Friday, May 18, 2018

Barley Makes a Great Base for a Meal

With summer fast approaching, we all look to find recipes that take less time spent over a hot stove. If cooking is needed, then at least cooking a pot of barley is on top of the stove, and doesn't need close watching. 

We often overlook alternative grains as making up the base of a meal, and barley is so tasty. It takes about an hour to cook it through, unless you prefer the quick-cooking variety. I always try to buy the long cooking sort, but that is just the way I roll. Barley has a nice chewiness to it, giving something to sink your teeth into. For me, that makes it "feel" like I am getting more out of the meal, somehow. 
Barley Salad with Corn & Mango
Barley Salad with Corn & Mango

To Roast, or Not to Roast?

I like adding in roasted red and green bell peppers to the mix, but if it's just too hot to deal with roasting the peppers and peeling them, simply use a jar or two of roasted red peppers, drained and chopped, and then a little can or two of chopped green chilies.

And then the corn. I admit, roasted ears of fresh corn are amazingly good. If you have the grill going anyway, roasting the corn is great. But if it is too hot and getting the grill going, or even standing near it feels like some level of hell's fire, then just use a can or corn, well drained. 
Barley Salad with Corn & Mango
Barley Salad with Corn & Mango

Fresh Fruit?

I love mango, so I use mango in this salad. You could substitute things like papaya, peach, apricot, or even strawberries, if the salad will be eaten in short order. Strawberries won't look so good if the salad is leftover, and this does make a lot of barley salad.

So, What's Left?

All that is really left are the seasonings that make all these flavors come together in such a pleasing way. Lime juice, cumin, black pepper, olive oil. Scallions for a nice oniony crunch. Just a bit of cider vinegar to add piquancy.

And then, while this is an amazing side dish at any time of year, if you add in chicken, you've got a meal with minimal fuss. Rotisserie chickens are widely available at the grocery these days, and they make a quick and easy meal. Simply remove all the skin and bones and add in the chicken - in large chunks or chopped. This is so good - you just have to try it!

Barley Salad with Corn & Mango

Barley Salad with Corn & Mango
Barley Salad with Corn & Mango
Serves about 8

1 cup pearl barley
8 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper (or use a Poblano)
2 ears corn, husked
6 to 8 scallions, chopped
1 large mango, peeled, diced
2 to 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro, to taste
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Fresh cracked pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
Rotisserie Chicken, optional

Bring the water to a boil, add in the salt and cook the barley according to package directions, till al dente. Drain the barley and place into a large bowl.

Roast the peppers until blackened. Place them into a zip-top bag and seal; steam for a few minutes until cool enough to handle. Peel the skins, discard the seeds and stem. Chop the peppers and add to the barley. Alternately, use a jar or two of roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped, and a small can or two of chopped green chilies.

Roast the corn over a hot grill until quite a few kernels are nicely browned. Slice the kernels from the cob and add to the barley. Alternately, drain a can of whole kernel corn and add to the barley.

Add in the scallions, mango and cilantro. In a small bowl, whisk together the cumin, lime juice and apple cider vinegar, then whisk in the oil. Pour over the salad and toss well to combine. Let the salad stand for at least a half hour before serving.

If using the chicken, remove skin and bones and discard. Chop the meat as desired and add to the salad, mixing well to combine.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

When Life Hands you Bananas

We have all been faced with bananas that have gone past their prime. In that case, there are options. They can always be thrown out. Or, they can be frozen until there is time to make something with them. Or, they can be made into banana bread, or banana cake. 

I was faced with this decision a couple of days ago, where the three remaining bananas on the counter were decidedly more brown that either of us felt was edible. I sat down to decide how I wanted to proceed with a recipe for banana cake. I was surprised to discover I had no banana cake recipe yet posted. I used to make the banana cake recipe from my very old copy of  "Joy of Cooking." There was never anything wrong with that recipe, but I know I had another recipe from a cooking class somewhere that was far richer and also delicious. And then I am always thinking these days of how to add some fiber or other goodness into a recipe. 
Banana Cake with Broiled Topping
Banana Cake with Broiled Topping

There are various considerations in making a banana cake. Two eggs or three? How much butter is needed? All white sugar or some brown sugar added? Sour milk, buttermilk, or another such as yogurt or sour cream? Spices or no spices? Nuts or no nuts? And then flour...which I really wanted to replace some of with Kamut flour.

Banana Cake with Broiled Topping
Banana Cake with Broiled Topping
As usual, I read a whole lot of recipes to see what others did in their banana cakes. In general, I think it comes down to how rich does one want the cake to be. I considered going the route of using ground flax seed instead of eggs, but opted to stick with the eggs, three of them. I really saw no recipes that used sour cream, and I wondered why. I opted to use sour cream. I used some brown sugar, half the amount of flour as ground whole Kamut flour, and since that would be heavier, instead of all-purpose flour for the remainder, used cake flour to round it out and lighten a bit. If you choose to make this with only all-purpose flour, just use 3 cups. I added in nuts. Originally I was going to add walnuts, but when I looked into using a broiled topping without coconut (not easy to find, mind you), nuts were the featured ingredient. My husband doesn't like walnuts, but if they are ground finely in a cake or other recipe, and he can't see them or truly taste the individual nuts, it's okay. But, if I used walnuts in the cake, and then chopped walnuts on top, that would be unacceptable. So, I went with pecans, both in the cake and on top, because he likes pecans just fine.

Only in one case did I see someone use a little bit of cinnamon in their banana cake. Somehow, despite how much I truly love cinnamon, whether true cinnamon or cassia, I just could not enjoy that combination in my mind. Instead, I used nutmeg. Ultimately, though I grated a whole teaspoon of nutmeg into the cake, I could not taste it. This makes me wonder if it was of any use whatsoever to have used any spice at all? 

Once I got all my ducks in a row as to what I wanted to do with the cake, I then put thought to frosting. I just was not in the mood for frosting. Long ago, I recalled making a cake of some kind, and it called for a topping that was spread over the just-baked cake, then broiled. With no idea where I might have that recipe, I again went online. I found that everywhere I searched for a broiled topping, it contained copious quantities of coconut. Since coconut is another thing my husband does not like, I had to change my search parameters. Even then, most recipes contained coconut. I eventually found two recipes that were made with nuts instead of coconut (here and here). There was not a huge difference between them, but I opted for more nuts than one and less butter than either. It came out delicious. Use this Broiled Topping recipe on most any one layered cake.

Banana Cake with Broiled Topping
Banana Cake with Broiled Topping

Banana Cake

Makes one 9 x 13-inch cake

3 very ripe bananas (about 1½ cups)
2 teaspoons lime or lemon juice 
10 tablespoons unsalted butter,
    at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature 
1½ cups whole grain Kamut flour
1½ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 
    (or ½ teaspoon pre-ground nutmeg)
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sour cream
¾ cup chopped or ground nuts  
    (walnuts or pecans)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease or spray with cooking spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and set aside.

In a bowl, smash the bananas with a fork and stir in the lime or lemon juice; set aside.

In another bowl, combine the flours with the salt, baking soda, nutmeg and baking powder; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until light, about 3 minutes. Add in the granulated sugar slowly, until well combined, then add the brown sugar and beat the mixture for at least 3 minutes more. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is well combined before adding the next. Add in a third of the flour mixture on low speed until combined. Add in the mashed banana mixture and beat until incorporated. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat to combine. Fold in the nuts and the sour cream. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, or at most with a couple of crumbs. 

Top the cake with your favorite frosting once cooled, or use this Broiled Topping recipe while the cake is just out of the oven:

Broiled Topping
Broiled Topping
Broiled Topping

Makes enough for one 9 x 13-inch cake

1 cup brown sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup heavy cream
1½ cups chopped pecans or walnuts

In a saucepan, combine the first three ingredients and bring to boil, stirring. Add the nuts off the heat and spread evenly over a just-baked cake. Set the cake under a broiler about 3-inches from the heat source. Broil until bubbling all over, about 1 to 3 minutes or so. Watch closely. The topping remains soft until the cake has cooled, then the topping dries.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin.

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Tipsy Coffee Flavored Pound Cake

Who doesn't love cake? Well, maybe some exist out there, but I certainly don't know anyone that falls into that category. We may not all agree on the flavor of said cake, but certainly there are enough types, flavors and styles to cover most everyone.
Tipsy Coffee Pound Cake
Tipsy Coffee Pound Cake

I love cake. I love a whole lot of kinds and flavors of cakes. White cake is very high on my own personal list, but I love so many kinds it's hard to even begin a list. Coffee is a flavor I love. I drink plenty of coffee. Before I was diagnosed with diabetes, I enjoyed coffee liqueur, along with a lot of other kinds of sweet drinks. These are not on my list anymore of things to indulge in. Cake though? I try not to overindulge, nor even make them too often. But when I do, I have a small slice each night for dessert. Just the one. Yum. So, in mentioning the liqueurs and other sweet drinks, we happen to have a cabinet full of them, and I got thinking about what to do with them. I do use things like Grand Marnier often, in recipes. Likewise with Cointreau. Orange flavored liqueurs lend themselves to so many applications. But what about coffee liqueur? I have two different brands and two bottles (how did THAT happen?) of one of them. 

So, with all this in mind, I went about creating a pound cake. I called it "Tipsy," since it does have a half-cup worth of coffee liqueur in it. It is very rich, very sweet, and oh, so delicious. It needs absolutely nothing on it. No icing, glaze, or even confectioners' sugar dusting. It is that good, all by itself. I did put a glaze over top, just so it would look pretty for my photos, but it does not need a single thing to make it the most excellent, moist and flavorful pound cake.

Tipsy Coffee Pound Cake

Serves 12 to 16
Tipsy Coffee Pound Cake
Tipsy Coffee Pound Cake

2 cups (9.35 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 cups (9 ounces) whole grain Kamut or Spelt flour 
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups (1.6 pounds) sugar
6 large (about 2-ounces each, shell on) whole eggs
¼ cup (2 ounces) hot water  
1½ tablespoons instant espresso powder
½ cup (4 ounces) Coffee Liqueur

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease a bundt pan, or spray with cooking spray; set aside. In a bowl, whisk together the two kinds of flour and the salt; set aside. In a small bowl or measuring cup combine the hot water and espresso powder to dissolve. Once dissolved, add to the coffee liqueur and set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat the soft butter for about 2 minutes, to lighten. Gradually add in the sugar, a little at a time and beat for about 5 to 7 minutes in total, until very fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating just until completely combined before adding the next. Add in a third of the dry ingredients on lower speed, until combined. Add in half the liquid ingredients and combine. Repeat with another third of the flour, the remaining liquids and then the last of the flour. Use a spatula to scrape up any unmixed portions in the bottom of the mixer bowl, stirring in well. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, smoothing the top. Run a knife through the batter to release any large bubbles. 

Bake the cake for 1 hour and 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with only a crumb or two. Let stand in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Quinoa Side Dish Worth Trying

I apologize for having been absent a lot from my blog in these last few months, as it has been a particularly challenging time for my husband and me. I am hoping that life settles down a bit, so I can continue trying out recipes and posting them here.
Quinoa Pilaf in Acorn Squash
Quinoa Pilaf in Acorn Squash

Quinoa Pilaf
Quinoa Pilaf
A couple of weeks ago, I had an idea to make something with quinoa (KEEN-wah). Quinoa makes a great base to start with, because it doesn't have a whole lot of flavor on its own, so it lends itself to things like a pilaf, which, strictly speaking, is a rice dish, but this works the same way. I had bought an acorn squash with the intent of making Smoky Beef & Currants in Acorn Squash. However, since I had just made and served some Smoky Beef & Currant Empanadas, it seemed too much to use that same mixture again in so close proximity, despite how good it is. Which brought me back to what to do with the acorn squash. 

When I started thinking of what kind of mixture to use, I thought of quinoa, since I hadn't used it in a while. And once I started thinking of flavors and ingredients to add, I just kept going and the mixture turned out so delicious that it is perfectly acceptable as a side dish (I served it alongside small pan-fried, skinless, boneless chicken breasts) or even a main dish all on its own. It may (or not) have been overkill to fill the acorn squash with it, but it was truly delicious, either way. The quinoa mixture made just a little too much for filling the acorn squash halves, so I kept aside the remainder for a lunch snack the next day.

If making the quinoa to fill the acorn squash, the recipe would be for two people, but the quinoa pilaf on its own could easily be a sufficient side dish for 3 or 4 people.

Quinoa Pilaf in Acorn Squash

Serves 2 to 4
Quinoa Pilaf in Acorn Squash
Quinoa Pilaf in Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash
½ cup quinoa (I used red quinoa)
1 cup water
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 onion, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
½ green bell pepper, chopped
1 Fresno chili, seeded, minced

1 teaspoon capers, drained
½ cup dried cranberries (craisins)
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, minced
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 teaspoons maple syrup 

Preheat oven to 350. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment and spray the foil or parchment with cooking spray. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds and discard. Set the squash halves, cut sides down, on the foil or parchment, place in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. 

While the squash bakes, place the quinoa, water and first half teaspoon of salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to steam for 10 minutes, then fluff. If water remains in the saucepan, drain it off.

In a skillet over medium low heat, cook the onion in the teaspoon of oil and teaspoon of butter, adding in the second half teaspoon of salt. Stir occasionally until the onions are golden. Once the onions are done, add the garlic and thyme leaves and cook for a few minutes more. Add the bell pepper and Fresno pepper and cook for about 5 minutes more, until tender.

Off the heat, add the "additions" to the skillet, along with the steamed quinoa and mix thoroughly. At this point, the Quinoa Pilaf is ready.

Once the squash is baked, carefully turn the squash cut side upwards and with a sharp knife, score the squash in 1-inch intervals in a cross hatch pattern, being careful not to cut through the skin. Sprinkle the squash lightly with salt, then mound in the Quinoa Pilaf. Return the squash to the oven for about 15 minutes more, then serve.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Please Enjoy My May Newsletter

Spices, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, turmeric
Happy Wildflower Week, Friend

I find wildflowers to be cheery and with amazing strength, marking how nature manages, despite weather and mankind, to produce a bounty of color. I also find spices and herbs to be a cheering way to experiment with flavoring foods, a never ending source of new and exciting ways to dress up a dish. Mother Nature has created some fantastic flavors. Learning about new spices and herbs always makes me happy and excited. This month I would like to showcase spices and herbs, and how they can be used in some great, flavorful foods.

Firmly into Spring now, even in these more northern climes, it is time to dust off grills and start enjoying the outdoors. Whether indoors or out, cooking with herbs and spices makes foods taste so amazing. In the header above, I photographed things like green cardamom, Szechuan peppercorns, saffron, turmeric, Dagad Phool (a lichen used in some Indian dishes), star anise and others. My spice and herb collection may be over the top to some people. I find it just right.

Please check "
A Harmony of Flavors" website and "A Harmony of Flavors" blog site, continually being updated with new recipes. There is a lot to choose from!
Some Herbs and Spices to Try

Some of these may be completely familiar, and some may not. Most people buy allspice in pre-ground powder form, but the allspice berries can also be used whole in cooking or in a heated marinade to add flavor, then be removed. Most people know of coriander seed, but how many of you realize that it also tastes great in sweet applications? Lavender is touted greatly as a soothing herb, to help with sleep or in scented bath salts or scented waters to spritz on pillows or on bed sheets. But the dried flowers (food grade, of course) can be used in myriad other ways, in careful amounts, in foods. And who has not heard of chives? Yet unless you have chives growing in your yard or nearby, you might miss the opportunities to use the chive flowers in springtime.

Below is a button to connect with a really great Bonus Recipe for this month, celebrating Spring.
CLICK HERE for a Bonus Recipe
pork tenderloin, coriander, cumin, spices
Coriander and some uses . . .

Whether or not you like Indian food, this recipe for Pork in Indian Spices is an absolute hit at any mealtime. Quick and easy to make and out of this world done on a grill, one of the spices used in its marinade is coriander seed. These seeds are used in so many dishes, it's hard to even recollect all of them. Try them in Pickled Red Onions, Turnip Pickles, Falafel, Keema Mattar, Mixed Lentil Dal, and so many other recipes.

But, how about using coriander seeds in sweet applications? Coriander seeds have a slightly citrus-like flavor, unlike the green parts of the plant. Try adding a half to a full teaspoon of ground coriander seed in your next apple pie filling, or in cookies, whether spice cookies, oatmeal or other, spice cakes or other cakes. I made a Speculaas Spice Mix for some Speculaas Christmas Cookies, to everyone's delight.

Be inventive in trying out some new applications for an old spice.
pumpkin, nuts, allspice, spices, pumpkin loaf
How about some Allspice?

Allspice is widely known in sweet applications. My mother-in-law used allspice in most all her nut breads and a lot of other desserts. It seemed allspice was a true staple in her spice cupboard. Pumpkin Loaf was one of the first of her recipes I tried. The flavor of allspice, being similar to a combination of various of the "warm" spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, is also great either in place of or along with those same spices to punch up the flavor. I love adding allspice to my Spicier Pumpkin Pie recipe.

For use in savory foods, allspice is less known here in the US. Allspice berries are the fruits of a Myrtle family tree. They are essential in much Caribbean cooking, especially in their Jerk Marinade for chicken or other meat. In Guatemala, it was common to use a bit of allspice in savory things, like
Salsa Verde. It is a small amount, but adds interest to the sauce.
potato salad, chive flowers, chives
Try Chive Flowers!
Only available in spring, when chive plants go to flower, these little pinkish flowers offer the tiniest bit of an onion-like flavor. A tiny burst, and no more. Add these pretty little lavender colored flowers to salads, or sprinkle over just about any meal or side dish for a pretty bit of color and flavor. Shown here is a photo of Grilled Potato Salad with Three Onions, a recipe that used both fresh green chives, as well as the little flowers.
scones, Earl Grey Tea, lavender flowers, pecans
Lavender as a Spice

I cannot discount that lavender could be used in a savory application, but I have yet to hear of one. In sweet applications, and in judicious amounts, lavender makes an excellent flavor pairing. Long ago, one of my sisters sent me a recipe for cookies using lavender. I made them, but cannot say I cared for them. Possibly using half the amount of lavender called for would have made the cookies more palatable, but for a time, I could not bring myself to experiment further.

Later on, I experimented with using Earl Grey Tea in scones, and added in both lavender flowers and pecans. The recipe is titled, unsurprisingly, Earl Grey Scones with Lavender & Pecans. These scones are a little bit of a production to make, but the aroma while baking is mouth watering, and once baked, the flavors are just out of this world.

Another time I tried making a tea loaf using lavender flowers, and this also came out absolutely chock full of wonderful flavors. I called it Lavender Nut Tea Loaf. The first time I put together the recipe, it stuck to the loaf pan and came out only in chunks. I was devastated, though it tasted fantastic. The second time, I lined the pan, and also made the recipe with gluten-free flours. This time it came free with no difficulty, and the flavors were absolutely perfect. Should you get an urge to try lavender flowers in a recipe, try one of these two. You will not be at all sorry you tried.
Chris Rawstern, A Harmony of Flavors
Happy Spring to all my readers. This year my birthday photo comes with huge thanks to my sister Diana's fantastic ability with her camera. I hope you will visit all my sites and try some new (or old) recipes, learn something new about an herb or spice or other subject, or maybe just daydream. However it is accomplished, I endeavor to provide articles of interest. Not everyone cooks these days, due to time constraints, though I did cook meals for my family back when I had 4 youngsters and worked 2 jobs, so I know it can be done. It does requires advanced planning. Many of my newer, more complex recipes have been created now that I am retired and have extra time on my hands, yet many are easy and quick.
Please forward this newsletter to any friends who may find my stories, articles and recipes of interest. Subscribe to this Newsletter by hitting the Subscribe Button below. Follow me on Facebook, check out my A Harmony of Flavors website, and A Harmony of Flavors blog. Find all my food (and lots of other) photos on Pinterest at AHOFpin.
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