Monday, November 22, 2010

Fish Otis

The Moosewood Cookbook that I have is primarily vegetarian, but does include some fish recipes, and this is an excellent one. It calls for "firm fish fillets" and assumes there will still be a side with skin attached. I used skinless tilapia fillets this time, but I suspect it'd be even better with something a bit heftier, like cod. The sour cream and dill are a nice flavor, and when served on egg noodles as the recipe suggests, the sauce mingles with the noodles well. Paired with a salad or simple vegetable, this is a quick and rewarding weeknight meal!

Fish Otis
Serves 2

10-12 ounces firm fish fillets
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp chopped fresh dill (or 3/4 tsp dried)
dash of salt and pepper
1/3-1/2 cup sour cream
2-3 thick slices red onion

Preheat the oven to 375. Rinse and dry the fish fillets and place them, skin side down, in an oiled baking pan. Sprinkle with the lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper. Spread the sour cream evenly over the fillets. Break the onion slices into rings and press them into the sour cream.

Cover the pan and bake until the fish is no longer translucent and flakes easily with a fork. The amount of time varies with the thickenss of the fish, but it usually takes 25 to 30 minutes.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pear Coffee Cake

I woke up to a cold and rainy Sunday morning, with an over-ripe pear in my fruit bowl. I knew immediately that the perfect answer to this circumstance was to make this coffee cake that my mom made once when I was home visiting during college. I often make it with canned pears, which works fine - but using the fresh one I had today, ripe as it was, resulted in a better texture. The recipe calls for orange and lemon zest, but I didn't use either, and that was fine (though it was lacking some if the citrus zip that it would have otherwise had).

Pear Coffee Cake

Preheat the oven to 350. Halve and core a fresh pear and cut it into wedges. As the oven warms, melt 3 Tbsp butter in an 8" round cake pan (or a pie pan, or a 9" square pyrex). Arrange the pear wedges over the bottom of the pan.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp orange peel, grated
1 tsp lemon peel, grated

Sprinkle half of the above mixture over the pear wedges.

Beat together:
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix together and then add to egg mixture until just combined:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

Pour batter over pears. Sprinkle remaining brown sugar mixture over the top and marble through the batter with a knife. Bake for 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before inverting over a plate. Serve warm.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese Risotto Soup

This recipe, which may actually be my new favorite homemade meal, has a lot to offer. The squash is pleasantly sweet and tender, the gorgonzola is salty, the arborio rice is creamy, and a little sage pulls it all together with an earthy sort of undertone. I'm pretty sure they just called this recipe a soup so that it could be included in this cookbook, which I have mentioned here before, Best-Ever Soups. If you don't own it yet, please put it on your list of cookbooks to obtain. It's less than $5 on, and it provides endless soup discoveries. Or in this case (rather like a bonus round!), risotto.

I halved the recipe to two servings, which worked fine (though mine is less soup-like and more risotto-like than what the cookbook showed). This isn't a terribly complicated recipe, but it does take about an hour and a half to prepare it. That's largely because it takes both time (particularly to peel and chop the squash) and (more time) and patience, as you go through the whole risotto routine - add broth, wait... add broth, wait...

Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese Risotto Soup
Serves 4

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1/2 celery stick, finely sliced
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 Tbsp chopped sage
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
5 cups hot chicken stock
2 Tbsp heavy cream (I used evaporated milk)
4 oz blue cheese, finely diced (I used gorgonzola)
salt and pepper, to taste

Place the butter and oil in a large plan and heat gently. Add the onions and celery, and cook for 4-5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the squash and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the sage. Add the rice and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring, until the grains are slightly translucent. Add the chicken stock a ladleful at a time. Cook until each ladleful of stock has been absorbed before adding the next. Continue adding the stock this way until you have a very wet rice mixture. Season to taste. Stir in the cream. Stir in the blue cheese, and serve.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shepherd's Pie

Sometimes, when the wind is blowing at record breaking speeds, darkness is setting in before you leave work, and a long winter lies ahead, you just want to eat something comforting. Furthermore, you want to eat it soonish, and with very little effort involved. Boy, do I have the recipe for you! In October of 2007, this Easy Shepherd's Pie recipe caught my attention, and it was just exactly what I found myself wanting to eat this week.

I got Real Simple magazine for a couple of years, until their suggestions started to feel familiar and the recipes I had flagged in them were piling up. I decided, at that point, not to resubscribe. But I certainly flip back through the old issues, and I recently found that you can find recipes very easily on their website - in this case, I knew what I was looking for, I just wasn't sure which old issue I would find it in. You can do searches by keywords or ingredients or cuisines or all variety of other options.

Here it is - the shamelessly modernized and Americanized version of what I imagine to be a centuries old tradition... probably involving meat scraps and whatever else was lying around! This version requires mostly things I have on hand, and a few things I can purchase with ease if I must. It takes 10 minutes to cook the beef and preheat the oven, 10 minutes to bake. Read beyond the recipe for my tips related to speeding up the mashed potato element of this recipe.

Easy Shepherd's Pie
Real Simple, October 2007

Heat the oven to 400.
Brown 1 lb ground beef.
Stir in 1/3 cup ketchup and 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce.
Add 8 oz of mixed frozen vegetables (carrots, peas, corn, green beans - whatever - thawed).
Cook one minute.
Put in a baking dish.
Mix 1 lb of mashed potatoes with 1/4 cup cheddar (cheese is optional).
Spread potatoes on top of beef and vegetables.
Bake 10 minutes.

In my case, I realized on Tuesday that I wanted to eat Shepherd's Pie, but I was unwilling to leave the house for ingredients. I looked up the recipe, moved a variety of frozen vegetables into the refrigerator to get a start on thawing, and I made a huge batch of mashed potatoes for dinner (with chicken and carrots, because I had those on hand, but that's a story for another time). If I'd had ground beef in the freezer, I would have shifted that over to thawing mode, as well. But I didn't, so I started a grocery list, instead.

Tonight after work I stopped for ground beef, came home, threw the recipe together, and I'm eating it now, while I write this post!

Here's my note about mashed potatoes. Real Simple suggests that you buy a 1 lb bin of pre-made mashed potatoes from the grocery store. I did that once, just out of curiosity, and they were actually quite good, and did eliminate the need to make mashed potatoes. However, if the goal is to make this recipe quickly, I solved that problem this time by making the potatoes in advance, so the shepherd's pie took less than 30 minutes to make. Also, mashed potatoes are incredibly easy. Here's roughly how Rachel Ray suggests doing it, in her Get Togethers cookbook:

Mashed Potatoes
Peel and cut into chunks, 1 pound of potatoes (2 large potatoes).
Place them in a pot, covered with water. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, and lightly salt. Leave uncovered and simmer at a rolling boil until tender, 8-10 minutes.
Drain the potatoes, and return them to the hot pan. Mash them with half-and-half, butter, cream, milk, roasted garlic, Boursin cheese, or whatever else you like.

I used a generous splash of half-and-half, a few tablespoons of butter, salt and freshly ground pepper. I had cooked three or four large handfuls of tiny potatoes, which I did not peel, as I know they were grown organically and their peel is therefore very good for me, and not at all chemical-ridden as some peel may very well be (mine are from our well stocked CSA box potato supply!).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Homemade Sesame Chicken - even better than the 'real' stuff

I got home last night to find my most favorite fat fish, Cooper (the pooper, originally known as Cooper the Silver Fox Fish) had died while I was gone over the weekend. Welcome home, right? And I've got this assignment for a class that is just making me crazy. REALLY crazy. All in all, I was feeling a bit out of sorts today and was craving some good old Chinese take out. But I hate paying for food I can make myself, so I went to town (aka the internet) looking to find a sesame chicken recipe that I might have all of the ingredients for. I had gone grocery shopping just prior to deciding sesame chicken was what I was craving and luckily had gotten some chicken (with chicken noodle soup in mind), so I was good to go. Cook up some rice with this sucker and you've got yourself a homemade batch of deliciousness! 

Sesame Chicken Serves 3-4 (the recipe originally said 6 but I don't believe it)

Based on a recipe by Doreen P on

For the chicken

Ingredients: 2 T flour, 2 T cornstarch, 1/4 t baking soda, 1/4 t baking powder, 2 T soy sauce, 1 T dark cooking liquor such as sherry or port, 2 T water, 1 t sesame oil (or vegetable, or a mix), about 1 lb of chicken breast meat, cubed.

Directions: Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.  Mix together the liquid ingredients in a small pyrex and pour into the dry ingredients, stirring until smooth. Add the chicken and stir until well coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

For the sauce:

I will say...the sauce is quite good, but the recipe makes a LOT of it, like 2 cups of it...for 2 chicken breasts.  I'm hesitant to just cut the recipe in half because sauces so often need a minimum amount of a certain ingredient to really come together. So. I'm putting the whole recipe but you've been warned - it's a lot of sauce! So if you're interested in serving more people, just increase the batter for the chicken and the amount of chicken.

Ingredients: 1 cup chicken broth, 2 T white vinegar, 2 T soy sauce, 2 T sesame oil, 1 cup white sugar, 1 t chili paste, 2 cloves pressed garlic, 1/4 cup corn starch, 1/2 cup water.

Directions:  Combine the stock, vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil and stir together in a saucepan over medium high heat (if you are using  "better than bullion" {my personal favorite} or bullion cubes, heat water in the saucepan first, add the bullion and then once that has dissolved, stir in the remaining ingredients. I prefer to mix everything before hand in a separate dish so that the first few ingredients don't cook off while I measure the remaining ingredients).  Add the sugar and stir well, until dissolved, and then toss in the garlic and chili paste. Turn the heat to medium and stir well. Once everything is really mixed together, allow it to come to a boil, turning the heat up or down as needed, I kept having to remove the sauce from the heat it was boiling so much. Dissolve the cornstarch in half a cup of water and pour into the saucepan. Mix WELL. Allow the sauce to simmer and continue stirring, making sure to scrape the edges often. Careful that the sauce doesn't get too hot and pop and burn you. Turn off heat and let the sauce sit while you cook the chicken, stir it every once in a while though, just for kicks.

Heat oil in a heavy saucepan and deep fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes, or bake the chicken on a pan (until done...I'm not sure for how long, I went the frying route). When the chicken is done, let it cool on a paper towel lined plate.  When you're ready to serve the meal, toss the chicken pieces on a nice pile of rice, make sure the sauce is warm and pour it over the chicken. Sprinkle generously with sesame seeds and serve! 


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

My mom used to make these cookies from a recipe she once got from a friend. When I was in college, my sister made some and sent them to me, and then when she was in college, I made some and sent them to her. For reasons we still don't understand, the ones I sent her took more than a month to navigate through the postal service and into her campus mail box. From what I have heard, she wanted to eat them so badly that she was pulling the chocolate chips out and nibbling on those. Her roommate had to forcibly remove the box from her hands and dispose of the contents.

The good news is that now that neither of us lives in dorm rooms, we can easily make these cookies any time we like. They are quick and easy and delicious. Everyone I've fed them to has loved them. Better yet - they don't have any butter or milk, so even my lactose-free friends can enjoy them! The pumpkin makes them moist, and they travel well (which is why we got in the habit of mailing them to each other in the past!).

Bake them! Eat them! Share them with your friends!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mix together:
1 cup cooked pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 egg

Combine, in a separate bowl:
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Combine, in a tiny bowl:
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp milk

Mix those three bowls together.

Stir in:
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Spoon onto cookie trays, and bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Red Rice

I once mailed $10 or so to the folks at Better Homes and Gardens, and they have been sending me their magazine for more than two years as a consequence. I know from the ominous letters and postcards that I've been receiving from them lately that the October issue was my last, and that's okay. I've enjoyed their magazine, and gotten some great recipes from them, but as a single person who lives in an apartment, I can't do much with their hosta replanting schemes or their children's birthday party decorating ideas. Better Homes and Gardens tends to be a casserole and cookies kind of recipe source, but recently, they've started running a column by chef Scott Peacock that gets to the bottom of "American Home Cooking" with traditional recipes for more complicated fare than usually gets tackled here. The "Shrimp-and-Sausage Red Rice" recipe in this column of the September issue was quite possibly life changing and most certainly repertoire changing. In fact, if this recipe was the only thing I ever got from the experience (though it wasn't - I have a few other standard favorites that I discovered in this magazine), the two years were totally worth it.

If I ate this meal at a restaurant, I would bring all my friends back over and over again to share the experience. Instead, I plan to cook it a lot in the future and share it with my friends that way! I cooked the entire recipe, which serves 6. I ate it for two dinners and two lunches, and froze the rest of it. I can't wait to thaw it out and eat the rest. It is absolutely phenomenal.

Shrimp-and-Sausage Red Rice
(don't ask me why it's hyphenated, I'm just writing what I see)
Better Homes and Gardens, September 2010

3 Tbsp bacon drippings
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green sweet pepper
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (Careful! Don't get burned!)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes, drained and crushed
1 rounded Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock or water (I used chicken stock)
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup long grain rice
8 oz andouille or cooked, smoked chorizo sausage, sliced in 1/2 inch rounds
1 cup sliced fresh okra (this recipe made me appreciate okra - be sure to use it!)
1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp (I used frozen cooked shrimp, thawed and drained)

In a large skillet heat bacon drippings. Add onion; cook over medium-low heat without stirring for 5 minutes. Add the sweet pepper, jalapeno, garlic, thyme, and crushed red pepper. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook over low heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until onion and pepper are soft but not browned.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir in stock; bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. Taste carefully for seasoning (broth should be highly seasoned to flavor the rice).

In a heavy, wide-bottom nonreactive pot or heavy 12-inch skillet heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add rice; cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes until rice becomes translucent. Carefully stir in the hot tomato mixture. Cover quickly and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Add the sausage and okra, mixing in gently with two forks. Return cover and cook 10 minutes longer over very low heat, just until most of the liqued is absorbed and the rice is tender.

Sprinkle shrimp lightly with salt and pepper. Stir the shrimp into the rice mixture. Cover and cook 3 minutes longer, just until shrimp is opaque. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My favorite appetizer: Deviled Eggs

Some think deviled eggs are boring, or too 50's, or whatever, but guess what? I love them, and they disappear quickly when I serve them, so I've got to believe that they're still a favorite. Perhaps some people don't have a great recipe, or get annoyed at having over or under cooked eggs, cracked whites, or a bland  yolk filling, and have given up on them. Well, if that's the case, here's my recipe - the steps for cooking the eggs are fool proof and the outcome is delicious, so I hope you'll try making these for your next get together (especially if I'll be in attendance). Happy cooking!

Deviled Eggs  from Cook's Illustrated - New Best Recipes with a bit of editing on the filling. :)

Ingredients: 12 eggs, whole-grain mustard, dry mustard powder, mayonnaise, salt and pepper, paprika.

To Cook the Eggs: Use a small (clean) nail or thumbtack to poke a small hole in the top of each egg. This relieves the pressure and makes sure the egg doesn't crack while cooking.  Carefully place the eggs in a saucepan so that they only take one layer (so a pot with a large base), and add water so that it is about an inch above the top of the eggs. Bring to a boil over high heat, remove the pan from heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes. While the eggs sit in the hot water, fill a medium/large bowl with about a quart or so of cold water and a tray of ice cubes. When the 10 minutes is up, use a slotted spoon to carefully move the eggs from the hot water to the cold water and let sit for 5 minutes. This cools the eggs so you can handle them and it makes it easier to remove the shells.

To Prep the Eggs: One at a time, remove an egg from the water and gently roll it on a counter or cutting board, covering the entire shell in small cracks. This should crack the hard shell but leave the lining of the shell intact, making it easy to pull the shell off.  After you have removed all of the shells, cut each egg in half lengthwise (from the top to the bottom, rather than through the middle).  Remove the yolks and put them in a medium sized bowl. Discard the two worst halves of egg white (you'll likely have a cracked one or one with a very thin wall). If you don't have any that are bad, well done, but still get rid of two (one eggs worth).

For the Filling: Add half a teaspoon 1/2 t of whole grain/brown mustard, 1/4 t dry mustard powder, 3 T mayo and salt and pepper to the yolks. Cook's Illustrated suggests you also add 1- 1 1/2 t of cider vinegar, but that's up to you. Use a fork to mash and mix the ingredients. Taste and add mustard, mayo salt and/or pepper to get it to the texture and taste of your liking. Make sure you don't add too much mustard or mayo, as you want it to be a firm paste, not too soft.

To Assemble: Fill a sturdy ziplock bag with the filling and cut off the corner, or if you own a pastry bag, fill it up! Squeeze the filling through the corner and into each egg half, filling them so the filling is a bit taller than the whole itself.  Once you have used up all the filling, sprinkle each egg with a bit of paprika, put a garnish in the middle of the plate if you wish (I like a sprig of mint or basil), and serve!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Back from a long break, and full of zucchini!

Whew. It's been a LONG time since I posted. Sarah's been cooking up a storm and really keeping Ballerina Breath together. Thank goodness! I spent 6 weeks traveling and upon my return jumped into graduate school, so life has been a bit hectic. I'm cooking a fair amount again, but just haven't gotten around to putting up any posts, so here goes my concerted effort to post regularly again! I spent 2 weeks in Costa Rica at a sea turtle conservation project and hopefully I will put up a nice long post about that wonderful experience, until then, here's to hoping your garden is overflowing with zucchini and you're looking for new recipes!

After my two weeks in Costa Rica I returned home to Maine for a few weeks. My Dad's friend has zucchini taking over her garden so she has become quite inventive and I was lucky enough to taste her delightful discoveries. Upon returning to Seattle, I learned that my friend also had a garden that was being taken over by zucchini, so I took two 15" zucchinis off her hands. That's right, you heard me. They were HUGE.  The two recipes I wanted to try to remake were a cold zucchini salad and a warm, creamy zucchini soup.  They both are nice in that there's just a hint of obvious zucchini flavor, so if you're feeling overwhelmed by zucchini, this is a nice subtle use of the vegetable.

Cold Zucchini Salad

For the Dressing: 
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions: Combine the dressing ingredients and whisk well. Rinse the zucchini (2-3 small or 1-2 standard) and use a mandolin or vegetable peeler (or sharp knife and patience) to slice/shave it into thin strips. Chop 1/2 cup of fresh basil and add to the zucchini strips.  Lightly toast 1/4 cup of pine nuts or pumpkin seeds in a skillet on the stove and add to the zucchini. Pour the dressing over the salad and sprinkle shaved Parmesan or Romano cheese to taste. 

Serve with a side dish of Parmesan for people to add as they wish, and enjoy!

Warm, Creamy Zucchini Soup Serves 4-5 as an appetizer, 2-3 as an entrĂ©e.

This soup is SUPER easy, delicious and quite healthy for you (yeah there's cream, but not much!). I hope you like it as much as I do!

Ingredients: 8 cups of cubed zucchini, with seeds removed, 4 cups chicken broth, 1/3 cup of cream, dash of nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste, 1/4 cup shaved or grated Parmesan.

Directions: Add the zucchini and chicken broth to a stock pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until zucchini is nice and soft. If you like, add a bay leaf to the broth while it simmers. Pour out one cup of liquid and reserve to add as you wish later. If you used a bay leaf, remove it. Use an immersion blender to puree the zucchini to the texture of your liking (I like it really smooth), let it cool just a bit, and add the cream, nutmeg, salt, pepper and cheese. Stir well and taste.  Add some of the reserved liquid if it is too thick, or more nutmeg, salt or pepper to your liking. Serve warm, with a dollop of plain yogurt on top. Enjoy!

Thanks Sarah R, for such delicious meals and your wonderful recipes!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Curried Eggplant and Potatoes

I received some nice curry powder as a gift some time ago, and I've been meaning to use it. Recently, I got some nice potatoes from my CSA, and a nice eggplant from a friend's garden, and I thought that this recipe might be just the thing. Then it turned out that there isn't actually any curry powder in this recipe. I made it anyway.

I often invite people over for dinner, but just as often, I cook for myself. I halve most recipes (you've probably noticed that on here), and then I usually have leftovers for at least one lunch, and sometimes I freeze leftovers for another time. I really enjoy cooking, and it's nice to make dinner decisions based on what I feel like eating, and what I have around the kitchen. But every once in a while, and this was one of those times, I wonder midway into the effort just why I'm trying so hard. Let me explain.

When I was peeling the potatoes for this recipe, I clipped my finger tip slightly - nothing serious, not even any blood, but it stung quite a bit, and it certainly slowed down my momentum. I wrapped up my finger with a bandage to protect it from the food (and the food from it, for that matter), and forged ahead. I measured all the spices, and peeled and minced the ginger, and peeled and sliced the garlic, and salted the eggplant and cubed the potatoes. I began to cook the spices, took a picture (for this very blog post), turned around, and the pan of spices had burned right into a solid, smoking, black disk.

I turned off the heat, nursed my finger, scooped out the burned disk of spices, and washed the pan - burning my hand slightly when some hot oil spattered. At this point, my momentum pretty much halted. I looked around at the sliced and salted eggplant, which had been resting for two hours, at the potatoes that I had hurt myself preparing, and at the can of tomatoes I had already opened. I tipped up my chin, put the pan back on the stove, and began measuring out the spices again, peeling and slicing more garlic, and peeling and mincing more ginger. I proceeded carefully, monitored temperatures closely, and everything came together as it was meant to. At 10:30, I sat down with a bowl of curried eggplant and potatoes and thought, "It's really a shame that there's nobody else to enjoy this." The next day I invited a friend over for dinner, told her the story, and served the leftovers on rice. She confirmed my findings - this recipe is delicious.

Lest you be scared off - it's actually quite simple, too. Keep your fingertips in while you peel, and monitor those temperatures when you initially heat the spices in the oil. It's smooth sailing from there! I halved this recipe, but wish that I hadn't - it would freeze nicely, and I could eat it many times before tiring of it! Here's the recipe in full.

Curried Eggplant and Potatoes
from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
Serves 6

2 medium-to-large eggplants
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 Tbsp sliced garlic
4 Tbsp butter
3 large tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped (canned are fine, don't bother to drain)
3 large potatoes, any kind, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
freshly ground black pepper to taste
about 1 cup water, or more if needed
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
minced cilantro leaves for garnish

Peel the eggplant if the skin is thick or the eggplant is less than perfectly firm. Cut it into 1/2 inch cubes and salt if it you like. (I did - just sprinkle salt generously over each side of the eggplant and let it sit in a colander for at least half an hour. Rinse and squeeze dry between paper towels before using.)

Combine the oil and mustard seeds in a large deep skillet. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the seeds begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining spices, the ginger, the garlic, and the butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until the ginger and garlic soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, salt, and pepper, and about a cup of water. Turn the heat to medium-low and cover; cook, stirring once or twice, for about 30 minutes.

Remove the cover and turn the heat to medium; add more water if the mixture is dry. Cook, stirring occasionally, until both the eggplant and potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes longer. Stir in the lime juice and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Garnish and serve.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Homemade Refried Beans

The beautiful thing about refried beans is that they are healthy and delicious and easy to make. This recipe results in much better tasting (and more nicely textured) beans than when you buy a can of refried beans at the store. Better yet, they are multipurpose: I made this recipe because I wanted to make quesadillas, but the next day I mixed the leftovers with chicken broth, and had a delicious black bean soup. In the past, I've eaten them as a nacho topping, or served them as a dip for chips, alongside guacamole.

This recipe, from the Moosewood cookbook that I've referenced before, is quite straightforward and quick. I use canned beans, and I can almost always make this recipe without planning ahead at all. Most recently, I made it with black beans and included the optional bell peppers. I heartily recommend it.

Easy Refritos

2/3 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup diced green or red bell pepper (optional)
2 cups cooked black beans or pinto beans (16 oz can)
ground black pepper to taste

In a heavy skillet, saute the onions and garlic in the oil on medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until the onions begin to soften. Add the cumin and the optional bell pepper, and continue to saute for 5 minutes, until the onions begin to brown. While the vegetables saute, drain the beans, reserving their liquid. Add the drained beans to the skillet and continue to cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the beans are hot. Remove the skillet from the heat. Using a potato masher, thoroughly mash the beans while adding as much of the reserved bean liquid as necessary to reach a soft, spreadable consistency. Add black pepper to taste. Serve hot.

To make quesadillas: spread the refried beans to your preferred thickness on a tortilla. Top with shredded cheese, and sliced jalapenos, too, if you like, before putting the second tortilla on top of the fillings. Bake in the oven until the cheese melts, or cook in a little bit of olive oil on the stove top. Delicious!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Acorn Squash

Last year, we had temperatures in the 90s well into September. I remember swimming in late September and making note of the fact that it was highly unusual. And so, this year, we are having a more usual fall. Which is to say that right about Labor Day, temperatures dropped considerably, and it feels wildly appropriate to wear sweaters, drink hot cider, and... eat squash!

The trickiest thing about squash, hands down, is cutting it in half. Sometimes the store sells them already split, which is kind of nice. But when I got the above squash from my friend's garden, it was whole. Which turned out okay in the end, as I managed (with a bit of strength, a sharp knife, and the powers of leverage) to get it cut into two pieces. From then, it's easy enough - but I do always forget what temperature to roast it at, and for how long. For that, I turned to the trusty How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. I took the above picture just before the squash went into the oven - lining your pan in tin foil is a good idea, as things can get a little sticky.

Here are the details:

Roasting Hard-to-Peel Winter Squash

1 acorn or other winter squash, washed
2 Tbsp butter or olive oil, more or less
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
maple syrup or brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 400. Cut the squash in half and scrape out the strings and seeds. In each half, put some butter, salt, pepper and sweetener (I used maple syrup). Place in a baking dish, (I used my 8x8 pyrex, lined with tin foil) cut side up, and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Serve.

(You can scoop the squash and it's flavorings into a serving bowl and mash it all together, or simply serve each individual half a squash, for scooping out at the table.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sweet Pepper Soup

I made this soup last summer, truly enjoyed it, and then I totally forgot about it. When my CSA box recently arrived with a generous number of sweet peppers, the bright colors set off some kind of bell in my head, and I felt an urgent need to locate this recipe and make the soup again! I found it, happily, in my Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook, which is one of my favorites. This soup is delicious and can be made very quickly. It's not terribly filling, so I recommend serving it for dinner with a cheese quesadilla and salad, or eating it with a sandwich for lunch, or something along those lines.

Sweet Peppers Soup
Serves 4 (However, I halve this recipe and it works fine, and fed me for three meals)

2 cups chopped onion
1 Tbsp butter or vegetable oil
6 cups chopped red and green bell peppers (about 6 peppers)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 cups water or vegetable stock (I used chicken stock)
1 cup sour cream (plain yogurt works, too)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
fresh chopped cilantro

In a covered soup pot, saute the onions on medium heat in the butter or oil for about 3 minutes, until barely softened. Add the bell peppers and spices and cook, covered, until just soft, stirring occasionally. In a blender or food processor (I use my immersion blender), whirl the cooked onions and peppers with the the water or stock and sour cream. Don't over process - small pieces of pepper should remain. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with cilantro and crumbled tortilla chips, if you wish.

Variation: omit the cumin, coriander, and cayenne. Add 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill when you are blending the ingredients together. Serve with croutons, if you wish.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bread Pudding

I love bread pudding. What can I say? It's just old bread, soggy with milk and butter and eggs - but goodness gracious, is it delicious. Sometimes it pops up on restaurant menus, and they usually add chocolate or liquor or fruit or caramel or some combination thereof. I've tried some of those versions, and I've enjoyed them tremendously, but so far, I've always made mine plain (nothing flashier than some vanilla extract in the recipe), and sometimes I serve it with maple syrup. Especially if I'm eating the leftovers for breakfast.

In case you are wondering what kind of bread to use, here's my approach: as I'm consuming bread loaves (and in my case, they happen to be delicious bread loaves from a local bakery, but any bread loaves will do), I don't eat the end pieces. Instead, I throw them in the freezer. Once I have about eight loaves worth of bread loaf heels, it's bread pudding time. The especially nice thing about this is that I go through bread loaves pretty slowly (I actually store them in the freezer as I eat them, since the nice local bakery opts not to add preservatives), and apparently after every eight loaves or so, I'm in the mood for bread pudding! I say this because I've never had too many bread bits accumulate, and any time I've wanted bread pudding, there's been a good stock stored away in the corner of the freezer, waiting to magically mix with the milk and eggs and butter and vanilla.

Bread pudding is best straight out of the oven, so I usually take the bread out of the freezer before making dinner, and then make the bread pudding right after dinner, once the bread has thawed. That way, once people are feeling ready for dessert, it is freshly baked! Here's the recipe that I use, which is more straightforward than any I've found in my various cookbooks. It's the recipe my mom uses, which is probably why I like it so much:

Bread Pudding
Makes 4 servings

Preheat your oven to 325, and butter a baking dish (I use an 8x8 Pyrex).

On low heat, warm up 2 cups of milk and melt 1/4 cup of butter. Remove from the heat and let this cool off a bit.

Tear up your bread into pieces roughly the size of dice, until you've got 2 generous cups of bread hunks. (If you are using frozen bread as I suggested, be sure to thaw it first - an hour or so on the counter works fine).

Toss the bread into the baking dish - it should be about an inch deep, but this isn't a fine science. Pour the now somewhat cooled off milk and butter mixture over the top. Let that sit while you mix together:

1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Stir this mixture into the bread and milk combination. Bake for an hour. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fresh Corn Pesto!

I am the very lucky recipient of a gift subscription to bon appetit, courtesy of my generous and lovely sister! The August issue featured lots of recipes for creative uses of corn, tomatoes, and zucchini. Some seemed a little too creative (Tomato Tarte Tatin, for example, which involves sugar, vanilla, and puff pastry)... and some a little too labor intensive (like the Shaved Zucchini Salad, which requires turning two pounds of zucchini into ribbons with a vegetable peeler)... but the Fresh Corn Pesto looked reasonably straightforward, I had fresh corn on hand from the CSA box, bacon was on the ingredient list, and the recommended vehicle for the recipe was pasta. I figured I couldn't really go wrong. Besides, my immersion blender (also courtesy of Elspeth) has an attachment that is just perfect for any pesto-like creations.

Happily, my bowl of Fresh Corn Pesto, served on pasta, looked nearly identical to what is pictured in the magazine - and tasted delicious, too! I took the leftovers for lunch the next day and they heated up in the microwave just fine.

Tagliatelle with Fresh Corn Pesto (serves 6)
* I cut the recipe in half, and served it on fettucine.

4 bacon slices, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus extra for serving
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces tagliatelle or fettucine
3/4 cup coarsely torn fresh basil leaves, divided

Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown, stirring often. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp drippings from skillet. Add corn, garlic, salt and pepper to drippings in skillet. Saute over medium high heat until corn is tender but not brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer 1 1/2 cups corn kernels to small bowl and reserve. Scrape remaining corn mixture into processor. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan and pine nuts. With machine running, add olive oil through feed tube and blend until pesto is almost smooth. Set pesto aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Add corn pesto, reserved corn kernels, and 1/2 cup basil leaves. Toss pasta mixture over medium heat until warmed through, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency, 2 to 3 miutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer pasta to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup basil leaves and reserved bacon. Serve pasta, passing additional grated Parmesan alongside.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Garlic Scape Pesto

I must start with an apology. This recipe is out of season, and you will not be able to find even one garlic scape again until June, which is nearly a year from now. But when you do - when you see them, in all their twisty, curly, fabulous glory, perhaps you'll remember that you DO know what to do with them, and that a quick visit back to this blog post will remind you. Or, if you are tremendously well organized, you could print this all out now, and save it in your "recipes to try in June 2011" folder. In the case that you have such a system in place.

Last year, there were garlic scapes in my CSA box. I must admit that I found them later in the summer (maybe around now, even, late August or so), all sad and dead and smushy on the bottom of my vegetable drawer. This year, when the garlic scapes arrived, I benefited from (believe it or not) my somewhat recent affiliation with the world of twitter. That's a separate topic entirely, but for our purposes let's just say that twitter is an online service that allows people to quickly and easily share information with one another. And in this case, it allowed the bloggers over at Serious Eats to share this brilliant blog post with me, in very timely fashion:The Crisper Whisperer: Seven Things to do with Garlic Scapes.

I was intrigued by the concept of garlic scape pesto, particularly when it was presented with such enthusiasm: Far and away my favorite use for garlic scapes is pesto, either straight-up or mixed with herbs like basil and dill. Pesto showcases raw scapes in all their glory.

I stuck to the recipe very precisely, and I followed her suggestion to freeze it in small batches, to enjoy through the winter... but it's so delicious that I have already used one of the frozen rations.So far, I've been eating it on cheese tortellini, and that has worked out quite well.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Blend together:
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
3/4 cups coarsely chopped garlic scapes (or 1/2 and 1/2 with basil or dill)
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper

Blend into that mixture:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix with a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan and stir directly into hot pasta. I divided this batch into four smaller batches, and froze three of them. Keep in mind that the parmesan should be added as you stir it into the hot pasta - which is to say that it shouldn't be mixed into the pesto before freezing.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


In my experience, coleslaw is often kind of soggy, dripping in mayonnaise. Sometimes it is even sweet, which, to me, seems kind of inappropriate for cabbage and carrots. Well, as the CSA has a habit of doing, it motivated me to take a nice fresh look at these ideas, because, frankly, I have cabbage and carrots coming out my ears.

Happily, Vegetable Love came through in the nick of time, providing a fresh dressing with a bite, which just barely skims across the surface of the many crispy bits of vegetables that it resides with in the bowl so nicely. I made this recipe earlier this summer, and just realized that I was actually craving it again! Round two has come out just as delightfully as round one, did.

Here's the recipe, halved, with my edits and alterations. I find this to be plenty of coleslaw for one person to consume without getting tired of it, but if you were attending a big picnic, I'd at least double it back to the original recipe (vegetable mix AND dressing).

Crisp Slaw (the recipe name is ever so appropriate here!)

Mix together:
green or red cabbage, cored and finely shredded (about 2 cups)
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1-3 carrots, peeled and grated (about 1/2 cup)

Combine and add:
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp celery seeds
1/8 tsp mustard seeds

Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving - the leftovers get more flavorful with time, and the salad lasts just fine up to about a week.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Epic Sandwich

I am fortunate to live in a metro area which has a Trader Joe's. We actually have a couple of them here, and one is quite close to where I live. To be honest, what really draws me to Trader Joe's is the fact that they sell Cabot Cheddar, and at a reasonable price. However, once I'm there, I often make good discoveries - this time, in addition to my beloved cheddar, I got a package of San Francisco salami, and a loaf of french bread.

When I got home, and realized that the salami, the bread, the cheese, and the ripe tomato on my counter would make one heck of a sandwich, things really got rolling. As I was assembling things, I grabbed some fresh basil that had recently arrived in my CSA box, added a layer of brown mustard, and sliced up a banana pepper (also from the CSA box). I had some leftover goat cheese in the refrigerator (fresh, from a local farm, purchased at the Seward Co-op), so I added that, too. And then I remembered that when I visited France more than ten years ago, the sandwiches that looked rather like this (and were available at any corner shop for a quick lunch), often had sliced hard boiled egg on them, which was delicious. So I boiled up some eggs (also from the Co-op, and completely unaffected by recent egg recalls), and sliced those up for the sandwich, as well.

It was epic. I encourage you to make a sandwich similar to this one, as soon as possible.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

CSA Discovery: Edamame

Yet again, the CSA box was full of delightful vegetables - and in this case, a watermelon, too. This is just my share of the box, which is to say that we actually received twice the bounty that you see pictured here. In a somewhat clockwise description, there is, pictured above: sweet corn, watermelon, cucumber, broccoli, shallot, basil, carrots, kale, beets, sweet peppers, a banana pepper, and a bag of edamame.

I have eaten edamame, but only at sushi restaurants. In fact, this is one of my favorite parts of going out to sushi - receiving the steamy dish of salty green pods, with a sort of fuzz on them (kind of like on a kiwi, but less threatening). You grab onto one with your teeth, and haul the little pea-sized soy bean deal out of the pod. It's delicious.

So, it was a pleasant surprise for me to discover that edamame grows in Wisconsin, and preparing the above mentioned dish is maybe the easiest thing, ever. I rinsed the pods, tossed them into an inch of boiling salted water, cooked them for 5 minutes, rinsed them in cold water, dumped sea salt over the top, and ate them. They tasted just like at a restaurant, but fresher, which was probably because they had literally been picked within 24 hours of me eating them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tomato Soup!

Consider this: it is mid-August, and everyone has too many tomatoes. If you know even one single person with a tiny bit of yard, or even a patio or a window sill wide enough for a tomato plant, they are currently trying with all their might to deposit at least a dozen tomatoes on you. They'll have a dozen more tomorrow. And the next day.

On Sunday, I received some tomatoes and put them in a bowl on my kitchen counter. On Monday, at work, there was a large bowl of tomatoes up for grabs (I passed on by them). On Monday night, I realized that the tomatoes on my counter were splitting, and not long for this world. I grabbed my absolutely reliable soup cookbook* from the shelf, and identified a recipe that looked straightforward and as though it would use up a pretty big pile of tomatoes. It called for three pounds, and I went ahead and assumed that was the amount I had in front of me (three moderately sized romas and four giant round something-or-others, bursting at the edges).

Here's where things really get good - I was able to parboil and peel the tomatoes immediately, and store them in the refrigerator until tonight (a full 48 hours later), when I got home at 9:15, hungry for tomato soup. I dumped the tomatoes and broth into a pan, brought it to boil, simmered for 10 minutes, stirred in 4 more ingredients, simmered for two minutes, plunged the absolutely genius immersion blender into the hot soup, and ate it. Immediately. It is absolutely delicious.

Furthermore, I suspect it will freeze very well. Which is good, because I plan to make a few more batches. One for each time I am inundated with must-eat-or-cook-immediately tomatoes.

Fresh Tomato Soup
3 lbs of ripe tomatoes (I eyeballed this, as noted above)
1 2/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock (I used the full can - 2 cups - of low sodium chicken broth)
3 Tbsp sun-dried tomato paste (I had a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in my fridge. I pureed 5 or 6)
2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2-3 tsp sugar
small handful of fresh basil leaves (I tossed in a few pinches of dried basil)
salt and ground black pepper

Cut a cross into the base of each tomato, and plunge into boiling water for 30 second
s. Refresh in cold water, peel off the skins, and quarter the tomatoes. (This took me all of 10 minutes, and then I stuck them in the refrigerator for 48 hours, until I had time to make and eat soup).

Put the tomatoes in a large pan and pour the broth over them. Bring just to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes until the tomatoes are pulpy.

Stir in the tomato puree, vinegar, sugar and basil. Season with salt and pepper, then cook gently, stirring, for 2 minutes. Process the soup in a blender or food processor, then return to a clean pan and reheat gently. Serve immediately.

I ate mine with a dollop of sour cream (naturally) and a grilled cheese sandwich featurin
g the odds and ends of some pepperjack that I found in my refrigerator. (I haven't done an official grocery store trip since the road trip last week).

*A note about cookbooks. This recipe is from a giant hard-cover cookbook called Best-Ever Soups by Anne Sheasby, which is just bursting with color photographs. It was in the $5 rack at Borders about five years ago, and I have made a dozen recipes out of it, each with great success. I love it. It should be noted that based on this experience, I snapped up a giant paperback cookbook last year (also in the $5 rack at Borders) called The Essential Pasta Cookbook (with no author, I now see), similarly bursting with color photographs. I have made two recipes from it, and both were tremendously lacking, both in direction and in result. It really is hard to tell a book by its cover. Or even by a quick scan of its recipes, it turns out.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Meal to Follow a Road Trip

As some of you may know, Elspeth and I just went on a fabulous road trip. I flew to Seattle, we rented a car, and we drove back to Minnesota, meandering through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, the Black Hills, and the Badlands (also a National Park) along the way. We slept in a tent all but one night (we splurged on a bed and breakfast in Douglas, Wyoming - which may, as it happens, have the saddest downtown in the western United States), and not even one bear tried to eat us. Growing up in Maine, I suspect we didn't imagine that in 2010, driving between the two cities that we feel so comfortable in would involve seeing most of Washington, some of Idaho and Montana, most of Wyoming and South Dakota, and a pretty serious chunk of Minnesota, as well. There are a lot of mountains along the way, and deserts, too. There are cowboys and rodeos and some rolling plant that may have been tumbleweed. There are some particularly grand rivers, and a whole lot of empty fields. I highly recommend the route that we took (which was cleverly planned, down to the very last detail, by Elspeth!).

We ate well along the way (Elspeth brought along homemade chili, and pasta, and risotto(!!) for campsite dinners), and our only fast food stop was a "lunch supplement" as we called it, at an Arby's in central Wyoming on Thursday. In South Dakota on Saturday morning, we ate sourdough pancakes from a recipe that claimed to use a sourdough starter from frontier times, "over a hundred years ago"! All the same, when we arrived in Saint Paul on Saturday night, we were hungry. We swung by the Seward Co-op to get a few essentials, and when we got home, I whipped up a quick dinner. Tortellini (cheese-filled, from the grocery store freezer), with garlic scape pesto (homemade, and stored in my freezer... I'll have to blog about that recipe later), and lots of shredded parmesan stirred in.

What we really wanted, though, after driving 2500+ hours in 6 days, was a salad.

Fresh greens, with an heirloom tomato sliced on top, dressed with an easy and delicious recipe - it's one I wrote down a few years ago from that Everyday Italian show on the Food Network, and as you can see here, I wrote it on cute recipe cards that Elspeth decorated for me as a gift one year for Christmas. As you can also see here, I make this dressing often enough that there's a smudge on the recipe card!

In case you can't quite see it: that is 4 Tbsp of white vinegar, 2 Tbsp of dijon mustard, 2/3 cup of olive oil, and 1 tsp oregano. In this case, I put in a pinch of dried oregano and a pinch of dried basil. And it's true - the recipe makes plenty of dressing. I have a small jar of it in the refrigerator now, which will last through the week!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Galettes! Fancy!

If you read this blog with some regularity, you may have noticed that Elspeth tends to post evidence of her very successful adventures in the world of elaborate baked goods, entrees from various parts of the globe, and multi-stepped recipes that she claims aren't so difficult to conquer. I, on the other hand, tend to post evidence of delicious but *truly* simple recipes, and sometimes I begin to feel like I should try something a bit trickier. More of an "Elspeth recipe," if you will. And so, I attempted.... a Zucchini and Ricotta Galette, as found on the Smitten Kitchen blog (which I heartily recommend). I followed the recipe precisely, and when the crust went all smooshy and uncooperative, I read through dozens of comments on their blog until I found confirmation that at least one other person had this problem, and that it still came out edible.

It seems that assembling your crust quickly, so that the ingredients stay cool, is essential. I did not move quickly, and it was a hot and humid day in July. And so - my crust was smooshy. It was also delicious, though, and perhaps that's the beauty of this recipe.

Friday, July 9, 2010


I've lived through a lot of summers, and not until this one did I figure out how to make a smoothie. Ridiculous, I know. I've always suspected that smoothies should involve some combination of dairy, ice, and fruit - but Lord knows that I haven't guessed correctly at proportions in the past.

The newsletter that I receive with some regularity as a result of my membership at the Seward Coop often contains recipes, and this one looked like it was worth trying out:

Frozen Fruit Smoothies - serves 2
1 frozen banana, peeled and sliced
2 cups frozen strawberries, raspberries or cherries
1 cup milk
1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2-3 Tbsp honey, or to taste

Put all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve. Garnish with fresh fruit, if desired.

So the problems I had with this recipe were few but significant: I don't keep orange juice at my house, because I think it's disgusting (see the note about Ballerina Breath to the right of the screen); I hate bananas (which is challenging, because banana flavor is pervasive in purchased smoothies); I had neither plain nor vanilla yogurt on hand; and I didn't need two persons worth of smoothie, because I'm just me.

And so, I made my smoothie like this, and put it in a big summery cup:
1 cup of odds and ends of frozen fruit in my freezer (mixed berry, mostly)
1 overly ripe mango
a handful of nearly-too-ripe blueberries
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup Greek yogurt (honey flavored)
1/4 cup grapefruit juice

and, well, it was amazing.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Blueberry Muffins

Growing up, one of my favorite things in the world to eat was the blueberry muffins my mom would make, with - of course - wild Maine blueberries. If you have only eaten the larger-than-a-pea sized blueberry, you're missing out. Those are good, it is true, but they are just one variety of blueberry - high bush. The low bush ones, which crawl all over hillsides and mountain tops in Maine, are a bit harder to find. They may well grow in the midwest, but I haven't come across them. I can buy something called "Wild Blueberries" in the freezer section of Trader Joe's, and they were the right size and color, but didn't have the same flavor as those I grew up with - but, I digress.

In honor of the long weekend - and of Independence Day, I suppose - I made myself some blueberry muffins on Sunday. I used the Trader Joe's berries, because that's what I had available. Hot out of the oven, split in half with butter melting into the insides... well, that's nearly heaven.

Blueberry Muffins, as made by Mom
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup fresh blueberries - or 3/4 cup frozen blueberries

Beat the egg, stir in the liquids. Mix in remaining ingredients until the flour is moist. Lumpy batter is fine. Bake in greased muffin tin (I prefer the larger muffins, 6 to a tin - I think the liners are called "Texas cupcake liners" or something like that). Bake 15-20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

(When I don't have blueberries around, I often bake them with jam in the middle.... or mix in 1/2 tsp of almond flavoring and 3/4 cup of dried cranberries! You can also make them with chopped up apples and some cinnamon, or really whatever you think might taste delicious.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kohlrabi Potato Gratin, Oh My!

I mentioned already that the fabulous people of Driftless Organics include a newsletter with each CSA box, but I may not have outlined the contents of said newsletter. The first box of the year included a kind of welcome letter, along with a helpful feature on how to flatten the nifty wax coated boxes the veggies come in so that they can be re-used. There is also a brief description of each vegetable included, along with some quick suggestions about how to store them, how to prepare them, or what to match them up with (you know – eat the arugula in five days or less; store the potatoes in a cool dark space; use the green garlic as you would any garlic, but more generously, as it is quite mild). And, last but certainly not least, there is always a recipe or two to help with the most challenging vegetables in the box. This time, that recipe was for the kohlrabi (and also the potatoes and green garlic). I halved it, and discovered that it made a good companion to the meatloaf I made. Matched up with some of my homemade dressing on spinach, I had quite a meal! (If you are noticing that the dressing and the meatloaf are from over a week ago, you're on to me. I wrote this post and forgot to.. well.. post it.)

Kohlrabi Potato Gratin
(serves 3-4 people)

3-4 medium potatoes, whole, unpeeled
2 medium kohlrabi bulbs, whole, peeled
green leaves from the kohlrabi bulbs, stems removed
1 cup green garlic (white and green parts), rinsed well and coarsely chopped
1 cup half & half
2/3 cup shredded/crumbled cheese (I used blue cheese - yum!)
1/2 tsp each of salt, pepper, and nutmeg
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In medium saucepan with lid, boil whole potatoes and the peeled, whole kohlrabi bulbs for 7-8 minutes, until tender but not soft. Drain into a colander.

Chiffonade de-stemmed kohlrabi leaves (make a pile of flat leaves, roll them up into a log, and slice thinly) and place into the potato/kohlrabi pan with about an inch of fresh water. Bring to boil with the lid and steam for about 2 minutes. Drain.

Cut potatoes and kohlrabi bulbs in half the long way and slice thinly.

Mix together the chopped green garlic, half & half, and the cheese, along with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Put butter in an oven safe pan and place in the hot oven for a couple minutes. Remove and swirl the melted butter to coat. Put half of the potato and kohlrabi slices in the bottom of the pan, lying flat. Spoon 1/3 of the seasoned cream and cheese mixture. Top with another layer of veggies and another layer of cream and cheese. Repeat. Sprinkle with bread crumbs, cover with tin foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 20 minutes, until brown on top and bubbly on the edges. Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

3 days and totally worth it: Homemade Soft Pretzels

I got a beautiful cookbook by Richard Bertinet at a used book store about a year ago. It's titled Crust (a sequel to Dough) and it is full of gorgeous pictures of delicious bread-type treats whose crust is part of the appeal.  The recipe that made me purchase it was the recipe for Soft Pretzels, and for the last year I've thought "oh, I would love soft pretzels right now!" and pulled out the cookbook to remember that, oh yeah, it has like 5 steps of 'do this then let rest for 1-6  hours'. So finally, finally last week I planned wayyyy ahead and got all the ingredients, planned it out, and started the pretzels. Oh man. It took me three days (but really you only need 2) and it was so worth it. They were tasty, comforting, and besides the time investment, super simple.  I shared them with acquaintances and if we weren't already friends, we sure are now. The recipe makes 12 big pretzels, which I thought would be a lot, but they disappeared quickly.

The cool thing about this recipe is that it uses a base recipe of fermented white dough, which is what takes the longest (it has to rise for at least 6 hours), but with the fermented dough plus some other ratios of more bread flour, yeast, salt, etc, you can make baguettes, seeded rye bread, bagels and of course, pretzels. Amazing.  I think a lot of people are very intimidated by the thought of making bread, but if you have patience and plan ahead, it's quite simple and super delicious.

Good luck!

Pretzels from Crust by Richard Bertinet

For the Fermented White Dough (makes about 900 g/ 2 lb of dough)
Ingredients: Yeast (about 2 teaspoons of fresh or half a packet or active rise yeast), 3 3/4 cups white bread flour,  2 teaspoons salt, 1 3/4 cups water.

Directions: Rub the yeast into the flour using your fingertips, add the salt and the water and mix well until the dough begins to come together. Turn out onto an unfloured work surface and work the dough (the dough will be quite tacky). Return the dough to your lightly floured mixing bowl (to flour your bowl, lightly grease and then add a bit of flour and roll the bowl around until the flour has coated the bowl, toss the loose flour). Cover the bowl with a baking cloth and let it rest at room temp for 6 hours or overnight in the fridge (or up to 48 hours). Dough should double in size.

For the Pretzels (makes 12 pretzels)

Ingredients: 400 g fermented white dough (a bit less than half of what you've made, use the rest for a 2nd batch later or toss, you need to make the full recipe of the fermented dough to have the right amount of yeast, etc), 3 3/4 cups white bread flour, 2 t of fresh yeast or 1/2 packet of yeast,  3 3/4 t sugar, 2 t salt, 3 1/2 t butter (cut into small cubes), 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup water. For the egg wash, 1 egg mixed with a pinch of salt.

Directions: Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and then add the fermented dough, butter, milk and water. Mix the ingredients together by hand until well combined. Make sure to really combine the new ingredients with the ball of fermented dough.  The dough will be very stiff and it will seem like you have too much flour, but just keep kneading it. If you can't get it combined, let it sit for five or ten minutes and then continue to knead/combine.  Once combined, cover the bowl with a baking cloth and let it rest for an hour.  In a small bowl or cup, lightly beat one egg and add a pinch of salt. This needs to sit for an hour so do this now rather than when you're ready to roll out the dough. 

Lightly flour your work surface and divide the dough into 12 even pieces.  Roll each piece with your fingers until it is around 8 inches long with the pieces a bit narrower at the ends (I tried making both really skinny and kind of chubby pretzels - I think I liked the chubby ones better, but I may have just over cooked the skinny ones. And the skinny ones tasted more pretzel-. Form into the pretzel shape (heart shape with ends twisted in the center over the base of the heart).  Lay the pretzels on a greased baking tray and glaze with the egg wash. Let the pretzels rise, uncovered for 45-60 minutes. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Glaze the pretzels again and sprinkle with course salt (course sea salt works great), pressing the salt into the dough a bit.  Put the pretzels into the oven and turn the heat down to 450 degrees F.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until the pretzels are a dark golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!