Sunday, August 31, 2008

Recipe: Healthy Banana Bran Muffins

I live in Louisiana and while there are many reasons to make this a great place to live, the climate is not one of them. Specially on this day as we all await the arrival of hurricane Gustav. Yesterday I had lunch with friends- ok...drinks with friends while all the men where at the football game- yes on the eve of this category 5 storm LSU is still playing football at 10 am in the morning (insane!). That's the south for you- sort of the the last hurrah before the storm. We were all talking about what provisions we needed to compile for the weeks ahead since it is pretty much unknown what the effect of the storm will be. The funny thing was that every single one of our provision lists began with wine or beer...I guess we all know we will soon be stranded and having house parties will be our only source of entertainment.

So this morning I set out to get gas, wine, bread and water. The only bread available at the store was raisin bread, water was a plenty and wine was not sold until after 11 am!!! I still don't understand the reasoning behind that law. After spending half the day in a frenzy doing all this- gas was available but gas cans were not...not so good for my generator situation- maybe this is why I should have done all this on Thursday. Anyhow, now I'm home baking...the stress reliever, it's not actually the storm I'm stressed about though. Yesterday I had an abrupt career change- yup am sort of jobless and amazingly enough not too worried about it. I tend to land on my feet and do have the comfort of knowing that things in my life do tend to work themselves out for the best.

Now to the point of the post- the banana muffins. After all this is a food blog. They are the healthy version, quite moist due to the ratio of bananas and full of whole grains and bran. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Banana Bran Muffins

1 cup unprocessed wheat bran
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1- 3/4 cups mashed banana (about 4-5 small bananas)
1-1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Mix bran, flours, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk to combine.

2. In a medium bowl combine buttermilk, sugar, egg, canola oil, mashed bananas and vanilla. Whisk well until thoroughly combined.

3. Pour buttermilk mixture into bowl with flour and stir with a spoon gently- only to barely combine. Do not over mix- that is what makes muffins tough!

Spoon into muffin tins filling to the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Recipe: Seared Tuna Steak with Fresh Basil Pesto

Grilled tuna is one of my favorite staples- both for a dinner party and a quick weekday meal. I purchase sushi grade tuna frozen in individual vacumm sealed bags, I keep them in the freezer and defrost as I need them.

When tuna gets overcooked, it becomes very dry and flavorless, to make sure that doesn't happen I cook it either in a very hot sautee pan, and indor flat grill or grill it over very hot coals. I cook the tuna until the outside is seared and the inside is still raw, like sushi. The fresh pesto sauce is the perfect accompaniment.

Prepare the pesto first, you can find the recipe either below this post, or here. The tuna can be served warm or at room temperature.

2-3 pounds center cut tuna steaks
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
coarse sea salt

1. heat a sautee pan or grill until very hot over medium-high heat, 2-3 minutes. Rub olive oil over tuna and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cook tuna for a ccouple of minutes on each side until seared, the middle should remain pink. Serve with pesto.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Recipe: Making Fresh Basil Pesto

If you have ever had freshly made pesto, you already know there is no going back to the store bought variety. I am a purist when it comes to pesto- I like to make it by hand, the way my grandmother did. Part of that for me is the fact that I enjoy spending time in the kitchen whisking, chopping, kneading and the like. I get more satisfaction out of cooking if I take the time to prepare things by hand. Granted, sometimes time does not allow such leisure, but whenever possible I take advantage of it.

As with any food, the quality of your ingredients will define your results. Make sure to use freshly grated parmesan cheese and the best extra virgin olive oil you can find. The pesto keeps covered in the refrigerator for a couple of days, but it's best the day it is prepared. Use a mezzaluna or the largest knife you have to do the chopping. I like adding everything in stages which yields little bits and pieces of everything in different sizes, more rustic- instead of a homogenized paste like you would get by using a food processor.

Fresh Basil Pesto

1 bunch basil leaves, approximately 2 cups loosely packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup pine nuts
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled

1. Stack half of the basil leaves together and begin to chop, add some garlic, pine nuts and parmessan, continue chopping while adding a bit more garlic, basil, pine nuts and parmesan. Adding the ingedients in stages will keep the pesto a bit more rustic and chunky.

Chop until a thick chunky paste is formed.

2. Press pesto into a small bowl and cover with a couple of tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Stir before serving.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Recipe: Corn and Potato Chowder with Gorgonzola Dolce

I'm back. I took a little hiatus- life was overwhelming me. I'll leave it at that. Amazingly enough though, readership has gone up while I've been gone. I wont read too much into that.

My absence makes me a little sad- I've missed most summer foods, which are actually my favorite. Nothing is as good as cooking with freshly picked ruby red tomatoes, but corn will have to do for today. This is one of my favorite soups, specially in the summer when corn is sweet and not so starchy, frozen corn is not a good choice here- it's just never the same. The soup comes together quickly and is composed of pretty basic ingredients I am likely to have in the pantry at any given time. I like Gorgonzola Dolce crumbles as a topping, it melts beautifully and takes the flavor of the soup to a whole other level- if you are not a fan of blue cheeses, substitute a sharp white cheddar.

Corn Chowder with Gorgonzola Dolce

4 strips bacon, chopped
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup flour
1-2 teaspoons coarse sea salt (depending on the saltiness of your chicken stock)
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 cups chicken stock
2 yukon gold potatoes, cubed- unpeeled
4 ears fresh corn
2 cups milk, cream, or half and half (I use whatever I have- obviously cream is best!)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 pound Gorgonzola Dolce

1. In a large heavy stock pot over medium heat, cook bacon with olive oil until crispy- about 5 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside for topping.

2. Add onions and butter and cook until translucent, they should just be beginning to brown around the edges- about 10-15 minutes. Add flour, salt, pepper, turmeric and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine and cook an additional 5 minutes, stiring to make sure mixture does not stick to the sides of the pot.

3. Add chicken stock a little at a time while whisking flour and onion mixture into stock. Add potatoes, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until potaoes are almost all the way cooked- about 10 minutes. Add corn and fresh thyme and cook 5 minutes, add cream, half and half or milk- whichever you are using and bring back to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes, check seasonings then serve hot with gorgonzola dolce and bacon crumbles.

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