Monday, February 25, 2013

Banana-Walnut Muffins

After a generous cluster of bananas had seen me through breakfast for nearly a week, the stragglers were starting to turn gory-looking - just right for banana bread. However, I couldn't find my bread tin (!?), so I went the muffin route. Which, as it turned out, worked wonderfully...can't beat the convenience of palming a muffin before you dash madly out the door on the way to work. I slightly modified a banana bread recipe from Cooks Illustrated, a recipe had been loitering in my "To Try" folder for a while, and it produced delicious muffins! I'll have to keep this recipe around for the next time my banana bunch dwindles down to the dank dark dregs. Now, to find my bread tin....

Banana-Walnut Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

*2 cups flour
*1 cup toasted walnut pieces 
*3/4 cup sugar
*3/4 teaspoon baking soda
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*3 large grossly overripe bananas
*1/4 cup sour cream 
*2 eggs, beaten
*6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
*1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and walnuts together. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas well with a fork, then add the sour cream, eggs, butter and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined (don't overmix). Divide the batter evenly around the greased muffin tin. Bake until the muffins are golden on top, approximately 20-23 minutes.

(Pro-tip - they're best warm, split, with a small pat of slowly melting butter)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pasta Frittata

Frittatas are just about the easiest, quickest, tastiest, and most versatile one-pan weeknight meals ever. They serve as an excellent vehicle for ridding the fridge of leftovers, and, are great leftovers themselves - an eggy wedge warmed up in the oven the morning after makes for a very tidy breakfast. I've gotten into the habit of making them when I have some extra cooked pasta lying around as I enjoy the extra heft the noodles provide, as well as the satisfying chewiness. Served with a big green salad and a glass of sparkling saison, it's a damn fine repast.

The beauty of the frittata is that it will gladly accommodate anything you bring to it, so if you don't have cooked pasta on hand, but rather a mess of veggies growing a wee bit long in the tooth? A surplus of luncheon meat? A bunch of ragged cheese bits? As long as you have eggs on hand, you have the beginnings of a delicious disc of dinner. Done.

Pasta Frittata
Makes 5-6 servings

*7 eggs
*2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (+ more for sprinkling on top)
*1 tablespoon chopped parsley
*5 sundried tomatoes, chopped
*Small dollop of bacon fat (or butter, or a bit of EVOO)
*2 garlic cloves, minced
*Pinch red pepper flakes
*1 heaping cup cooked pasta

Flick on your broiler. Whisk the eggs with pinches of salt and pepper, the cheese, parsley, and tomatoes. Melt the bacon fat over medium in a nonstick oven-safe skillet (I'm using a 9 inch) and saute the garlic until golden, then add the red pepper flakes and the pasta. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and guide it around all the nooks and crannies by tilting the pan if necessary, and cook over medium heat until the perimeter is completely set and the middle is getting close, about 8 minutes. If you want, finely grate some more cheese over top at this point (optional) and then stick it in the oven. Broil the frittata for about 3-4 minutes until it's golden and bubbly, watching to make sure it doesn't burn, then remove, slice and serve.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Roasted Carrot Soup with Carrot Top Pesto Crostini

A recent article about leafy tops of certain root vegetables on The Kitchn had me reconsidering my habit of blithely chucking them, especially after my attention snagged on a link for Grilled Cheese with carrot top pesto. I happen to have a thing for unconventional pestos, so this weekend when I found myself with a nice bunch of organic carrots, an unruly shock of greens still attached, I seized the opportunity to try the pesto recipe out. The carrots went towards a batch of carrot soup, a standard of mine. Usually I spice it with a big pinch of ras el hanout, but with good, sweet carrots and a zingy pesto in the mix, I just let the carrot flavor speak for itself this time. The pesto, which I slathered on toasted baguette slices, turned out to be a pretty awesome pairing with the soup - the acidity of the lemon juice and the mildly bitter flavor of the greens added a lovely balance to the bowl. I'll certainly be saving shorn carrot tops from now on, I love the idea of buying two vegetables for the price of one!

Roasted Carrot Soup with Carrot Top Pesto Crostini
Makes 1 large serving or 2 modest servings

*1 bunch (1 lb) organic carrots with greens attached
*Half of a small white potato
*4 cloves garlic, 2 minced
*1 tablespoon butter
*1 cup vegetable stock
*1 cup water
*1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
*Juice of 1/2 lemon
*1 heaping tablespoon grated asiago cheese
*Slices of good crusty bread

Heat oven to 420 degrees. Cut the tops off of the carrots. Tear enough of the leafier parts from the harder stems to equal two heaping cups. Wash and dry the greens well, and set them aside. Peel the carrots and potato and dice into 1 inch pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper (I use a harissa-infused olive oil, which adds a hint of heat) and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Stir the vegetables and reduce the heat to 300; roast another 10 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, in a pot, melt the butter and saute the minced garlic. Add the stock and water, a sprinkle of salt and pepper (and red pepper flakes, if you're not using a spicy olive oil and would like a little heat). Add the roasted carrots and potatoes and simmer until the vegetables are all very soft. Blitz the contents of the pot in a blender or with an immersion stick, and then strain the soup with a sieve to get it as silky as possible. I like a thicker soup, but you can thin it with a little water or stock if you prefer. Season to taste.
For the pesto crostini, brush one side of the bread slices with a little olive oil, then place on a cookie sheet and flick on the broiler for a few minutes until the slices are toasted. Blend the garlic cloves, carrot greens, lemon juice, asiago and pinches of S&P together in a small food processor, and then drizzle in the olive oil until it is of pesto consistency. Spread on the toasted bread and serve the crostini with the soup.
Makes between a third and a half-cup of pesto.

NOTE: There is a fair amount of discussion on the internet about the supposed toxicity of carrot tops, but that claim appears to be totally a myth. From reading very reputable sources, I have come to the conclusion that carrot greens are NOT toxic, but may cause mild allergic reactions in a small segment of the population. In any case, I ate my carrot greens and loved 'em, but to eat or not to eat is up to you! I say go for it. Free greens with purchase of any organic carrots.