18 November 2014

Pumpkin Scones

Last week, I was writing teaser text for recipes on a soon-to-be-launched health website I'm helping work on. I sat, head-phoned, churning out loglines for dishes. What's the punch of this dish? Why make it? The what, when, why of cooking: lean, diet-friendly cooking for that matter. It's a good thing I'm an avid reader of Bonappetit.com, regularly distracted by their Facebook feed. Take the Pumpkin Scones from the November issue, advertised as "There isn't a brunch guest who would turn one of these down." Of course, the picture of crispy, orange-hued scones is worth a thousand words in itself, the scent of cinnamon traveling through the screen. I clicked, I Pinned, I made. My tagline: These golden, crisp on the outside, pillowy on the inside seasonal scones are the quintessential autumn breakfast. And, you can make it ahead.

The dough is a breeze to work with. It clumps nicely in the bowl when you stir in the wet ingredients, due to the moisture content from pumpkin, egg and buttermilk. But the leavening chemistry and longish bake (be sure to let them go until their tops brown a bit; they will still be nice and fluffy inside) ensures they aren't overly-moist. I was pleased with how soft they were inside while developing nice crispy edges. Oh, and the fresh cranberries. You get to chop some of them up, too and add them to the mix, and the notes of tart chew are just about right with the pumpkin spices.

Needless to say, everyone needs pumpkin scones in their life Bon Appetit originally ran the recipe with a cinnamon butter to spread on top. We prefer my old standby of honey, butter and flakey salt stirred together though, so we went with that. New recipes, old standbys, life is about finding the balance between theses two things. Enjoy.

Pumpkin Scones 
Makes 8, though I halved it.

1/2 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 cups flour
6 oz/ 1.5 sticks good butter, cold
1/2 cup chopped fresh cranberries
1 egg
1/4 cup buttermilk, well shaken + more
1/2 cup pumpkin puree

In a large bowl whisk sugar, baking powder, soda, spices, salt and flour. Cut in butter to resemble coarse meal with some pea size lumps. Stir in cranberries. Stir together pumpkin, buttermilk and egg, and make a well in the flour mix. Add wet mix at once and begin to gently but quickly incorporate to moisten into a mass. Turn out onto a work surface and bring into a disk, folding the dough over itself once or twice. Cut into 8 wedges and freeze until firm, 30 minutes. *At this point dough can be frozen in ziplock to bake later. When ready to bake, heat oven to 400,  brush wedges with buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 25-30 minutes, adding 5 minutes or so if frozen, until tops are golden brown, a toothpick comes out clean, and scones are firm. Cool on a rack 15 minutes at least.

11 November 2014

Overnight oat groats

Who am I to, just in the height of pumpkin love season, talk about oatmeal on here? Not rolled oats, not steel-cut oats, but the oat groat itself, the most pure form of the grain. Maybe you haven't even heard of them. I didn't, before my mother gave me half a package and sold them off as so "chewy and good!" I'll admit this didn't register as a cue to make them right away. I delayed, I Googled once. They take an hour to cook by themselves. I do not like to wait in the mornings. I found crock pot and slow cooker overnight recipes...don't have 'em. And then, I found a stovetop technique that served my lack of breakfast patience well, and also, it seemed, the oats, in Culinate. I was in business and finally ready to branch out. Oatmeal, in itself, evokes routine, doesn't it? We are quite the granola type and replenishing the granola frequently, one of my most meditative kitchen routines. But with resolve, I opted to push the groats to the forefront of my cabinet and purposely run out of rolled oats so that a granola shortage would ensue, and very late on one of the first cold fall Saturday nights, reached for the grandmother oat, the groat.

I took Culinate's technique one step further and toasted the groats lightly before their initial boil/soak. Then I went to sleep and so did the oats and in the morning, bowls of goodness were that much closer. I've made the groats like this twice now and love the basic recipe. You start by, as I prefer, lightly toasting the groats in the saucepan with a dot of butter...a quick toast, you don't want them to darken much, just let off a hint of fragrance. Then you'll add water and a flick of salt, cover and bring to an almost boil. At that point, turn off the heat, leave covered and go to bed :) This hot soak plumps the oats overnight so they only need a little time in the morning, when you'll stir in cinnamon and grated apple and simmer about 15 minutes, then steam off the heat for 10. A touch brown sugar, milk, raisins and pecans finish it off and a drip of maple syrup is the final touch. A warming, energizing breakfast ladies and gents to reboot your so-called routine. There is nothing quite like eating warm whole-oat oatmeal in your pajamas at the kitchen table as the sun shines and cuts through the cold air. Enjoy!

Toasted Overnight Oat Groats

Adapted from Culinate. Serves 2.

1/2 tsp butter
1/2 cup whole oat groats (I used Shiloh Farms)
1 1/2 c filtered water
Small pinch salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 an apple, grated on a box grater
Handful raisins and toasted nuts (optional)
Pure maple syrup, brown sugar and milk of your choice

The night before, set a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Add the oats, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or so, until a hint of fragrance emits. Add the water, and salt, stir and cover, standing close by. When the pot is just reaching a boil, turn off the heat and leave it there.

In the morning, grate the apple. Remove the cover of the pan and set the heat to medium. Add the apple and the cinnamon to the oats, and cook over medium low for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover again and let steam off the heat for 10 minutes.

Don't skip that. Make coffee.

At this point, I stir in the raisins and a spoonful brown sugar as well as a spoonful half-and-half. To serve, ladle into bowls, too with nuts and maple.

02 November 2014

Stick to it

Well, this was a relaxing weekend over here, waking up to the extra hour and all, and thank God, because I spent the latter part of the week complaining how hard it is to do everything and deal with stuff and go to jobs and manage your time and fit in a downward-facing dog and cook. My mom, in the car, which is where we've had more discussions in my life than any physical place, gently informed me I'm spoiled and some people get up at 5 am to get it all in. **Smiles** We were celebrating her birthday, so I resisted a challenge except to say, "What? I know no one who does that." "I do," she said. We were driving in the glorious section of Hudson County where you cross over Route 78 to go from Jersey City to Hoboken, the Holland Tunnel sign awkwardly huge and close to the edge of the land. I am thankful to be in this car right now, I thought. I am thankful for all things that help. 

Our tone then shifted into how it can take a few weeks to get acclimated into a personal flow outside the parameters of a new job, semester, season, sport, etc, and it can take a little adjusting to move beyond feeling like you're always racing to catch up to some invisible thing or be motivated to do the things that bring you joy outside of the parameters that provide you with pay so that you experience a payoff in the hours that you are not located within those parameters. Some people are better at this than others. Clearly since I find the need for italics and notes on this here, I experience ins and outs with this topic. Like anything, maybe it starts with giving yourself a break and knowing what makes you feel best and sticking to it. I bought flowers today. I made granola and another batch of tomato sauce with some San Marzanos I found. And I made more scones, which always makes everything right.

I've been revisiting these Buttermilk Scones for the past few weeks and tossing in different add-ins in place of rhubarb. Pictured above, following a lead from the beautiful Vanilla Bean, I tossed in about 1/3 cup 'dry-roasted,' diced apples and a few pieces minced candied ginger. And as pictured way above, we went with cinnamon, a shake of cacao nibs and a few pieces of shaved dark chocolate. Making the dough in a free moment during the week and pulling out on a weekend is something that takes any so-called weekend baking pressure and spins it around. No need to dirty bowls at 10 am. Instead preheat the oven, let the scones bake a few extra minutes, and shower. Or sit on the couch. Or write, read, cuddle, etc. You do what works for you and you stick to it. 

I found a few other little gifts in the kitchen this week. A head of broccoli, fresh from the farm stand, floret-ed and prepared a la Melissa Clark--Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli as she calls it, was a revelation. It not only holds up in the fridge a day or two making it ideal for scooping onto a lunch plate or container, but unbeknownst to you, you are eating raw broccoli, something I know I never consent to under most circumstances. But in this ceviche-style application to the good old magic tree, broccoli is tossed with a dash vinegar and salt then spices and garlic are heated in olive oil on the stove just to fragrance, and a spike of toasted sesame oil Asians it up just a tad. It gets poured on the florets and left to sit out for an hour, or chill up to 48 hours, and it's then there for you. 

And finally, I took home my first butternut of the season from the market: I chunked it, tossed with a quartered shallot, glug of olive oil, sea salt, coarse pepper and a little bacon grease and roasted it up on two trays at 400 for a good 35-40 minutes. The tender results from such a simple, hands-off act are fall on a plate, filler for your fridge and proof that you can do things and they can be just darn good and easy. When I lived with my mom a few years ago she would always chide at me when I cooked, "make double" as in, if you're going to bother at least have a lot. I hated that, I was always afraid I'd make a mistake and cause waste. I think I am finally coming around to silencing that fear. If you are going to break down a butternut, you best roast the whole thing.