5 minutes (watch carefully so the chocolate doesn't burn!). Remove from oven and fill each muffin cup three-quarters full with cake batter. Sprinkle each with remaining chocolate and graham cracker mixture. Return to oven and bake, rotating pans halfway through baking, until tops are firm and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer muffin tins to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely.
7. Transfer frosting (recipe below) to a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain round or French tip (such as Ateco #867 or Ateco #809). OR, if you're cheap like me, feel free to use a Ziploc bag!  Pipe frosting in a spiral motion on each cupcake, and add little spikes if you like. Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet. Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the frosting, taking care not to burn the cupcake liners. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container, up to 2 days.

Marshmallow frosting

Makes enough for 2 dozen cupcakes

* 8 large egg whites
* 2 cups sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
* 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


1. Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined. Use immediately.