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Recipes

Maple Pear Bacon Grilled Cheese

Maple Pear Bacon Grilled Cheese - anneliesz

How do you say I love you? It comes out of my mouth in the language of beer and cheese. Cracking open an IPA for the one that I love even if my brew is less hoppy and scoring the best Vermont has to offer when it comes to cheddar (he likes it extra sharp) might be the love language that can’t really be bought. I tasted a delightfully bold cheddar from Cabot Creamery at IFBC and it set a plan in motion. Some people give expensive gifts, trips, watches, or other finery. I give grilled cheese.

Maple Pear Bacon Grilled Cheese - anneliesz

A few years ago, I stumbled upon the idea because, let’s be frank, cheese has always played an important role in our relationship. So, I set out to make Dark Rye Grilled Cheese Sandwiches all rubbed down in garlic and as you might imagine, it was a good idea. I picked up a block of the Cabot cheese because I knew if I liked it someone else in my immediate proximity would love it. 

Maple Pear Bacon Grilled Cheese - anneliesz

But, this, friends, is no ordinary grilled cheese I concocted for my 2017 ILY. In fact, at just this moment, I’m going to make a bold statement inspired by the cheese to tell you it’s the best one I’ve ever eaten. When I presented the sandwich as a gift wrapped in crispy outsides concealing the symphony of flavors inside, the response to my I love you was one finger raised, requesting silence as he took a second bite. Not a bad reply especially when accompanied by a bear hug.

Maple Pear Bacon Grilled Cheese - anneliesz

The inspiration for this year’s grilled cheese came from a lunch date we took years ago at a restaurant in San Francisco named Arlequin. We finished our sandwiches in the courtyard out back and they created taste memories. That twist of salty and sweet kind of made the sandwich amazing… until now. I started thinking more about the pears and in my excitement to start cooking with them they practically whispered in my ear what came next. Rosemary. A touch of maple. All sauteed in those priceless bacon drippings. So, make it for someone you deeply care about. Once a year. Call it an I love you in griddled challah bread and cheddar form.

Maple Pear Bacon Grilled Cheese - anneliesz

Maple Pear Bacon Grilled Cheese

I love a good cooking hack. This sandwich can totally be prepped and grilled in advance of eating it. Reheat it at 280F for 8 minutes. Chances are kind of amazingly high that these maple pears sauteed in the bacon fat would be the stuff of legend as a topping for autumn pancakes. You’re welcome. Just let me know how they tasted and what else you put on them!

Makes 2 sandwiches

4 strips bacon

1 Bosc pear, peeled and thinly sliced

½ teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon maple syrup

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

4 ounces white cheddar cheese (cut into 6 slices)

4 1/2-inch slices challah bread

Cook the bacon in a skillet. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan. Reserve that extra bacon fat. Saute the pear slices with the rosemary, maple syrup, and salt over medium low heat for about 5 minutes or until the pears take on a bit of color and soften slightly. Remove the skillet from the burner, carefully swiping a paper towel through to clean it. Brush the top and bottom of the two bread slices with some of the reserved bacon drippings. Build the sandwich, tiling three slices of cheddar on both of the unbrushed sides of the slices of bread. Tile the bacon on one side. Tile the pears on the other side. Carefully close the sandwich. Set the skillet over medium low heat. Grill the sandwich for 3 minutes on each side or until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melty. Press down on top with your fingers as you steady a spatula underneath, carefully flipping the sandwich and grilling the other side. Prep the other sandwich while the first one is grilling and repeat the cooking instructions.

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Recipes

Apple Maple Pecan Cobbler

Maple sugar and spice and everything nice (like apples and pecans). Making an Apple Maple Pecan cobbler is an easy dessert to bake for a warming dessert.

How did we end up here? It’s fall again. Lovely, wonderful fall, the season at the top of so many lists. And maybe a reason it’s a favorite is tied up in the idea of harvest. The idea of bounty. So, what happens when the bounty we find ourselves with is sorrow? Does it seem like 2017 has been particularly macabre? As I write this, the sky has been orange and hazy for two days, over an hour away from the wildfires in the Wine Country.

We have all grown up and into social media, we’re finding our ways of expressing sorrow and solidarity #sonomastrong #napastrong #prayforpuertorico #prayforlasvegas #prayforhouston #prayformexicocity #prayforflorida In the midst of all the hashtags, inevitably you’ll find commentary that hashtags are not enough. That we need to take action. And, that’s true. I sometimes wonder how the accessibility to almost instantaneous worldwide communications like twitter with its breaking news sound bites has made us better humans or shown inhumanity that was once locked away in our deepest selves? To not take a position is to take a position. I know that now.

When making an Apple Maple Pecan Cobbler, choose a mix of tart and sweet apples like Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples.

In a recent issue of the New Yorker, an article sucked me into an idea of recreating paradise, hand-plucking each applicant for his/her skill set to live in paradise for one year. Paradise, as defined here, was ensconced somewhere in Wales, and according to the article, if you looked hard enough, you could find a way out of it. Imagine that: scaling a wall to escape “paradise.” That premise of starting over in a utopian state isn’t naïve, it’s hopeful and yet putting the idea into action is an invitation to foreshadowing. Because what I didn’t need to be told is that it wouldn’t work. That factions would break off. That William Golding’s encampment of young boy savages resides in the deepest hearts of all of us. But I’m not convinced that has to be the end of the story.

Consider the city of Petaluma. In the midst of the fires, the city has rallied and come together to help evacuees. You too can volunteer / donate / find a resource for evacuees here. I called our local firehouse in Oakland this morning and offered to bake / bring items and was told they are helping fight the fire and cooking up in the Wine Country.

I have deep, deep ties to the Wine Country and have been on pins and needles as a person close to the fire but not so close that we can’t see the plume, even if our skies are smoky, even if we get our news by headlines ticking across Google search refresh.

Granny Smith Apples are indispensable in an Apple Maple Pecan Cobbler because their tart flavor melds well with the maple sugar.

It’s hard at a time like now to write about apples. It’s hard not to devour news like it’s a 24 hour buffet of food that doesn’t quite fill you up enough. The morning after the tragedy that unfolded in Las Vegas as Jason Aldean launched into his fourth song, I couldn’t help thinking about the previous morning, a friend excitedly recounting his trip the weekend before to Las Vegas and a Celine Dion concert.

It can be easy to read just the horror in the headlines, but sometimes we must excavate for the hope. Because, it’s there too. The vet who took action, tying off a bleeding appendage in a tourniquet, using someone else’s volunteered flannel shirt—he’s not alone in doing good, just the one guy who made it into a story. There’s the couple who ventured to Vegas to celebrate their anniversary and on Sunday evening, the husband covered his wife’s body with his own, sacrificially saving her. I can’t imagine what snaps inside a person to wrest against the impulse of self-preservation for other-preservation, but it exists. And, it makes me think of cobbler.

Top Apple Maple Pecan Cobbler with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream for a homey autumn teatime.

A cobbler calls to mind community tables. It’s a dessert best shared, fruit still bubbling in its own sweet juices. And, surely you know someone who could really use something sweet in their life. So, who can you bake for? Can baking a cobbler be in its way a response to all that loss? I know what it’s like to have someone I love ripped from my life in an instant. I may not have survived the same kind of loss as a hurricane or massacre in Vegas, or even an entire home being eviscerated, but I know the kind of onslaught of grief that grips you day and night. And, lest you think a cobbler is a pat answer, what it really is, beyond the biscuits baked on top, all craggy corners with an underbelly cooked by fruit steam—a cobbler is an offer to see someone else’s hurt and offer a gift of time to be with them in all that darkness, bringing provisions. And for that person, for that time, it can be enough.

Who are you going to share an Apple Maple Pecan Cobbler with?

Apple Maple Pecan Cobbler

Have you ever seen maple sugar at the store? It’s not cheap, but that’s because it’s priceless. Maple syrup has been cooked down into granulated crystals that make it acceptable to use in baking where liquid sweetener isn’t invited. You can always make your own, or if neither of those work, you could try equivalent white sugar with a teaspoon of maple extract. To keep the fruit from browning, make a bowl of acidulated water (aka lemon juice squeezed into water) and add the peeled, cored slices into it as you’re prepping the other ingredients, until ready to use.

Makes 4 servings

5 cups ¼-inch sliced apples, peeled and cored (about 2 Granny Smith & 1 Pink Lady)

1/3 cup maple sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon maple sugar

1teaspoon baking powder

4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed

¼ cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons chopped toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease an 8×8 pan. Drain and pat the apple dry, if kept in the acidulated water. Toss the apples, maple sugar, flour, and cornstarch in a bowl until coated. Pour into the 8×8 pan.

Whisk the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder into a medium-sized bowl. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter, two forks or fingers if your hands tend to be cold and quick. Once the butter resembles peas and almonds, pour in the buttermilk, stirring until it comes together in one shaggy mass, pulling any errant bits into the whole. Roll the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Press out disks of dough using a biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter. Polka dot them on top of the apples.

Bake the cobbler for 50 minutes, checking on the topping at 35 minutes–if it’s golden brown, cover the cobbler with foil and continue cooking until a fork inserts easily into one of the apples. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream.

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Cookery Bookshelf

Matcha Dusted Maple Chocolate Cupcakes

Matcha Chocolate Cake_anneliesz_5373

First of all, it feels so good to be back blogging again. For the first time in two months, my kitchen has come out of lockdown. I’m back in Oakland and planning some delicious things for coming weeks.

Cookbooks make good traveling companions, don’t you think? With a pencil in hand, hours of entertainment are yours for the simple asking price of three to five pounds of extra weight in your carry-on or backpack. I used to travel with other peoples’ books until I started traveling with a full suitcase of my own. The best part about returning home from a book tour is returning home to Oakland to catch up with friends, and scrounge around in the cupboard and cobble together dinner with Nathan. Part of playing catch-up involves making tea dates or penciling in time to walk with friends. But recently, I played catch-up in a completely different way: taking two cookbooks written by Bay area friends on a road trip to Santa Ana. While Nathan drove and listened to AM sports talk radio, I dove into one book and then the next, pencil in hand. Each book showed the imagination of the person penning it. Now being on this side of the cookbook process, my respect has amplified at least a thousand fold for anyone who sets out to write a cookbook. For those of you prone to the idea of book babies and birthing a book, imagine a year or more of labor without an epidural. It’s quite a feat. I will never forget meeting up for lunch shortly after I’d begun working on Steeped full-time with my friend, Shauna Sever. She shared her experiences with levity, for which I will always be grateful.

Real Sweet Cookbook_5412

When a cookbook is written well, you can hear the voice of the writer leap off the page. Shauna knows the craft of telling a good story and has a distinct personality on the screen of her blog and also on the pages of her books. Her last cookbook, Pure Vanilla taught me all about different kinds of vanilla–don’t get me started on her recipe for Malted White Hot Chocolate. My relationship with all things malted borders on obsessive. Shauna’s new book, Real Sweet takes on the topic of baking with natural sweeteners. With her snappy sense of humor, she shows her extensive knowledge in a way that is approachable and leaves the reader feeling smarter. By the end of the book, I definitely felt smarter, ready to break out the coconut sugar or demerara. Shauna’s described as the next door baker and it’s really true. She is just the person you would want to have living next door, sharing sugar (turbinado!) and plates of oatmeal cookies (Mrs. Braun’s!). I figured who better to demystify the flavor possibilities of natural sweeteners than Mrs. Next Door Baker herself.

Real Sweet Cookbook_5413

The book is arranged into seven sections that take on different kinds of baking situations and focus on a particular natural sweetener. All-day snacks and lunch box treats star the femme fatale, coconut sugar, while the picnics and potlucks section explores turbinado, the hero. My cupboard happens to possess almost all of the sweeteners mentioned in the book, so naturally, I began dog earing pages for later consumption–ahem, research. Rhubarb and Rose ice cream with agave nectar? Say no more. Chocolate Chip and Cherry Date Cake sounds great. Oatmeal and Turbinado Cream Cookie Sandwiches might make it on the menu before the month is out. I’m open to opportunities to whisk, spoon and be the Friday afternoon heroine, showing up at a certain Oakland office building with baked goodies. Could it be yours? Maybe.

On this occasion I had visions of cupcakes dancing in my head to celebrate the victory of our hometown Oakland Golden State Warriors win during game 3 of the NBA play-offs. And, I wanted to pillage my pantry rather than go to the grocery store. I flipped open Real Sweet and landed on the Maple Chocolate Cake. Cocoa powder? Check. Greek yogurt? Check. Maple syrup? Check. Yes. As I finished scanning the ingredient list, my cupcake delivery plan started coming together.

Matcha Chocolate Cake-anneliesz_5404

What I like about this cake is it’s not too sweet but it has great bounce. I poked a few dark chocolate chips into one of the cupcakes and wouldn’t you know, it tasted amazing. But here’s the thing with friendship: you bring who you are to the table and they bring who they are. So, I hope you won’t be disappointed to learn I had to find a way to sneak tea into these black beauties. And, let me just tell you. Dusting the maple chocolate cupcakes with matcha powdered sugar might have been my second best decision of the day. Because good decision number one is sharing with you a book from a person who is as real and sweet as her book title suggests.

PS- If you’re in the Bay area, Shauna is going to be talking about natural sweeteners and signing books on Saturday, June 11 at 3 over at Omnivore Books in San Francisco.

Matcha Chocolate Cake_anneliesz_5370

Matcha Dusted Maple Chocolate Cupcakes

Maple Chocolate Cake printed with permission from Real Sweet by Shauna Sever

 This cake is used in a wickedly good recipe in Real Sweet: the Black and White Pancake Cake (see above photo of the open pages of the cookbook. Just imagine thin layers of chocolate cake sandwiched by cream and drizzled with ganache—need I say more?) But if you want to whip up some Friday afternoon cupcakes with a slight kick of caffeine, matcha dusting is a must. The chocolate and maple goodness are the right foil for the grassiness of the matcha green tea sugar. You can go easy does it and sift a fine sprinkling of the matcha powdered sugar on top of the cupcakes or go for a full-on green blizzard. The choice is yours. Tip: If you have leftover matcha powdered sugar, store it in a sealed container in a cool spot. Sift it over homemade donuts or whisk up a hot cup of pre-sweetened matcha by sprinkling 1 teaspoon into 4 ounces of hot 170F water and whisking until combined. Add 8 ounces warmed milk or hot water and sip.

YIELD: Makes 1 ½ dozen cupcakes, two 9-inch cake layers, or one 9×13-inch sheet cake

 

MAPLE CHOCOLATE CAKE

1 ½ cups (192 grams) unbleached AP flour, spooned and leveled

¾ cup (72 grams) unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup (336 grams) pure maple syrup (dark or very dark preferred)

1 cup (242 grams) 2% Greek yogurt

2 large eggs

¼ cup (57 grams) grapeseed oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

MATCHA POWDERED SUGAR

1 teaspoon culinary grade matcha green tea

¼ cup powdered sugar


To make the maple chocolate cake:
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.

Lightly grease a 9×13-inch rectangular baking pan or two 9-inch round pans (and line them with parchment paper), or line 18 wells of two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a large measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, yogurt, eggs, oil, and vanilla extract.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Using a whisk, energetically blend the batter by hand until smooth and thick, about 1 minute. Spread the batter into the prepared pan or pans. (For cupcakes, fill the cups no more than two-thirds full—you should get 18 cupcakes).

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly touched, 20 minutes for cupcakes, or 30 to 35 minutes for sheet and layer cakes. Cool completely in the pan or pans on a wire rack before inverting and frosting.

 

To make the matcha powdered sugar: sift together the matcha and powdered sugar in a small bowl. Spoon a small amount of the matcha sugar into the sifter and dust the cupcakes as much as you like. Add more matcha sugar to the sifter as needed.

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Recipes

Buckwheat Fish Sticks with Maple Mustard Dipping Sauce

Buckwheat-Fish-Sticks-with-Maple-Mustard-Sauce

I loved fish sticks as a child. Then again, I was a child who regularly ate boxed foods. Recently, my Mom and I had a conversation about that surly food memory past riddled with processed foods. She apologized for not doing better in this department and I responded that she did the best she could. I learned how to cook from my godmother, Mom Oldine and my gourmande aunt, Tia Berta. But I learned the joys of eating and got the push of support for a sometimes unruly imagination in the kitchen from my Mom.

In a month where 5,000 people have signed up to take the pledge to eat unprocessed foods, I consider how processed foods got me through my latch-key kid days and how now, as an adult, I can make other choices. I can make my own fish sticks without preservatives and use fresh herbs to infuse their earthy flavor into the crunchy exterior. I can chat with our local butcher and fishmonger and select a fine filet of halibut from down the coast, near where my friend Cheryl lives. I can look for alternative grains and upcycle ingredients typically consigned to one mealtime and invite them into another. The world is my oyster. Or, in this case, the world is my fish stick.

 

Buckwheat Fish Sticks with Maple Mustard Dipping Sauce

Originally published on Eating Rules

Yields 16 fish sticks

Ingredients
For the Fish Sticks:
  • 2 cups Buckwheat & Hemp cereal
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon real salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • ½ pound of firm white fish (I used halibut)
  • 1 egg
For the Dipping Sauce:
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Grease a roasting pan or line with parchment paper.
  2. Place cereal, rosemary, salt and pepper into a blender and process until finely ground. Pour contents onto a large plate.
  3. Pour buckwheat flour onto a separate plate. In a small bowl, whisk the egg.
  4. Place halibut filet on a cutting board and make narrow incisions down the length of the fish so that you cut long strips. Then you will cut these long strips in half. In the end, you should have 16 fish sticks.
  5. Assemble your line-up with your cutting board of fish first, followed by the plate of flour, then the egg wash, next the plate of buckwheat bread crumbs and lastly your lined or greased roasting pan.
  6. Proceed to dredge each cut fish section into the flour until nicely coated. Then, dip into the egg wash until all surfaces are nice and eggy. Lastly, dip and roll the fish stick in the breadcrumbs until all sides are coated. Place on the lined roasting pan. Repeat the process with all remaining fish sticks until they have all been shellacked with the flour-egg-breadcrumb mixtures.
  7. Cook for 12 minutes.
  8. While the fish sticks are cooking combine the mustard and maple syrup in a small bowl. Set aside.
  9. Remove the fish sticks from the oven and serve with Maple Mustard sauce.