First 2009 General Body Meeting

Greetings fellow foodies!

Welcome back! And to those arriving on campus for the first time, Welcome! I would like to invite everyone to our first General Body Meeting of the year this Wednesday at 9pm in Lerner Ramp East. We will be serving a selection of seasonal fruit and creams while we mingle, introduce you to the Executive Board, and fill you in on some of the great events we have lined up for this year! We will also have a sign in sheet for our first upcoming event, an Herb and Spice tasting. If you’ve ever been too intimidated to purchase Sage, or wondered how to incorporate Coriander into your routine chicken recipe, come and learn about some basic, yet not so basic herbs and spices! We will be offering a tasting of each spice, as well as sample of a corresponding dish!


Key Lime Tart


What’s a summer BBQ without a cool refreshing dessert? This tart is much lighter than a traditional pie, and the graham cracker crust is made from scratch, making it crisp, almost like a cookie. The recipe is adapted from one of my favorite blogs, Dessert First. I omitted the meringue she used, as not everyone in my family loves meringue as much as I do, but it works well with whipped cream as well, homemade or store-bought whichever you have time for….

Graham Cracker Crust

makes about 16 3-in square tart shells

1 cup butter, room temperature

1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup honey

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

I creamed the butter and sugars in a stand mixer until light and fluffy before adding the honey.

I then mixed the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and added it to the wet ingredients in parts, making sure all the ingredients were fully incorporated.

The dough will come together but it is very moist due to the large quantity of butter. I flattened it into a disk and let it chill in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap. After about an hour, I rolled it out on a floured surface and attempted to transfer it to my 9″ pie dish. This proved disastrous. So after many vain attempts, re-chilling, and re-rolling, and re-failing, I ended up just pressing it into the dish with my fingers.  It turned out a little uneven in places but it worked. I then let the dough chill for another 30 min before baking so that it crisped up properly. The recipe suggests baking for about 18 min although I baked for about 30 min until it became dark brown, which was a bit too long. 20 min would have been enough.

Key Lime Curd

adapted from Pierre Hermé’s Desserts

makes about 1 1/2 to 2 cups

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup key lime juice

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces, softened but not melting

I prepared the curd while the tart shell was in the oven. I first whisked the eggs and sugar together, before adding the lime juice. I whisked over a hot water bath until thick, adding the pieces butter one at a time. The recipe suggests blending the curd in a food processor and adding the butter while mixing on high. I’ve found that the same wonderful creamy effect can be obtained without transferring to the food processor. After thickening over the stove, I let the curd chill in the refrigerator until completely cool.

Once the tart shell cooled to room temperature, I poured the curd into the shell and let it cool in the fridge until it was ready to serve!


Scratch Hamburgers

Grind the beef, bake the bun.  Scratch burgers. Buy the cheddar if you must...
Grind the beef, bake the bun. Scratch burgers. Buy the cheddar if you must...

Nothing says summer like hamburgers on the grill.  But the ground beef at the store could be anything.  What cut is it?  Where did it come from?  How long has it been sitting on the shelf?  Was the grinder clean?

And how about those hamburger buns?  They tend to be soft and flavorless and don’t offer the substance necessary to complement a really great burger.  A good bun should be just flavorful and firm enough so that you notice it when you bite into it, but it doesn’t dominate the meatiness of the burger.

Once again we prove that if you want something done right, you’ve gotta do it yourself.  Scratch buns, meat, and ketchup!

Even if you forego the buns and ketchup, do grind the meat from scratch.  It’s really a different dish, and quite easy.

The Hamburger Bun, adapted from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads

5 c bread flour
1.5 tbsp instant yeast (it’s got yeast and ascorbic acid as ingredients, easier to work with than regular yeast)
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 c water (warm to the touch)
milk for brushing the buns
poppy or sesame seeds

Kneading the dough with a stand mixer is pretty much essential.  Without it, the dough may be too sticky to work with comfortably.

Using the paddle, mix the following on medium speed until smooth, about a minute: 2 c flour, yeast, salt, butter, warm water.

Then, gradually add the remaining 3 cups of flour on low-medium speed.  If it looks like the paddle is struggling and/or the dough is forming a mass and coming away fromt the sides, switch out the paddle for the dough hook.  Go to medium and knead for 5 minutes or until it doesn’t stick to your finger much if you poke it gently and feels elastic.  Watch it.  If it sticks to the sides of the bowl, add flour.  Don’t worry if it sticks to the bottom a bit.  Since it was a really humid day when I made it, I added about half a cup.  If it starts climbing up the hook, stop the mixer and push the dough back into the bowl before continuing.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl.  Roll it around and flip to grease the top and sides of the dough ball.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Rise 30-40 minutes or until double volume.

Shaped buns on the silpat before rising.
Shaped buns on the silpat before rising.

Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll each piece into a ball.  Then go back to the first ball you made and flatten it so it’s about an inch thick and 4 inches in diameter.  Put it on a greased baking sheet.  Repeat in order.  Rise 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400 F 20 minutes before the rise is complete.  Brush each bun with milk and sprinkle with seeds if you want them.  Bake 20 minutes or until browned on the bottom.  Cool on a rack slightly before serving.

Baked buns.  Nom nom nom.
Baked buns. Nom nom nom.

Ketchup recipe

1 28-oz can of whole tomatoes, drained
1 6-oz can tomato puree
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2/3 c dark brown sugar
1/2 c cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Sautee onion in oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium or medium high heat until lightly browned and translucent.

Throw all the ingredients in a blender including what you just sauteed and liquify.

Transfer back to the pot and bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat to simmer for an hour, stirring occassionally.  It may splash, so if you don’t have a splatter guard you can use a fine seive or a pot lid propped open by a wooden spoon.  Just make sure you don’t cover it completely or it won’t reduce properly.  If it’s not smooth at the end of this process, put it back in the blender.  Bottle and chill for at least 2 hours to let the flavor develop.

Burger recipe (scale as needed)

8 oz chuck
8 oz sirloin
1/2 tsp salt

Grind: Cut the chuck and sirloin into .5 to 1 inch cubes but keep them separate. Make sure you cut off all the gristle–be aggressive–or someone’s going to have a few unpleasant bites.  Take half the chuck, half the sirloin, and half the salt and place it in a normal size food processor.  Pulse 10 .5-second pulses or until it looks roughly like the ground beef you’d get in a package, but don’t over grind it.  Err on the side of under-grind.  Empty that into a bowl and do the other half of the ingredients.

Shaped burgers.  Note the texture of the meat.  Not too fine, but not too coarse.
Shaped burgers. Note the texture of the meat. Not too fine, but not too coarse.

Shape: Divide the meat into 3 equal parts (shooting for 5 1/3 oz per patty if you have a scale).  Gently form each portion in to a ball, then flatten into a patty using a rolling motion.  DO NOT SQUISH IT!

Electric griddles have lots of surface area and no walls to make flipping difficult.  After trying both, I preferred the ridged side.
Electric griddles have lots of surface area and no walls to make flipping difficult. After trying both, I preferred the ridged side.

Preheat your grill, griddle pan, or electric griddle to medium-high.  When water beads up and dances on the surface, lightly grease and put the burgers on, 4 minutes or less per side.   A major advantage of grinding your own meat is so that you can make it a little extra rare and not worry about bacteria, so make sure you watch the burgers and flip as soon as you think they can take it. If you want to use cheese, put it on as soon as you flip so it has a chance to melt.  I waited too long to put my cheese on.

Toast the bun, put in the burger, smother with ketchup, and enjoy!

Banana flambe

Banana flambe over vanilla ice cream
Banana flambe over vanilla ice cream

What could be better than dessert, pyromania, and alcohol combined? I made banana flambe before, but I didn’t like the recipe I used.  What could be simpler, though?  I decided to take a leap and combine a few of the ideas I had seen around the web.  Turned out even easier than I expected.

2-2-2 banana flambe recipe:

3 ripe bananas sliced lengthwise
2 T brown sugar
2 T butter (unsalted)
2 T rum (70-80 proof works best)

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium or medium high heat.  As soon as the pat is melted, start mixing in the brown sugar.  When the mixture’s uniform, at the sliced bananas.  Don’t worry if they break on their way into the pan.  Wait about 5 minutes for the first side.

first side banana flambe
Frying bananas before the flip

After the 5 minutes has passed, start checking the bottoms to see if they’re browned a bit.  My weapons of choice were some tongs and a spatula.  When they look browned, flip and brown the other side.

flipped bananas. nom nom nom.
flipped bananas. nom nom nom.

When both sides look good, sprinkle the rum over the pan and immediately light it on fire. If you have a gas range, you can light it by quickly tipping the pan into the flames. Otherwise, you can use a lighter of any kind. I used a grill lighter. If there’s anything over the cooktop, move the pan out from under it; the flames can be a few feet high. Jiggle the pan a bit to get all the alcohol to light. Alcohol burns very quickly (~15 seconds) at high temperatures. This gives the bananas a nice crispy skin and a great flavor.

Serve and eat immediately over vanilla ice cream.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Sweet potato gnocchi
Sweet potato gnocchi with a side of sauteed broccoli rabe

Gnocchi is a rare breed of pasta. Unlike most varieties, it has a thickness to it. It can be made with potatoes or cheese. Most fresh pasta is much lighter than its boxed or frozen store-bought counterpart; gnocchi is no exception. And given its thickness, this quality is all the more noticable.

Thinking it would be a bit more interesting, I decided to replace the russett potatoes in the two recipes I was working off of with sweet potatoes. Little did I know! The difference in texture and their water content forced me to add more than double the flour the other recipes called for.

Here’s the gnocchi recipe:

Note: It makes quite a lot, so if you have more than you’d like to eat, just spread out the extra ones on parchment paper and roll up the paper, put the roll in a plastic bag, and freeze. Then just boil them when you’re ready.

2 lbs of sweet potatoes
2 eggs
4 c AP flour
1 t salt

Boil the potatoes for 40 minutes in salted water (the water can start cold) or until they’re soft (I left them in for about 50 mins more than that with the heat off). Cool them a bit (10 or 15 mins on a cutting board), then peel them and put ’em in a bowl. Mash them with the other ingredients when they’re cool enough to not scramble the eggs.

Depending on how fast you are, now might be a good time to make the sauce, or get someone else to make it while you prepare the dough.

Add flour until the dough just stops being sticky, then turn it out of the bowl and knead until you have a smooth dough, adding flour as necessary.

Uncooked gnocchi
Uncooked gnocchi

Break off baseball-sized pieces and roll them into .5-1″ diameter cylinders, using plenty of flour on the outsides, then cut into .5″ sections. Don’t worry if the cylinders are uneven or if your sections aren’t equal; gnocchi are pretty forgiving because they tell you when they’re done cooking by floating to the surface!

Boil a pot of salted water and put in about 20 gnocchi’s at a time. In 3 or 4 minutes at a rolling boil, they should start floating up. Nab the floaters with a slotted spoon and throw ’em in the sauce.

When you’ve cooked a sufficient number and left them in the sauce for about 5 mins on low heat, you’re good to go! Dig in.

gnocchi in pot
gnocchi in pot

Basic tomato sauce recipe:
1 T olive oil
1 med-large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 T garlic (crushed or minced)
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 T oregano
.5 T basil
1.5 T sugar
.5 t salt
dash of Sriracha chili garlic sauce (optional)

In a large frying pan/skillet over medium or medium high heat, saute the onion and garlic in the oil until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant (a few minutes). Then throw in the whole can of tomatoes and all the other ingredients, mix it together, and let it simmer with a lid on for at least 15 mins.  I had about .5 lbs of cooked sausage in the fridge that I diced and added in with the tomatoes.  If you want to use raw meat like ground beef, I recommend using about a pound and browning it after you saute the onions but before you add the tomatoes and the rest.  You can just leave the onions right in the pan as you brown the beef.