Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Apple Zucchini Muffins

These muffins are nice for fall, with their combination of apples and zucchini. My only complaint is that they don't use enough zucchini!!

I didn't have turbinado sugar so used organic sugar instead.


Apple Zucchini Muffins

Source: Two Peas and Their Pod 
Yields approximately 15 muffins

2 1/4 c white whole wheat flour
3/4 c dark brown sugar
1/2 teas baking soda
1/2 teas baking powder
1/2 teas salt
1 teas ground cinnamon
1/4 teas ground allspice
1 c buttermilk
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 T oil (melted coconut oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil)
1 egg
1 teas vanilla extract
1/2 c grated apple (I used ginger gold, but I bet a lot of varieties would work)
1/2 c grated zucchini, moisture slightly squeezed out between several layers of paper towel
1 c chopped peeled apple

For the topping:
2 T turbinado sugar
1/4 teas cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners or spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and all-spice. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, applesauce, oil, egg, and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until just combined. Do not over mix. Gently stir in the grated apple, zucchini, and chopped apples.

To make the topping, combine turbinado sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Stir well.

Fill the prepared muffin pan with muffin batter, filling each cup about 3/4 the way full. Sprinkle each muffin with cinnamon sugar topping. Bake for 20 minutes, or until muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let muffins cool to room temperature and serve.

The original recipe says these muffins freeze well--I haven't tried it, but it seems like the sugar topping would get soggy.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Individual Raspberry-Pistachio Buckles

With the abundance of raspberries in my garden I am happy to use this recipe which calls for quite a bunch of them, an advantage to me. Another is that the little cakes can be frozen and pulled out to be freshly baked later. One more is that you can mix this in your food processor after you've chopped the nuts.

This recipe can take substitutes for the berries and for the nuts. Cook's Illustrated offers a variation with blackberries and walnuts. See note below.


Individual Raspberry-Pistachio Buckles

Serves 8

1/2 c pistachios
4 T unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
1/4 teas salt
1/3 c heavy cream
2 large eggs
1 teas vanilla extract
3/4 c unbleached flour (I subbed 1/4 c with whole white-wheat flour)
1/2 teas baking powder
3 c (about 1 pound) fresh raspberries, frozen are not recommended--too much liquid

Lightly coat eight 6-oz ramekins with butter or vegetable oil spray and place on a baking sheet. Toast 1/4 c of the nuts in a small skillet until lightly toasted and aromatic. Coarsely chop the remaining nuts and set aside.

Process the toasted pistachios, butter, sugar, and slat in the food processor until finely ground, 10-15 seconds. With the machine running, add the cream, eggs, and vanilla through the feed tube and continue to process until smooth, about 5 seconds. Add the flour and baking powder and pulse until just incorporated, about 5 pulses.

Transfer the batter to a large bowl and fold in the raspberries. Spoon the batter into the ramekins and sprinkle the top of each cobbler with the remaining nuts.

Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes and serve after resting about 5 minutes. These are also good at room temperature.

If you wish to refrigerate (for up to 3 days) or freeze (for up to 1 month), wrap each ramekin tightly in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. If these are frozen, let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. An additional 5 minutes of baking may be necessary.

Note: If you sub blackberries, you may use frozen as long as you pat them dry after thawing them. Use equal amounts of subbed berries or nuts. I haven't tried the blackberries but have used walnuts. I prefer pistachios because they make the cake a pretty shade of speckled yellow. But walnuts are easier to find.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Diane's Bean Dip

My sister-in-law, Diane (I have three!), made this pantry-ready dip for me when I visited her home about 10 years ago. It quickly became a staple. I've found that I like to add a few things, listed as optional.


Diane's Bean Dip

Source: Diane Evans Spackman
Serves about 8 as an appetizer, fewer as a light meal

1 avocado, chopped
1 can corn
1 can black beans
1 can black-eyed peas
green or red onions, chopped
tomatoes, chopped
cilantro, chopped (optional)
3-4 shakes (or to taste) red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste


chopped green chile or jalapeno, to taste
1 minced garlic
lime juice instead of vinegar

Mix and eat with chips, nachos, or quesadillas. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Smooth and Smokey Barbecue Sauce

For flavor homemade barbecue sauce can't be beat but most recipes include instructions to cook chopped onions as the base for the sauce. This tastes great but leaves the sauce chunky, no matter how much I cook the onions down. In this recipe the cook makes "onion juice" for the onion flavor. It's quick and convenient, since the ingredients are already in my pantry. As far as I'm concerned it is just perfect.


Smooth and Smokey Barbecue Sauce

Yield: approximately 1 1/2 cups

1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1/4 c water
1 c ketchup
5 T molasses
2 T cider vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teas liquid smoke (optional, see note)
1 teas hot pepper sauce (or less)
1/4 teas ground black pepper
2 T vegetable oil
1 medium clove garlic, minced (about 1 teas)
1 teas chili powder
1/4 teas cayenne pepper (or less)

In a food processor or blender process the onion with the water until the mixture resembles slush. This will make you cry unless you have swim goggles on. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup, pressing on the solids to extract liquid until you have 1/2 c onion juice. Discard or compost the solids.

Whisk the onion juice, ketchup, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, liquid smoke, hot pepper sauce, and black pepper together in a medium bowl (or if your liquid measuring cup is big enough, mix it in there to save dish washing).

Heat the oil in a large saucepan (nonreactive) over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the garlic, chili powder, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the ketchup mixture and bring to a boil; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the flavors meld and the sauce thickens, about 20-30 minutes. Cool. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen. 

Cook's Illustrated did a test on liquid smoke and found that most are full of who-knows-what chemicals to approximate the flavor of smoke. I believe Wright's brand uses a kind of still to extract smoke flavor so buy that brand if you want smoky sauce.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tomatoes, Finally

I've battled with leaf hoppers, thrips, and hornworms, plus a disease or two, all of which delayed the harvest but finally we have more tomatoes than we can eat. I'm in heaven!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Brown Sugar Berry Shortcakes

Late summer is berry time in my garden; we've been enjoying strawberries and raspberries for a few years and this year we are having our first small blackberry harvest. It won't be long until the raspberries overwhelm me. But I'm not sorry. When I eat a fruity dessert it is easier to rationalize any sense of guilt away and I love the season when I get to eat as many berries as I want. This version of shortcake is particularly lovely. The brown sugar complements the berries nicely; you don't have to dirty a food processor unless you want to; you don't have to roll the dough out; and the sour cream in the whipped cream stabilizes it and adds a bit a tang which contrasts with the sweet sugar.

When we lived in Belgium, our friend Gigi introduced us to one of the most simple and delicious ways to eat strawberries: dip them in sour cream, then in brown sugar, and pop them in your mouth. Fantastic! This recipe captures those flavors.


Brown Sugar Berry Shortcakes

Serves 6

For the fruit:

6 c mixed berries (any combination of strawberries, raspberries, black berries, blue berries, currants--the addition of the darker berries looks beautiful)
4-6 T packed light brown sugar

For the shortcakes:

2 c flour (I used a combination of unbleached flour and white-wheat flour
3 T packed light brown sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 teas table salt
8 T unsalted butter (frozen) plus 1-2 T for melting and brushing on shortcakes
1 large egg
1/2 c sour cream
2 T granulated sugar

For the cream topping:

1 c heavy cream
1/4 c sour cream
1/4 c packed light brown sugar

Prepare berries by trimming as necessary. Halve and slice strawberries; leave raspberries, blueberries or currants whole; halve blackberries. With a potato masher crush 2 c berries with brown sugar in a medium bowl and let sit out until the sugar has dissolved and the berries are juicy, about 30 minutes.

Prepare the shortcakes by heating the oven to 375F. With your hands mix the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, making sure the brown sugar is fully incorporated. Remove the butter from the freezer and grate it into the flour mixture, using the larger holes of a box grater (or flat).  Lightly toss the butter into the flour to distribute it evenly. Whisk the sour cream and egg together in a small bowl and stir it into the flour mixture until large clumps form. Using your hands, knead it lightly until the dough comes together and all the flour is absorbed. If you prefer to use a food processor to mix the dough, you may pulse the dry ingredients together, then drop in tablespoon size chunks of the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 7 pulses. Transfer the mix to a large bowl and add the cream/egg mix.

Using a large ice cream scoop (a # 10 disher is best), scoop 6 dough rounds onto the baking sheet (either sprayed with cooking spray or lined with  silicone paper). If you don't have a scoop of this size you can divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and form into mounded shapes. Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Rotate the pan in the oven half-way through baking time. Cool the shortcakes for 10 minutes. (You may also cool, wrap and keep on the counter for 24 hours. My preferred method is to freeze them, otherwise the sugar topping tends to get soggy and they can be kept for a month or two which is helpful in my household of two.)

To prepare the cream, beat the heavy cream, sour cream, and brown sugar to stiff peaks.

To assemble, split each shortcake in half using a serrated knife. Place the bottom halves on serving plates and spoon some of the fruit mixture over each one, making sure each serving gets a good amount of juice. Top the fruit with the cream and nestle the cake top in the cream dollop. You're ready!

Note:  As my family knows, I love whipped cream. I advise you to double the cream. It is up to you whether you double the brown sugar. I think the amount of brown sugar makes the cream a bit too sweet, but it does make it a lovely color.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Susie's Pasta

This is a long overdue post, and I thought I'd get it up before fresh basil and tomato season is over. We had snow on the mountains last night, and it's heralding the end of my garden, all too soon.

Susie's Pasta is named after my dear friend from graduate school, and it evokes memories of cozy evenings in Chapel Hill apartments, sharing dinner and good conversation in days long gone now. Susie served me this pasta when we were in library school together, and it quickly became a family favorite. The fresh herbs and tomatoes make a delicious sauce, and the garbanzo beans tend to nestle inside the shell pasta for a nice surprise when you take a bite.

The recipe calls for Roma tomatoes, but I have used a variety of small garden tomatoes and it's worked just fine.


Susie's Pasta

Source: Susie
Serves 4-6 (generously, I think)

6 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs plum tomatoes, diced
1/8 teas hot red pepper flakes (1/4 teas if you prefer more heat)
2 c garbanzo beans (1 can, or you could cook your own)
1 lb conchiglie pasta
1/4 c parsely, minced
1/2 c basil, chopped
1 c pecorino romano cheese, grated

Heat olive oil in skillet over low heat. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add tomatoes, hot pepper flakes, and salt to taste. Raise heat to medium and saute, stirring often, for 15-20 minutes. The tomatoes will break down and start to form a sauce. Stir in the beans and continue to cook until the beans are hot.

In the meantime, boil a large pot of water and cook the pasta until al dente. Retain 1/2 c of the pasta cooking water before draining. Transfer pasta to a large warm bowl. Add sauce, parsley, basil, and toss. Add cheese and toss, adding cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce.