May 31, 2008

Saag Paneer

1 cup paneer, cubed
16 oz frozen, defrosted spinach (or 8 oz each spinach and mustard greens)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic
1 green chile, diced
2 inch knob ginger, sliced into matchsticks
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon amchur powder
1/2 teaspoon asofoetida
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon

canola oil

In a large skillet, saute the onion, ginger, chile and garlic until fragrant and soft in a small amount of canola oil. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they begin to pop. Add the rest of the spices, spinach, water, lemon juice cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the paneer and yogurt and cook until the paneer is warmed through.

My thoughts:

There are as many ways to make saag paneer (or its cousin, palak paneer, which is made with just spinach) as there are Indian restaurants but the beautiful thing about making it at home is that you can tweak the spices to your liking. You can chop the onions, garlic and ginger or make a paste with them or slice them as I did here. You can leave out the mustard seeds or not. You can add some yogurt or even cream to bring out the creaminess in the greens or leave it out entirely. Every time I have it out, it is slightly different. For this recipe, I combined the elements and textures I've enjoyed the most. I made this for my husband's birthday (as per his request) and it was pretty quick and simple to make, especially since I thought ahead and made the paneer the day before. Of course, you can use store-bought paneer or even tofu (and if you also leave out the yogurt it would be vegan) instead and it would fine.

Quick note: I find that using frozen spinach and mustard greens (when available) is not only cheaper, but just as tasty as using fresh, as you will be cooking the greens for a long time and don't need a crisp texture.

May 30, 2008

Porcini Mushroom Dry Rubbed Steak

2 Delmonico steaks

for the dry rub:
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms, ground to small bits
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika

Stir all of the dry rub ingredients together.

Rub into both sides of each steak.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours before grilling.

Cook on high or on the hottest part of your grill for about 3 minutes on each side or until the internal temperature is one of the following: Rare Steak – 125, Medium-Rare Steak – 130 – 135, Medium Steak – 140 – 145, Medium-Well Steak – 150 – 155, Well-Done Steak – 160.

Note: The steak may continue to cook for few minutes after removal from the grill, adding up to an additional 5 or 10 degrees of doness.

My thoughts:

my grill friday

Welcome to the first week of My Grill Friday! Check back each Friday until Labor Day for more grill related recipes covering a variety of cuisines.

When you have a good steak, you don't need a marinade to tenderize it but some times it is nice to add a little extra flavor. Dry rubs are the perfect solution. The flavor really permeates the meat as it cooks, and while the dominate flavor remains the steak it just has this hint of savory spices and mushrooms in the background.

And now a little bit about those steaks:

You all know how much I love to eat locally and seasonally as much as possible. So imagine how excited I was when Roseda Beef contacted me wanting to know if I wanted to try some of their natural dry aged beef that comes from cattle raised right here in Maryland (and also in DE, PA & VA). All of their products are from Black Angus cattle that were fed a vegetarian diet and have no added hormones. It was perfect timing because we were just delivered our new grill the day before and were dying to try it out. Anyway, by that very night I was the proud owner of a variety of steaks and steakburgers. We made the steaks right away, and let me tell you, they were the juiciest, most flavorful steaks I've ever made. They melted in your mouth. So good. I am sorry they are gone!

May 28, 2008


1/2 gallon whole milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice

In a heavy saucepan, bring milk to a boil. Watch it carefully because once it starts to bubble and look frothy, it is almost at boiling. It will then to rise very quickly as it begins to boil, make sure it doesn't boil over. Remove from heat.

Add lemon juice and stir until curds start to separate from the whey, about 2-3 minutes.

Cover and let sit 10-15 minutes until large curds form, then pour into a cheesecloth lined colander.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze out any remaining liquid. Place the cheesecloth covered paneer on a plate. Top with another plate and use the palm of you hand to flatten the cheese to 1/2 inch thick. Weigh the plate down with cans.

Allow it to sit at least 20 minutes or until firm enough to cut without it falling apart or crumbling. Pour off any liquid that remains.*

Refrigerate overnight or eat immediately.

*Alternately, tie the ends of the cheesecloth together and hang on a hook over a bowl or on the faucet over the kitchen sink to drain, then press into a firm patty. This can take up to five hours.

My thoughts:
Paneer, a soft unaged cheese used in Indian cooking, is a great introduction to cheese making. It is fairly quick to do and as a bonus, doesn't require any extra equipment or special ingredients. It is most often made with cow's milk but it is not unheard of to make it with goat's milk or even buffalo milk. This recipe yields a modest amount of paneer-between 1 1/2-2 cups depending on how many curds form-but can easily be doubled. Paneer is great to cook with as it doesn't melt during the cooking process. If you've never had it, the closest thing in texture I can think of would be firm tofu, queso blanco or a young, firm goat cheese. The long it is pressed, the more solid it will become. My favorite ways to eat it include saag paneer, palak paneer and koftas.

Note: While I called for whole milk, 2% can be used but I find the yield is sometimes less.

May 26, 2008

Hamburger Rolls

2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 oz active dry yeast

for the egg wash
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water

to sprinkle:
sesame or poppy seeds

Stir together the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour and yeast. Pour in the milk mixture and stir until the dough starts to come together, adding more water of the mixture looks dry or more flour if the mixture looks wet. If you have a stand mixer, use the dough hook to mix for about 8 minutes. If not, knead the dough on a floured surface for about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl. Cover with a towel and wait until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down the dough and divide into 6* even portions. Make tight balls out of the dough by pulling the dough towards the bottom and gently stretching until a ball with a smooth top forms. Place seam-side down on a baking stone or metal baking sheet. I actually just used my silipat and baking sheet. Allow the rolls to sit for a minute. Flatten each dough ball with your hand or the back of a large spatula until it is about 3 to 4 inches wide. Cover the rolls with the towel again and set aside until they have just about doubled in size, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400. Whisk together the water and yolk to make the egg wash. Brush onto the tops of the rolls. Sprinkle with seeds. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown on both the top and the bottom and when tapped, they sound hollow. Allow to cool, then slice.

*If you want extra large rolls, divide into fourths.

Yield: six rolls big enough to each accommodate a large hamburger. The recipe can easily be doubled.

My thoughts:
Why go through the trouble of making delicious sandwiches and burgers when you don't have a great bun to serve them on? Making your own is a somewhat lengthy process but 95% of the time is completely hands off and you can spend the downtime getting everything else ready. This recipe is a snap to put together; even a yeast novice could handle it. It really is worth the little bit of extra effort to make your own hamburger rolls, they taste so much better than store bought (which are frequently sweetened with HFCS) and while they are light and fluffy inside, they have a sturdy crust that can stand up to the wettest, messiest filling. Not to mention how impressed people will be once you tell them you made your own hamburger buns!

Making sausages or subs? I've got a roll for that too.

May 23, 2008

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup milk
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons root beer extract*

vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour 12 wells in a cupcake pan. Whisk together the root beer extract and milk. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg, mix thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder and salt to the butter mixture. Pour the milk into rest of the batter and beat until well combined. Fill each well 2/3 of the way full. Bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with just one or two dry crumbs. Cool briefly in the pan, then remove cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely before topping with a scoop of vanilla ice cream right before serving. Eat immediately.

* I used Zatarain's Root Beer Extract extract (available for purchase here). It's affordable and tasty. Fun fact: root beer was actually the first product sold under the Zatarain's name back in 1889.

My thoughts:
I have had the idea for root beer float cupcakes floating around in my head for ages but it wasn't until Stef announced her ice cream cupcake round-up that I really put the idea in motion. The fact that I had some ice cream soda print cupcake liners, was the icing on the er, cupcake.

I have seen some recipes for root beer cupcakes or cake that call for actual root beer in the batter, but I worried that the flavor would be diluted during baking. I know when I developed the recipe for cuba libre cupcakes I ended up with a cupcake where while you could still taste the coke, the flavor wasn't super strong. Of course for the cuba libre cupcake, a strong cola flavor wasn't needed because I was going for a balance with the other flavors. For a root beer float cupcake, however, there needed to have a clear root beer flavor in the cake. So I turned to the root beer extract I use to make individual glasses of homemade root beer (using homemade club soda) and it worked wonderfully. It has such an authentic root beer flavor, you almost expect bubbles. Another added benefit of using the extract versus the actual soda is that the extract is unsweetened so you have greater control over how sweet the cupcakes end up. Using soda in baked goods is tricky if you don't want something super sweet because if you are using a butter based recipe, you still need to add at least some sugar to cream the butter with and oil based cakes don't have the texture I was looking for-moist with a soft crumb but sturdy enough to support a scoop of ice cream. This cupcake is sweet but not overly so, the focus is on the root beer.

I think these would be great to serve at a party or cookout because you don't have to worry about icing them and they transport so well. Just bake them ahead of time and have the ice cream ready to scoop when you serve.

May 22, 2008

You Can't Stop The Beet Potato Salad

2 lb potato, cubed
1 lb roasted beets
2 cups chopped beet greens
1 onion, diced
2 slices thick cut bacon

2 tablespoons grainy deli mustard
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, grated
pinch sugar

Cube beets. Whisk together all of the ingredients of the dressing together, set aside. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until tender but not crumbly. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Drain on paper towel lined plates and crumble. Drain all but 1 teaspoon of bacon drippings out of the pan and saute the onion until just softened. Drain the potatoes and immediately toss with beets, onions, bacon and beet greens. Add the dressing and toss to evenly distribute. Serve hot or cold.

Quick note: Beets are in season this time of year, so it should be easy to find beets with healthy leaves still attached. Avoid beets with wilted or bruised leaves.

My thoughts:
It's been unseasonably cold and rainy all month here in Baltimore, so I have been doing more dreaming of picnics than actually having them. As soon as the weather warms up a bit, this salad is going back on the menu.

This salad takes its inspiration from the classic German potato salad but elevates it to a whole new level with the addition of beets and greens. It just might be a little healthier too; less frying, more vegetables. Now the beets do pretty much color everything with their juices which might be off-putting to some but the flavor isn't overwhelmingly beet-y; the potatoes and greens provide the needed balance. The dressing is wonderfully tart yet slightly sweet and really brings out the roasted beet flavor and the smokiness of the bacon.

May 18, 2008

Mojo Pork Chops

5 cloves garlic, grated
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and minced
3/4 cup sour orange juice*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano

3 or 4 thick cut, boneless pork chops
2 tablespoons olive oil

Whisk all of the ingredients to the marinade together. Pour over pork chops and marinate for 2-6 hours. Heat oil in a large skillet. Drain pork and reserve marinade. Add pork to skillet and cook about 5 minutes on each side. Make sure they are completely cooked through. Remove the chops to a plate and cover. Add marinade to the skillet and bring to a boil until it reduces to a glaze, about 2 minutes. Drizzle over pork chops before serving.

*Available bottled at most well-stocked grocery stores. Substitute fresh sour orange juice or a 50/50 combo of orange and lime juice.

My thoughts:
Best pork chops ever! Simple, but so juicy and full of flavor. I bet they would be good out on the grill as well, but we just ordered a grill and it hasn't arrived yet so I did the skillet method. If you are not a sauce person, feel free to leave it off, the pork has plenty of flavor as-is.

May 16, 2008

Chipotle Spinach Artichoke Dip

4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
4 oz defrosted frozen artichoke hearts, chopped
3/4 cup frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained*
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 shallots, sliced
2 chipotle chiles in adobo with 1 teaspoon of the adobe sauce
1 tablespoon key lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a food processor, blend together the cream cheese, sour cream, mayo, shallots, lime juice, chipotle, and adobo sauce until very smooth. Stir in spinach, artichokes until just combined. Serve chilled.

*This should yield a packed 1/4 cup of defrosted chopped spinach.

My thoughts:
I think this might be my new favorite dip. The chipotle adds just the right amount of smoky spice and it is so packed with spinach and artichokes, it's like getting in an extra serving of vegetables. It's a perfect accompaniment for all the fresh veggies just making their appearance at the farmers' market. I also enjoyed it with sesame and pumpernickel pretzel sticks and as a topping on a baked potato.

Quick note: For this recipe, good quality reduced fat sour cream and cream cheese would work just fine.

May 14, 2008

Strawberry-Basil Granita

4 cups fresh, whole strawberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup (loose) fresh basil

Bring the water, sugar and basil to boil in a medium sauce pan. Boil, stirring occasionally until it reduces slightly and thickens to a light syrup. Strain and cool. Add to strawberries and blend until smooth in a blender. Pour mixture into 13x9 metal pan. Place in the freezer and freeze for 20 minutes. Rake any frozen areas with a fork, return to freezer for 20 minutes, then rake again. Re-freeze for 30 minutes, then rake with a fork before serving. It should look flaky and granular-not frozen solid. Store any leftovers in a freezer safe air-tight container in the freezer.

My thoughts:

I love making granita* because not only is it quick and easy (no ice cream maker required) but it is a great way to use up fruit that is on the urge of going bad. I had rather a lot of strawberries leftover from cupcake making and there was no way the two of us were going to be able to eat them before they spoilt. Enter the granita. It took about 5 minutes to mix together and now I have a fruit-packed, slightly herbal frozen treat that will keep longer in the freezer than the berries would have on my counter. The strawberries are fresh tasting and the basil keeps it from being too sweet.

*The difference between sorbet and granita is mostly a matter of technique. Sorbets are churned using a gelato or ice cream maker and the granita has a coarser texture as a result of being frozen in a sheet and raked with a fork. Sorbets can also contain egg whites (although not milk, that would make it sherbet) and granitas are a strickly a water-sugar-flavor affair.

May 12, 2008

Strawberry-Thyme Cupcakes

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup milk
3 large strawberries, mashed (with juices)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature
3 sprigs thyme leaves, lightly crushed
zest of 1 small lemon

lemon thyme frosting

Allow the thyme to seep in the milk for at least 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour 6 wells in a cupcake pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and zest then mix thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder and salt to the butter mixture. Strain the milk into a small bowl and mix it into the strawberries. Add the mixture the rest of the batter and mix until well combined. Fill each well 2/3 of the way full. Bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with just one or two dry crumbs. Cool briefly in the pan, then remove cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely before icing with lemon thyme frosting.

My thoughts:
There have been several times when I have thought that Stef (of Cupcake Project fame) and I might be secretly related. Or that at the very least, we are transmitting some sort of subliminal signals to each other. How else to explain that we have both come up with several of the same concepts (absinthe cupcakes! Kentucky Derby cupcakes! winter Starbucks inspired cupcakes! our favorite versions of chocolate cream cheese frosting among others) with very different recipes just days apart? We finally decided to take this to the next level: we would both deliberately make cupcakes using the same ingredient (thyme) and post the results on the same day. Now, we didn't know what the other one was doing with the thyme or what the other ingredients might be, just that thyme had to be a star ingredient. I wasn't sure what I was going to make until I saw some impossible to resist and extremely-early-for-Baltimore strawberries for sale and decided to make a strawberry-thyme cupcake topped with a lemon-thyme icing as thyme pairs well with both citrus and berries. The result: edible Spring! Fluffy strawberry and thyme infused cupcakes with fluffy and not too sweet icing makes for possibly the the lightest and freshest flavored cupcakes I've ever made. Not terribly sweet, these are more on the adult side of the cupcake family but they are definitely not muffins. I love the bits of strawberry that are found throughout the cake and the thyme is a perfect counterpart to its fruitiness.

As a side note, the song "Time after Time" (both the Cyndi Lauper and unfortunately, the Paul Anka version) has been stuck in my head for days while I worked on these thyme-centric recipes. I can only hope that you are not similarly afflicted, Stef.

Check out Stef's thyme cupcake here.

Lemon-Thyme Frosting

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
5 sprigs thyme
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
zest of one lemon
pinch salt

Beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks using an electric mixer. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring sugar, thyme, zest and water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil until it reaches soft ball stage (when a drop of the syrup forms a soft ball when dropped in cool water)while continuing to stir occasionally. Strain and discard the zest and thyme. Keep the mixer running (you need a stand mixer or a friend to complete this next step safely) while you pour a continues stream of the molten syrup into the egg whites. Continue to beat for about 5 minutes, adding lemon juice after about two minutes, or until the frosting is fluffy, glossy and cool. Frost cooled cupcakes or cake.

My thoughts:
A lemon and thyme infused satiny fluffy icing. Boiling the thyme, lemon and sugar together really infuses the icing with a true to life flavor that would be hard to replicate in other forms of icing. I'd almost call this frosting sophisticated, the kids might like it but it definitely has a grown up vibe. I used it to frost cupcakes, but I think it would also be good on an old-fashioned layer cake. My husband thinks it is so good, he's been sneaking spoonfuls of the leftovers and eating it straight out of the bowl.

May 09, 2008

Spiced Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

6 oz semisweet chips
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature*

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg, beat until fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, the spices and oatmeal. Mix until well combined. Fold in chips. Place tablespoon sized blobs of dough on the lined cookie sheet about 1/2 inch apart and bake for 12-14 minutes or until they look "set" and the bottoms are just golden. Carefully remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

*This was my first time baking with Eggland's Best eggs which have less cholesterol, more omega 3s and vitamin E (among other health benefits). I was pleased with how they turned out, they tasted and acted the same as my usual eggs so why not add a little extra nutrition?

My thoughts:
I woke up to a cool and dreary day today so it seemed like a perfect excuse to whip up a batch of cookies. These are chewy, spice-kissed and full of chocolate.Make them today!

May 08, 2008

Dumpling Inspired Chicken Burgers

1lb ground chicken
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons black sesame oil
1 tablespoon shaoxing wine
1/4 cup panko
1 inch knob ginger, grated
2 shallots, grated
white pepper

In medium bowl, combine all ingredients with a light hand. If the mixture is very wet, add more panko. Shape into four patties. Grill or cook in a large skillet for about 5 minutes on each side. If they are on the thick side, cover the skillet for part of the cooking time to help them cook through. Serve hot on rolls.

My thoughts:
I hesitated posting this because it wasn't very photogenic and I couldn't think of a good name to call it but they were so good I couldn't resist. These are the juiciest, most flavorful chicken burgers I've ever had. Chicken burgers have the tendency to be dry and breast meat isn't always the most flavorful but this burger really works. The ginger and shallot give it a fresh flavor and I am betting that the sesame oil, in addition to being tasty, really sealed the juices in. Perfect for a light Spring meal and they took less than 20 minutes to make.

May 06, 2008

Numbing Hot Shrimp with Chinese Broccoli


for the sauce:
2 teaspoon palm sugar
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
2 teaspoons black vinegar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon black sesame oil
1 teaspoon shaoxing

everything else:
1 lb Chinese Broccoli, cut into manageable pieces
1 lb peeled medium sized shrimp
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 inch knob ginger, grated
2 shallots, minced
1 tablespoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
2 tablespoons canola oil
10 dried Chinese red chilies, cut in half and seeds discarded
5 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and sliced thinly

to serve:
hot white rice

Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Heat the oil in a wok or skillet. When the oil is hot add the chiles and peppercorns and stir-fry for a few seconds until they are fragrant, breaking the peppercorns a bit with the back of a spoon. Next, add the shallot, rehydrated mushrooms, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry for an additional minute. Add the shrimp and vegetables and stir-fry for a few minutes. When the shrimp is almost fully cooked, pour in the sauce and stir-fry, taking care that the sauce is evenly distributed, until the shrimp is fully cooked and pink.

My thoughts:
Sichuan (AKA Szechwan, Szechuan) peppercorns, are the last culinary coup around these parts. Finally located* after many, many months of searching local shops, I finally got to experiment with them. While they may be called "peppercorns", it is a bit of a misnomer as they are actually the outer pod (the seeds are removed) of a fruit and aren't related to chiles or pepper. They are used in many spicy dishes but they are not what is generally thought of as hot and don't have a pungent aroma like chiles. They do have sort of citrus flavor. So if they are not hot, then why are they used so frequently in spicy dishes? They have a chemical that causes an interesting tingle and numbness in the mouth that really sets off any sort of spiciness. It's not a "fresh from the dentist" numbness but sort of a subtle almost cooling, tingle in your mouth and throat. Adding the dried red chiles to the dish creates a meal that is pleasantly spicy but not burn-your-mouth hot.

*At Towson Oriental Market, for you locals. Ask at the counter for help because they look a lot like another spice, are not labled in English and the design of the packaging makes it difficult to make out their distinctive shape.

May 05, 2008

Cinco de Mango: Chicken Mango Burritos


for the beans:
15 oz canned pinto beans, drained
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 onion, minced
leave of 2 springs thyme
1 clove garlic, minced

for the chicken:
2 cups shredded poached or roasted chicken
15 oz canned diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon chipotle hot sauce
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, minced
1/2 onion, minced
1 garlic cloved, minced

for the mango salsa:
1 large mango, cubed
1/2 cup fire roasted corn*
1/3 cup diced red onion or shallot
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle
juice of one lime

the extras:
cooked white rice tossed with the juice of 1 lime
sour cream
burrito sized tortillas

For the mango salsa: toss all ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

For the chicken: Heat oil in a small saucepan. Saute the onion, pepper and garlic until fragernt. Add the tomato and hot sauce. Simmer until the liquid as evaporated. If there are very large chunks, mash them with a potato masher. Toss with shredded chicken. Set aside.

For the beans: Heat oil in a small saucepan. Saute the onion and garlic until fragernt. Add the beans and thyme. Simmer unitl the beans are heated through.

To assemble: Place a small portion of rice middle of a warm tortilla. Top with beans, chicken, sour cream and salsa. Fold the top and bottom towards the center, then wrap the sides towards the middle to close.

*Available frozen at Trader Joe's (thaw before use) or roast your own! Brush one cob with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place a skewer in one end and hold over the stove burner for 1 to 2 minutes rotating so all sides are toasty. Remove the kernels from the cob.

My thoughts:
Mango might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to burritos but maybe it should be. I wasn't sure how they would taste but they were actually really good; very fresh tasting. The fruity sweetness of the mango and roasted corn contrasts nicely with the spicy sauced chicken without any one flavor dominating. I'd also like to point out that while it looks like many individual parts, the mango salsa comes together in seconds and you can easily cook the rice, chicken and beans all at the same time.

May 02, 2008

Mint Julep Cupcakes

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup bourbon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature
3 tablespoons minced fresh mint

derby frosting

Allow the mint to seep in the milk for at least 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour 6 wells in a cupcake pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg, mix thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder and salt to the butter mixture. Strain the milk into the bowl and add the bourbon to the rest of the batter and beat until well combined. Fill each well 2/3 of the way full. Bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with just one or two dry crumbs. Cool briefly in the pan, then remove cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely before icing with derby frosting.

My thoughts:
While Baltimore is the host of one of the races in the Triple Crown, the race at Pimlico isn't linked in any way to interesting foods, drinks or genteel behavior. So I had to co-opt the Kentucky Derby where the signature drink is the mint julep and the ladies wear white dresses and giant hats in direct contrast to Baltimore's Preakness, which is more of a frat house-esque beer fest. I digress, the mint julep is a simple cocktail consisting of just mint, sugar and bourbon which lends itself perfectly to cupcake making. I decided on a cream cheese based frosting so it wasn't a total sugar fest but it is a sweet, minty and certainly very boozy cupcake.

Derby Frosting

4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon bourbon
3 drops peppermint extract
food coloring, optional

In a large bowl, beat together all ingredients until well blended. Frost on cooled cupcakes or cake.

My thoughts:
Perfect on Mint Julep Cupcakes.