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!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why libraries are great: Gateau Chocolat Framboise

I love the public library. I grew up loving the library - granted it helped that the one in my hometown looked like a castle (C.M. Bailey Public Library, Winthrop, ME. Look it up!). It just seemed so great that I could have at my fingertips thousands of books, and that as I grew older, I discovered new shelves, new topics, as I spent more time upstairs (in the grown up section) and less time downstairs (in the kids and teens area).  I started getting books on architecture, travel, and cooking.

As the adult I attempt to be, the wonder of the library has not gone away. It is such an invaluable resource to a community, a gathering place, a warm place, computers, internet, quiet, and best of all, books. Lots of them.  Living in Seattle where there is a network of about 20 libraries means that just about any book, CD or DVD I could desire, I can get my hands on (and delivered to my local library, at that!).  When I was unemployed for 3 months, I couldn't afford internet in my apartment and I spent my days at the library, using their internet, applying to jobs, and then cooling down by perusing the gardening and travel books, and heading home with a pile of cookbooks and DVD's.

Being able to test-run a cookbook is a wondrous thing. Sometimes I buy a cookbook and find that there are just a handful of recipes in it that I like - recipes that I am so glad to have, but a bit annoyed that the small shelf space I have for cookbooks is being used up by a cookbook that really could instead just be a handful of index cards. I love to get cookbooks out from the library, try a few recipes and then either write down the ones that I like or go out and buy the cookbook.

Last week I got "Chocolate & Zucchini", by Clotilde Dusoulier, the author of the same name food blog.  As is the case often, I loved the dessert section of her cookbook but just didn't feel like I would make many of her other recipes.  I jotted down the recipe for Gateau Chocolat Framboise (Chocolate Raspberry Cake) and made it this weekend to give to a couple whose birthdays were recently.  They're like a 2nd pair of parents to me, so I was hoping the cake would be good. They were blown away, and I'm positive this will become a special occasion cake for me. It was quite straight forward to make and it was oh-my-god good.

So this is just one of the reasons why libraries are great. It brought this cake into my life - and that is a wonderful thing.

Gateau Chocolat Framboise from Chocolate & Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier.

Ingredients: 2 sticks butter, 8 oz bittersweet chocolate bits, 1 cup sugar, 4 large eggs, 1 1/2 cups raspberries (plus more for garnish, so buy a pint), 1/3 cup flour, 1 t fleur de sel or 1/2 t fine sea salt.

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 10" springform pan.

Using a heavy bottomed pan, double boiler, or a small pan in a larger pan of water, slowly melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring occasionally and being careful not to burn it. Combine the melted mix and the sugar in a medium bowl and mix well. Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes and then add the eggs, one by one, stirring well after each addition.  Mash the raspberries with a fork (no need to overdo it, just to break down the shape of each berry) and add to the batter, stirring to combine.  Sift the flour and salt together into the bowl and stir until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Turn of the oven and leave the cake in the warm oven for five more minutes. The cake will still be fairly soft. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and remove the sides of the pan.  Let the cake cool complete, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate (for at least 4 hours, or overnight). Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving and garnish with fresh raspberries. I melted down chocolate and poured it over the cake, then put the raspberries in the chocolate so that they were held down by something and didn't roll all over.

Slice small pieces (this is a very rich cake), and serve! Store the leftovers (if there are any) in the fridge.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

With a bit of planning, an easy easy dinner.

I always want to make pizza at home, with my own crust, my own toppings, just how I like it. But I never decide this until I'm hungry, and I don't want to make the dough, wait for it to rise, and then make the pizza. And because of this, I always have it in my head that homemade pizza is an ordeal, that it's tough to make. But it is SO easy. If you just give your self some time to let the dough rise it is so.easy. So this week, I planned ahead! I made one batch of pizza dough, which makes 3 medium pizzas, so three nights this week I got to make a quick, delicious homemade pizza. And it was glorious, absolutely glorious.

As you can guess, in my quest for a  no nonsense recipe that is absolutely delicious, I went straight to my Cook's Illustrated cook book "The New Best Recipes". I don't know what I would do without it.  I made up the dough, let it rise while I went to an art reception with a friend, came back home to find it bursting through the saran wrap, over the edges of the bowl, and happily rolled it out into a pizza. A few toppings later and my boyfriend and I were enjoying a delicious, cheap and healthy dinner. There are few things I love more than making my own dinner, and this was grand.

For the first night we went for a simple margarita pizza using fresh mozzarella, nice vine tomatoes, basil from my windowsill garden and a nice pizza sauce (which, yes, was store bought...ah well). I encourage you to make one straightforward delicious pizza, and then experiment with the rest.

Pizza Dough from The New Best Recipes 
Makes 3 medium pizzas

Ingredients: 1/2 cup warm water, 1 envelope (about 2 1/4 t) instant yeast, 1 1/4 cups water at room temp, 2 T extra virgin olive oil, 4 cups bread flour*, plus more for dusting the work surface, 1 1/2 t salt, olive oil for oiling the bowl.

* I like to substitute about one cup with corn flour (very fine corn meal), to add a bit to the crust.

Directions: Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room temp water and oil and stir to combine.

Process the flour and salt in a large food processor (or with a whisk, by hand, in a medium bowl).  Pour in most of the liquid ingredients. If using a food processor - pulse as you pour and continue to pulse until a ball forms. If it does not, add more of the liquid, slowly until a ball forms. If working dough by hand, stir with a rubber spatula while you pour. Once all the liquid is in, use your hands to combine the dough and work into a ball, again, adding more liquid as needed. The dough will be a bit tacky.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface (using the rubber spatula if needed) and knead by hand for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball.

Put the dough in a deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Press the dough to deflate, and break up for the size pizzas you would like, 3 for medium, 2 pieces for large, 4 or 5 for more personal size pizzas. Wrap whatever pieces you're not using in plastic wrap and stick in the fridge - it will be good for a while in there, at least 4 days (in my opinion).

Cooking the Pizza

Preheat the oven to 450/500 degrees for at least 20 minutes before you're ready to stick the pizza in. If you're using a pizza stone, stick that in there too for the heating. If you're not very good at sliding the rolled out pizza onto the cooking surface - keep this in mind when deciding if you want to preheat or not. Preheating will certainly make the crust crispier though.

Roll the pizza crust out on a floured work surface. Sprinkle corn meal on the cooking surface (pizza stone, baking sheet, etc) if you've got it.  Lay the dough on the baking surface, brush with olive oil, poke with the tines of a fork to prevent ballooning, and pre-cook for 5 minutes. While the crust is cooking, finish getting the toppings together.  Pull out the dough after 5 minutes and quick top the pizza to your liking. If you're using any meat or big toppings, consider pre-cooking them in a saute pan before adding them to the pizza. Also try to remove as much moisture as you can from things before putting them on the pizza. De-seed tomatoes, press fresh mozzarella with a dish cloth, etc.

Cook for 5-10 more minutes, checking every few minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven when the crust is beginning to turn golden and the toppings look done.  Slice, serve and enjoy!

Friday, June 18, 2010


A funny thing happened last week as I sorted through my enormous box of CSA vegetables: I suddenly realized that what I really needed to add to the mix was some meat! There’s something incredibly comforting about meatloaf, and I find my mother’s recipe to be just the ticket. I’m sure (in fact, I know) that there are meatloaf recipes that involve combinations of meat, fresh herbs, carefully selected fillers, rare mushrooms and such. I don’t bother myself with those recipes. This one is tried and true, and with the standard items that I keep in my cabinets and refrigerator, the only ingredient I ever need to buy in order to make this recipe is the ground beef!

Meatloaf (as my mom makes it)
1 egg
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
3/4 tsp chili powder
ground pepper
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried basil
garlic powder (just a shake or two)
1/8 cup grated onion (do grate it, rather than dicing it)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup oats
1 1/2 lbs ground beef

4 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp brown sugar

Combine all of the ingredients except the ground beef. Mix them well before adding the ground beef. The mix that well, too. Place in a loaf pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes - then remove from the oven, add the topping (which you should mix together first), and then bake another 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Life Changing Recipe

Well. You know already that I recently received a giant box of fresh vegetables, and I suspect you can imagine that when one is facing such a box, one does not have weeks upon weeks to spend planning and eating. One must eat those vegetables promptly. They are leafy and springy and fresh and after just a few days, they aren't any of those things.

And so, I thought to myself - a salad! - would be a good solution. And so I made one - the lettuce, radishes, and purple scallions (plus some non-CSA-red onion) went towards this cause, and I tossed a hard boiled egg on top, as well. Unfortunately, I then remembered that every salad dressing I have ever purchased (up to and including the four that currently reside in my refrigerator) has fallen short of my expectations, even when I buy expensive dressings and organic dressings and dressings with fancy packaging. But then I remembered that when I'm furiously paging through my cookbooks with certain recipes in mind (pancakes, or white bean soup, or meatballs, or creamed spinach, say), I whiz past the dressings/sauces categories that are standing in my way. And so, I though to myself - a homemade dressing! - would be a good solution.

Which brings me to my point(s). Firstly, the Moosewood Cookbook is a thing of beauty, a sure path to success, and an essential part of my kitchen. Secondly, creamy homemade dressing (as directed by the Moosewood Cookbook) is ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS and TOTALLY EASY TO MAKE. Yes, I am that excited about this discovery. Oh, and thirdly - Elspeth, the better half of this blog partnership, gave me a handheld blender/mixer/puree-er thingy a few years ago as a gift, and it's a genius of a small appliance. Go get one. And then make this dressing.

Creamy Garlic Dressing
3 garlic cloves (I chopped up some of the CSA green garlic here)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tsp salt (I used sea salt)
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese (I used the grocery store can stuff, and it was still awesome)
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup milk

Put everything but the milk into a blender (or into the little dressing-making-cup that comes with the handheld blender deal), and whirl for a couple seconds. Add the milk. Whirl a couple seconds more. Eat the dressing on everything in sight, because it's that good. And it'll only last a week or so, covered and refrigerated.

By the by, this dressing also got me through my entire bundle of spinach in two sittings. It's that good.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The First CSA Box of the Season!

Well, I can't begin to say how excited I am about this first CSA box from Driftless Organics! I shared a CSA box with a friend last year, and it went so well that we're doing it again!!

This particular farm actually includes a newsletter with each box, along with some relevant recipes for the more unique vegetables that are included (this time the recipe is for Kohlrabi Potato Gratin). Also, this time, they offered a cookbook that appears to be most excellent - I wasn't clever enough to buy one, but my friend did, so I took a picture! Rather than having you compare the vegetables on the table to the vegetable list in the newsletter, I'll help you along. I think that they go like this, from left to right: top row: blue potatoes and red radishes; second row: arugula, spinach, and red butterhead lettuce; bottom row: german butterball potatoes, purple kohlrabi, more spinach, green garlic, purple scallions, and garlic chives!!

More posts to come, once I start to use these lovely vegetables. Boxes arrive every other Thursday, well into October.