Thursday, July 19, 2012
It has been so. HOT. Unrelenting! Go outside to water the plants and come in sweating hot. 80 degrees at 7 in the morning hot. The subway station feels like the bowels of hell kind of hot.
Ice for dessert! Perfect.
I know I'm a little late to the strawberry game, but even if you can't find local strawberries anymore, you should still be able to make a rather respectable granita out of berries from the supermarket. Or improvise! Blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries - even sweet cherries - would make a fantastic substitute.
Strawberry Hibiscus Granita
adapted from Bon Appetit
4 hibiscus tea bags (I used Tazo Passion)
1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 cup agave nectar
juice of one lime
Steep the tea bags in 1.5 cups boiling water for about 2 minutes. Remove tea bags and chill tea until cold, about an hour. Blend strawberries in a blender until pureed, add chilled tea, agave nectar, and lime juice, and whirl for another second in the blender until just combined. Pour strawberry mixture into a 9x13x2 pan and place carefully in the freezer. Freeze for 2 hours, until a hard top layer forms, and then scrape and smash with a fork to loosen the ice crystals. Freeze another 30 minutes and scrape again, repeating every 30 minutes for about 2 more hours, until fluffy and frozen through. Divide among bowls and serve.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
I feel a little bad to be giving you this recipe right now. I feel bad because if you're living anywhere near where I'm living, you're in the middle of a relentless heat wave and you think that baking (or really doing anything but sitting in the air conditioning or swimming in a pool) sounds like an absolutely awful idea. And I feel bad because no matter how hot it is, when you hear the words "toasted oat and brown butter banana muffins with pecans," if you're like me, you will preheat the oven. C'est la vie.
My suggestion? Make them early in the morning when it's only like 80 degrees instead of 100. Then after they cool, freeze them, and you can have home-baked treats for days. Of course, if you'd rather not bake muffins, here are some things you might consider adding to your holiday menu this week: Heat Wave Salad, Grilled Chard Salad, or Blueberry Tart!
My parents are coming down from Michigan to celebrate America's birthday with us this week, and I have five lovely days in a row off of work. Bring on the pool time! Here's what we've got planned: fireworks on the beach, grilled flank steak, a trip to the Daley Plaza farmers' market (there will be 6 hands that can hold bags of local produce - how will I keep myself from over-buying?!), grilled shrimp and jicama salad, strawberry-hibiscus granita, an outdoor concert and picnic dinner in Grant Park, corn on the cob, and banana pudding. Most of all, we will enjoy each others' company while drinking cold things and moving as little as possible.
Enjoy your 4th of July! And stay cool, dudes.
Toasted Oat + Brown Butter Banana Muffins
Makes 6 large muffins, 12 standard-size muffins, or one standard 8x4 loaf pan.
6 ounces (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
3 medium bananas, mashed
1 cup toasted pecan halves, chopped (reserve one half per muffin to decorate the top)
3/4 cup toasted old-fashioned rolled oats
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, swirling regularly. The butter will start to sputter and pop. This is good news. Keep swirling the skillet periodically so that the butter browns evenly. When it starts to smell toasty and looks barely brown, pour it into a bowl and set aside to cool. Be very careful - it goes from delightfully brown to burned very quickly.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, yogurt, and mashed bananas, and set aside. In a medium skillet, toast the pecan halves over medium-low heat until they are fragrant, about 5-10 minutes, tossing regularly. In the same skillet, toast the oats until fragrant, about 2 minutes, tossing regularly. Add the chopped pecans and oats to the flour mixture.
When the butter has cooled, add it to the banana-egg mixture, and whisk to incorporate. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir together until all the flour is moistened - be careful not to overmix.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, slightly smooth the tops, and place one whole pecan half in the center of each muffin. Bake for 25-30 minutes (for large muffins), until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly (about 10 minutes) in the pan, remove, and serve warm with butter or cream cheese.
Estimated cooking times for different pans: standard muffins: 20-25 minutes, standard loaf: 45-60 minutes.