Orange Pomegranate Oat Muffins with Blood Orange Curd

While I couldn’t be more pleased that spring is around the corner, if we could ever get it to stop snowing in the Pacific Northwest, there are a few great things about winter that I’ll miss. Pomegranates and citrus fruit rank high on that list. I baked these muffins as something of a last hurrah for the chilly season. They have a delicate crumb, a crusty top, and this twist on classic Lemon Curd made with blood orange juice is luscious, tart, and comforting all at once.

Orange Pomegranate Oat Muffins

5 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
6 oz flavored yogurt (I used Tillamook Orange Creamsicle)
1/2 tsp finely minced orange zest
1/4 tsp orange oil
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup pomegranate arils

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
Beat butter, sugar, and egg together. Add yogurt, zest, and orange oil.
In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Incorporate into the wet ingredients, being careful not to over-mix. Carefully fold in pomegranate arils.
Fill standard muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden-topped.

I tried a number of different Lemon Curd recipes before hitting upon the right variation for this Blood Orange Curd. In the end, my mother’s recipe won out. This was the first Lemon Curd I fell in love with, but I don’t usually make this version as it leaves me with a few extra egg whites on my hands. What, meringues? Me? Please.

Blood Orange Curd

1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons finely minced blood orange zest
1/4 cup blood orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
3 slightly beaten egg yolks

Combine sugar, cornstarch,  zest, juice, and butter in a small, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until thickened and bubbling. Remove approximately 1/2 cup of the sauce and beat into the egg yolks. Return this mixture to the saucepan, and bring to a gentle, bubbling boil. Cook, stirring for two minutes more. I confess to adding one (just one!) drop of red food coloring; the egg yolk distorts the beautiful ruby red of the blood orange juice otherwise.

Be sure not to use Meyer lemons for this recipe, as the tartness of yellow lemons is needed to balance out the almost-sweetness of the blood orange juice.

Prepare a nice cup of tea and enjoy! The muffins aren’t half bad with a little pat of butter, too.

This is an earlier version of these two recipes. That single drop of food coloring makes as significant a difference in appearance as the use of only egg whites and a half orange juice, half lemon juice mix does in texture and flavor. Not these muffins didn’t get devoured, too, though…

Lifeskills: How to Cook Baby Bok Choi

One of the best things about food in China is learning just how good vegetables can taste. Who knew?Bok choy is one of my favorite vegetables to cook. Not the great big heads of 白菜 bai cai (literally, white vegetable, aka Chinese cabbage) nor the immature, baby, version of the plant the Southern Chinese call 小白菜 xiao bai cai (small white vegetable) but the similarly sized, light green vegetable bunches that we call baby bok choy in the States. Eight or nine times out of ten, the term 青菜 qing cai (green vegetable) got me what I wanted in China, though that term could refer to a whole host of different leafy greens.

This is what I'm talking about.

Anyway, this is how to cook that lovely vegetable. It’ll work for just about any other substantial leafy green.
Have on hand:

  • Bok choy (remember, this boils down quite a bit so buy more than you think you’ll want to serve)
  • salt
  • sesame oil
  • oyster sauce
  • soy sauce

Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
Cut the ends off the bok choy to separate into individual leaves, and wash these.
Blanch the bok choy leaves, a handful or two at a time, in the boiling water for ~30 seconds. Remove from the pot and set aside in a colander placed in the sink or in a large bowl to catch drips.
Toss out the water and, over *low* heat, add a tablespoon or so of sesame oil to the pot. Be sure the heat is low, as sesame oil has a very low smoke point. Add a couple good-sized globs of oyster sauce and a dash or two of soy sauce. Mix these together well and let a bit of the moisture boil off. Add the blanched bai cai back to the pot and stir to coat. Et voilá!

I serve this with just about every Asian dish I make. You just can’t get enough dark leafy greens in your diet. It’s especially good with my famous Whole Pink Fish with Orange Juice and Cumin or Pai Gu (Spare ribs) in Black Bean Sauce.

Let me know how this works out for you and what you pair it with!

Masiacan (that’s ˈmeɪˌʒɪ.kən) Fish Tacos

When two cultures collide and commingle, the food is one of the first elements that gets thrown into the mix. We really are what we eat, in not only a physical, but also a social and cultural sense. In the spirit of getting back to my travelling roots (yes, I do realize how ludicrous that phrase is) I decided to try adding an Asian flair to my trusty Baja-style fish tacos.

Element 1: Ginger beer instead of Corona in the fish fry batter

Verdict: Barely perceptible difference. Not bad, though!

Element 2: Ginger-Lime-Cilantro Pico de Gallo

Verdict: A winner! Next time maybe I’ll call it coriander instead of cilantro and add lemongrass for a more Southeast Asian flair.

Element 3: Lightly pickled Baby Bok Choy instead of chopped cabbage.

Verdict: Very nice. The key is not leaving the bok choy to brine too long, as the leafy parts can get waterlogged and soggy.

Element 4: Wasabi Guacamole

Verdict: Almost as awesome as it sounds, but not quite. Maybe next time I’ll punch it up with a little more lemon juice and some minced jalapeño to even the flavors out.

Element 5: Wash ’em down with a Ginger Margarita

Verdict: Flat-out AMAZING. I used this recipe from Jean-Georges Vongerichten

I made my usual white sauce, a mixture of yogurt with a bit of mayo, cumin, lime juice, and ground red pepper.

It was a tasty experiment in fusion cooking. A few tweaks to be made, but nothing a few more fish taco dinners won’t fix!

Recipe for an Autumn Morning

I’m calling it. Summer, such as it was in Seattle this year, is officially over. Time to break out the sweaters and buy butternut squash and start leaf-watching.

I walked into my mom’s kitchen this morning and was hit smack dab in the face with the ultimate smell of autumn: German Apple Pancake.

This recipe occupies a sacred place in our family lore. It’s from The Vegetarian Epicure. Mom and Dad were once “plainclothes hippies” – vegetarians, gardeners, in touch with the planet and all. Their copy of the cookbook consistently falls open to the German Apple Pancake page. For a decade now the binding has been broken there, and there are little droplets staining the paper, souvenirs from pancakes past. My dad used to make this recipe for weekend breakfast once the good apples started to appear in the stores. No Red Delicious ever got near this recipe! We’re apple snobs in Washington.

We experimented with all kinds of varieties for the pancake topping…Granny Smith, Fuji, Gala, Jonagold, and in later years, Honeycrisp and Pink Lady. The original recipe suggests Pippens, a varietal that seems to have gone the way of shag carpeting.

The pancake itself is a light, airy wonder, with no leavening, just equal parts egg, flour, and milk, with a pinch of salt thrown in. It gets baked in a seasoned cast-iron skillet, climbing up the sides of the skillet and emerging from the oven a golden pancake bowl that is crisp and airy on the sides and doughy and absorbent on the bottom. This delicacy is subsequently topped with peeled, thinly sliced apples sauteed in butter and brown sugar.

Stop. Close your eyes. Really, you need to do this. Take a minute and just imagine all those smells…melted butter, eggy pancake, apple, caramelizing brown sugar, a bit of nutmeg…THAT is my smell of autumn.

My role as a kid was always to help my dad peel the apples. I was in awe of his skill with an apple peeler. (This is how important this recipe is in my family. We don’t have potato peelers in our kitchen; we got apple peelers here.) His long, curling strips of peel far surpassed Meg Ryan’s in Sleepless in Seattle. By the time I was finished peeling one apple, one round little blurb of peel at a time, he’d already powered through the other three.

He taught me to time it just right, to start sauteing the apples just as I turned down the temperature on the oven so that both apples and pancake would be done at the same time. He taught me to hold back, be a bit patient before starting to eat, so that the juices would have time to soak into the pancake, sweetening it and adding depth to the eggy flavor.

I learned on my own never to tamper with perfection:

German Apple Pancake, as I remember it from The Vegetarian Epicure:

Pancake:
1 TB butter
3 large eggs
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup milk
pinch of salt

Topping:
4 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
cinnamon and nutmet

Method: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Melt the butter in a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, coating the bottom and sides. Mix the eggs, flour, milk, and salt in a bowl and pour into the skillet. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake ten minutes more.

Saute the apples in the remaining 1/4 cup of melted butter. When the apples are just soft, add the sugar and spices. Fill one half of the pancake bowl with apples, then fold the other half over on top.

Wait a few minutes.

Devour.