popovers with black pepper, chives & parmesan

FamilyStyle Food

Last week I attended a conference for food professionals {IACP} in Portland, one of my very favorite cities for eating and living well. What a great experience – with so many people representing a huge array of expertise in the field of food and cooking, the exchange of information is amazing and energizing; I love that we all have something to learn from each other.

I found myself sitting next to pastry chef Cindy Mushet during one session. Cindy is the author of  the award-winning The Art & Soul of Baking, a big door stopper of a book. I have to admit it’s not one I invite into bed with me since it must weigh in at more than five pounds, way too unwieldy to perch on my teetering pile on the bedside table.

But the other day I needed to get busy baking something, so I flipped through it; there’s lots to learn in there, the book is full of beautiful photos and basic techniques as well as some advanced recipe variations for more adventerous bakers.

I wasn’t feeling like spending the whole day baking, so when I saw a recipe for Parmesan Herb popovers I was all in. Popovers are the best at delivering bang for the buck; minimal ingredients, time and technique but big on the “wow” factor.

FamilyStyle Food

They are also delicious. Warm out of the oven and popped into your mouth they have a crisp exterior and a soft, almost creamy interior. Popovers are commonly sweet, but I like the idea of savory ones to serve instead of  the usual rolls or bread for a dinner party. Popovers are so easy to make at the last minute, and you can flavor them however you like.

I took Cindy’s basic recipe and tweaked it by adding freshly cracked black pepper, lemon zest and some of the chives that are blooming in big clumps in my yard right now.

While my popovers rose impressively, I noticed when I cut one open that they weren’t hollow inside as popovers typically are, but had a more substance. I might have to make another batch to practice my baking science, since I’m not sure why that happened. Did I use too much flour? Don’t know, but they were still light and delicious to eat.

Popovers with Black Pepper, Chives & Parmesan

Yield: 12 popovers

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups milk
  2. 4 eggs
  3. 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  4. 2 scant cups flour (10 ounces)
  5. 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  6. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  7. 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  8. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  9. 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat a 12-cup popover pan or muffin tin with melted butter or oil.
  3. Whisk together the milk, eggs and butter in a large bowl until blended. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  4. Place the empty pan in the oven to heat for 7 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven and fill the cups evenly with the batter (this is less messy if you transfer batter to a 4 cup liquid measuring cup).
  5. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking until the popovers are deep golden brown, 15 - 18 more minutes.
  6. Cool briefly in the pan before removing and serving. You can reheat cooled popovers in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/05/popovers-with-black-pepper-chives-parmesan/

Sicilian Lifeguard Squid with Couscous

I have one thing to ask of you  – please don’t be squeamish about eating squid. I know these bottomfeeding creatures look a bit freaky with their tentacles and all, but squid deserve a more elevated place on your daily menu.

I’ve compiled a short list of good-to-know facts about these tasty cephalopods to help you in your journey toward squiddy-liciousness. Squid are:

* Cheap! They cost less per pound than seafood, poultry or red meat
* Low in fat, high in lean protein
* FAST to cook – in less than 3 minutes
* Hornier than Hugh Hefner; they have frenzied mating orgies

Mario Batali’s recipe for Two-Minute Calamari, Sicilian Lifeguard Style appears in his Babbo cookbook, which I was compelled to make the other night. I’m not clear on whether this recipe is acutally traditional in Sicily; I’m thinking Mario was going for a sexy title. He explains that pine nuts, currants, capers and chiles put a “hot and sour Arabic kiss” on the squid. Sounds good to me.

Later, I Googled around and found Melissa Clark’s version of the recipe, which turned out to be very much how I had made it, sans currants (maybe Sicilian in character, but not so appealing to me), and including spinach since I had some.

Sicilian Lifeguard Squid with Couscous

Serving Size: serves 4 - 6

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups canned diced or crushed tomatoes
  2. 3 gloves garlic
  3. Handful fresh basil leaves
  4. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 1 large shallot or small onion, thinly sliced
  6. 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  7. 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  8. 1/4 cup capers in brine, drained
  9. 1 1/2 pounds cleaned squid bodies and tentacles, sliced 1/2-inch wide
  10. 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  11. Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  12. 3 scallions, chopped
  13. 2 cups cooked Israeli pearl couscous

Instructions

  1. Puree the tomatoes, garlic and basil in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  2. Heat the oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, pine nuts and red pepper and cook until the nuts are golden, stirring frequently; about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the pan and bring to a simmer before adding the capers and squid. Cover and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, just until the squid is completely opaque. Stir in the spinach until it wilts. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed and toss in the scallions.
  4. Serve over warm couscous.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/04/sicilian-lifeguard-squid-with-couscous/

Mangoes, Strawberries and Lime – Oh My!

Okay – so this is not much of a recipe post, but more of a celebration of seasonal fruit.

We’re right on the threshold of summer and the promise of all the sweet fruit I love – plums, peaches, cherries, nectarines – is right around the corner. Cooking and eating at this time of year is all about keeping things simple, celebrating perfectly ripe, fresh food and trying to not mess it up too much.

I’m always happy to see Champagne mangoes appear in markets in late spring. “Champagne” is a sexy marketing name, the variety is actually an Ataulfo or Manila mango from Mexico. The flesh is super sweet and has almost zero fiber – to me this readily available fruit is as close as I can get to mango heaven without having to move to the tropics.