Peanut butter is the icing on the cake

Peanutbutterfrosting041215

One of my coworkers had a birthday last week, which means I did some baking. This coworker requested chocolate cupcakes, so I knew I’d turn to the Joy of Cooking for the cupcake recipe. But the frosting was where I wanted to have some fun.

My mom always made buttercream frosting for cupcakes, but I’ve always found most frosting to be too sweet for my taste. I remembered this coworker being fond of peanut butter, so I looked around for a recipe online for peanut butter frosting and came across this one.

The original recipe called for creamy peanut butter, but I only ever buy crunchy, so I used that. The frosting held up well and complemented the cupcakes nicely. It’s definitely a nice alternative to the more common options.

Ingredients
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

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A one-dish meal fit for a dad

Bayscallopgratin1

My dad does not have fancy taste. While some dads might have white-collar jobs and commute in SUVs, mine wears a uniform and commutes on a motorcycle. Some dads might like to dine at a fancy restaurant, but mine prefers to eat his meals out of a bowl after a long day at work.

I recently purchased some bay scallops from the store. While the usual idea of just searing them and having them with a side of cous cous crossed my mind, I wanted to do something more interesting. I looked around for ideas online and came across The Barefoot Contessa’s recipe for bay scallop gratin. I had all but one ingredient — the absinthe — on hand, so I did without it. I scaled down the original recipe so it only made two servings, since I only had a half-pound of scallops.

My favorite thing about the gratin is that it was easy to assemble and put in the oven after work. During the cooking process, the butter and wine came together to form a sort of seafood broth that added a ton of flavor to the scallops. The panko added a slightly crunchy topping that was a nice contrast to the texture of everything below it. A slice of bread was a nice addition that helped soak up the remaining broth.

This one-dish meal is something I think my dad might enjoy. Happy Father’s Day.

Bayscallopgratin2Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 medium shallots, minced
1 ounce thinly sliced prosciutto di Parma, minced
1 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoons Pernod (absinthe)
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 cup panko
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 pound fresh bay scallops
Lemon, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place 2 (6-inch round) gratin dishes on a sheet pan.

To make the topping, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). With the mixer on low speed, add the garlic, shallot, prosciutto, parsley, lemon juice, Pernod, salt, and pepper and mix until combined. With the mixer still on low, add the olive oil slowly as though making mayonnaise, until combined. Fold the panko in with a rubber spatula and set aside.

Preheat the broiler, if it’s separate from your oven.

Place 1 tablespoon of the wine in the bottom of each gratin dish. With a small sharp knife, remove the white muscle and membrane from the side of each scallop and discard. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and divide them among both dishes. Spoon the garlic butter evenly over the top of the scallops. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the topping is golden and sizzling and the scallops are barely done. If you want the top crustier, place the dishes under the broiler for 2 minutes, until browned. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of chopped parsley and serve immediately with crusty French bread.

Potato salad fit for summer

potatosalad

The warmer weather in Tahoe has me thinking about being outside — and the food that comes with it.

Summer is a time for barbecues and picnics, and potato salad is one of the first dishes that comes to mind when I think of eating outside.

Champagne vinegar and dijon mustard are the dominate flavors in this version of the dish. The first time I used champagne vinegar in potato salad was after watching an episode of the Barefoot Contessa in which Ina Garten made this French Potato Salad. I hadn’t considered the combination before, but it has since become my go-to ingredient.

The recipe below is based on Garten’s recipe. I didn’t have all of the ingredients her recipe called for, so I improvised. If you’re looking for an alternative to your mom’s potato salad recipe, this is a great option.

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds baby gold Yukon potatoes
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons chicken broth
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
10 leaves of spinach or basil, ripped into small pieces
A small bunch of chives, cut into small pieces
Dash of salt
Dash each of garlic powder, onion powder

Boil the potatoes in a pot of water for 20-30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain pot. Let potatoes cool for about 10 minutes. Cut into quarters and place in a medium bowl. Add vinegar and chicken broth. Toss gently and let sit until the potatoes have soaked up the liquid.

Once the liquid has been absorbed, add the mayonnaise, dijon mustard, chives and spinach or basil. Mix and add salt and spices to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

A little R&R for the weekend

ricepudding

There are few cooking shows I watch and think “I could do that,” but Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, keeps her approach to food simple and elegant. It makes it seem doable for at-home cooks like me.

On a recent episode, she made a rum raisin rice pudding. In her recipe, Garten uses basmati rice and half-and-half, but all I had in my cupboard was arborio that I had purchased with the intention of making white truffle risotto. Arborio is a short-grain Italian rice that is used for creamy rice dishes because of its absorbency. Because it’s a short-grain rice, I only needed four cups of milk instead of the five cups her recipe used. I also opted for vanilla soy milk since I don’t drink regular milk, and it worked well.

The last time I used rum in a recipe the flavor was too strong. I worried about it with this pudding and, after tasting the finished product while it was still warm, felt like I had used too much. However, after refrigerating it overnight, the flavors came together and the rum wasn’t as pronounced. If I make this again and plan to eat it warm, I won’t toss in the rum that doesn’t get soaked up by the raisins because it would overpower the other flavors.

Sometimes it’s nice to have something sweet and simple in the fridge. This rice pudding definitely fits the bill.

Ingredients
3/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons dark rum
3/4 cup arborio rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups soy milk, whole milk or half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In a small bowl, combine the raisins and rum. Set aside.

Combine the rice and salt with 1 1/2 cups water in a medium heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan. Bring it to a boil, stir once, and simmer, covered, on the lowest heat for 8 to 9 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed. (If your stove is very hot, pull the pan halfway off the burner.)

Stir in 4 cups of soy milk and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, until the rice is very soft. Stir often, particularly toward the end. Slowly stir in the beaten egg and continue to cook for 1 minute. Off the heat, add the vanilla and the raisins with any remaining rum. Stir well. Pour into a bowl, and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm or chilled.