Diesel and I spend a lot of time in our kitchen. Luckily, even though we share a one bedroom apartment, we have a decently sized kitchen that can accommodate two people at work at once. When cooking together, our roles are fairly well defined. Diesel takes care of all of the barbecuing, bread making and skillet potatoes. I am in charge of everything else.
One day while Diesel was sleeping, I decided to make his famous potatoes to accompany dinner. I'd seen him make this dish a dozen times, and figured that I would be able to whip them up without any problems. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Midway through the cooking process, I realized that the potatoes did not have the correct red tinge from the seasonings. Figuring I had failed to be appropriately generous with the seasoning, I added more paprika. Then a little bit more. And a generous sprinkle after that. Then a touch more. Yet, I still had not achieved the correct hue. But, not one to be deterred, I soldiered on.
I realized I had made a horrible mistake when I finally tasted the potatoes. Normally, I taste my dishes at every step of the process, but these raw potatoes were just not appealing. It turns out that Diesel uses seasoning salt and cayenne pepper. Not paprika. I wasn't even close to being on the right track. Diesel has been laughing at me for weeks.
My seasoning mistakes aside, Diesel and I have very different approaches to cooking. I will follow a recipe, but if it suits me and the items I have on hand, I will make substitutions, additions or deletions of ingredients. Diesel however, maintains a strict adherence to every word of any given recipe. So much so, that when he baked his first loaf of bread and the recipe instructed that the loaf be “sprinkled liberally with flour”, that is exactly what he did. Covering the dough in approximately half an inch of loose flour, which promptly burnt in the oven.
I am trying to teach him to take the instructions with a grain of salt (no pun intended), but contrary to the rest of his life, it is difficult for him to put common sense before all else in the kitchen. He just doesn't trust his instincts yet.
Take this recipe for instance. When I told him that I had been inspired by Nigella Lawson's Clementine Cake recipe, but that I didn't want to make another sweet treat - he was baffled that I was going to create a muffin recipe out of it. It made no sense to him that I could just come up with a recipe without a strict script to follow. Far be it for me to claim that all of my recipes work, much less turn out fantastic, but this one sure did. The muffins turned out moist and had a wonderful citrus undertone. These are just the thing to go with my warm coffee on a chilly winter morning.
makes 12 muffins
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
½ teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
1 cup granulated sugar , less 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups plain low-fat yogurt
Vegetable cooking spray or additional unsalted butter for muffin tins
4 to 5 clementines (about 375grams/slightly less than 1 pound total weight)
Put the clementines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to the boil, and cook for 2 hours. Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half across the width and remove the seeds. Then puree the skins, pith, and fruit in the processor.
Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, poppy seeds, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.
Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add lemon zest to butter-sugar mixture. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in one-half of dry ingredients. Beat in one-third of yogurt. Beat in remaining dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with yogurt, until incorporated.
Spray twelve-cup muffin tin with vegetable cooking spray or coat lightly with butter. Use large ice cream scoop to divide batter evenly among cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Set on wire rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove muffins from tin and glaze.