Double Coconut Granola

Friday, August 24, 2012

Making granola is as simple as mixing together a bunch of ingredients and then baking them for 45 minutes. I often keep all of the ingredients needed for granola in my pantry, so the most difficult part (for me) is finding all the ingredients, since I always have to hunt for the nuts or seeds that end up in the back of a cupboard. I buy almonds, cashews, and thickly grated coconut from an Indian grocery called "India Cash & Carry" since they have amazing quality spices and nuts for really cheep prices. You can substitute nearly any dried fruits, raw nuts, or raw seeds that you like.

My granola is based on the "Double Coconut Granola" recipe from "Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make" by Melissa Clark. Modifications I made to the recipe:
  • Instead of just pecans I used 1 cup of a mix of raw pecans, raw pistachio, and raw almonds, and I coarsely chopped (or rather hammered into coarse peaces) 1/2 cup raw pecans and 1/4 cup raw almonds. I like having a mixture of whole and chopped nuts because the whole pieces are nice garnishes and are fun to find in the granola when you are eating it, and the chopped nuts give flavor and body to a handful of the granola so that the handful isn't just composed of oats. I also like to add some sort of seeds, usually pumpkin seeds, for the same reason--to flavor each bite.
  • I only put 3/4 tsp salt instead of the recommended 1 tsp.
  • I doubled the amount of cinnamon (so I put in 1 tsp cinnamon); I prefer this granola to have a noticeable cinnamon-y flavor.
  • Instead of dried cherries, I use golden raisins (regular brown raisins can be substituted). I also bake the raisins in the granola--the first time I made this recipe I misread the recipe and accidentally mixed the raisins into the granola before baking instead of after. However, I decided that I really liked this variation, since baking the raisins concentrates their sweet flavor. They will turn dark brown though and look like regular raisins--that's okay with me.
  • I use thickly grated coconut (non-sugared); if you only have thinly grated coconut, then you should only add it in the last 10 minutes of baking. I used palm sugar from Thailand instead of light brown sugar, since I just bought the palm sugar and I wanted to see what it tastes like. It adds a nice subtle caramel and butterscotch taste.
  • I prefer using coconut oil or olive oil in my granola over butter. The oils tend to make the granola crispier, whereas the the butter seems to lead to a slightly softer granola.
You can halve this recipe if you want to make a smaller amount. This time I made a full batch (3 cups of rolled oats); only half the batch is pictured though--the other half is in a different baking dish. I used non-cast iron dishes, since last time I made granola, I found the cast iron browned the granola too quickly.

This recipe is very flexible (and it is especially good for cleaning out your pantry of random nuts and dried fruits); you can add extra nuts, seeds, or dried fruits you like as long as you adjust the spices, seasoning, oil, and sugar if you have a greater volume. If you want to add extra ingredients, measure the amount of dry ingredients, and use that measurement to adjust the spices, seasonings, sugar, and oil according to the amount of granola you have.

(The picture above shows my granola in a acai bowl.)

Recipe: Heavily modified from "Double Coconut Granola" recipe from "Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make" by Melissa Clark
Rating: Great.
Status: Made variations of this many times.

Dry Ingredients:
3 cups (315 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw nuts (about 130 grams), a mix of your choosing (e.g. pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, cashews)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts *
1 cup thickly grated non-sugared coconut (thickly grated coconut is preferred, but thinly shredded non-sugared coconut can be substituted)
1 cup (150 grams) raw pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup raisins (115 grams), preferably golden but regular raisins are okay (or any other dried fruit you like)

Dry Spices and Seasonings:
1/3 cup (65 grams) packed light brown sugar or lightly packed grated palm sugar
3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
(optional) handful of candied ginger or 1 tsp powdered ginger

Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup melted virgin coconut oil (you can substitute olive oil or any neutral flavored oil)
(optional) dash of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 F.

If you are using palm sugar, then you should dissolve the palm sugar in the maple syrup first.

In a large bowl or in your baking dish, combine all dry ingredients. Add the spices and seasonings. Throughly mix the granola to evenly disburse the dry ingredients.

Mix all of the wet ingredients together, and then mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Spread out the granola evenly across a baking dish; you may need to use two baking dishes. The thicker the layer of granola, is the longer that it will take to cook.

Bake until golden all over, about 45 minutes (or longer if your layer of granola is very thick), stirring every 10 minutes.

* I like to chop my nuts with a knife because it makes a cleaner edge than smashing them with a hammer. However, if you want to use a hammer, you can put all the nuts in a clean plastic bag, and use a kitchen hammer to break them up. If you want to use a mixture of different types of chopped nuts, then each nut should be cut or pounded separately, since they have different hardness.

Another time I made this I used the following recipe:

Dry Ingredients: (This made 11 cups of dry granola ingredients.)
3 1/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw cashew nuts
1 cup raw whole almonds
1/2 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup coarsely chopped raw cashew nuts *
1/2 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds *
1/2 cup coarsely chopped raw pecans *
1 cup thickly grated coconut (non-sugared)
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1-1/2 cup raisins, preferably golden but regular raisins are okay (or any other dried fruit you like)
1/2 cup unhulled raw sesame seeds
(optional) 3/4 cup candied ginger (chop pieces if they are large) **

Dry Spices and Seasonings:
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon ***
2 tsp powdered ginger
1 1/8 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

Wet ingredients:
3/4 cup maple syrup, grade B ****
3/4 cup melted virgin coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla

I increased the spices, sugar, and fat components to account for the larger quantities, but I think I increased them a little too much. This is as sugary as I would make the granola. I think the granola came out more sugary because most of the increased ingredients from the original recipe are seeds and nuts, which don't absorb oil like the oats do. I haven't decided whether I will keep the oil and sugar levels the same or reduce them next time.

This was my first time adding sesame seeds--I like them! Similar to the chopped nuts and seeds, the sesame seeds add flavor to each bite.

This makes a really large batch. I first divided it into only two baking dishes; since the layer of granola was thick on each dish it took a really long time to cook. It took about 1 hour and 15 minutes in a pyrex baking dish. The other dish I used was a large ceramic pie dish; after 1 hour and 15 minutes of baking in the pie dish, I divided the remaining granola between the pie dish and a pyrex baking dish, and it was done around 1-1/2 hours.

Follow the mixing and baking instructions in the above recipe.

* I like to chop my nuts with a knife because it makes a cleaner edge than smashing them with a hammer. However, if you want to use a hammer, you can put all the nuts in a clean plastic bag, and use a kitchen hammer to break them up. If you want to use a mixture of different types of chopped nuts, then each nut should be cut or pounded separately, since they have different hardness.
** I added the candied ginger last, after all the wet ingredients so that the ginger would retain most of its sugar.
*** Next time I might consider decreasing the cinnamon by 1/2 tsp.
**** Grade B maple syrup is good for baking because it has more flavor than the delicate grade A maple syrup which is best for pouring on pancakes and similar things. However, grade A can be substituted in this recipe.

Fava Bean, Corn, and Mint Salad

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I was inspired to make this summer salad today at the farmer's market. First I bought 2 ears of corn; I was simply planning on either eating corn on the cob, or making a quick corn salad that I have been seeing all over the Internet (e.g here and here). But next I saw that fava beans were still being sold at one of the stands, and I wanted to make something with them again before their season is over for this year. So I decided to combine the fava beans and corn with a vinaigrette and mint. The salad I ended up making isn't actually quick, since shelling and deskinning the fava beans is really time consuming, however a quick version of this could be made by leaving out the fava beans.

I don't have exact amounts, since I put everything together to taste. I wanted to keep the salad fairly simple, with not to many ingredients, and I wanted all the vegetables to be just barely cooked, so that it emphasized the freshness of summer. I choose mint for the salad, since mint goes well with fava beans.

1 bag of fava beans
2 ears corn, they must be really fresh and sweet
small handful cherry tomatoes (optional, this is mostly just for color)
champagne vinegar
walnut oil
olive oil
Meyer lemon olive oil
1/4 shallot, finely minced
ground white pepper
juice from 1/4 small Meyer lemon
small handful of mint

Prepare fava beans:
Remove the fava beans from the shells. The beans have a white or green-white papery skin which must be removed by blanching. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the fava beans for 3-4 minutes; you may hear the skins tearing and popping. Remove one of the beans after 3 minutes, and rinse it in cold water so its cool enough to hold. Remove skin and taste for doneness; the bean should be bright green inside the skin and just barely cooked. Even though my fava beans were mature, mine only needed 3 minutes. When the beans are cooked, drain, and rinse under cold water or immerse in ice water to stop the cooking and set the color. When cool, pop the beans out of their papery skins and discard (or compost) the skins. This is time consuming, but it is essential because the skins don't taste very good. Do not rinse beans after they have been removed from their skins, because you will wash away flavor.

I decided to not boil the ears of corn, because I read that salt tends to shrivel corn. If I had planned ahead I could have used just 1 pot and the same batch of boiling water, if I boiled the corn in unsalted first, and then salted it and used the same water to blanch the beans. In any case, I decided to steam the 2 ears of corn whole (some people recommend steaming corn over boiling). I wanted this salad to be very fresh, and summery and for the corn to be just barely cooked (almost raw even), so I only steamed my corn for 2 minutes. Immediately after steaming, I rinsed my corn in cold water until it was cool to stop the cooking. Next I cut the corn off the cob.

Next I mixed champagne vinegar, walnut oil, olive oil, Meyer lemon olive oil, finely minced 1/4 shallot (to give it a bit of bite and savoriness), a pinch of salt, and ground white pepper. I used approximately a 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil ratio (my vinegar didn't seem that strong, and I wanted the salad to have a noticeable tang), and had approximately equal quantities of all three oils (salad dressings made with only walnut oil can be cloying, so its better to use a combination of walnut and olive oil if you want to include walnut oil in your dressing). I let the dressing sit in a small container for 5-10 minutes to help the shallot to marinate and become less harsh.

Finally I mixed the fava beans, corn, cherry tomatoes, with the dressing, a small squeeze of lemon juice to give it additional zing, mint that I tore into small pieces by hand, and an extra sprinkle of Maldon salt. Mint tends to turn black on the edges if it is cut with a knife; tearing it by hand helps to keep it greener.

Chicken Stock

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Recipe: "Easy Chicken Stock" from "Ruhlman's Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook's Manifesto" by Michael Ruhlman; the recipe is also available on his blog.
Rating: Great! This is the easiest way to cook chicken stock at the proper temperature that I've found.
Status: Made twice.

My mother often made stock at home, so I tried out making stock soon after I started cooking. Although I don't make stock often (because I don't cook meat often enough to have bones for stock), I've never been satisfied with my stock because it came out cloudy, despite following many recipe writer's suggestions. I can't believe how clear the stock I made today! Michael Ruhlman's is by far the simplest and easiest stock recipe that I've found, and it has given me the best results so far.

I used a combination of Michael Ruhlman's chicken stock recipe on his blog, and the chicken stock recipe in "Ruhlman's Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook's Manifesto" and some other tips from recipes that I've read over the years, though I actually didn't measure any quantities. The difference between the two recipes is that in the book, he suggests chicken has cooked in water for several hours and then adding the vegetables and aromatics and then cooking for 1 hour more. On the blog, he cooks everything together.

We saved leftover raw chicken pieces in a container in the freezer every time Will broken down a chicken. I decided to make a stock out of them last night because I noticed we had all the vegetables and aromatics (except for an onion) left over from the short ribs Will made recently.

Cooking the stock in the oven was a revelation to me! Stock should stay at a low simmer, it should not be allowed to come to a full boil because this will cause it to become cloudy. I find it difficult to make stock on the stove top, because the stock gets hotter and starts to boil when enough water evaporates, so I have to constantly adjust the heat. The oven required no adjustments in temperature, and I could just let it cook overnight while I slept. Mine cooked for 10 hours, which is the longest I've ever cooked a chicken stock; I used to think that you could only cook them for 2 hours maximum, since that's how much time my other recipes suggested to cook chicken stock. Part of the reason this one needs to cook a minimum of 4 hours is because the temperature is so low.

Don't add more then a few stalks of celery; celery actually has a strong flavor, so if you add too much, you will make celery stock, not chicken stock. Only add 1 or 2 carrots, since carrots are sweet and too many carrots will make your stock sweet. You can also add parsley stems (don't add the leaves because it will turn the stock green), tomato skins or a very small amount of tomato (too much tomato will color the stock).

In addition, this is the clearest stock that I've ever made! Even though I know that the stock shouldn't be boiled, what I thought was a "low simmer" on the stove top was actually too hot. This recipe showed me that the correct temperature is actually so low that you don't see any movement or bubbles in the stock when it is cooking--but the oven will smell really nice from the chicken aromas.

In "Bouchon", Thomas Keller (with Jeffrey Cerciello, Susie Heller, and Michael Ruhlman) says that "As with all stocks, you're looking to remove impurities--fats and food particles--while extracting as much flavor and gelatin as possible out of the bones, vegetables, and aromatics. You do this not only through gently heat, but through gradual heat transitions as well; in other words, you don't start with hot water, you begin with cold and bring it slowly up to heat. You skin often--especially in the beginning, when a lot of impurities will rise to the surface--through the cooking process: You can't skim too much. You maintain a gently heat over a long time, and then you carefully strain the stock. All the steps are very simple, but each one is essential."

In the picture with many bowls on the second row in the middle, the bowls are the stock ingredients in a colander from the first straining to get the solids out of the broth, the murky residue that falls to the bottom of the stock that should be discarded when you pour the strained stock through cheesecloth to get out fine particles. After this the stock is refrigerated, so that the fat congeals and can be skimmed off, and then I pour all but the sediment once again into another bowl.

* This technique of using the oven to maintain a low constant temperature can also be used for other types of stock. Adjust the total cooking according to the type of broth, e.g. usually fish, shrimp, and other seafood stock is cooked for a much shorter period of time (20 minutes to 1 hour though broths made from just lobster shells may be cooked for longer, possibly even hours).

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leftover raw or roasted chicken pieces
1 onion, diced
1 - 2 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery (its okay, and even desirable to leave the leaves on), diced
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves with skin on, crushed
parsley stems (not leaves, since Julia Child says that the leaves can make the stock turn green)
a small handful of thyme sprigs (use the entire sprig)
white and black pepper, coarsely ground (keep it fairly large so you can strain it out of the stock)

Optional (I didn't have these ingredients but they would also go well):
1 tomato coarsely chopped or 1 Tbsp tomato paste

Next time I make this, I should keep the vegetables in larger pieces (Michael Ruhlman uses large chunks, look at his blog post), since I think small pieces may make the stock cloudier.

Preheat oven to 180 - 200 F.

Put all ingredients in a large oven-proof pot. Cover with water. Slowly bring the stock to a low simmer (but do not boil), skimming frequently to remove any impurities and grey scum that rises to the top. It is important to slowly bring the stock to a simmer in order to slowly bring out the impurities. It may take 20 minutes or more to bring the stock to a simmer at medium low heat.*

Move the pot into the oven. Let the stock cook in the oven for 4 - 12 hours uncovered (I let mine cook overnight.) Ideally the temperature of the stock should be about 180 F (it will be hot, but not visibly simmering; the surface of the stock will be still).

Remove the pot from the oven and let it cool slightly, so that it will be easier to handle. Strain to remove the solids.

I actually strained this twice. First I used my fine meshed strainer (chinoise) to strain out the large solids. Thomas Keller says that pressing the solids can cloud the stock. So do not press the solids to extract more liquid--just let the strainer drip for several minutes. Second, I rinsed out the fine mesh strainer and lined it with cheesecloth. When I use dry cheesecloth with a strainer, the cheesecloth has a tendency to fall to the bottom of the strainer, no matter how large a piece of cheese cloth I seem to use, since I don't clip it to the strainer. You can fix this by simply wetting the cheese cloth in the sink, and then running some water through it to check that it won't fall down and crumple when you pour the stock through it. I poured the stock through the cheesecloth lined strainer to remove the small particles and grit that can cloud the stock or accumulate at the bottom of the stock.

Finally, I put the stock in the fridge for several hours. Once the chicken fat had solidified, I skimmed off the chicken fat.

You can keep the stock in a fridge for about a week if you are going to use it immediately. Otherwise, (and this is what I find easiest to do, since I don't always know what i will use the stock for) you can freeze the stock and keep it frozen for months. When you reheat it, you may want to boil it for a few minutes to help kill any bacteria. It is okay to boil the stock now since it doesn't have any solids. If the stock is too dilute, you can also boil it down. Also note that the stock does not have any salt in it yet, so it will taste bland. If you want to use it for chicken soup, you'll need to salt it.

* In the recipe for "Chicken Stock" in "Bouchon", Thomas Keller (with Jeffrey Cerciello, Susie Heller, and Michael Ruhlman) suggest beginning the stock with just chicken and water, since it is harder to skim once the vegetables are added since they tend to float on the top. After the stock has been skimmed, the vegetables and more cold water is added to reduce the temperature, and then everything is slowly brought to a simmer again. I also find that the vegetables make skimming difficult, so this sounds like a great technique!

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