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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.