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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Strawberry Rhubarb Freezer Jam

I'm a fan of strawberries and rhubarb combined. So I'm going to enjoy them throughout the year.




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Strawberry Rhubarb Freezer Jam


Adapted from:  Southern Living Little Jars, Big Flavors 
Yield: 4 half pint jars

This makes a rather thin-spreading jam but it tastes wonderful.

2 c sugar, divided
3 c strawberries (if you use frozen allow them to partially thaw)
3 c sliced rhubarb (if frozen allow them to thaw partially)
1 pkg. pectin (the original called for 1.59 oz. package, but I found only 2 oz.)

Stir 1 c sugar into the strawberries and let sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve.

Place rhubarb and remaining cup of sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the rhubarb is soft and the sugar is melted. When it begins to simmer, turn it down and stir frequently. Remove from heat and let it cool for 10 minutes.

Combine the strawberries and the rhubarb and pulse in a food processor 8-12 times until slightly chunky. Transfer into a glass or plastic bowl and let stand for 15 minutes. Gradually stir in the pectin. Stir constantly for 3 minutes. Let stand, again, for 30 minutes.

Ladle mixture into clean half pint jars or other freezer containers. Leave 1/2 inch head space. Freeze upright in the freezer where they can remain for up to a year. Thaw in the refrigerator and use within 3 weeks.

The book recommends Ball Fruit Jell Freezer Jam Pectin. (Next time I'll try it,)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Rhubarb Baked French Toast

When we were last together, Betsy and I tried this recipe. This particular product was made with red rhubarb, but the rhubarb in my garden is green, which won't be as pretty. Of course, it will taste just as good. The original recipe is for breakfast or brunch, but we think it would be a delicious dessert bread pudding.

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Rhubarb Baked French Toast


Adapted from: The Washington Post
Serves: 8-10, but this can be halved and cooked in an 8X8 pan

For the filling:

8 oz. trimmed rhubarb stalks, thick stalks cut in half vertically, cut into 1/2 inc. slices
1/2 c  sugar
finely grated zest of 1 orange
3 T orange juice
1 T cornstarch

For the french toast:

2 teas unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 c sugar, divided
12 slices quality firm bread, sandwich or challah, white, or part wheat
6 large eggs
1 1/2 c whole or low fat milk
1 teas vanilla
1 teas ground cinnamon
powdered sugar, for sprinkling

The filling can be made ahead and makes preparation faster if you are serving this for breakfast. Combine the rhubarb and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the orange zest and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb becomes soft,

In a small bowl, combine the juice and the cornstarch and stir until the cornstarch is dissolved. Add it to the mixture in the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from burner and cool for at least 10 minutes. Store in the refrigerator if keeping it overnight.

For the French toast:

Heat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9X13 pan with the butter and arrange 6 slices of bread in an even layer on the bottom. Cut the bread to fit, if needed. Sprinkle the slices with 2 T sugar. Evenly spread the filling over the bread. Place another layer of bread on top of the rhubarb. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 T sugar.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla in a large measuring cup or bowl. Pour it over the bread layers, pressing down gently to help the bread absorb the liquid. Let it sit for 5-15 minutes until the egg mixture has soaked in completely. Sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon and move to the hot oven.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top has become puffy and firm and it has begun to brown. Sprinkle with powdered  sugar and serve immediately.

Serve with strawberries, either sweetened or unsweetened.

If you choose to serve this as a dessert,  I recommend you leave the bottom layer as is but cut the bread into cubes for the top layer.





Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Chocolate Sesame Crunch Bars

A variation on a no-bake cookie, these crunch bars are another way to use the tahini languishing in your fridge after you make hummus. The most time-consuming part for me was stirring the tahini, but if you use tahini more often the less it will settle in between uses.



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Chocolate Sesame Crunch Bars


Source: The New York Times

8 oz Rice Chex, puffed rice, or another crunchy, light cereal like cornflakes
10 oz milk chocolate, though I used a mixture of milk, semi-sweet, and bittersweet because that's what I had on hand--use what chocolate you prefer
1 1/4 c tahini, well stirred

Prepare a 9x13 pan by lining with parchment or wax paper.

Break up cereal by pulsing in a food processor just until broken into bits. You don't want to turn the cereal into powder. Place cereal in a large bowl.

Chop the chocolate. Add the tahini to the chocolate and melt it in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time. Then pour the melted chocolate and tahini mixture over the cereal bits and mix quickly.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and spread it out in an even layer. Refrigerate for about 2 hours, until the bars are hardened. Cut into bars and eat right away, then put the remaining bars back in the fridge. These treats begin to melt quickly, so they're best eaten right out of the fridge, which unfortunately limits their portability.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pan-seared Salmon with Sour Cream and Dill Sauce

I've had this recipe for cooking salmon since sometime in the 90s and I'm not sure where I got it. It is a good, basic recipe, simple and tasty. However, the recipe was annoyingly vague in ingredient amounts. I have included more precise measurements.


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Pan Seared Salmon with Sour Cream and Dill Sauce

Serves 4

4 salmon fillets 4-6 oz. each
2 T vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:

1 c sour cream
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped (2 T minced)
juice of 1 lemon (3 T lemon juice; fresh is best, but bottled will do in a pinch)
1 small shallot, minced (or  1-2 T finely chopped scallion or chives)
small pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl whisk together sour cream, dill, lemon juice, shallot, red pepper. Season with salt and pepper, roughly 1/4 teas each. Set in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Remove the pin bones from the salmon (see these instructions). Coat a large skillet with 2 T oil and place over medium heat. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. When hot, add the fillets to the pan flesh side down. Cook for 4-6 minutes until the surface is browned. Turn the fish over and cook for 2-5 minutes on the other side, depending on how thick the fillets are. You can use a knife to check that the fish is flaky and mostly opaque. Most experts recommending that salmon be a bit under cooked with a little rare meat in the center. But it is a matter of taste. Remove from pan and let rest for around 5 minutes.

Notes:

This sauce makes more than I can use with 4 servings of salmon; you may want to halve it since it doesn't really store well. Or you can plan on enjoying what is leftover as a vegetable dip or thin it with milk and use it as a creamy salad dressing.

I've substituted dill seed for fresh dill but I haven't done it for a long time, so I can only recommend that you use a half teaspoon and taste the result. Add more if you want more dill flavor. It will be a bit crunchier but will still taste of dill.

Check out these two sites for help (although when pan searing you may not want to brine):

brining

pan-searing

Friday, May 20, 2016

Rhubarb Fool with Whipped Ginger Mascarpone Cream

I've been happy to have some rhubarb growing in my garden this year. This is another way to use the "vegetable" before you can't find it any more, although I'm sure you could use frozen rhubarb.


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Rhubarb Fool with Whipped Ginger Mascarpone Cream


Source:  Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories  by Susie Middleton
Serves 6

Rhubarb can vary in its tartness levels. You may want to taste the compote and adjust the sugar in the whipped cream mixture. The last time I made this, it was plenty sweet for me.

For the Rhubarb Compote:

12 oz rhubarb stalks, trimmed and cut into 1/2-in pieces, about 3 c
2/3 c sugar
3 T orange juice

Combine the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, reducing heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the mixture has reduced and thickened. Don't allow the rhubarb to completely break down. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate to cool.

For the Whipped Ginger Mascarpone Cream:

3/4 c heavy cream
1/2 c (4-oz) mascarpone cheese
1/3 c sugar
1 teas vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 teas grated fresh ginger, to taste (a rasp-style grater is best for grating ginger)

Combine the cream, mascarpone, and sugar in a chilled mixing bowl. Using a standing mixer or a hand mixer or a very strong arm, whip on medium speed until the mixture is thick and stiff. Add the vanilla and ginger and whisk again until combined. This can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 8 hours. (This cream can be used with other fruits for a quick parfait.)

For the garnish:

1/2 c crumbled gingersnap cookies or use them whole
mint sprigs, optional

Place both the mascarpone cream mixture and the compote into a mixing bowl. Gently fold one into the other until partially mixed and somewhat streaked. Scoop mixture into serving bowls. Serve as is or use gingersnap crumbles or whole cookies as a garnish. You can also make individual trifles layering the fool with the crumbled cookies. Refrigerate these before serving.

Notes:

I've found the quality of mascarpone cheese can vary quite a bit. My advice is to avoid Galbani brand. If you can't find anything else, I'd suggest substituting with cream cheese. It will be a bit more tart but the texture will be better.

It's also been a year or so since I purchased Nabisco Gingersnaps and I'm pretty disappointed in them. They've changed the recipe; they are too sweet and too hard. I'm going to be searching for something I like better. I like a British biscuit called "ginger nut" but I don't have a good source for them

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sultan's Delight

I recently finished a course of classes in Turkish cookery taught by a couple of lovely young Turkish women at The Raindrop Foundation, a Turkish cultural center in Albuquerque. The first class featured this dish which, according to legend, was the favorite of a sultan in the Ottoman Empire.

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Sultan's Delight (Hunkar Begendi)


Serves 5-6

The teachers of my class presented this as a casserole with the eggplant mixture spread out in a baking dish, topped by a layer of the meat, but I like serving it individually with the eggplant layer used much like polenta--a layer on a plate, with a ladle full of the meat on top. The type of cheese Turks would use isn't available in United States so the recipe calls for Mozzarella since it can easily be found certified halal ("permissible" according to Muslim law) . I added some Asiago cheese for flavor but Parmesan could be added instead.

Meat Layer:

1 pd beef chuck or lamb stew (I used leg of lamb off the bone) cut into 1/2-3/4 inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 15-oz can tomatoes (or 2-3 tomatoes, peeled and diced)
1/2 teas thyme
1/2 teas oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne, if you like

Eggplant Bechamel:

2 pounds eggplants
4 T butter
3 T flour
2 c milk

salt and pepper to taste
1 teas fresh lemon juice
1/4 teas grated nutmeg
1/2 c shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 c shredded Asiago cheese

parsley, chopped for garnish

You may wish to cook your eggplants as you begin cooking the meat.

For the meat layer: 

Place the meat in a lightly oiled pan and cook over medium heat until browned. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and stir for 30-60 seconds Stir in tomatoes (if using whole, smash them up) and herbs, and season with salt and pepper and add cayenne, if using. Reduce heat to low and cook until the meat is tender (about 30 minutes) adding a little water if necessary (1-2 T). Fresh tomatoes may not cook down completely. If you are doing the casserole, the mixture shouldn't be as saucy. Remove the bay leaf.


For the eggplant bechamel:

Pierce the eggplants with a fork in several places and broil, turning occasionally, until they are softened. Last time I made this, my oven was already hot so I roasted the eggplants which worked fine, too. My teachers let them char, a technique I haven't quite mastered. (This makes for smoky flavored eggplant.) Let them cool, peel and mash them with a fork or finely chop them. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add flour; stir and cook until it has darkened slightly, at least a minute. Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens and becomes creamy. Season with salt. Add mashed eggplant to the sauce, blend and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the cheese. Mix well and remove from heat. Pour the bechamel into a casserole dish and cover with the meat. Place in 350F oven for 15-20 minutes until warmed through. Conversely, you can use the bechamel as a bottom layer on a dinner plate, topping with the meat and sauce.

Which ever way you do it, top with chopped parsley just before serving.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Diane's Mayonnaise Cole Slaw

My father-in-law grew up in North Carolina, and I always thought this recipe my mother-in-law makes was from his family. But instead, my father-in-law's mother used to make a vinegar-based cole slaw. From my two years in Chapel Hill, I should have remembered that North Carolinians prefer the vinegar style.

Instead, my mother-in-law adapted this delicious, mayonnaise-based slaw from a KFC copycat recipe years ago. It's a regular part of her table, and now mine.



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Diane's Mayonnaise Cole Slaw


 2/3-3/4 head of cabbage, core removed
Half of a yellow onion
1 large carrot
1 c mayonnaise
equal parts cider vinegar and sugar, staring with 1/4 c
1 teas salt
1 teas celery seeds
heaping 1 T mustard

Shred cabbage using knife, a slicer, or a food processor. Peel and shred the carrot. Dice the onion. Mix vegetables together in large bowl.

Whisk mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, celery seeds, and mustard together. Taste and adjust for vinegar/sugar balance. If you prefer a thicker dressing, you can add 2 T mayonnaise.

Mix dressing into cabbage mixture a little at a time, to desired consistency: soupy or otherwise.