Sunday, November 12, 2006

Macadamia Coconut Tart

Macadamia Coconut Tart
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

Pardon the bad photograph!

As I mentioned in the previous post, I get a few foodie magazines. This recipe came from Gourmet, the most recent additon to my subscription collection. The other day, my sister-in-law said, "Do you ever use the recipes in these magazines?" I had to admit that I rarely did, and resolved there and then to start making some.

This tart is really decadent and sophisitcated. I took it last night to a dinner party at my younger brother's place, and it was a huge hit.

One caveat: the shell shrunk considerably during the baking process and I had to take out some of the filling right before putting it in the oven. I wound up with four mini-tarts made in muffin tins with the leftover pastry dough and filling. So be careful when filling the tart; you don't want it overfilled or you'll get a real mess. Bake it on a baking sheet, too, in case of overflow.

Macadamia Coconut Tart

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 tsp salt
3 - 5 tbsp ice water

NOTE: the original recipe calls for 6 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp vegetable shortening. I used the above ingredients and it was fine - though I did have that shrinkage...

OK, this is really simple - if you have a food processor. Just pulse all the ingredients until you get a coarse meal-like consistency. Tablespoon by tablespoon, add the water until the mixture just comes together when pressed with your fingers. Remove from the processor bowl, knead once with the heal of your hand to distribute the fat evenly, then press into a 5" disc. Wrap with plasic wrap and refrigerate until chilled - about half an hour.

Alternately, if you don't have a food processor, whisk together the dry ingredients and cut the butter in with a pastry cutter unitl coarse meal is formed. Add water, a tbsp at a time, mixing with a fork, until it just comes together when pressed with your fingers. Continue as above.

Now you need to do something called "blind baking". This means you're going to bake the tart shell without its filling. So, roll out your dough to a 13" round. Gently place the dough in a 10" tart shell with removable bottom (these are cheap at any kitchen shop). Fit into the tart pan and prick the bottom all over with a fork (I neglected to do this - big mistake, trust me!). Chill until firm - again about 30 minutes (or stick it in the freezer to speed things up). Now place a sheet of foil over the tart shell and fill this with pie weights (I used raw rice; you can also use raw beans). Bake at 375F until sides are pale golden and firm. Remove the foil and pie weights. Continue to bake until deep golden brown. Leave oven on.

NOTE: I used an 11" tart pan and it shrunk about an inch in diameter and half an inch in depth, and like I said above, the filling didn't fit in when the time came. So just be wary of this because it may happen to you, too.

For the tart filling:
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 1/2 cups dry roased, roughly chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup flaked coconut (the recipe calls for sweetened; I used unsweetened and it was fine)

Whisk together the brown sugar and eggs. Add vanilla and salt until combined. Whisk in melted butter, nuts and coconut. Pour into tart shell and bake until set in centre - about 25 - 30 minutes. Cool on rack to room temperature. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Chicken & Rice Dinner

Chicken & Rice Dinner
Originally uploaded by wanderingcoyote.

I'm coooking dinner for the family at least once a week. Lately, I've had a hankering for cranberries and orange, for some strange reason. It's a fabulous flavour combination, and mixed with the saltiness of feta, this made for a tasty accompaniment to chicken. The rice is very simple, too, and the orange zest in it complimented the orange in the chicken. I served this meal with green beans (the only veg we can all agree on between us) and spaghetti squash for the two of us who eat it. Also, a nice green salad.

Chicken Stuffed with Feta Cheese, Cranberries, and Orange

4 bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed (you can use boneless, skinless, but they tend to be too small to adequately stuff, and the bone provides struture in this case, as well as keeping the meat juicy during cooking)
zest of one orange
freshly squeeze juice of half an orange
3 tbsp dried cranberries
1/3 cup feta cheese
1/3 cup fine bread crumbs
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan (if you have the not-so-fresh kind, it'll be OK)
1/2 tsp dried basil

1. In a food processor fitted with blade, pulse together the feta, cranberries, zest and orange juice until a crumbly mixture forms, that sticks together when pressed with your fingers. Alternately, if you don't have a food processor, you can mash these ingredients together with a fork, but it'll be more crumbly.

2. In the thicker end of the chicken breast, slice a long slice lengthwise from one side to the other, creating a pocket. Divide stuffing in 4, and stuff each breast, gently pressing down the top so there isn't a gaping hole.

3. Combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan, and basil and put on a plate. Press crumb mixture onto chicken breasts and place the chicken breasts on a greased tray (I line with it foil and oil the foil...easy clean-up that way). Sprinkle the breasts with remaining crumb mixture.

4. Bake at 350F until done; about 35 - 40 minutes.

Basmati Rice with Orange and Olives

1 1/2 cups white basmati rice
2 1/2 cups chicken stock (I use Bovril packets)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
zest of one orange
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped

1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil. Once it's boiled, turn the heat to low and let this sit - undisturbed - for 20 or so minutes. Stir. And voila.

Even serving this with just a simple salad would be perfect. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Maple-Pecan Layer Cake

Maple-Pecan Layer Cake

I have a membership in the Cooking Club of America. I was lured by a screaming deal on the fee and the fact that part of the membership included a subscription to the club's magazine, Cooking Pleasures. I like the magazine a lot; the recipes are good and there's always decent information in them. However, I have three other subsciptions - Canadian Living, Bon Appetit, and Gourmet, and of all four, Cooking Pleasures is the least bang for my buck. It's bi-monthly and just as much money as the others. So, when my membership is up in March, I'm going to let it lapse.

This recipe came from the most recent issue of Cooking Pleasures (I adapted the instructions somewhat). There was a whole section on pecans and the nuts happened to be on sale last week at Save-On Foods. It's a grea cake, and dense enough to be used for such things as tiered cakes, where the cake needs to be heavier to provide structure. I only have 8" cake pans, but this still worked well, even though the recipe calls for 9" pans.

Maple-Pecan Layer Cake

2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup finely grated or ground pecans, toasted (I had whole pecans that I pulsed in the food processor and toasted them gently in a frying pan over medium heat)
2/3 cup sour cream (I used plain yogurt, which worked)

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup finely chopped toasted pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour two 9" round cake pans and line with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy - 4 minutes or so. Add eggs one by one, then vanilla. Beat until well combined. Add the pecans and sour cream and stir until combined.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Fold gently into the butter/egg mixture and then divide the batter evenly between the pans.

4. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack until room temperature.

For the icing:

Beat the butter until fluffy and sift in the icing sugar. Add the maple syrup and beat until smooth and well-combined. Ice the cake and top with the chopped pecans. Serve and enjoy.

Let me know what you think.


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