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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

I'm going to slip this recipe in while it is still Christmas week. These cookies, topped with ganache and chopped peppermint candies, are beautiful and rich and one cookie can fill you up. Merry Christmas!



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Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Yield: 32-36

Although these folks cook at about 4300 feet above sea level, they have a national following. I'm not sure how they address the issue of altitude. In their photos, the cookies look flatter (a result of lower air pressure) so I wondered if this recipe works better at lower altitudes. I altered my effort (changes in parentheses) since my altitude is almost 5000 feet and I refrigerated the dough before baking. They turned out thick and chewy. 

for the cookies:

2 1/2 c all-purpose flour (I added 2 T flour )
3/4 teas baking soda
1/2 teas salt
3/4 c Dutch-processed cocoa
1 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c granulated sugar (minus 2 T)
1 c light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teas vanilla extract
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks 

for the ganache:

16 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (if you have Callebaut chips you can skip chopping)
1 c heavy cream

1 c crushed candy cane pieces

If you are going to bake immediately, bring oven to 350F. Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper or baking mats.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa in a medium bowl. In another bowl cream butter and sugars with a mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well. Stir in vanilla until combined.

Gradually add flour mixture just until combined. Add the chocolate chips. If you plan to refrigerate do so for at least 2 hours.

Scoop the dough in rounded tablespoons. If the dough has been refrigerated, it is easy and relatively mess free to roll the dough in your hands. Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart and bake for 10 minutes (because the dough was chilled I baked them for about 12 minutes) until cookies are set but still soft in the center. Avoid over baking. Remove from the oven and let sheet rest on a cooling rack for a few minutes before lifting the cookies off to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, make the ganache by heating the cream in the microwave on high until hot but not boiling. You can see little bubbles around the edge. (You can also do this in a saucepan.) Add the chopped chocolate and let stand for 45 seconds, then stir until the chocolate melts into the cream. 

Dip the cookies into the ganache covering all but the tip where you are holding it. You may slide the cookie against the bowl to remove some of the chocolate on the back (or not) and place the dipped cookie on parchment paper. While the chocolate is still warm sprinkle generously with chopped peppermint.  Allow to cool. (I found that even on parchment I had to use a thin spatula to remove the cookies from the parchment. I may lightly spray with cooking spray next time, although that may add some greasiness. Or I'll just eat the ganache left on the parchment.)


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Baked Oatmeal: Three Stick-to-Your-Ribs Variations

Almost two days away from official winter, I recall that much earlier this fall when I attempted to use up the abundance of several foods from my garden and Betsy's (thanks for the zucchini) I came across recipes for baked oatmeal. Many use intriguing ingredients although I didn't find any that would help me use some of my bumper crop of green tomatoes. I've tried four types and probably will try others but I'll share these three for now.



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Raspberry Baked Oatmeal


Source: sixsistersstuff.com
Serves 6-9

2 c old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 teas baking soda
1/2 teas cinnamon
1/4 teas salt
1 1/2 c raspberries, fresh or frozen
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 T butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 teas vanilla
1 1/2 c milk, dairy or non-dairy
1/2 c mini chocolate chips
1 banana

Preheat your oven to 375F.  Butter or oil a baking dish; it can be a 9X13 or smaller which, of course, will vary the resulting thickness and may affect cooking time.

In a bowl mix together the oatmeal, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir well and fold in the raspberries and chocolate chips.

Mix milk, egg, butter, vanilla in another  or glass measuring cup. Pour this mixture over the oatmeal mixture and stir until liquid is evenly distributed.

Scoop mixture into prepared baking dish, spreading with a spatula to ensure even coverage. Or just give the dish a good shake. Slice the bananas 1/4-inch thick and place on top of the mix.

Place in the oven and cook for 30-35 minutes until browned on top and somewhat solid feeling when you press on it with your finger.

Sprinkle with additional brown sugar, if desired, and serve warm.

Notes:

Any berry or mixture of berries would work here; plus you can use frozen if desired. If you like to have nuts or seeds in your oatmeal add a few with the dry ingredients.




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Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal with Maple and Pecans


Adapted from:  http://www.fivehearthome.com
Serves 6-8

1/2-3/4 c pecans, chopped
1 c pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 c milk, dairy or non-dairy, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature and slightly beaten
1/4 c coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled, or substitute an equal amount of butter
1/4 c pure maple syrup
2 T brown sugar
1 teas vanilla
2 c rolled oats, not instant
2 teas ground cinnamon
1/2 teas ground nutmeg
1/2 teas ground ginger
1/4 teas ground allspice
1/4 teas salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Place the nuts in an 8-inch baking pan (or equivalent baking dish). Place in the oven to toast the pecans, watching to make sure they don't scorch. When fragrant and toasted, remove and place in a large bowl. Let the pan cool somewhat then spray with cooking spray or coat with butter.

Add the oatmeal, pecans, brown sugar, spices and salt to the pecans. In a small bowl, place the eggs and stir in the pumpkin puree, milk, coconut oil (or butter), maple syrup, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.

Place mixture into baking dish and cook for 25-30 minutes until set and light brown on top. This is good with dried fruit on top as well as chocolate chips. (I haven't met a baked oatmeal that doesn't work well with chocolate chips.)




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Zucchini Bread Spiced Oatmeal Bake


My mom's recipe for zucchini bread included coconut so I've added some here. The original site for this recipe doesn't include nuts because of a nut allergy but serves candied nuts for others to add to their servings. It's a nice way to dress up the bowl and tastes great, too.

Adapted from: Twopeasandtheirpod.com
Serves 6-8

2 c rolled oats, not instant
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 teas salt
1 teas baking powder
1 /4 teas ground cinnamon
1/4 teas ground nutmeg
1 1/2 c milk, dairy or non-dairy
1 large egg, slightly beaten
3 T coconut oil (or butter), melted and slightly cooled
1 teas vanilla
1 c shredded zucchini
1/2 c shredded sweetened coconut, optional (if you use this, you may want to reduce the sugar)
1/2-3/4 c chopped nuts of any variety, toasted

Oil or butter an 8-inch square baking pan or equivalent baking dish. Preheat oven to 350F. Use the oven to toast the nuts if you are using them.

Mix oats, sugar, salt, baking powder and spices in a large bowl. In another bowl stir together the milk, egg, oil, vanilla. Pour this over the dry ingredients and stir. Add the zucchini, shredded coconut, and nuts, if using and stir again. Place in prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until lightly browned on the top and set.

Note:

I really liked eating this with candied nuts on top so I'm sharing a recipe for a fast method, which makes sense if you are trying to get breakfast on the table. These nuts could be used in any of these recipes or other applications as well. If you use the candied nuts on top, leave out the nuts in the oatmeal itself.

Maple Glazed Walnuts


Adapted from Ellie Kreiger on Foodnetwork.com

2 c walnuts, halves or coarsely chopped
1/3 c maple syrup
1/8 teas salt

Heat a 9-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add all ingredients and stir. Cook for 3-5 minutes stirring frequently until the liquid is caramelized and the nuts are toasted. I cooked it until there was no liquid left but watch carefully to keep them from scorching. Cool and store any leftovers in an airtight container. These will remain slightly sticky.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Savory Dutch Baby

My new favorite meal: this dutch baby paired with a salad and bread. Cheesy, salty, puffy, eggy goodness! I've always loved the sweet versions of dutch babies and oven pancakes, but it's wonderful to have a savory version too. The Parmesan and salt form a delicious, crispy brown crust that makes this dutch baby best consumed right after it's cooked.





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Savory Dutch Baby


Source: The New York Times
Serves 4-6

1 c plus 2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 teas kosher salt
1/2 teas freshly ground pepper
8 large eggs
3/4 c whole milk
2 T finely chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teas dried)
2 T minced fresh herbs (chives, parsley, tarragon, basil, etc.)
6 T unsalted butter
3/4 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gruyere
Flaky sea salt, for garnish

Preheat oven to 425. Whisk flour, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Whisk egg mixture into flour mixture until just combined. Stir in all herbs.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in heavy 12-inch ovenproof skillet. Cast-iron is especially nice. Cook butter for a few minutes until it browns and becomes fragrant. Swirl pan to coat the pan.

Pour batter into pan and top with grated cheese and generous amounts of flaky salt. Bake until puffed and golden, about 25 minutes. Place a rimmed baking sheet under the dutch baby to catch dripping butter. Cool slightly, until the dutch baby collapses, then enjoy.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Baked Ratatouille

I keep trying to fit in summertime recipes even though it is November.

Many of us Americans think of a rather charming movie when we see the word "ratatouille". I especially liked the movie because there was a character who shares my name (and spells it the same way), the only time I've heard it used in a movie (that is what happens when you have an extraordinarily uncommon name).

When I see the word ratatouille I think of summer and one of the best vegetarian celebrations of garden vegetables there is. I've cooked it following two methods and this is my new favorite because it is so beautiful to look at. It takes some time arranging the various elements in a casserole dish, but the stove top method I follow takes a bit of time, too. (When all the vegetables get thrown together in a hurry, the dish isn't nearly as good.)


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Baked Ratatouille


Adapted from smittenkitchen.com
Serves 4 as a main dish bolstered with some pasta or couscous or 6 as a side dish

1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 c tomato puree
2 T olive oil, divided
1 small purple eggplant, the more narrow ones work best, although I cut a globe eggplant so it fit
1 thin zucchini, about 2-2 1/2 inches in diameter
1 thin yellow summer squash, about 2-2 1/2 inches in diameter
1 fairly long (and somewhat narrow) red or orange bell pepper
few sprigs fresh thyme, or a teas dried
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375F. Cut a piece of parchment paper that fits closely in an oval baking dish that is roughly 10 inches long. Measure it to fit the top, not the bottom.

Oil the bottom of the dish and pour in the tomato puree; sprinkle the garlic and chopped onion over the top. Stir in 1 T of the olive oil and season it all with generous amounts of salt and pepper.

Remove the ends of the eggplant and the squashes. Remove the ends off the bell pepper and remove the core, leaving the pepper in a tube. 

With a mandoline, if you have one, or with a sharp knife, cut the vegetables into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.

On top of the tomato sauce, arrange the slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the dish alternating vegetables. It is a little hard to get started  but you can lean the first slices against the edge; when you make the first ring, straighten things up. It will look best if you can manage to place the slices so a little bit of the vegetable shows at the top; this may entail a little bit of leaning, too. Don't worry if you have some vegetables left over.

Drizzle the remaining olive oil (1 T) over the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme stems and sprinkle them over the top (or sprinkle the dry thyme). 

Cover the dish with the prepared parchment paper.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, until the vegetables have released their liquid. You want them to be clearly cooked but not totally limp or mushy. Don't brown them at the edges but look for the tomato puree bubbling up around the vegetables.

Serve as a vegetable side. Or for a main dish serve with crusty bread or with a cooked grain, couscous, or a small pasta; I like it best with orzo.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Basil Pesto

Basil is one of my favorite things about summer--it means sunshine and being outside in the garden, smelling my back porch herbs on the way out the back door. Pesto is a great way to preserve basil for enjoying in the winter; I usually eat it with pasta, but you can also use it as a sauce for fish, chicken, or vegetables.

Thanks to the generosity of a friend who planted large basil patches this year, I recently made and froze three pints of pesto. Three pints! That will evoke summer for quite some time.

Here's what my mom has to say about basil: "I don't know if anyone younger than 40 realizes just how rare pesto or basil were in the American diet until the 80s and 90s. I never saw a fresh basil leaf, let alone a plant, as a child. I only knew of dried basil. When we visited the states from Bahrain I became aware that Grandpa Hayes grew lots of herbs in his St. George garden. Shortly after we arrived back in Virginia in 1991, I took a library class on herbs and started to grow herbs every year. I can hardly imagine how boring our food was before we had fresh herbs all the time."




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Basil Pesto


1 c basil leaves
1/4 c olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, depending on size
1 T pine nuts or almonds
5 T Parmesan cheese, shredded
1-2 T melted butter (optional)

A good blender makes a difference here. Blend the basil and oil into a paste. Add garlic and nuts, then blend until smooth.

If using immediately, add cheese and butter and blend again.

If freezing, leave out the cheese and butter and stir it in when you are about to serve. You may have to estimate just how much to add since you'll only use a portion, but it won't hurt if you get too much of either ingredient.

Notes on freezing containers: We have frozen pesto in a number of containers, including ice cube trays, glass jars, and plastic bags. Bags are our favorite, because it's easy to break off the needed amount of pesto. Ice cube trays are a pain for a couple of reasons: the pesto cubes are hard to remove from the tray, and also one pesto cube is rarely enough. Jars work, but it's hard to remove the amount of pesto you need without defrosting the jar. So bags are best. Lay flat to freeze, and break off what you need.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Bruschetta with Roasted Cherry Tomato, Rosemary and Onion

Although it is November and most Americans are thinking about cooking turkeys and pies, the long summer meant that Betsy and I only recently finished harvesting our gardens. Now I am working to deal with tomatoes (red and green), chard, last green beans, sweet potatoes, and the last of the raspberries. Today I came across this recipe which helped me use most of my cherry tomatoes.


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Bruschetta with Roasted Cherry Tomato, Rosemary and Onion


Adapted from Epicurious
Serves 6-10, depending on if it a meal or a snack

For the topping:

1/2 c olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 teas finely chopped fresh rosemary, although I think you could use dried (only 1 1/2 teas)
3/4 teas salt
1 teas freshly ground pepper
2 pounds cherry tomatoes (I used a variety of types), halved
1 small onion, sliced or chopped
2 teas fresh lemon juice
ricotta cheese, optional
baby arugula, micro greens, or parsley, optional


Mix the oil, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the tomatoes and onions and stir to coat. Let stand for 5 minutes or so. Line a rimmed large baking sheet with parchment paper and dump the tomato mixture on to the paper. Spread the mixture out so tomatoes are in a single layer. 

Place in the center of your oven and turn on the oven to 250F. (Unless your oven's preheat feature is so hot you think it may burn the mixture--then preheat.) Cook for several hours until the tomatoes have become wrinkly and have reduced in size. The cooking sauce should have thickened noticeably and will be similar to tomato sauce. Remove from oven and stir in lemon juice. 

Allow to cool a bit and dig in or allow to rest until completely cool. Spread on top of prepared bread and enjoy. If available, top with a dollop of ricotta cheese and some greens and serve. 

This can be frozen so you can enjoy the flavor of tomatoes in the wintertime.

For the bread:

Toast slices of baguette or ciabatta. Rub with a cut piece of garlic while still hot.  

Notes: 

I have found that tomatoes can be roasted at almost any heat. I did it at this low heat today so I could leave the kitchen and go dig sweet potatoes. If you roast them at a higher temperature (as high as 425F) you will have to shorten the time and check more often to keep them and the onions from scorching. 

To make this more of an open face sandwich lay a piece of prosciutto on the toast before adding the other ingredients.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Chard and Caramelized Onions, Pine Nuts, and Raisins

Here's one more chard recipe for anyone with an abundance. This may be my favorite way to prepare chard (and it's one of the few dishes with raisins I'll eat happily).



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Chard and Caramelized Onions, Pine Nuts, and Raisins


I've been cooking this so long, I don't remember where I picked it up and am having trouble finding an original source. I'm going to give a recipe, but know all of this can be fiddled with; amounts and ingredients can be altered and it will still taste good. 

This recipe will serve about 4.

2 T pine nuts
2 T oil, olive is good but not required
1 onion, sliced or chopped
about 1 pound chard
salt and pepper to taste
2 T raisins, I like golden best, despite photo 
1-2 T balsamic vinegar, optional

In a large, deep skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium heat until golden; remove to a bowl and set aside (watch carefully or they may scorch). Place the oil in the pan and add the onions. Lower the heat and cook until golden brown and soft. If they start to burn, lower the heat again and add a tablespoon or so of water to cool things off. 

Prep the chard while the onions are cooking by rinsing well and removing the stalks. Chop the stalks to about 1/2 inch dice. Slice or tear the chard into rough pieces about 2 by 3 inches. Don't worry about water on the chard; it will be just enough for cooking it all perfectly. Add the chard leaves and stalks as well as the raisins and return the heat to medium low. Cook until the stalks are tender about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, add salt and pepper and taste for seasoning. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Garlicky Chard

Another to help my poor chard victims. This is very similar to Slow Cooked Chard but is faster.

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Garlicky Chard


Source: Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop
Serves 6ish

2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, halved and sliced thin
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 lbs chard, stems and thick ribs discarded, leaves washed, shaken to remove water, and chopped roughly (about 12 packed cups)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Saute onions in oil over medium heat until golden brown, 8-12 minutes. Add garlic, then stir once or twice until fragrant. Add the chard, stir well, cover, and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Stir two or three times as the chard cooks. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer uncovered for several minutes to evaporate excess liquid, then serve.

Slow Cooked Chard

Last night I brought a garbage bag full of chard to my book club. A garbage bag. To give away. Because the forecast predicted a freeze and I overplanted chard and I hated the thought of wasting it. I am officially a crazy garden lady.

my chard patch

For the uninitiated, chard is a leafy green vegetable with a hard stalk. Typically stems and thick ribs are removed and discarded, though unlike kale, the stems are edible. When a recipe calls for just leaves, I don't bother to cut out the ribs; I just remove the bottom portion of the stem. Chard cooks down significantly, so don't be shocked by what looks like way too much. I find it easiest to wash chard in a clean sink; submerge in water and swish around for a minute or so. Rinse it at least twice to make sure you remove all the dirt. Then use your biggest cutting board for chopping, and work in batches.

Chard can be used in a number of ways. We often substitute it for spinach and other greens, though mature chard isn't great in a salad and chard requires less time to cook than kale or collard greens. Though the recipe below requires a long cooking time, it's mostly hands off, leaving you free to finish other things for the rest of the meal.

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Slow Cooked Chard


Source: Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop
Serves 6ish

2 lbs chard, washed and shaken to remove excess water
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c chicken or vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the chard: slice off the thick stems and ribs from the chard and cut into 1/4-inch dice. Slice leaves crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Keep stems and leaves separate.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or x-quart pot over medium heat. Saute onion in oil until golden, 5-10 minutes. Add garlic and saute for a few seconds until fragrant. Stir in the chard stems, then add stock with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chard stems are starting to lose their shape, about 30 minutes.

Raise heat to medium, stir in the chard leaves, cover the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leaves have wilted and are tender, 12-15 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary, before serving. 

Chard Soup with Cumin, Cilantro, and Lime

In my garden one of the last vegetables still standing, and looking beautiful, is chard. Here's a way to use it, particularly nice on a cooler day.


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Chard Soup with Cumin, Cilantro, and Lime


Adapted from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison
Serves 4-6

8 c packed, rinsed, and trimmed chard leaves, about 1 pound without stems (let sit in colander to drain)
2-3 T olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 small potato (about 4 oz.) scrubbed and thinly sliced
1 carrot, scrubbed and sliced
2 T tomato paste
1 1/2 teas ground cumin
1 teas ground coriander
1 c finely cut cilantro stems and leaves
1 teas salt
5 c water
1/2 c sour cream or yogurt
freshly ground pepper
grated zest and juice of 1 lime

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, potato, and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not cooked completely. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, and coriander smashing them into the vegetables. Allow to cook for a minute to bloom the spices. Stir in the cilantro and lay the still wet chard leaves on top; sprinkle the salt over the leaves. Cover the pan and allow the leaves to cook down substantially before adding 5 c water. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover partially, and simmer until the potato has softened completely and the chard is soft.

Cool slightly, then add the sour cream and puree in a blender until smooth. (You may have to do this in batches.) Or try a good stick blender (mine didn't work well). Return the soup to the pot over gentle heat. Taste for salt, season with pepper, and stir in the lime zest and juice. Ladle into bowls, top with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, and serve.

You can add texture to this soup by serving with fresh herbs (more cilantro or chives, especially), croutons, crisply toasted  and buttered bread crumbs, cooked rice, or toasted thin strips of tortillas.

This soup may be cooked with other tender greens such as sorrel, wild nettles, lovage leaves, lamb's quarters, or others in the goosefoot family. Combinations would work, too.

Note: The first time I made this, I left out the tomato paste because I was serving it to someone with a tomato intolerance; it tasted just fine.

Mixed Shell Beans and Greens

This recipe is adapted from a quick recipe that uses canned black-eyed peas and collard greens. I am more likely to have chard in my garden so that is what I use. If you want to cook this recipe but can't follow my directions (don't have fresh shell beans or want a quick version) see the link below.

Several years ago I began to grow black-eyed peas in my garden to add nitrogen to the soil which helped increase the size of garlic planted successively. An added benefit is the lovely "peas" I harvest each year. The legumes were something my eastern-raised mother never served me in our western home. I discovered this southern food much later when I moved to Virginia. In the years since I have experimented with other drying beans as well: pink and maroon Hopi beans, purple striped dragon tongue beans, and this year a purple and white Kenyan heirloom bean called kebarika.

Since I grow these, I like to use them in their "shell" state when they are mature but not dry. Although the original recipe calls for black-eyed peas exclusively, I have used a variety and it looks quite pretty with the variations in sizes and colors.

Hopi beans, Dragon Tongue beans, Black-eyed Peas

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Mixed Shell Beans and Greens


Adapted from: cookscountry.com

6 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 onion, halved and sliced thinly
1 teas salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teas ground cumin
1/2 teas pepper
1/4 teas red pepper flakes
1 c canned diced tomatoes or 2 c chopped garden tomatoes
1 1/2 c chicken broth (low sodium)
3 cups fresh black-eyed peas, subbing some with other shell beans
10 large leaves Swiss chard, torn or coarsely chopped
1 T cider vinegar
1 teas sugar

Cook bacon in Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, 5-7 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate or to a bowl, if the extra bacon fat doesn't worry you. Set aside.

Discard all but 2 T bacon fat. Add onion and salt and cook, stirring often, until golden brown. Add garlic, cumin, pepper, and pepper flakes, and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.

Add tomatoes and juices and cook for several minutes until the tomatoes break down and mixture becomes sauce like. Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add beans and reduce heat to simmer for approximately 45 minutes until they have become tender. Add chard and cook for about 5 minutes until wilted. (If you use other greens such as kale or collards, you'll have to cook them longer.) Stir in bacon, sugar, and vinegar, taste for seasonings, and serve.


Baked Polenta with Cheese and Swiss Chard

Here is a versatile casserole which can serve as a side dish, a meatless main dish, or a light meal on its own. I'll admit that mozzarella cheese called for didn't taste quite cheesy enough for me. I plan to substitute some sharp cheddar or asiago next time (I'll let you know how that goes). I think you could add some crumbled cooked Italian sausage to the chard if you don't want to go meatless.


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Baked Polenta with Cheese and Swiss Chard


Adapted from The Washington Post which adapted it from The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever  by Beatrice Ojakangas
Serves: 6-8 as a side or 5-6 as a main dish

For the chard layer:

1 T olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated and coarsely chopped (2 to 2 1/2 c--but I used more like 4 c)
salt and pepper
1 T water

For the polenta:

2 c milk (at least 2 %)
1 1/2 c water
1/2 teas salt
1 c polenta (you may substitute corn grits or stone-ground cornmeal, don't substitute instant polenta)
1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 T unsalted butter
1 c shredded cheese, mozzarella for mild flavor, medium or sharp cheddar or asiago for more flavor
1/3 c sour cream

Preheat the oven to 400F when you start making the polenta. 

For the chard:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, until fragrant; add the stems from the chard. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and stir to combine; add the water, cover and cook for 2 minutes, then add the leaves. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until the leaves are wilted.  Remove from the heat, uncover and let cool. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

For the polenta:

Combine the milk, water, and salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the medium-low heat and slowly whisk in the polenta. Cook, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes. Then let it cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of mashed potatoes. Add 2 T of the Parmesan along with the butter and the mozzarella cheese to the polenta, stirring until well incorporated.

Spread half of the polenta mixture in a buttered  2 1/2- to 3-quart casserole dish. Then spoon the chard mixture evenly on top. Spread the sour cream in as smooth a layer as you can. Carefully cover the layers with the remaining polenta. Top with the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden.

This can be assembled a day before baking, but I advise you let the dish sit out of the refrigerator for an hour before putting it in a hot oven. Add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Green Beans and Potatoes

This is a new recipe recently published in Cook's Country. I felt compelled to make it nearly as soon as I saw it while I still had an abundance of green beans in the garden. That time has already passed, so I am glad I hurried to try it out. This recipe makes a convenient one-pan dinner.

Until I make this again (with a camera standing ready), readers are being treated to some of the best artwork anywhere! Call me Napoleon.




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Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Green Beans and Potatoes


Serves 4-6

To ensure the tenderloins cook at the same rate buy them at similar weight and size. 

For the herb butter:
4 T unsalted butter, softened
2 T minced fresh chives, optional if you really can't find them
1 garlic clove, minced to paste
1/4 teas salt
1/4 teas pepper

For the pork:
2 (l-pd) pork tenderloins, trimmed
1/4 c hoisin sauce

For the green beans:
1 pound green beans, trimmed, left whole, or cut bitesize (you can increase this if you like)
1/4 teas salt
1/4 teas pepper
1 T olive oil, extra virgin preferred but whatever you have

For the potatoes:
2 T oil, see above
1 1/2 pounds (or more) fingerling potatoes or small red potatoes, unpeeled, halved lengthwise
1/4 teas salt
1/4 teas pepper


Place oven rack at lower-middle position and preheat oven to 450F. Mix butter, garlic, chives, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

Brush the tenderloins with hoisin sauce, making sure to cover all surfaces. Set aside.

On the baking sheet, toss the green beans with  oil, and salt and pepper. Move to the side and do the same with the potatoes. Place beans crosswise across a rimmed baking sheet, preferably in the middle of the sheet. The beans will make more than one layer so don't plan to line them up in a single row. They'll cook perfectly in a stack. Arrange half the potatoes, cut side down, on both sides of the sheet.





Place the tenderloins next to each other lengthwise on top of the beans, making sure they don't touch one another. They will stretch from side to side. I folded the thin ends under so they wouldn't over cook. 

Roast pork until it reaches 140F on a meat thermometer, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and spread abut 1 T herb butter on each tenderloin. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest while vegetables finish cooking.

Mix the vegetables on the sheet by gently stirring. Return to the oven and roast until vegetables are tender and golden brown. If you know your oven heats hotter at the top or the bottom, you may want to move the rack to help the vegetables brown. It should take 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss the vegetables with the remaining herb butter. 

Arrange the vegetables on a platter and slice the pork about 1/2-inch thick. Place slices on the platter and serve.

Note:

Both Betsy and I ran into a bit of a problem the first time we cooked this--neither of us had hoisin sauce on hand. So, here is a recipe for a homemade version if you need it (from Omnivorescookbook.com):

Homemade Hoisin Sauce

1/4 c soy sauce
2 T natural peanut butter, creamy best but use crunchy if that is what you have
1 T honey
2 teas rice vinegar
2 teas sesame oil (great for flavor, but use vegetable oil if that is all you have)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teas black pepper
1 teas miso paste (but if you don't have hoisin, you might not have miso so other possibilities are 1/2 teas Thai Chili sauce plus 1/4 teas five spice powder and if you don't have five spice powder you can make it--http://chinesefood.about.com/cs/sauces/ht/fivespicepowder.htm-- or substitute a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of fennel or star anise).

Stir all ingredients together until well mixed. This can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a month or use it with a Chinese dish.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Nutty Peaches

This dessert is much like a fruit crisp but faster. It also is quite flexible; you can substitute according to what you've got in your kitchen.


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Nutty Peaches


Adapted from Seasonal Fruit Desserts from Orchard, Farm, and Market by Deborah Madison
Serves 4

3/4 c toasted nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, or almonds are good; going to try pecans
5 T brown sugar
1/8 teas salt
1 1/2 T nut oil, walnut or hazelnut
1 1/2 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 freestone peaches, ripe but still firm
Frangelico, sweet wine, or water

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a baking dish that will hold 8 peach halves. (Deborah Madison notes that this is a dish that can easily be cooked in a toaster oven but for about half the time, or less. I've used a toaster oven when I've halved the recipe.)

In a food processor, grind the nuts until quite finely ground but not turning into a nut butter. It is alright to have some small pieces. Add the oil and butter and pulse until the mixture is moist and somewhat sticky.

Rinse and dry the peaches, or wipe them with a damp cloth. Slice them in half along their seams. Twist the halves apart and take out the pits. If you like, you may enlarge the cavity a bit with a teaspoon, but I have never felt I needed to do so. Leave the skin on the peaches since this helps them hold their shape.

Using a tablespoon from your flatware, scoop some of the nut mixture and press it into the peach cavity. Place them in the baking dish and pour a little Frangelico or wine or a bit of water into the dish. The peaches will release juices as they bake and it will mix with the liquid of your choice and with the butter, making their own sauce. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and set to cool for about 5 minutes and serve.

If you use only some of the nut topping for this quick dessert, it lasts for a long time in the fridge, or it can be frozen.

Notes:

I've made this successfully with all butter rather than a mixture of nut oil and butter.

If you want more flavor but want to avoid the alcoholic beverages, stir in a half teaspoon of almond extract into the nut mixture.

Madison writes of using this recipe with apricots as well. Maybe it would work with other fruits, too.

A serving option is to partially whip some cream until it is fluffy (but not holding anything like a peak), flavoring it with a little vanilla and almond extract. Put a couple tablespoonfuls of the cream in the center of a plate; place the peaches in the cream and serve.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Philly Cheesesteak Style Stuffed Green Peppers

Earlier this summer I was gone almost two weeks, and I came home to lots of green peppers in my garden. This is how I used them.


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Philly Cheesesteak Style Stuffed Green Peppers


Source: Amber Spackman Jones, I think via http://peaceloveandlowcarb.com/2012/06/philly-cheesesteak-stuffed-peppers-low-carb-gluten-free.html
Serves 4

8 oz thinly sliced deli roast beef
8 slices provolone cheese
2 large green bell peppers
1 medium sweet onion, sliced
6 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 T minced garlic (3-6 cloves, depending on their size)
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add oil. When butter and oil are hot, add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Then add mushrooms and onions; sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for about 30 minutes until the onions are caramelized and the mushrooms are soft.

Preheat oven to 400F. Slice peppers in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds and ribs.

Slice roast beef into thin strips and add to onions and mushrooms. Cook for another 5 minutes or so. In the meantime, line each green pepper half with a slice (or half a slice, if your peppers are small) of provolone cheese. Stuff each pepper with the meat filling until nearly overflowing. Top with another piece of cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is golden brown.

Note that this recipe is flexible in its amounts. I used probably 5 green peppers, most of which were small. It's harder to stuff smaller peppers, but doable. I roughly one-and-a-halfed the rest of the ingredients, and it turned out great.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ty's Favorite Pork Carnitas

Tyler often wants to make this dish when he is in a country where pork is easier to acquire than it is in Turkey. He also doesn't carry the recipe with him so I'm putting it here where he can find it easily. We follow instructions from Rick Bayless but he has published at least two variations, one of which recommends cooking the pork in lard. This is a very tasty method, but lard without a bunch of shelf-stablizing chemicals is hard to find. In the version below, the pork ends up frying in its own fat which is essentially the same as being cooked in lard. This is a simple but wonderful taco filling on its own but can be combined with other authentic foods to make a real Mexican taco.



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Ty's Favorite Pork Carnitas


Source:  Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen
Serves 2-4, depending on other fillings

1 pound boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
(this can also be done with country-style ribs but increase the amount since some will be bones)
1/2 t salt
1 T fresh lime juice, optional but very tasty

Place the pork in a heavy 2-quart saucepan and cover with water by 1/2 inch. Add lime juice and 1/2 teas salt. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer with the pot partially covered. Continue to cook until the water and lime juice are absorbed. The meat will begin to fry in its own fat (this takes about an hour). Turn the heat down to low or medium low, cover the pot and cook, turning the meat often until it is evenly browned. As it cooks it will become tender. Using two forks shred the pork and serve on warm corn tortillas.

This recipe is easy to multiply.

Pork shoulder will have good amounts of fat to render. I prefer it to the country-style ribs, which can vary in quality in the supermarket. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Corn Omelet

I've been cooking a form of this omelet/frittata most summers for several years now. I discovered it in a book by Deborah Madison, whose cookbooks hold consistently reliable recipes. The combination of corn and basil was a pleasant surprise to me and it continues to be one of my favorite duos. Frittatas and omelets are by nature flexible so this recipe can be considered a guideline.


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Corn Omelet


Adapted from Vegetarian Dinners by Deborah Madison
Serves 4-6

Note:

The original recipe calls for smoked mozzarella cheese, which is indeed delicious. However, it isn't something that is a staple in my cheese drawer and since I consider a frittata to be a speedy meal I usually end up using whatever cheese I've got--usually Emmentaler or Parmesan.

Also, the original recipe is for one serving and directs the cook to slide the mostly cooked "omelet" onto and plate and place the skillet upside down on it so it can be inverted. This works pretty well with a small skillet, but since I've increased this, I find finishing under the broiler works better. However, if your skillet isn't oven-proof or if you don't like to heat a non-stick skillet that hot, do the inversion. It is a bit tricky but can be done.

As you can see, I replaced some corn with potato in the omelet in the photo above. It was good but I think I prefer using just corn and cheese. But you may like it with potatoes; if so add 1 or 2 small potatoes cooked and cubed.

Ingredients:

2 T butter
5 large eggs
1 splash water, or about 2 T
2 ears fresh corn, kernels cut off
1/2 teas salt
a few grinds of pepper from a pepper mill, or 1/4 teas ground pepper
cheese, a couple of handfuls shredded smoked mozzarella or Emmentaler or whatever you have
15-20 basil leaves, stacked, rolled and thinly sliced (chiffonade)

Instructions:

Cook the corn, either in the microwave or in a 10-skillet oven-proof non-stick skillet (in a bit of water). Drain the corn. Set heat to medium. Melt butter into the corn, if you cooked it in the skillet; otherwise, add the corn to the melted butter. While corn cooks, stir together the eggs, water, seasonings, cheese and basil leaves. Pour this mixture over the corn and allow to cook until nearly set on top, checking (by lifting the edge with a table knife) occasionally to see how brown the bottom is getting. Place the oven proof skillet under the broiler for a few minutes, depending on your broiler, until lightly browned and puffy.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Shish Taouk (Chicken Kebabs)

A common preparation for chicken I ate often in Bahrain. It is usually cooked on skewers. I'm too lazy to mess with them and cook the chicken pieces on a screen on my grill.


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Shish Taouk (Arabic Chicken Kebabs)


Adapted from:  Arabian Gulf Cookbook  by Suzi Wells 
Serves 4

2 pds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2-in pieces
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 T lemon juice
1/8-1/2 teas cayenne pepper
1/4 teas black pepper
1/4 teas ground cumin
1/2 teas salt
2 T vegetable or olive oil

Mix the lemon juice, oil, garlic, spices, and seasonings together in a wide container. Add the chicken cubes and stir until they are all completely coated in the mixture. Cover and marinate for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator, turning the chicken a few times to ensure even marination. Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers and grill over a barbecue for 10-15 minutes, turning so each piece browns evenly. Another method is to cook over a screen or on oiled foil (with holes poked through with a fork). The chicken can also be sauteed on the stove top but you won't get any smoky flavor.

Traditional accompaniments are hummus and pita, tabouli salad, and a rice pilaf. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Slow-cooker Greek Stifado (Beef Stew with Tiny Onions and Spices)

I've been wanting to make a this Greek beef stew for years. I was happy with how this recipe turned out both in flavor and ease of preparation.


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Slow-cooker Greek Stifado (Beef Stew with Tiny Onions and Spices)


Adapted from The Mediterranean Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone
Serves 6-8

2-3 T olive or vegetable oil
3 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
24 pearl onions, trimmed, or frozen pearl onions, thawed
1/2 c dry red wine
1/4 c cognac, optional
3 T red wine vinegar
1 28-oz can tomato puree (or 1 can whole tomatoes, blended)
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme (or 1/2 teas dried thyme)
1 cinnamon stick
4-6 whole cloves
1 teas allspice berries
1/2 whole nutmeg, smashed and broken (optional)
chopped mint (optional)

Pat the beef dry and season with salt and pepper. In batches, brown the beef in the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Turn on the slow-cooker and when each batch of beef is browned, place inside the cooker.

Add the chopped onions to the skillet and cook over medium heat until softened. Add garlic and stir, cooking just a minute. Stir in wine, vinegar, and pearl onions. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 5 minutes or so. Remove from heat and pour into the slow-cooker. Stir in the tomato puree.

In a piece of cheese cloth, place the bay leaf, thyme, cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice berries, and nutmeg. Tie with with twine and place in the slow-cooker.

Stir everything together and cook for an hour on high and 6-7 hours on low until the beef is very tender.

Remove the herb/spice packet. Serve hot on orzo, rice, mashed potatoes, or couscous. Sprinkle each serving with chopped mint.

Notes:

Other online recipes suggest cumin and/or rosemary. I thought the cumin might make flavors rather muddy.

If you don't cook with alcohol, increase the vinegar by a tablespoon or two and when finished cooking, taste it. The flavor should be somewhat tart.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Avocado Cucumber Salad

The textures in this salad are fabulous: crunchy cucumber paired with soft, creamy avocado. It doesn't keep well. It is possible to finish up a serving the following day, but it's better on the day you make it. There won't be many leftovers, I promise. And, as an added bonus, it takes about 10 minutes to throw together!



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Avocado Cucumber Salad


Source: Smitten Kitchen
Serves: 4

1 seedless cucumber, 3/4-1 pound
1-2 scallions, to taste
1 large avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
2 T mayonnaise
juice of 1 lime or more to taste
pinch of salt or to taste
hot sauce, to taste
handful of chopped Italian parsley or cilantro, chopped

Combine vegetables in a bowl. Whisk together mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, and hot sauce, if using. Stir dressing into salad and taste, adjusting seasonings as needed. Sprinkle with parsley or cilantro and serve.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rustic Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara is the quick pantry meal some cooks turn to when pressed for time. This variation combines all the familiar flavors but is particularly helpful for those who feel discomfort eating eggs which have been cooked only by hot pasta.

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Rustic Spaghetti Carbonara


Source:  The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider

This is more a description of a process than a recipe. You may need to do a little multi-tasking.

Begin by frying some chopped bacon (or pancetta), at least one slice per diner, you can cook more if you like. Remove the cooked bacon and reserve for later, saving the skillet for frying eggs.

Using spaghetti or another variety of flat pasta cook the amount of pasta you plan to serve until it is slightly underdone since residual heat will allow it to continue cooking. Before draining save approximately a cup of the cooking water. Return pasta to pot and add about 1/2 c of the reserved pasta water and about 1/2 c of grated Parmigiano (per pound of pasta). Stir until the cheese has melted and coats the pasta, adding more pasta water to keep the dish moist but not runny. Season with salt and pepper and add the bacon pieces, tossing to mix well.

In the bacon grease, fry as many eggs as you need for diners.When the eggs are done (for this application they are a bit better runny, but it is your choice) make a mound of pasta on each diner's plate. Top with an egg or two, more Parmigiano, and chopped flat-leaf parsley, if you have it. Encourage each diner to break the egg yolk and toss their pasta lightly to mix in the egg.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Peanut

With my most recent pregnancy, I ate a special treat every day that I was overdue; I posted a picture of the treat to Facebook to let friends know that the baby hadn't been born yet. I was five days overdue when we ate Anybody Want a Peanut? Bars, feeling extremely uncomfortable and like I was going to be pregnant forever. The following day, I went to the hospital for a non-stress test and was then admitted to labor and delivery. This beautiful baby's nickname is still "peanut," because we did want a peanut! And he came.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Anybody Want a Peanut? Bars

Essentially a homemade candy bar, this treat is called a Goody Goody Bar by Cook's Country Magazine. I made it for Betsy during the overdue days of her last pregnancy as a comfort for us both. At the time, Betsy's family was enjoying references and quotes from the movie Princess Bride. So we renamed the bar in its honor.

When I was in my late teens my mother came across a recipe for "Special K Treats" which, with their peanut butter flavor, gave some variation to the "Rice Krispie Treats" our family ate from time to time. In my high school and college years I must have made Special K Treats a thousand times, so when I found the recipe that follows, I knew it had an ancestor in common with my family's quick snack.


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Anybody Want a Peanut? Bars


This recipe uses brown sugar for extra flavor and chopped peanuts, too, which also add crunchy texture. I decided to try a cereal flake made of whole grains (I used something called Flax Plus which ingredient list included whole wheat flour, the bran of several grains, etc.) rather than the cornflakes and found I liked them and it helped relieve my ambivalence about all the sugar in this recipe. I've topped the bars with semi-sweet and bittersweet chocolate and prefer the bittersweet variety (I used Guittard brand) although it had less viscosity. I also tried some with coarse salt sprinkled on top (so much for my concerns about "healthiness").


Adapted from Cook's Country Magazine
Makes a 9X13 pan

1 c light brown sugar
1 c light corn syrup
1 c peanut butter (I have used regular peanut butter and "natural" and both work)
1 c coarsely chopped dry roasted peanuts
6 c corn flakes (or you can substitute flake cereals that contain more grains)
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips or 1 1/8-1 1/4 c bittersweet chocolate chips

Butter a 9X13 baking dish. In a large saucepan, cook the sugar and corn syrup until simmering and the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Don't let this simmer for long because the temperature will rise and the sugars will start to become harder candy (definitely not what you want in a "chewy" bar). Remove from heat; add the peanut butter and the peanuts, stirring until fully incorporated. It will still be lumpy because of the peanuts. Stir in the cereal flakes and stir until well mixed in. Without delay, scoop mixture into the baking dish and spread out using a rubber spatula to compress making sure you press well into the corners. Smooth the top somewhat.

Melt the chocolate by microwaving in a small bowl for 30-50 seconds, stirring to smooth. Don't allow it to microwave too long. The chips can look unmelted but are so hot that stirring will quickly turn it into a sauce. Spread melted chocolate on the top of the bars and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to set up.

These are best eaten in a couple of days--they begin to harden and the chocolate starts to bloom if they sit around a long time.
 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Strawberry Mousse

Late last summer I tried this at Betsy's house with strawberries from my garden. The recipe has been formulated to increase the flavor of the mousse when using supermarket berries which aren't always as strong in flavor as garden berries. I feel certain it will work with any fresh strawberries you can find.

I've recently tried it again. Like a number of Cook's Illustrated recipes, the end result is very tasty but the process is somewhat fussy and requires a lot of dishes and pans. In spite of that fact, make the mousse and be glad you've got a dishwasher.


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Strawberry Mousse


Source: Cook's Illustrated
Serves 4-6

2 pounds strawberries, hulled (6 1/2 c)
1/2 c sugar
pinch salt
1 3/4 teas unflavored gelatin
4 oz. cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces and softened
1/2 heavy cream, chilled

Slice or dice enough strawberries to equal 1 cup (at least) and keep refrigerated until ready to use as garnish (or reserve enough for this purpose and cut berries just before serving).

Pulse remaining strawberries in a food processor in 2 batches until most pieces are 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, although some larger pieces will remain and will be fine. Transfer chopped berries to a bowl and toss with 1/4 c sugar and salt. Cover bowl and let strawberries stand for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Don't clean your food processor but use it for future steps.

Strain the processed berries through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. You should have about 2/3 c juice. Measure out 3 T juice into a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over juice, stir, and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Place remaining juice in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced to 3 T, about 10 minutes depending on the heat of your stove. Remove from heat and add the softened gelatin mixture, and stir until gelatin has dissolved. Add the cream cheese and whisk until smooth. (If your range is electric, you may place pan back on burner if you need the residual warmth to help melt the cream cheese.) Transfer mixture to large bowl. (If you want to cut down on dishes cook the juice in a medium saucepan and stir everything together in it.)

While reducing the juice, return the chopped berries to the food processor and process until smooth. Strain puree through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pressing on solids to remove seeds and pulp (you should have about 1 2/3 c puree). Add strawberry puree to juice-gelatin-cream cheese mixture and whisk until incorporated.

Using a mixer whip cream until it forms soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 c sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. Whisk whipped cream into the strawberry mixture until no white streaks remain. Portion into dessert dishes and chill for at least 4 hours or up to 48 hours. (If chilled for longer than 6 hours, let mousse sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving).

Top with chopped or sliced berries. If you like the berries to be glazed with sugar, macerate them for 15 minutes or so before placing them on top of the mousse. Personally, I think this step is unnecessary and would make the dessert too sweet. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Buttered Green Pasta and Asparagus with Basil

Here's a recipe that highlights the asparagus season.



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Buttered Green Pasta and Asparagus with Basil


Source:  The Italian Vegetable Cookbook by Michele Scicolone
Serves 8

4 T unsalted butter, divided
1/4 c chopped scallions
2 pds asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2 in. pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c water
1 pd spinach pasta (of course, regular pasta can be substituted)
1/2 c basil, cut in chiffonade (rolled and thinly sliced)
1/4 c chopped flat-leaf parsley
3/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, melt 2 T of the butter in a large skillet. Add the scallions and cook about 2 minutes. Add the asparagus, salt and pepper, and the water. Cover and cook at medium heat until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

When the water boils, add about 1 T salt and add the pasta to the pot and cook until al dente. Saving some of the pasta cooking water in a bowl or measuring cup, drain the pasta.

Add the cooked pasta to the skillet with the asparagus and add the remaining butter, the herbs, and toss well. Add some of the reserved pasta water to the pasta if it seems dry. Add half of the cheese and toss. Serve; passing the rest of the cheese to diners.



Weeknight Waterzooi

When I found the Julia Child recipe for Chicken Waterzooi (a creamy chicken and vegetable stew) I read through several other recipes in my research. I loved the flavor of Julia's recipe and will likely choose to make it when the mood hits. However, it was somewhat time consuming, especially if you are a cook with limited time and a hungry family. I saw this variation on Food52 and decided to try it when I next visited Betsy so we could each form an opinion of the dish. I'm at Betsy's on a baby watch and I cooked this dish a couple of days ago. We both liked it and so did the family members who were willing to try it (one child abstained). We found the recipe as it stood somewhat problematic so we made some changes and feel like this version is both a tasty and quick meal.



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Weeknight Waterzooi


Adapated from Food52 
Serves 6-8

2 T butter
1 onion, diced
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
2 large carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
salt and pepper to taste
4 chicken breasts (2-2 1/2 pounds), cut in bite sized pieces (1/2 in. by 1 in.)
4 to 5 c chicken broth (or 2 cans broth and extra water)
1 egg yolk
1 c heavy cream
2 T cornstarch
2 T white wine vinegar
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Melt butter in a Dutch oven. Add vegetables and about 1/2 teas salt and cook over medium-low heat until softened. Add chicken broth (or a mix of broth and water) to just cover the vegetables. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Stir in chicken and reduce heat to medium low or low. 

While the chicken begins to cook whisk together the egg yolk, cream, cornstarch in a small bowl. After chicken has cooked 5-10 minutes (it should have changed color but may not be completely cooked). Stir in the cream mixture and continue to heat until nearly a boil. Stir in pepper and taste for seasoning (add salt if needed). Avoid a heavy boil because it could curdle the egg. Stir in wine vinegar and serve, sprinkling each bowl with parsley.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Double Chocolate Pancakes

Recently I've tried to reduce my time in the kitchen in favor of preparing for a new addition to the family. But I couldn't resist when I found these pancakes, and this shouldn't surprise anyone, since I'm a big fan of chocolate for breakfast (waffles, oatmeal). Here's another delicious option for getting your chocolate fix first thing in the morning.



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Double Chocolate Pancakes


Adapted slightly from 80 Breakfasts

3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c white whole wheat flour (the original recipe called for all 1 1/2 c flour to be all-purpose)
1/3 c sugar
1/3 c light brown sugar
1/3 c Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teas baking soda
1/2 teas salt
1/2 c whole milk (plus more to thin to your preferred consistency)
1/2 c buttermilk
2 eggs
3 1/2 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 teas vanilla
approximately 1 c dark chocolate chips

Whisk together the flours, sugars, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

In a smaller bowl whisk together the milk, buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.

Cook pancakes in butter in a hot skillet or griddle. Scoop the batter onto the pan, then sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Flip after bubbles form on the surface of the pancake, and cook the other side until done, a minute or two.

We ate these pancakes with just butter and also with raspberry syrup. Both ways were tasty.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Lemony Peas and Pasta Salad

A perfect, light salad for springtime.



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Lemony Peas and Pasta Salad


Source: The Daily Herald
Serves 8ish (The salad is best the day it's prepared, so I recommend taking it to a potluck or halving it for a smaller family.)

1 lb penne or rotini
2 c sugar snap peas
2 c fresh or frozen green peas
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
2 teas lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
1/2 teas salt
3 T olive oil
4 c baby greens (arugula, spinach, or blend)
1/4 c chopped fresh herbs (optional, but yummy; mint is particularly tasty)
Parmesan cheese, shaved

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding sugar snap and green peas during last 3 minutes of cooking. Drain. Rinse with cold water and drain again. Place in large bowl.

While pasta is cooking, mix lemon juice, zest and salt in small bowl. Whisk in oil.

Toss the dressing with the drained pasta and peas. Gently toss in greens and herbs. Garnish with Parmesan and extra zest, if desired.

I imagine this would be good with chicken, too, if you want to make it heartier.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Chicken Waterzooi

Here is a Belgian soup/stew that I enjoyed while living in Belgium, but recently rediscovered. In that country it can be found made with fish; either version is great. This is Julia Child's recipe published in 1987. There is a more streamlined version on Food52 which lacks the vermouth if you prefer to skip the alcohol.

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Chicken Waterzooi


 Adapted from: Julia Child in New York Times
 Serves:  6

3 large carrots
2 medium onions
2 ribs celery
2 medium leeks, white and tender green portions
1/2 teas dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
3 pound (approximately) chicken, cut up or a mixture of chicken pieces, skin removed if you prefer
1 1/2 c dry white vermouth
1 1/2 to 2 c chicken broth
1/2 c heavy cream
1 1/2 teas cornstarch
6 egg yolks
3 T minced fresh parsley (Italian, preferably)

After cleaning the vegetables, cut them into julienne (or cut them anyway you'd like, keeping them relatively the same size). Cut vegetables should equal about 5 cups in all. Add tarragon and a some salt and pepper and mix, if you have room in your measuring cup.

In a Dutch oven, layer the ingredients, starting with one third of the vegetables, then half the chicken and so on. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces as you place them in the pot. Pour in the vermouth and enough chicken broth to barely cover the ingredients. You can refrigerate the pot at this point and cook several hours later.

When ready to cook, bring the pot to a simmer, covered and cook slowly for 30 minutes or until chicken is tender and has reached temperature of 165F.

Remove chicken from sauce, cover and keep warm while you strain the cooking liquid, reserving vegetables as well. You may remove some of the excess oil from the liquid, if desired.

Whisk the cream and cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth. Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl and stir in the cream mixture. Very slowly, stir in the hot cooking liquid taking care to keep the eggs from curdling. This may be most easily accomplished using a ladle, since a heavy Dutch oven would be hard to hold with one hand. Return chicken, vegetables, and sauce into the Dutch oven and over medium-low heat, stirring gently from time to time, reheat all but do not bring to a boil.

To serve ladle into large warm soup bowls and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with boiled potatoes or egg noodles or a loaf of crusty bread.

Note:

While searching the internet I found recipes using sauvignon blanc rather than the vermouth. I haven't tried it but I imagine it would work just fine.

I prefer to remove the skin from chicken before braising or stewing because I don't see a way to keep the skin crispy and it becomes unpalatable to me.

When I made this, I had just read of a Cook's Illustrated method which increases the flavor of chicken stews and soups. They recommend browning removed skin which creates flavorful "fond" and some fat, (which can be poured out, but hang on to the fond). For a full discussion of the technique, see this from cookscountry.com. Remove the browned skin pieces before layering the ingredients in the pot. I also browned the the back and wings (left over from when I cut up the chicken) and cooked them with the rest of the dish discarding them before combining the vegetables and chicken with the finished sauce. I browned the skin, back, and wings while I prepped the vegetables so it didn't add any extra time.

Monday, March 30, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Corned Beef

I'm posting this mostly for me; every March for the last several years I have called my mom to ask for a reminder on how to cook corned beef. It's not hard, but for a meal I manage to cook only once a year I just can't remember the details.



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St. Patrick's Day Corned Beef


1 package flat-cut corned beef (point cut is too fatty)
Carrots
Red potatoes
Cabbage

Place the corned beef in a Dutch oven. Empty the spice packet into the pot, and add plenty of water, an inch or two above the level of the beef. Boil corned beef for at least two hours, up to five.

About an hour before serving, prepare the vegetables. Peel and cut carrots into 2-inch pieces. Wash and cut red potatoes into 2-inch chunks. Trim and core a cabbage, then slice each half into 4 wedges. (Depending on the size of your corned beef and your taste for cabbage, you may prefer to use only half of the cabbage.)

Thirty minutes before serving add carrot chunks.  Twenty minutes before serving add red potatoes. Ten minutes before serving, add the cabbage wedges. (Or 5 minutes if you like your cabbage crisp tender.)

Once the vegetables are done to your preferred texture, remove and slice the corned beef. It's nice to smash each potato serving on the plate and soften them with a little of the broth. Enjoy!


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Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage


Source: Cook's Country

1 3.5-4 lb flat-cut corned beef brisket roast, rinsed and fat trimmed to 1/4 inch
1 T pickling spice
1 1/2 lbs red potatoes, unpeeled
1 lb carrots, peeled and halved crosswise
1 small head green cabbage (1 1/4 lb)
6 c water
butter

Place beef in the slow cooker and sprinkle with pickling spice. Tuck potatoes and carrots between beef and sides of slow cooker, if possible. (In mine, I just put them on top.) Cut cabbage into six 2-inch wedges through the core, leaving the core intact so wedges stay together while cooking. Add the cabbage to the slow cooker, then add water. Cover and cook 6-7 hours on high or 8-9 hours on low.

Turn slow cooker off. Remove the beef, moving vegetables as needed. Tent with foil and let the beef rest for 15 minutes. Cover slow cooker to keep vegetables warm. Slice the beef against the grain and serve with vegetables, dotting with butter as desired.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Creme Brulee

I don't remember exactly when I discovered creme brulee; I am absolutely sure I didn't run into it as a child and likely didn't learn of it until I moved overseas in my early thirties. I've adored it since the beginning of my acquaintance with the dessert. Fortunately I have found it isn't too hard to make and it works here at my high altitude. This is much like making homemade ice cream except there are no worries about curdling the eggs with hot cream. However, it helps to feel comfortable using a torch to melt the sugar.




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Creme Brulee


Source:  cooksillustrated.com
Yield: 8 (I always end up with an extra; maybe my ramekins are just a bit small)

4 c chilled heavy cream
2/3 c granulated sugar
pinch table salt
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
12 large egg yolks (the left over whites are great for a homemade angel food cake)
8-12 teas sugar, granulated, turbinado, or Demerara

Preheat your oven to 300F after placing rack to the lower-middle position.

Combine half the cream, salt and sugar in a saucepan. Slit the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the mixture as well as the pod. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring from time to time so the sugar dissolves. Remove pan from heat and let the mixture steep so that the flavors infuse, at least 15 minutes.

Place a kitchen towel in the bottom of a large baking dish, cake pan, or roasting pan. Place the 4- to 5-ounce ramekins into the pan and arrange so they all fit. As you get close to the end of the infusing time, heat a kettle or so it will be ready to make the water bath (bain-marie). I think for my roasting pan I used at least 3 quarts of water so I had an electric kettle heating water as well as some in a pitcher heating in the microwave. It's better to have too much than too little.

After the cream mixture has infused, stir in the remaining cream which will cool the mixture. In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks until they are combined. Add approximately 1 cup of the cream mixture into the yolks and stir until combined; repeat with a second cup. Add the rest of the infused cream mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. It will have a uniform color and no streaks of egg yolk. Using a fine strainer, strain into something you can pour from--a large (at least 2 quart measuring cup) or a pitcher. Pour the cream mixture into the ramekins. You can also use a ladle if pouring is difficult.

Carefully place the baking dish on the oven rack. Even more carefully, pour the near-boiling water into the baking dish, making sure you don't splash the water into the cream in the ramekins. This can be tricky; just go slowly and pour close to an edge of the pan. As you pour enough water in, the water will move into areas that are farther away from you. Water should reach about 2/3 the height of the ramekins.

Shut the oven door and bake until the centers of the custards are just barely set about 30 to 35 minutes. Knowing when creme brulee is done can be a bit difficult, too. Test by gently shaking one of the ramekins with a pair of tongs (again avoid splashing). If the liquid is sloshy and  moves around a bit like a wave, it is still not done. If it moves more like jello (especially jello that is piled in a bowl) then they are done. You can also use an instant-read thermometer placed in the middle of one of the ramekins (don't touch the bottom). It should be at 170F. Begin checking the custards at the 25 minute stage to be sure you don't overcook them.

Remove the custards from the oven. This is easiest one by one but it is best to use rubber tipped tongs so you don't have slippage. (If you are a home-canner you likely have a bottle lifter that would work, too.) Alton Brown makes his own rubber tipped tongs by wrapping the ends with rubber bands. I also have a towel or hot pad in my left hand to support each ramekin as I remove them from the water bath. Place each custard on a cooling rack and cool to room temperature (about 2 hours). Cover with plastic and refrigerate until cold which will take 4 hours (custards can last in the refrigerator for 4 days, if someone doesn't eat them). I usually cover each ramekin separately but you can place them on a rimmed baking sheet and cover all together. It is usually easier for me to find room in my fridge for individual ramekins rather than a cookie sheet full.

Before serving, take custards from the refrigerator and remove plastic. If there is liquid from condensation on top of the custards soak it up with clean paper towels. Sprinkle with about 1 teas of sugar and, if needed, you can even things out by tilting and shaking the ramekins. Ignite your torch and in a safe place and on a safe surface caramelize the sugar. I use a regular shop torch because I find it easier to keep a supply of fuel, but I find I need to dial it down so the flame doesn't blow the sugar off the ramekin. You may return the ramekins to the refrigerator to return to a chilled state but don't allow them to remain for longer than 30-45 minutes. You may also just go ahead and eat them.

Note:

The last time I made this I infused this with espresso and cinnamon.  I lightly crushed 1/4 c espresso beans and 3 cinnamon sticks (in a zipper bag) and put them in the cream with the vanilla. It was fantastic combination.

Other flavors can be infused as well. I've eaten (but haven't cooked) lavender infused brulee and I've read about infusing it with cardamom. Maybe that is the next test.