Almond Cherry Cake

[Almond Cherry Cake]Searching for a suitable dessert to make for Easter Dinner at my mom’s house is a delicious challenge. While most of us enjoy a chocolate whatever-you-bake special dinners are a chance do something different. I had some cherries in the freezer that I wanted to do something with. An hour lost to the Internet provided several options. In the end I opted for this lovely creation on the right.

Notes under the cut

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Hard-boiled Eggs, revisited

Aside

For decades I have made hard-boiled eggs the same way. Eggs in cold water, place on burner, bring to a boil, turn off burner, set timer to 20, no, 15, no, 13 minutes, cool quickly with running water, try to remove shells. Some eggs came out fine, most were a bit pock-marked where shell stuck. Often an egg was mangled badly enough that I couldn’t use it for deviled eggs. So often that I regularly cooked an extra egg.

I read/heard/saw a test of hard-boiled egg cooking methods and steam followed by an ice bath was deemed to provide the easiest removed shells. I gave it a try and I’m a convert. 9 eggs cooked; 9 eggs easily shelled.

Hard-boiled Eggs, revisited
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: none
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 3 cups ice

Special equipment:

Directions:

  1. Place the steamer basket in a large saucepan. Add water so that the bottom of the steamer basket is just above the water. Cover and place over high heat.
  2. When the water comes to a boil carefully add the eggs and recover. Reduce the heat to medium-low; you want to maintain steam but you don’t need a vigorous boil for that. Set a timer for 13 minutes and walk away.
  3. About a minute before the timer goes off place the ice in a large bowl and add 3 cups of cold water to create an ice bath.
  4. When the timer goes off use a pot holder or tongs to lift the steamer basket. Slide the eggs into the ice bath. Set the timer for 15 minutes and walk away.
  5. Crack the eggs against a hard surface and peel away the shell. Enjoy with a little sea salt or use for deviled eggs. You could even get fancy by making Beet Pickled Deviled Eggs.

Notes:
I think the credit goes to America’s Test Kitchen though whether it was in a magazine, one of their TV shows or on the radio I don’t know.

Meringue Cookies

These cookies are based on a childhood memory of Christmas gatherings at my aunt’s house. It was a potluck affair and another aunt always brought a cookie assortment. There would always be 4 or 5 meringue cookies, usually with chocolate chips inside, in the box. I probably ate 95% of the meringues present because I thought they were just so good.

Meringue Cookies

Meringue Cookies
Servings: 5 dozen cookies
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 75 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 135g egg whites (about 4 eggs)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups of a mix of mini chocolate chips, mini cinnamon chips and raspberry jammy bits

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line 4 baking sheet pans with Silpat or parchment.
  2. To the bowl of a stand mixer add the egg whites, salt, cream of tarter and vanilla. Beat on low for about 30 second to combine then incrase speed to medium or higher. Beat until the frothy egg whites turn into a thickening white meringue, about 2 minutes.
  3. With the mixer on medium-low gradually add the sugar. Increase the mixer speed and continue to whip until the meringue has gone from shiny to dull white.
  4. Carefully fold in the chips & bits with a spatula. Do not beat at the meringue or it will deflate.
  5. Using 2 teaspoons (the dining utensils, not the measuring spoons) scoop our a heaping spoonful of meringue and use the second spoon to transfer it to the baking sheet. You can fit 12-15 meringues per sheet.
  6. Bake two baking sheets at a time for a total of 30 minutes, swapping sheet locations and rotating the sheets 180 degrees half way through baking.
  7. Move the finished cookies to a cooling rack, leaving the cookies on the baking sheet to cool. Bake the second batch of cookies at this point.
  8. Meringues should cool completely in 30 minutes.

Notes:
While I used a mix of add-ins you could use all mini chocolate chips or just about any small morsel of tastiness.  I prefer the “mini” variety of chips.  These are small cookies and full-sized chocolate chips overtakes the meringue.

You can check that you’ve reached the desired stage by stopping the mixer and removing the beater. Invert the beater; if the meringue is at the correct stage it should stand up without moving.

I used two recipes as references in creating this recipe: the first is from gimme some oven and the second was from FoodTV.

Beet-Pickled Deviled Eggs

While trying to come up with the menu for Christmas Eve dinner I came across a suggestion of deviled eggs as a party appetizer. This is nothing new, I’ve been making deviled eggs for probably as long as I’ve been cooking for friends. They are easy and generally well liked.

So in and of themselves they weren’t a fit for the menu. However I saw a suggestion of using a pickled egg as the basis for the dish and that intrigued me. We love us some beets in this house so a beet pickled deviled egg seemed fun and a bit different. And I think they look quite extraordinary.

[Beet Pickled Egg]Beet Pickled Deviled Egg

Recipe under the cut

Roasted red pepper, potato and chicken frittata

Hot nights call for minimal time in the kitchen and one of the fastest meals I know how to make is a frittata. Think of it as a large omelet without the folding. While we did heat the oven up to finish it off we spent maybe 30 minutes in the kitchen tops before we retreated to the relative coolness of the basement.

You’ll want a non-stick pan that is oven safe to at least 350°F. It is possible to convince a frittata to come out of a regular skillet however it requires the use of more oil and a lot of patient spatula work. We recently bought a T-fal non-stick skillet from their Professional line and have been very happy with it. It was “highly recommended” by the folks at Cook’s Illustrated and fairly inexpensive for a piece of cookware.

Roasted red pepper, potato and chicken frittata
Servings: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, rough chopped (about 1 cup total)
  • 1 lb. red potatoes
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, rough diced
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped mixed fresh herbs (we used a mix of thyme, parsley, lavender and tarragon from the garden)
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. The rack should be in the middle of the oven.
  2. Roast the red peppers. We do this using the burners of our gas cook top. Place the pepper astride the burner, light it and cook each side until it is blackened. When all sides are charred place the peppers in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10-15 minutes. This will give the peppers time to soften from the steam released by the peppers. When peppers are cool to the touch rinse under running water to remove the charred skin. Remove the top (it should pull off easily) and rinse out the seeds. I finished the prep by slicing these into 1/4″ strips.
  3. While the peppers cool you can prep the potatoes. Give them a scrub and then slice them fairly thin. I think we used a 3/8″ slice on a mandolin. Place them in a microwave safe bowl with 1 Tbsp. water and cook on high for 5 minutes. This will help speed the cooking process in the skillet.
  4. In a bowl combine the eggs, remaining water, the chopped herbs, a large pinch of salt and black pepper. Mix with a fork or whisk to incorporate some air into the mixture.
  5. When all the prep work is complete add the oil to the skillet and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3-5 minutes to begin softening them.
  6. Add the potatoes and spread over the surface of the skillet. Cook for a couple of minutes then stir. Repeat the process until the potatoes begin to soften as well. They should get a bit of color during the process.
  7. Add the roasted red pepper strips and diced chicken. Toss to combine and heat for about 1 minute.
  8. Give the eggs a quick stir and add them to the skillet. Give the skillet a quick shake to evenly distribute the contents. Reduce the heat to medium low and let it sit for 5 minutes. When the edges start to appear a bit dry you are ready to move to the oven.
  9. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the top of the frittata and transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on skillet. You want the eggs to have a bit of wobble left when you remove it from the oven.
  10. Remove the skillet from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. If you have lived a good and true life the frittata will slide right out of the skillet onto a large plate or cutting board.

Notes:
We ate the frittata as is this go around. In the past we’ve had it with a side salad, served it with a bit of salsa and even wrapped it in a piece of flat bread as a sandwich. I prefer mine hot or room temperature however it is also tasty as leftovers. Frittata “croutons” make an interesting addition to a salad.

In the past I have cooked this outside using the gas grill, closing the grill at the end to mimic the oven. It works rather well though you have to be mindful of the temp the grill gets to.

I used the last of the grilled boneless chicken breast that I cooked up last week in this recipe.

Baked Huevos Rancheros

I saw a recipe somewhere earlier this week for a baked huevos rancheros and it sounded pretty tasty. I forgot to bookmark it and couldn’t find it later so I made one up using a few I found online.

Bake Huevos Rancheros

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. chorizo, cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) kidney beans, well rinsed
  • 1 jalapenos pepper, finely diced
  • 1 cup caramelized onions
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • salt & cracked black pepper
  • jarred salsa
  • 2 eggs
  • shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place 2 oven proof dishes on a sheet pan and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan saute the chorizo over medium heat for several minutes until some of the oil is released.  Add the chopped jalapenos and cook for until aromatic.
  3. Add the caramelized onions, kidney beans, cumin, and about a 1/2 a cup of water.  Stir thorough to mix the onions among the beans.
  4. When the pot comes to a boil lower heat to maintain a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.  Add salt & pepper to taste.
  5. When the beans are cooked split them between the 2 oven proof dishes.
  6. Spread salsa over the beans.
  7. Make a depression in the center of the beans and crack an egg into each dish.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes, rotating the pan once.
  9. Turn on the broiler and sprinkle the cheese over each dish.  Broil for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling.

Serve with sour cream, additional salsa if desired and tortilla chips.