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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Pear and Spice Muffins

A bumper crop on my pear tree had me scrambling for recipes this fall. This one is a good one. 




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Pear and Spice Muffins

Adapted from The Washington Post
Yields 12 muffins


4000-5000 ft. altitude adjustments:

add 1 T flour
subtract 1 T sugar


1/3 c neutral-tasting oil, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 c whole-wheat pastry flour or white-wheat flour
2 teas baking powder
1/4 teas baking soda
1/2 teas salt
1 teas ground cinnamon
1/2 teas ground ginger
1/4 teas ground cloves
2 large eggs
3/4 c dark brown sugar
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1 teas vanilla extract
1 c low-fat buttermilk
1 medium, firm but ripe pear, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4" pieces
1/2 c chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Prepare your oven by placing a rack in the middle and heating to 400F. Spray a muffin tin with baking spray or brush with oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. 

In another bowl, stir together the oil and eggs until well blended. Add the brown sugar, applesauce, and vanilla. Then add half of the flour mixture, and followed by half of the buttermilk. Stir until incorporated and add the remaining flour and remaining buttermilk. Don't overmix. Stir in the chopped pears and nuts gently.

Evenly portion the batter into the muffin tins. Bake for 18 minutes, approximately, and test with a toothpick  to see if it comes out clean. If so, they are finished. Cool in the pan on a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes. You may need to loosen the muffins with a knife before serving. 

Notes: 

I had some pear sauce on hand after making pear butter. I substituted that for the apple sauce and it worked beautifully. 

I believe you could skip the peeling and chopping steps by coring the pear and grating it. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Brussels Sprout Salad with Warm Browned Butter Vinaigrette

This is a good salad recipe when brussels sprouts are in season. Any number of ingredients can be substituted with what you have in your pantry or fridge or in your time frame. In fact, the CI website has a number of variations, one with different nuts and dried fruits (apricots and almonds) and one with bacon. You can do some experimenting if you don't have access to the website.



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Brussels Sprout Salad with Warm Browned Butter Vinaigrette


Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Serves 6-7


1/4 c lemon juice
1 T whole grain mustard
1 teas sugar
salt and pepper
1 shallot, halved through root end and sliced thin crosswise
1/4 (or more if desired) dried cranberries or sour cherries
5 T unsalted butter
1/3 c hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and chopped, or toasted walnuts, instead
1 1/2 pds Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved and sliced thin
1 1/2 c baby arugula, chopped, or endive, or lettuce
4 oz Manchego cheese, shaved or another cheese you have on hand

CI states that a food processor with a slicing blade can be used to slice the sprouts, but that it will be less tender. I'll have to take their word for it, since I used a knife.

In a microwave safe bowl, stir together the lemon juice, mustard, sugar, and 1/4 teas salt. Stir in the sliced shallots, and cranberries and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave 30-60 seconds until the ingredients are steaming. Stir it once again and try to submerge the shallot and cranberries in the juices. Let it sit out and cool getting close to room temperature.

In a 12-inch skillet melt the butter over medium heat (a stainless steel skillet makes it easier to see the color of the browning butter). Add the hazelnuts. Cook while stirring frequently, until the butter becomes a dark gold brown (depending on your altitude this can happen in a few minutes or may take more like 6 minutes.) Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the shallot mixture. Add the sliced Brussels sprouts and arugula. Using tongs, toss the vegetables with the dressing until it is dispersed throughout. Season with salt and pepper.  Let the mixture remain in the skillet while the sprouts darken slightly. Serve immediately topping with the cheese, or remove to a serving bowl.

Note:

When I made this a second time for my small household, I halved it because I don't think it holds well. I'm sure it could be doubled for a crowd, as well.


Thursday, November 11, 2021

Spicy Italian Sausage with Polenta


Another use for all the cherry tomatoes from my garden.




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Spicy Italian Sausage with Polenta


Adapted from Cook's Country Magazine
Serves 4-5

1 batch of cooked polenta kept warm (cheesy grits can be subbed, see original recipe)

1 pd sweet Italian sausage, either in bulk or with casings removed
1 onion, chopped fine
approx 3/4 pd cherry tomatoes (the recipe calls for 10 oz but I used nearly 1 pd)
2 T chopped jarred hot cherry peppers or pepperoncini plus 1 T of the brine, see note below
3/4 c chicken broth, see note below

Over medium-high heat, cook sausage and onion in a large skillet until lightly browned. Break up the sausage as it cooks. When cooked, remove from the skillet and hold the mixture in a bowl. Retain 1 T of the fat in the skillet and discard the remainder.

Place the tomatoes in the hot skillet and cook without stirring. Allow them to start to brown and then stir in the chopped peppers. Continue cooking for a few minutes until tender. Add the broth, brine, and the reserved sausage mixture. Check for seasonings and add salt if needed. Cook approximately 5 minutes the sauce thickens until slightly and serve over the polenta. Top with basil chiffonade and/or grated parmesan cheese.

Notes:

I believe using pepperoncini will create a less spicy sauce which may be just what some diners need.

I added some crushed fennel seeds because the brand of sausage I used was light on that spice.

I used water and a few bay leaves as a substitute for chicken broth because I didn't want the added salt. 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Cranberry Lemon Bars

It's almost cranberry time. 




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Cranberry Lemon Bars

Makes a 9X13 pan of bars

For the cranberry layer:

1 (12-oz) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
3 T water
3/4 c granulated sugar
2-3 large lemons

For the crust:

1 1/2 c AP flour
1/3 c granulated sugar
1 teas fine sea salt
1 teas vanilla extract
3/4 c unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the lemon layer:

1 c granulated sugar
1/4 c AP flour
1/8 teas fine sea salt
3 large eggs, at room temp
confectioners' sugar, optional

To make the cranberry layer, combine the cranberries, sugar and water in a saucepan. Zest 2 lemons, over the saucepan, and reserve the lemons. Over medium-high heat, bring the ingredients to a boil while stirring occasionally. Cook until the berries pop and the mixture is jam-like. Turn off the heat and set the pan aside.

To make the crust, start by preheating the oven to 350F. Use heavy duty aluminum foil to carefully line a 9X13 baking pan and make sure there are no holes or gaps. Spray generously with cooking spray. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in bowl. Stir the vanilla into the butter and then pour the two over the flour mix. Mix together and the dough will come together into a mass. Break the dough into pieces as you place it into the lined pan. Press with your hands to ensure the dough is an even layer. Place in the oven and bake until the layer is golden brown at the edges. 

Meanwhile, mix the lemon layer. Squeeze the reserved lemons and measure. You need one half cup; if you don't have enough, squeeze a third lemon. 

In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, flour, and salt. Whisk in the eggs and mix only until incorporated. Gently stir in the lemon juice just until smooth. 

When the crust is done, remove from the oven and allow to rest on the counter for 5 minutes and then spread the cranberry mixture over the top. Then slowly and carefully pour the lemon mixture over all, creating two distinct layers as well as you can. I found that the cranberry layer peeked out in some places.

Replace the pan in the oven and bake until the filling is set, 18-22 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack, until completely cool. Then place in the fridge for a couple of hours, at least. When firm and cold, use the foil as a sling and move all to a cutting board. With a sturdy sharp knife, cut into 24 pieces (or more if you prefer). making sure you wipe your knife between cuts. If you like, sprinkle bars with powdered sugar just before serving. 

Plum Avocado Salad

I've never thought of this combination but it's very tasty.





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Plum Avocado Salad


Adapted from food52.com
Serves 2-4

2 medium avocados, ripened
5-10 plums depending on the size (I found Italian plums, which are cling free, easy to use)
1 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 small clove garlic, minced.
several pinches sea salt
juice of one medium lemon
2 splashes olive oil
a pinch or more ground dried red chile pepper, 1/2 c chopped roasted pistachios, salt free preferably

You can peel the plums if you prefer. Cut the plums into 5/8 inch cubes. Peel the avocados and cut into cubes.

Place the plum and avocado cubes into a bowl. Drizzle with the lemon juice and sprinkle with one pinch of salt. Gently toss together taking care to avoid overmixing.
In a small bowl, mix the garlic with another pinch of salt, mashing them together. Add the amount of chile pepper you wish to use and continue mashing. Add the cilantro, and mash until combined. Stir in the oil (1/4 -1/2 c) to make the dressing. Mash until incorporated with other ingredients.

Sprinkle the avocado and plums with chopped pistachios. Drizzle the dressing over the top and sprinkle with one more pinch of salt, if you like. Allow to sit on the counter for 5-10 minutes until flavors have melded somewhat and serve.


Monday, October 25, 2021

Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto




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Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto


Adapted from:  RIVER COTTAGE VEG by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Serves 4

5-6 cups vegetable stock (homemade is best) or a combination of stock and water
1 generous T butter (20 g)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/4 c (250g) Arborio rice
3/4-1 c roasted tomato sauce, see recipe below, or equivalent amount of a prepared pasta sauce
salt and pepper
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella (about 4 oz or 125g) torn or cut into chunks

 In a 2-3 quart saucepan, heat the vegetable stock until it simmers. Keep it hot.

In the meantime, place large saucepan or medium Dutch-oven over medium-low heat and melt the butter. Add the onion and stir until coated. Sweat until soft, about 10 minutes depending on your stovetop. Stir in the rice and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the rice has begun to look translucent around the edges start to add the hot stock a cup or cup and a half at a time. Stir often, especially right after you add the initial stock, so you encourage the formation of starch in the rice. As each addition of stock is absorbed, add another cup or so, stir a little and let cook until until liquid is absorbed. After 20-25 minutes, the rice should be cooked with just a hint of chalkiness in the middle (in my high altitude, this time is longer since the boiling point is lower). 

Stir in the tomato sauce and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, until all is thoroughly heated. I like this a bit runny with generous amounts of tomato sauce. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Add the mozzarella and cover. Let it sit for a minute and stir lightly to break up the melting mozzarella. Don't be too vigorous in stirring because you should have some melty bits of the cheese within the risotto. 

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a handful of arugula on the side, if you like. If you prefer, top with a chiffonade of basil or some chopped oregano.

For meat eaters, you can top with some cooked bacon, crumbled. Or stir some into the risotto. The cheese can be left out if you prefer. 

Roasted Tomato Sauce (yields about 2 cups)

3-4 pounds (1.5-2kg) ripe tomatoes, larger ones halved
3 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
a few sprigs thyme
couple springs of marjoram (optional)
2 T olive oil or vegetable oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 350F (180C). Place the tomatoes, cut side up on a baking sheet and sprinkle the garlic and herbs over the top. Drizzle the oil over the top and season to your preference with the salt and pepper.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook for an hour or more until the tomatoes and soft and beginning to caramelize on the top. 

Allow the tomatoes to cool for approximately 30 minutes. Pour them into a large sieve over a bowl and rub the pulp through. Discard the skins and seeds.

Or alternatively, just use a blender, stick or conventional, to blend through the tomatoes. You'll still have tiny bits of skin and seeds but they don't bother me much. You'll have a much larger yield. 


Note: You can use crushed tomatoes from a can but you might need to use more seasoning and herbs to supplement flavor.

Tomato Fritatta

I'm trying to use up a fall glut of tomatoes after a fast, freezing storm compelled us to strip our tomato plants of their bounty. Of course, this can be made any time of year. If you are buying the fruit out of season, cherry tomatoes taste better than others. 


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Tomato Frittata

Serves 6-8

1 1/4 pounds ripe tomatoes, the best you can find
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
salt
freshly ground pepper
1 T fresh marjoram leaves or 2 teas fresh thyme leaves
8 large eggs
2 T milk
1 T extra virgin olive oil

Slice half of the tomatoes about a third of an inch thick and set aside (if you use cherry tomatoes, I advise slicing all in half). Halve the remaining tomatoes, squeeze to remove the seeds and chop. Mix these with the garlic in a bowl or retain on your cutting board until needed. 

In another bowl or large measuring cup whisk the eggs and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the milk and half of whichever herbs you choose. Add the chopped tomato and garlic. Stir to mix well.

Place the olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet (oven safe) and heat over medium-high heat until you can feel heat when you hover your hand over the pan. You can test by dropping some of the egg mixture in and if it sizzles the pan is ready. Add the egg mixture to the skillet and tilt the pan until it evenly covers the bottom. Allow to cook a bit; then lift the edges with a rubber spatula while tilting the skillet again, allowing some of the eggs to seep under the cooked bottom. Do this a few times. When the eggs have set somewhat, turn the heat to low and place tomato slices on the top. Cover the pan and cook about 10 minutes; gently shake it a couple of times. You may also want to look at the bottom to ensure it doesn't burn; again use a rubber spatula to lift and check. 

Once the eggs are mostly set place the skillet under the broiler about 6 inches from the heat. Cook until the top browns slightly and puffs a little. Remove from the broiler and give the skillet a shake to ensure the frittata doesn't stick.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining thyme or marjoram leaves over the top. Slice the frittata with a plastic knife while in the pan (you don't want to scratch the surface) or slip it carefully on to a cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve hot, although it tastes great at any temperature.

Leftovers are best used within a couple of days.

I'm thinking of trying this with chopped cooked bacon and/or cheese, shredded and mixed into the eggs or grated Parmesan on top. But it is good as it is.