Sunday, August 17, 2008
Back to school tomorrow, although I won't be seeing any of those pesky teenagers ;) until next week. Another year with its own challenges, its own rewards and a whole new hundred and fifty smiling (or not so much) faces to keep track of. I love teaching, but I'm not really a fan of the beginning of the year. I never was good at introductions. Things go slowly at the beginning, before my students know what I want and how they need to do it, when they're testing me with their every move to see what they can and can't get away with. It's an uncertain time because they don't know what to expect from me and I'm not sure what I'll get from them. You develop such a relationship with kids over the course of the year, so you really know them, well enough to predict their next move. By the end of the year, I feel like my classes can almost teach themselves. Everything works together like one big machine (or at least most of the time).
Working with ingredients is much the same. New ingredients are intimidating, unpredictable. You brave it, trying a bit of the new stuff with tried and true flavors, feeling it out until you know its flavor, how it behaves, if it plays well with others. And over time, you develop your favorites, ones that you turn to time after time (OK - so I try not to do this with kids, but I'm definitely biased with flavors). My teacher's pet is lime (Ok - and vanilla and basil - why else would I have named my blog this way?). Lime lends a fresh finish to sweet and savory concoctions. It gets along best with mexican and thai flavors, tropical tastes like coconut, mango and macademia, pumps up berries' sweetness, and lends bright character to baked goods, such as these cardamom lime sweet rolls.
So on the eve of uncertainty, of course I turned to my favorite team player. Since I firmly believe in dessert first, and this is in fact the order in which I cooked, photographed and ate my lovely limey creations, I will start you off with a delicate lime cookie. If you stick around for dinner you'll get a yummy grilled garlic lime chicken, with coconut lime rice and corn on the cob. This food deserves the limelight!
This type of cookie has many aliases, russian tea cakes or mexican wedding cakes, meltaways or liar's cookies (because your shirt will give you away!). When I was growing up my mom made a gluten free version that always came out looking rather grey, so we called them moldy mice, a name that I've now realized is not all that appetizing to people outside our family. I think I like Dorie Greenspan's name the best, so these will be called powder puffs. These are traditionally made with pecans and can be made with or without citrus zest. L happens to love lime as much as I do, and it paired perfectly with buttery rich macademias, and earned the title of his favorite cookie!
Key Lime & Macademia Powder Puffs
1 cup macademia nuts, toasted until golden
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of ground green cardamom
1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter at room temperature
zest of 5 key limes (or one regular lime)
2 Tbsp key lime juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
Grind nuts with 1 Tbsp of sugar with short pulses of a food processor, until they form a chunky paste. Add flour, salt and cardamom and pulse until well combined. Transfer to a small mixing bowl.
In the bowl of the food processor, combine butter and sugar. Pulse until creamy and pale. Add lime zest and juice. Pulse to combine. Add dry ingredients back in and use short pulses to mix until just combined (scraping the bowl as needed). Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350. Line a large cookie sheet with Silpat or parchment paper. Ball up dough into small, bite sized spheres and place on cookie sheet (don't worry about spacing them too much, they don't spread a lot).
Bake 13-16 minutes or until slightly golden. Let cool on sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. When just slightly warm, roll in confectioners sugar.
Garlic Lime Chicken with Grilled Red Onions
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp orange muscat vinegar (or other fruity vinegar)
3 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp crushed garlic
1 packet Baja Citrus marinade seasoning (McCormick makes this)
2 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (you can use boneless but cook them for less time)
Combine marinade ingredients. Marinate at least 3 hours in the fridge.
Preheat grill on high. Start chicken on hottest part of the grill (if it flares up you may have to move it or turn down the heat). Cook over direct heat 5 minutes / side. Move to indirect heat, and continue to cook with grill lid down until the internal temperature reads 165 F on an instant-read thermometer (carryover will take it up almost another 10 degrees), about 30 minutes. Baste chicken periodically with marinade during cooking. Grill a halved lime alongside chicken (only about 1 minute on either side).
Grill onions in an oiled grill pan until charred, but still crunchy in parts. Transfer to a plate, top with chicken pieces and a squeeze of grilled lime.
Grilled Corn on the Cob
1 ear corn / person
Peel back husks and remove silks from corn. Replace husks back around the corn, removing the tougher ones on the outside.
Preheat grill to high and brush with oil. Place corn in husks on grill and cook, turning regularly, until husks begin to burn. take off grill and let cool.
Remove husks and knobby end part. Brush with some of the chicken marinade and return to grill over direct heat until lightly charred.
Coconut Lime Rice
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk (not light)
2 cups chicken broth
zest of one lime
2 kieffer lime leaves
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chile powder
1 3/4 cups basmati or jasmine rice
Mix together all ingredients except rice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Add rice and return to a simmer. Turn heat down to low and pop a lid on it. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add chopped scallions or cilantro if desired (I didn't have any).
Make a bed of rice on the bottom of a plate. Pile on grilled onions and chicken, place grilled corn alongside. Squeeze a grilled lime half down over the whole dish. Finish with a dash of salt.