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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Other recent recipe tests

Two from Cook's Illustrated Jan/Feb 2010 issue:
Hearty Minestrone

Table salt
1/2 lb dried cannellini beans
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
3 oz pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 medium celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 C)
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 C)
2 small onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 C)
1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 C)
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed (about 2 t)
1/2 small head green cabbage, halved, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 C) (I substituted lacinato kale here)
pinch red pepper flakes
8 C water
2 C low-sodium chicken broth (I used homemade)
1 piece rind of Parmigiano Reggiano, about 2x5 inches (this is too much! Half this much would have been better)
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 C V8 juice (I used Knudsen's Very Veggie)
1/2 C chopped fresh basil (forgot to put this in!)
freshly-ground black pepper
grated Parmesan for serving

1. Dissolve 1 1/2 T salt in 2 qts cold water in large bowl or pot. Add beans and soak at room temperature for 8-24 hours. Drain and rinse well.

Now, I had issues with my beans. After all this soaking time (probably at least 12 hours), some beans had plumped up, but others were almost exactly the same size they had started out. I don't know if this was because the beans were too old (they were newly purchased, but may have been sitting in the bulk bin for a while, who knows?), but it made the cooking time for the beans enough longer than I had planned that the soup had to be served the following night for dinner instead (I think we filled in with Taco Bell). Annoying. Next time I'll monitor the soaking beans more closely, stirring and checking during the soaking time.
2. Heat oil and pancetta in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 3-5 minutes. Add celery, carrot, onion, and zucchini; cook, stirring frequently, until veggies are softened and starting to brown, 5-9 minutes. Stir in garlic, cabbage (/kale), 1/2 t salt, and red pepper flakes; cook until cabbage (/kale) starts to wilt, 1-2 minutes more. Transfer veggies to plate and set aside.

3. Add soaked beans, water, broth, cheese rind, and bay leaf to same pot and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and vigorously simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are fully tender and liquid is starting to thicken, 45-60 minutes.

I simmered vigourously, and even the beans that hadn't plumped up during soaking did eventually become tender, but it took more like two hours, and the liquid never got appreciably thicker. Grr.
4. Add reserved veggies and V8 juice to pot; simmer until veggies are soft, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf and cheese rind, stir in chopped basil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzle of EVOO and grated Parmesan.

The final product was pretty tasty, though overly cheesy because I used as much Parmesan rind as they called for, and probably because I simmered that huge chunk of cheese rind for twice as long as contemplated in the original recipe. Mavis and I liked it just fine, but none of the kids would really eat it.

The other trial was a much more unqualified success:
Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

[I made this without any lemon at all--I didn't want anything to detract from the almond-cheesy goodness.]

Lemon Sugar-Almond Topping
1/4 C sugar
1 1/2 t finely grated lemon zest
1/2 C sliced almonds

Mash sugar and lemon zest together in a small bowl until the sugar is somewhat moistened. Stir in almonds. (Next time--since I'll almost surely never make it with the lemon--I'll figure out some way of adding moisture to the sugar, maybe a teaspoon of softened butter. Without any moisture the sugar just sits on top of the cake and falls off when you invert the pan to get the cake out.)

1 1/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/8 t baking powder
1 1/8 t baking soda
1 t table salt
10 T unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 C plus 7 T sugar
1 T finely grated zest plus 4 t juice from 1-2 lemons
4 large eggs
5 t vanilla extract (or 4, plus 1 t almond extract if you're leaving the lemon out)
1 1/4 C sour cream
8 oz cream cheese, softened

1. Spray 10-inch tube pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl and set aside. In stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter, 1 C plus 2 T sugar, and lemon zest at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Add 4 t vanilla (or 3 plus 1 t almond extract) and mix to combine. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients in three additions and sour cream in two, alternating dry and wet ingredients, mixing after each addition until incorporated. Remove bowl from stand and mix in any unincorporated flour with a few strokes of the spatula.

2. Scoop out 1 1/4 C batter and set aside. Spoon remaining batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Return empty bowl to mixer stand and beat cream cheese, remaining 5 T sugar, lemon juice, and remaining t vanilla on medium speed until smooth and lightened, about 1 minute. Add 1/4 C reserved batter and mix until incorporated. Spoon evenly over batter in baking pan, staying one inch away from sides of pan. Smooth top. Spread remaining reserved batter over the top and smooth. Gently swirl batter in a figure-8 motion using a butter knife, being careful not to push filling to edges of pan. Bang pan on counter 2-3 times to dislodge bubbles. Sprinkle sugar-almond topping evenly over top and press gently to adhere.

3. Bake until top is golden and just firm, and skewer inserted into cake part comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Remove pan from oven and bang on counter again to release air around filling. Cool cake in pan on wire rack 1 hour. Carefully double-invert cake, using a rimmed dish or plate, ending up with it back on the wire rack to cool completely for about 1 1/2 hours. Cut into slices and serve.

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Blogger The Laundry Queen said...

Just curious... how do you "spring" the topping on the coffee cake? If I can figure that out, I might just make it. Sounds good.

February 27, 2010 at 7:18 PM  
Blogger janeannechovy said...

Ha! And I can't even blame that one on the narcotics.

February 27, 2010 at 7:28 PM  

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