Archive for the 'Food and Drink' Category

Thanksgiving 2009

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

We traveled around the holiday this year, something I usually avoid. But the flight east was easy, then we met family for lunch before driving south in time for a real barbecue supper. The boys played well together, and were affectionate with family, especially their great-grandmother, recovering from hip surgery at 93. The feast came together, as did family we didn’t think we’d see because of a timely improvement for an unexpected illness. The weather was good, beautiful for our drive back to the airport. We met more family again for lunch, arrived early to our gate, and 30 minutes early home to Minnesota. I read four books in five days (Odd and the Frost Giants, Olive Kitteridge, The Guernsey Literary and Potato-Peel Pie Society, and The Good Thief), all of which I enjoyed.

It was a family visit with countless logistics, yet it came together seamlessly with joyful reunions, and quiet time to read and relax. I often remark that family visits are not the same as vacations, but this one, this rare perfect one, actually was. I was and am thankful for it.

The Thanksgiving table:

Thanksgiving table

Creamed spinach from Smitten Kitchen:

creamed spinach

Savory Corn Pudding, from Cook’s Country:

savory corn pudding

Savory Corn Pudding, serves 8 to 10
1 tablespoon unsalted butter , softened, for greasing casserole dish
Table salt
6 cups frozen corn
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 large eggs , lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2-quart casserole dish with butter. Bring large kettle of water to boil for water bath. Bring 2 quarts water to boil in large saucepan for corn.

2. Add 1 tablespoon salt and corn to boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Drain in colander and dry with paper towels. Pulse 4 cups corn in food processor until rough puree forms, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer to large bowl and stir in remaining whole corn, 1 teaspoon salt, cream, eggs, cheese, sugar, cayenne, and basil until combined.

3. Pour corn mixture into casserole and transfer dish to roasting pan. Pour boiling water from kettle into roasting pan until it comes halfway up sides of casserole dish. Place roasting pan in oven and bake until pudding is set and a few brown spots appear around edges, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove casserole from water bath, transfer to wire rack, and let set for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead:

The corn can be cooked, processed, and mixed with the whole corn, salt, cream, cheese, sugar, and cayenne up to 2 days in advance. Refrigerate until ready to use, then stir in the eggs and basil when ready to cook.

Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread, from childhood favorite of mine, and now the boys, Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin

Grandmother's famous cranberry bread

English Toffee Pecan Pie, recipe by Marjorie Johnson (The Minnesota Blue-Ribbon baking lady), and winner of Martha Stewart’s first pie contest.

English Toffee Pecan Pie

A Spicy Winter Supper

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

As may become obvious in upcoming food posts, I’ve become enamored of powdered cardamom. It’s from a plant related to ginger with a strong, distinct taste. It’s historically been used in the middle East to flavor coffee, to spice Indian foods, and in Norwegian baked goods.

In the main course, I used a pre-mixed Garam Masala, which contains cardamom, along with a pre-mixed curry powder. Per the recipe, I toasted them prior to making this winter curry. The recipe says to toast until spices darken.

Here was me, watching the pan: Stir, still light, stir, stir, stir, still light, when’s it gonna turn, minutes gone by, OMG IT’S SMOKING!, walk pan around kitchen stirring furiously, hoping I haven’t burned it and that the smoke alarm wouldn’t go off. Later that night, my friend K8 gets in my car and says, “Yum. You smell like curry.” So did the house. For days.

Indian Style Curry with Cauliflower, Peas and Chickpeas

Indian-Style Curry with Cauliflower, Peas and Chickpeas, from Cook’s Illustrated May 2007

Serves 4 to 6 as a main course.

This curry is moderately spicy when made with one chile. For more heat, use an additional half chile. For a mild curry, remove the chile’s ribs and seeds before mincing. Onions can be pulsed in a food processor. You can substitute 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon for the garam masala. Serve with Basmati Rice, passing yogurt and at least one type of chutney or relish at the table.


2 tablespoons curry powder (sweet or mild)
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala (see note above)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 medium onions , chopped fine (about 2 cups)
12 ounces Red Bliss potatoes , scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1-1 1/2 serrano chiles , ribs, seeds, and flesh minced (see note above)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 medium head cauliflower , trimmed, cored, and cut into 1-inch florets (about 4 cups)
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes , pulsed in food processor until nearly smooth with 1/4-inch pieces visible
1 1/4 cups water
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas , drained and rinsed
Table salt
8 ounces frozen peas (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup heavy cream or coconut milk

For Condiments: Plain whole-milk yogurt and chutney

1. Toast curry powder and garam masala in small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until spices darken slightly and become fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove spices from skillet and set aside.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized and potatoes are golden brown on edges, about 10 minutes. (Reduce heat to medium if onions darken too quickly.)

3. Reduce heat to medium. Clear center of pan and add remaining tablespoon oil, garlic, ginger, chile, and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add toasted spices and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute longer. Add cauliflower and cook, stirring constantly, until spices coat florets, about 2 minutes longer.

4. Add tomatoes, water, chickpeas, and 1 teaspoon salt; increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to boil, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in peas and cream or coconut milk; continue to cook until heated through, about 2 minutes longer. Adjust seasoning with salt and serve immediately, passing condiments separately.

A recent online search for recipes with cardamom turned up one for spiced brownies at one of my favorite food sites, Smitten Kitchen. Deb says, “Welcome to your new brownie nirvana.” I wouldn’t go that far; my stand-by recipe (from Alice Medrich’s Cookies and Brownies) is pretty solid. But this was a nice alternative. I used 1 tsp. chipotle powder, and the brownies have only a hint of spice. My 3yo liked them, but a 2yo friend declared them “too ‘picy.”

Here, served with Haagen Dazs Five Brown Sugar ice cream, recommended by my friend JB (good, but won’t sway me from my allegiance to Sonny’s vanilla):

Spiced Brownies

The Baked Brownie, Spiced Up
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and the Baked Bakery in Red Hook, Brooklyn

So, of course the story is even more complicated than this. You see, my friend jotted down the recipe they were using back in the day for the chipotle brownie, so I could try it at home. But I lost it. For three years. And only found it recently, coicidentally, just a couple weeks before someone gave me a copy of the Baked cookbook. Which turned out to have their brownie recipe, improved over the years with more chocolate and more butter (thankyouverymuch) but no chipotle version. And I really had liked that chipotle version.

Below, I have cobbled together the spices from the older recipe with the current one so you can attempt an unofficial version of their very subtly spicy brownies. Not interested in spices? Just skip the chipotle, cardamom and cinnamon. Either way, welcome to your new brownie nirvana.

Yield: 24 brownies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle powder (I didn’t have this and used smoky spicy paprika, with a very similiar flavor profile, instead) (for the spicy version)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon (for the spicy version)
1/4 teaspoon cardamom (for the spicy version)
11 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 glass or light-colored metal baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, cocoa powder and spices (chipotle, cinnamon and cardamom), if you’re using them, together.

Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve.

Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Winter Supper

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

We had a lovely supper last weekend with friends we hadn’t seen in too long. Nutmeg in the casserole and cardamom in the cake made for a warming winter supper.

Alas, a bad choice in ice cream nearly derailed the cake. (The maker was apologetic and quick to offer restitution.) The cake achieved redemption when later paired with Sonny’s vanilla.

Chicken Noodle Casserole:

Chicken Noodle Casserole

Chicken Noodle Casserole from Cook’s Country

Use leftover roasted or poached chicken in this recipe or buy a rotisserie-cooked bird at the supermarket.

Serves 8 to 10

2 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Table salt
12 ounces egg noodles
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 small onion , chopped fine
1 pound white mushrooms , cleaned and sliced thin
Ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cloves garlic , minced
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons dry sherry
2 cups sour cream
4 cups cubed leftover chicken
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1. For the topping: Mix melted butter, bread crumbs, Parmesan, and parsley together in bowl.

2. For the filling: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven. Add 1 tablespoon salt and noodles and cook until nearly tender. Drain and set aside in colander.

3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook until mushrooms begin to brown, about 7 minutes.

4. Stir in remaining 4 tablespoons butter until melted. Add flour and stir until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Gradually whisk in broth, sherry, and sour cream, and cook, not letting mixture boil, until thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in chicken, noodles, parsley, thyme, and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.

5. Transfer mixture to 3-quart baking dish. Top with bread-crumb mixture and bake until browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Serve.

Lovely local Liberty apples:

Liberty apples

The finished apple cake:

Apple cake

Upside-Down Apple Cake with Winter Spices, adapted from this recipe at Cook’s Country

Serves 8

4 Tbl. Butter
½ c. packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp. Salt
4 firm-fleshed apples, peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch slices, for about 5 cups

½ c. sour cream
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
½ tsp. Vanilla
½ c. whole wheat pastry flour
¾ c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. Baking powder
¼ tsp. Baking soda
¼ tsp. Salt
¾ tsp. Ground cinnamon
¾ tsp. Ground ginger
¼ tsp. Ground cardamom
8 Tbl. Unsalted butter, cut into chunks and at room temperature

1.Place oven rack in center position and preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter or spray a 9-inch cake pan.
2.Place butter in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When butter stops foaming, add sugar and stir to combine. Continue to cook until sugar turns dark brown, about 2 minutes, swirling pan occasionally. Add salt and apples and fold with spatula to combine. Cook, stirring often, until apples have softened slightly and juices are thickened and syrupy, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour apples into prepared pan.
3.In small bowl, whisk together ¼ c. sour cream, egg, yolk, and vanilla until well combined.
4.Place flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices in large bowl. Use electric mixer on low speed for 15 seconds to blend. Add butter and remaining ¼ c. sour cream and mix on low until dry ingredients are moistened, 1 or 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes. Add sour cream/egg mixture and beat on medium-high, scraping down sides of bowl, until batter is homogeneous and fluffy, about 1 minute.
5.Spoon batter over apples and gently spread out to thin layer that covers apples. Bake until cake is a dark golden brown and tester comes out clean when inserted in center, 35 to 40 minutes. Let pan cool on wire rack 5 minutes.
6.Place serving plate over top of pan and invert. Let cake sit inverted for about 1 minute without tapping or shaking pan. Cake will slowly detach itself. Once cake is on platter, gently remove pan. Serve warm or at room temperature with with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

A la mode:

apple cake a la mode

The Post-Vegetable Season

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Now that I’m on my own for vegetables, I’ve ranged a bit back into baking. Also, 3 of 4 family members have been felled by the flu (most likely the H1N1 strain), so cooking and blogging have been sparse of late, even though I’m the outlier.

These looked better than they were. If I made dinner rolls on a regular basis, than these orange-pumpkin cloverleafs might have been a welcome change. As it was, we wished for regular ones, not varietal.

Orange-Pumpkin Cloverleaf rolls

I was very hopeful that I could come up with a quick, easy dinner the kids would eat. I used frozen tomato sauce on a pre-baked pizza shell, topped with mozzarella, parmesan, mushrooms and Greek olives. G. Grod and I enjoyed it very much. The kids wouldn’t touch it.

Olive-mushroom pizza

The last time I made the below snacks (probably about a year ago) I was reading The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder with my son Drake. He asked what I was making, I said snack mix, and he called them Snarf Snacks after the treat in the book. So Snarf Snacks they became. These are an Asian variation, using tamari-seaweed cashews in place of the peanuts.

Snarf Snacks

Asian Firecracker Party Mix, from Cook’s Country

Makes about 10 cups. Wasabi peas can be found in the international aisle of most grocery stores.

5 cups Rice Chex cereal
2 cups sesame sticks
1 cup wasabi peas
1 cup chow mein noodles
1 cup honey-roasted peanuts
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Combine cereal, sesame sticks, wasabi peas, chow mein noodles, and peanuts in large bowl. Whisk butter and soy sauce in small bowl, then drizzle over cereal mixture. Sprinkle evenly with ginger, garlic powder, and cayenne and toss until well combined.

2. Spread mixture over rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until golden and crisp, about 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Serve. (Mix can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.)

Finally, this is actually a veg entry, using up pumpkin I roasted a few weeks back.

Pumkin cake with cream-cheese frosting

Pumpkin Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting, from Cook’s Country

Serves 16

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

6 tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese , cut into 8 pieces and softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in bowl. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat eggs, oil, and granulated sugar until thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add pumpkin, and mix until incorporated. Slowly add flour mixture and mix until only a few small lumps of flour remain, about 1 minute. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool completely.

2. For the frosting: With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and confectioners’ sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese 1 piece at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla and mix until smooth. Turn cooled cake out onto wire rack, then invert onto serving platter. Frost cake and serve. (Cake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Sayonara, CSA Share

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

I breathed a sigh of relief yesterday. The season is officially over for our farm, and our share of its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Thus, no box of mystery vegetables yesterday. Even better because I haven’t yet used all the ones from last week.

For me the farm share was a mixed experience. I loved supporting a local farm and receiving fresh, seasonal, local produce. I loved the idea of learning to prepare new dishes and the challenge of cooking whatever was in that week’s box. In practice, though, it preyed upon two of my weak spots–a tendency to compulsion (I felt I had to use all the veg and use them well) and anxiety (I’d fret if they went bad before I used them, or if the new box came before the old ones were used). Eating all the veg went slow, too, as our two sons, 6 and 3, wouldn’t eat many of them.

One thing I could do differently would be to store more of the items. Blanching and freezing wouldn’t have been more time consuming than cooking, and would have lessened the anxiety about needing to cook and eat everything NOW NOW NOW. Another is that I may see about going from a half share every week to a half share every other week. This would also allow me some veggie leeway to shop our farmers’ markets, which I didn’t do much this summer as I never needed much.

But there was a lot of fabulous food, and I learned a lot as a cook and an eater. I found I was especially good at incorporating some of the things that I’d formerly thrown away–beet, turnip and radish greens, and chard or kale stems. Here, then, is a sampling from the end of the season.

Spaghetti with Broccoli Rabe and Toasted Garlic and Bread Crumbs

Spaghetti with Broccoli Rabe and Toasted Garlic and Bread Crumbs from The New York Times


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, more as needed

3 or 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and slivered

1 cup bread crumbs, preferably homemade

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

About 1 pound broccoli rabe, trimmed and washed

1 pound spaghetti, linguine or other long pasta

Freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When oil is warm, cook garlic just until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add bread crumbs and red pepper flakes and cook until bread crumbs are golden, 5 minutes or so. Remove and set aside.

2. Cook broccoli rabe in boiling water until it is soft, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain well and chop. Cook pasta in same pot.

3. Meanwhile, add remaining oil to skillet over medium-low heat. Add broccoli rabe and toss well; sprinkle with salt and pepper. When it is warm add garlic and bread crumbs and mix well.

4. When pasta is done, drain it, reserving a little cooking water. Toss pasta in skillet with broccoli rabe mixture, moistening with a little reserved water if necessary. Adjust seasonings and serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet potatoes, cut and roasted with olive oil and salt at 400F, with wasabi mayo.

Quicker Eggs Benedict

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I was going to try to make a smaller amount of hollandaise faster. I also poached the eggs but didn’t follow it with a cold and hot bath. As you can see, this dish is nowhere near as pretty as the one from last week where I followed all the Julia Child directions. But it still tasted good alongside sauteed broccoli rabe, and made a lot fewer dishes in a lot less time.

Brussels Sprout Hash with Lemon and Poppy Seeds

Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Zest
Adapted from “The Union Square Cafe Cookbook,” by Michael Romano and Danny Meyer
Time: 25 minutes

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus grated zest of 1 lemon
2 pounds brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons black mustard seeds or poppy seeds
¼ cup dry white wine or vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste.

1. Place lemon juice in a large bowl. Cut bottoms off sprouts, and discard. Halve sprouts lengthwise, and thinly slice them crosswise. The slices toward the stem end should be thinner, to help pieces cook evenly. As you work, transfer slices into bowl with lemon juice. When all sprouts are sliced toss them in juice and separate leaves. (Recipe can be prepared to this point and refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 hours.)

2. When ready to serve, heat oil and butter over high heat in a skillet large enough to hold all sprouts. When very hot add sprouts, garlic and seeds, and cook, stirring often, until sprouts are wilted and lightly cooked, but still bright green and crisp, about 4 minutes. Some leaves might brown slightly.

3. Add wine, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Turn off heat, add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the lemon zest, reserving a little for top of dish. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with remaining zest and serve.

Yield: 10 servings.

This was good, but I didn’t like it as well as the roasted brussels sprouts I made earlier.

Impossible Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream

Impossible Pumpkin Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream

1 15-oz. can pumpkin or a scant 2 c. pumpkin puree
1 1/2 c. milk, or 1 13-oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 c. biscuit/pancake mix or 1/2 c. flour plus 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 c. sugar
2 Tbl. butter, melted then cooled
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch glass or Pyrex pie plate.

Place all ingredients in blender; blend for 2 minutes. Pour mixture into pie plate and bake for about an hour, or till center is set and tester comes out clean. Cool.

For topping, whip 1/3 c. heavy cream, 1/2 Tbl. cane sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla to soft peaks.

ingredients for Thai tofu and winter squash soup

The photo doesn’t really capture the loveliness of the colors of these ingredients for Thai Tofu and Winter Squash Stew–the deep orange of the squash puree, the light variegated green of the sliced leeks, and the golden yellow of the grated ginger. But I had to try. Here are the leeks sauteeing, and even more lovely in color:


Veggies of Ill Repute

Friday, October 16th, 2009

There’s not a lot of love in the world for kale and Brussels sprouts. As in most things, though, I find if I work with their strengths, good things happen.

For the Brussels sprouts, halving the larger ones so they all were uniform helped them cook quickly and kept them tasting fresh and sweet. Trimming the stem first allowed easy peeling away of tough outer leaves.

Sweet and Sour Glazed Brussels Sprouts

Sweet and Sour Glazed Brussels Sprouts from Cook’s Country

Serves 8

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 pounds Brussels sprouts , trimmed and halved through core if large
12 small shallots , halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter and sugar together in microwave. Toss Brussels sprouts, shallots, butter mixture, vinegar, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Scatter on rimmed baking sheet and roast until golden brown, about 30 minutes, shaking pan every 10 minutes to redistribute vegetables. Serve.

Back in August, my friend from Knit Think posted about roasting kale. We didn’t have any in our farm’s box till this week, but this is something I’ll do from now on.

Roast kale

Roasted Kale from Suite 101

Of course, any firm leafy green works fine in this recipe. Collard greens or swiss chard could easily be substituted for the kale.

* 4 cups firmly-packed kale
* 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
* 1 tsp. good-quality sea salt, such as Maldon or Cyprus Flake

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Wash and trim the kale: Peel off the tough stems by folding the kale leaves in half like a book and stripping the stems off. Toss with extra virgin olive oil. Roast for five minutes. Turn kale over. Roast another 7 to 10 minutes until kale turns brown and becomes paper thin and brittle. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Sweet Potato Salad

Friday, October 16th, 2009

A few weeks ago, Mark Bittman posted a recipe for Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Black Beans and Chili Dressing. I modified based on what I had on hand (banana peppers instead of bell, white onion instead of red, serrano pepper, not jalapeno) with good results. Except for the limes and canned black beans, everything was local and fresh.

Sweet Potato Salad

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad With Black Beans and Chili Dressing

4 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large onion, preferably red, chopped

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh hot chili, like jalapeño

1 clove garlic, peeled

Juice of 2 limes

2 cups cooked black beans, drained (canned are fine)

1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely diced

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro.

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put sweet potatoes and onions on a large baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil, toss to coat and spread out in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, turning occasionally, until potatoes begin to brown on corners and are just tender inside, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven; keep on pan until ready to mix with dressing.

2. Put chilies in a blender or mini food processor along with garlic, lime juice, remaining olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Process until blended.

3. Put warm vegetables in a large bowl with beans and bell pepper; toss with dressing and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to a day.

Yield: 4 servings.

Poached Eggs and Hollandaise a la Julia Child

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

My friend The Hoff and I joke how we spend most of our Sunday morning yoga class thinking about what we’re going to eat when we’re done. This past Sunday, all I could think about was having another go at poached eggs and hollandaise with greens.

The previous week I tried to do an Egg Florentine-y thing with English muffins, sauteed greens, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce from Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I overcooked the eggs, the hollandaise was too thin, and nothing finished together, so the dish had hot and cold elements. Even with all that, it wasn’t bad. But I wanted to see if I could do better.

So I turned to my recently acquired copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking that my mom unearthed from her basement.

First, though, the poached eggs (which Linda Holmes, aka Miss Ally from Television without Pity, attempted recently, too, and wrote about at NPR.)

How to poach eggs

To transfer the egg from the shell to the water you may either break it directly into the water as described below, or break it into a saucer, tile the saucer directly over the water, and slip the egg in.

A saucepan or skillet 8 to 10 inches in diameter and 2.5 to 3 inches deep
Vinegar (which helps the eggs hold their shape)
4 very fresh eggs
A wooden spoon or spatula
A skimmer or slotted spoon
A bowl of cold water
A bowl of hot water containing 1.5 tsp. salt per quart
A clean towel

1. Pour 2 inches of water into the pan or skillet and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar per quart of water. Bring to the simmer.

2. Break one of the eggs, and, holding it as closely over the water as possible, let it fall in. Immediate and gently push the white over the yolk with a wooden spoon for 2 to 3 seconds. Maintain the water at the barest simmer and proceed with the other eggs in the same manner.

Eggs poaching

(My eggs were not very fresh, as the recipe specifies, which perhaps accounts for the “ghosting” of the whites.)

3. After 4 minutes, remove the first eggs with the skimmer and test with your finger. The white should be set, the yolk still soft to the touch. Place the egg in the cold water; this washes off the vinegar and stops the cooking. Remove the rest of the eggs as they are done, and poach others in the same water if you are doing more. (*) The eggs may remain for several hours in cold water, or may be drained and refrigerated.

Poached eggs in cold water

Next, I warmed one of the biscuits my husband G. Grod made while I was at yoga, and thawed some frozen spinach.

Biscuit and spinach

Then I reheated the eggs according to instruction and placed them atop the biscuits:

To reheat eggs, trim off any trailing bits of white with a knife. Place them in hot, salted water for about half a minute to heat them through. Remove one at a time with a slotted spoon. Holding a folded towel under the spoon, roll the egg back and forth for a second to drain it, and it is ready to serve.

biscuit spinach and poached egg

Julia suggests making hollandaise by hand before using her blender recipe so that the cook can learn how egg yolks behave. I was ravenous after yoga class, so ignored this and took on the blender recipe.

Hollandaise Sauce Made in the Electric Blender

This very quick method for making hollandaise cannot fail when you add your butter in a small stream of droplets. If the sauce refuses to thicken, pour it out, then pour it back into the whizzing machine in a thin stream of droplets. As the butter cools, it begins to cream and forms itself into a thick sauce. If you are used to handmade hollandaise, you may find the blender variety lacks something in quality; this is perhaps due to complete homogenization. But as the technique is well within the capabilities of an 8-year-old child, it has much to recommend it.

For about 3/4 cup

3 egg yolks
2 Tb. lemon juice (I’d use less; this was very tart)
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of pepper
4 oz. or 1 stick of butter
A towel, if you do not have a splatterproof blender jar

1. Place the egg yolks, lemon juice, and seasoning in the blender jar.
2. Cut the butter into pieces and heat it to foaming hot in a small saucepan.
3. Cover the jar and blend the egg yolk mixture at top speed for 2 seconds. Uncover, and still blending at top speed, immediately start pouring on the hot butter in a thin stream of droplets. (You may need to protect yourself with a towel during this operation.) By the time two thirds of the butter has gone in, the sauce will be a thick cream. Omit the milky residue at the bottom of the butter pan. Taste the sauce, and blend in more seasoning if necessary. (*) If not used immediately, set the jar in tepid, but not warm, water.

And so, here was my second attempt at poached eggs with hollandaise.

Poached eggs with spinach on biscuit with hollandaise

The biscuits weren’t sturdy enough, the spinach was too we, and the recipe made far more hollandaise than I needed. But still, a big improvement over last weekend’s attempt, especially in the consistency of the sauce.

Fall Food: Soup and Casserole

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Warm. Comforting. Not necessarily healthful!

Chickpea and Leek Soup from The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver

chickpea and leek soup


* 12 oz chickpeas, soaked overnight in water, or a 15 oz. can, drained and rinsed
* 1 medium potato, peeled
* 6 leeks, finely, sliced
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* knob of butter
* 2 cloves of garlic, finely, sliced
* salt
* freshly ground pepper
* 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
* 2 handful parmesan cheese, grated
* extra virgin olive oil


1. Rinse the soaked chickpeas, cover with water, and cook with the potato until tender.
2. Remove the outer skin of the leeks, slice lengthways from the root up, wash carefully and slice finely.
3. Warm a thick-bottomed pan, and add the tablespoon of oil and the knob of butter. Add the leeks and garlic to the pan, and sweat gently with a good pinch of salt until tender and sweet.
4. Add the drained chickpeas and potato and cook for 1 minute. Add about two-thirds of the stock and simmer for 15 minutes.
5. Purée half the soup in a food processor and leave the other half chunky this gives a lovely smooth comforting feel but also keeps a bit of texture.
6. Now add enough of the remaining stock to achieve the consistency you like. Check for seasoning, and add Parmesan to taste to round off the flavours.
7. This is classy enough for a starter, but I like it best for lunch in a big bowl with a good drizzle of my best peppery extra virgin olive oil, a grinding of black pepper and an extra sprinkling of Parmesan.
© Jamie Oliver 2002

I only used 3 leeks (what I had at home) added chopped celery and pureed all of it, then topped with fried sage leaves.

Creamy Cauliflower Casserole with Bacon and Cheddar from Cook’s Country 10/2006

cauliflower casserole

Roughly chopped cauliflower acts as a casserole “filler,” much like rice or pasta, while the large florets add texture.

Serves 6 to 8
8 slices bacon , chopped, cooked until crisp, and cooled
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
table salt
2 heads cauliflower , trimmed and cut into 1-inch florets (about 8 cups)
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Mix bacon, 1/2 cup cheese, and parsley in small bowl. Set aside for topping.

2.Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and cauliflower and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain and rinse cauliflower with cold water. Transfer half of cauliflower to cutting board and roughly chop. (Topping and cauliflower may be refrigerated separately for up to 1 day.)

3. Melt cream cheese in now-empty pot over low heat. Stir in heavy cream and remaining 2 1/2 cups cheese and cook until cheese starts to melt, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in sour cream, cauliflower, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Transfer mixture to 2-quart baking dish, sprinkle with topping, and bake until browned and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve.

I didn’t have cream cheese but I had roasted cauliflower that hadn’t gone well and heavy cream about to expire, so I made a roux with a tablespoon of butter and flour apiece, added the cream and stirred till thick and added the cheese to that. Cream cheese would have been easier, but a trip to the store for only that? No way. I didn’t have three cups of cheddar either, so I added mozzarella and parmesan to get the right amount. This worked fine and used what I had on hand.

It’s Not Easy Eating Greens

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Even though I know they’re good for me, I still sometimes have trouble getting excited about eating greens. Here are three dishes from last week in which I used them to good results, even the stems!

Kale and Ricotta Salata Salad, from Bitten

Kale and Ricotta Salata salad

Eggs Benedict with tarragon hollandaise alongside sauteed beet and radish greens (stems reserved)

Eggs Benedict with sauteed greens

Beet green and kale stems (pretty!)


Egg sammie with Canadian bacon, cheese, and green-stem fritatta

Egg sammie

Vegetarian Supper

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

All recipes from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Beet salad with ricotta salata and olives

Beet Salad with Ricotta Salata and Olives

1 1/2 lbs. beets, steamed or roasted, peeled
1 sm. garlic clove
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbl. extra-virgin olive oil
2 handfuls arugula
8 Kalamata olives
4 oz. ricotta salata, thinly sliced (I used Shepherd’s Hope cheese from Shepherd’s Way farm. Ricotta salata is a dry, tart sheep’s cheese from Italy. Another good sub is feta.)

Cut beets into wedges or large dice, keeping different colors separate. Pound the garlic with 1/4 tsp. salt in a mortar until smooth, then whisk in the lemon juice and olive oil. Dressing should be tart. Toss beets in enough dressing to coat lightly. Arrange beets on platter and garnish with arugula. Just before serving, tuck cheese and olives among the greens. If any dressing remains, spoon it over cheese.

Here’s a detail of the salad. I thought the beets looked like tuna sashimi. They were from a chiogga beet I’d roasted alongside red beets.

Detail: beet salad

For the main dish, I adapted one of my favorite dishes from the cookbook.

Chickpeas with Potatoes and Tomatoes

Chickpeas with Potatoes and Tomatoes (or, as 3yo Guppy says Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Tomatoes)

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 red potatoes, peeled and diced into cubes about the size of chickpeas
2 carrots, cut into 1/2-in. rounds
3-4 stalks celery, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 pinch dried red pepper flakes
2 plump garlic cloves mashed with 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 c. diced tomatoes
3 c. chickpeas, cooked, or 2 15-oz. cans, rinsed
salt and pepper
1/2 c. water, broth or wine
1/2 c. chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it’s lightly colored, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the potatoes, carrots, chile and garlic and cook for 5 minbutes more. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas, season with 1 teaspoon salt and a few twists from the pepper mill, and add the water. Cover and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste for salt, remove from heat and stir in parsley.

For dessert, I succeeded in saving the failed batch of fig jam from last week that I botched by putting in too much (1 teaspoon) ground cardamom. Madison notes, “Everyone needs a dessert to fall back on in a pinch, and this is one.” This saved the jam, was easy to make, and turned out well even though I forgot the baking powder! Now that’s a useful dessert recipe.

Fig jam tart

Jam Bars or Tart (I used a 9 inch tart pan)

1/4 (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown or white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 to 3/4 c. preserves
3/4 c. chopped walnuts, pecans or rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350F. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg, beat until smooth, then add dry ingredients except nuts.

Set aside about 3/4 c. of the dough and press the rest evenly into an 8 x 10″ baking pan or a 9″ tart pan with removable bottom, or pie plate. Spread the preserves over the top. Mix the reserved dough with the nuts or oats and crumble it over the top. Bake until lightly browned on top, about 40 minutes. Let cool, then cut into squares or wedges. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Me vs. The Veg

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Here’s how I used last week’s box o’ veg:

Otsu, from Heidi Swanson’s book Super Natural Cooking:


Used up scallions and cuke, plus I added beet greens and blanched carrots to good effect.

Lime and Peanut Slaw, from Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks site:

Lime peanut slaw

Used cabbage and tomatoes.

Paolo’s Eggplant and Green Olive Tapenade:

eggplant green olive tapenade

Used up eggplant.

Foccaccia with chard and red/gold tomatoes:

Chard and tomatoe foccaccia

I used Nick Malgieri’s dough recipe as the base, and added what I had on hand: chard, tomatoes, red onion and basil.

Green salad:


Used greens, thinly sliced chiogga beets, blanched green beans, chopped capers and goat cheese with green goddess dressing.

And finally, Roasted Cauliflower “Popcorn,” also from 101 Cookbooks:

roasted cauliflower popcorn

3yo Guppy ate some! 6yo Drake tried it! And G. Grod and I fought over the rest. This is really a great recipe.

Last Week’s Kitchen

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

I’m in the midst of some vegetable anxiety. I still have nearly a full bin from last week (cabbage, scallions, onion, beet w/greens, carrots, lettuce, cuke) and just got the new box from our share at the farm: carrots, eggplant, onions, potatoes, squash, leeks, melon, tomatoes, basil. I will say again: buying a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share seemed like a good idea at the time, but it’s a lot of work to keep up with even our half share, especially since the kids often won’t eat what I make. (They DO love the farm’s carrots, though, as do I.)

Here were a couple things from last week, mostly from the CSA box (not the figs).

Here, Roasted Potato Slices with Lime and Chili. I’ve posted the recipe before, but not with a photo. I managed to snap this before it was devoured.

Roasted Potatoes with Chili and Lime

Not so the Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli Popcorn, which had a really lovely green and white contrast. Until it disappeared.

Our grocery coop had some lovely looking figs,

Black Mission figs

so I made fig jam from Super Natural Cooking again, served here with Bent River a camembert-esque cheese made by the Alemar Cheese Company, on slices of Rustica Bakery baguette.

Fig jam

Alas, I decided to experiment and added a whole teaspoon of cardamom (I’m on something of a cardamom kick) which turned the whole batch bitter. I’m not sure whether to add more figs, more honey or both. Here is the base recipe, which I made before with very good results.

Fig Spread with Black Pepper and Toasted Sesame Seeds from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

1 1/2 lb. ripe fresh Black Mission figs, stemmed and cut into 1/2″ dice
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 c. honey
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. toasted unhulled sesame seeds

Toss chopped figs and lemon juice together in a large bowl. Stir in the honey and black pepper and set aside for 10 minutes. The figs will start to break down and get soupy. Pour the fig mixture in to a large, heavy pot over medium heat and bring to a slow, gurgling boil. Cook, stirring constantly, until the figs start to reduce and thicken, about 10 minutes. Stir in the sesame seeds and remove from the heat. Let the spread sit for 5 minutes, taste, and add more pepper to taste if needed.

This spread may be canned as you would other jams, but it keeps well for up to a week in the refrigerator. Makes 3 cups.

And my friend A. corralled my friend The Hoff and me to make soup for twenty for a Kevin Reich for Ward 1 fundraiser. We made a quadruple batch of squash stew based on a recipe from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Squash soup

There were many compliments, and they sounded sincere, so I think the soup was a success. I’ve made it before, and would definitely make it again.

Thai Tofu and Autumn Squash Soup, adapted from a recipe in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

2 medium leeks, white parts only, cleaned, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ slices
2 Tbl. peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 serrano chiles, minced
1 Tbl. finely grated ginger
1 Tbl. curry powder
1 tsp. light brown sugar
3 Tbl. wheat-free tamari
32 oz. mushroom broth
1 15 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 lbs autumn squash (we used a mix of butternut and delicata) peeled and cut into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes
1 10-oz. pkg. silken firm tofu cut into 1/2″ cubes
Juice of one lime
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1/3 c. chopped peanuts

Heat peanut oil in wide soup pot. Add leeks and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until partially softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, most of chiles, and ginger; cook 1 minute more, then add curry, sugar and soy sauce. Reduce heat to medium, scrape pan, and cook for a few more minutes. Add broth, coconut milk, squash, and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat Puree some or all of soup, in blender or with immersion blender. Taste for salt, add tofu, lime juice and cilantro.

Fry peanuts in a little peanut oil over medium heat in a small skillet, then chop. Serve stew over basmati or jasmine rice, garnished with peanuts and remaining chili.

This is a vegan, gluten-free soup. Plain yogurt with a little cardamom would make a nice garnish and you can try pepitas instead of peanuts. Serves 4.

Zucchini Three Ways

Monday, September 21st, 2009

My friend E inherited a giant zucchini from a friend. Stressed from a recent move, she re-gifted it to me. I peeled, seeded and shredded it, which filled 6 3-cup containers–about 12 zucchini’s worth, I’d guess. I gave three containers away, then got to work.

First was having another go at the Chocolate Zucchini cake. I remembered the cocoa this time. And since I’d peeled the zucchini, there weren’t any telltale green flecks in the cake; my boys devoured this.

chocolate zucchini cake

Next was a zucchini saute with fresh corn, tomatoes, onion and jalapeno in a chili-lime sauce. Better in theory than in its soggy reality. Zuke is just too watery to saute.

Zucchini saute

Finally, I made another go at zucchini bread, adding golden raisins and telling the boys it was raisin spice bread since there were no telltale green flecks. It was much more popular with the kids under its new name.

zucchini bread

And that’s the end of that zucchini, and (I hope) zucchini this season.

This Week’s Vegetables

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

The veg box from our farm share this week had all the colors of the rainbow, save blue*.

CSA veggies 9/10/09

I used the salad mix with a fresh tomato, garnished with chopped bacon, with blue cheese dressing made with Big Wood’s Blue from Shepherd’s Way Farm–adding blue to the week’s rainbow!

Blue Cheese Dressing, from Cook’s Country, Serves 6

If buttermilk is not available, use milk to create a somewhat lighter dressing.

3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
5 tablespoons buttermilk
5 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Using fork, mash blue cheese and buttermilk together in small bowl until mixture resembles cottage cheese. Stir in sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

I made caprese pasta again, with the onion and other tomato, and served it over spinach as a warm salad.

Carrots and melon went into Drake’s lunch. And he ate them!

Drake's Laptop Lunchbox

For the remaining spinach, I unearthed this recipe:

spinach salad

Wilted Spinach Salad with Miso Dressing, adapted from one by Ron Barron

2 slices whole wheat bread, buttered and toasted
1 medium garlic clove, sliced in half

1/2 Tbl. balsamic vinegar
1/2 Tbl. white miso
reserved garlic clove

1 bunch spinach, stemmed
1/4 c. kalamata olives

2-3 Tbl. olive oil

Rub cut side of garlic over buttered side of each piece of toast. Mince or press garlic and reserve. Cut toast into half-inch square croutons.

In large bowl, whisk together vinegar, miso and garlic. Top with spinach and olives.

Heat olive oil in small saucepan till shimmering (not smoking). Pour over salad. Toss to coat and wilt. Add croutons and toss again. Serve.

And the Veggie Slaw turned into a vehicle for almost all the remaining veg:

Veggie slaw

Veggie Slaw, starring broccoli, adapted from the Broccoli Slaw at Smitten Kitchen

Makes about six cups of slaw

1 heads of broccoli, trimmed
1 bunch celery, trimmed
2 or 3 carrots, peels and chopped
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/3 cup dried golden raisins
3 scallions, finely chopped

Buttermilk Dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk, well-shaken (or mix 1/2 c. whole milk and 1/2 Tbl. vinegar or lemon juice; let sit for 5 min.)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 scallions finely chopped

Optional: 2 slices bacon

Cut broccoli, celery and carrots into large chunks, then chop into smaller ones, or use a mandoline or food processor. Stems of broccoli are OK, even good.

Toss the sliced veggies with the peanuts, raisins and chopped scallions in a large bowl. Meanwhile, whisk the dressing ingredients in a smaller one, with a good pinch of salt and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the veggies and toss well.

For optional bacon: fry in pan until brown, drain well on paper towels, then chop.

Season well with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped bacon.

Adaptations: substitute difference crisp veggies, like cauliflower, kohlrabi or turnip. Use different nuts or dried fruit. Use different onions like red, sweet or shallots.

*On an episode of Top Chef, Tom Colicchio claimed, in a voice of authority, that there were no blue foods. I suspect he maintains that all foods we think are blue are actually green or indigo. I can’t find anything to support his claim, but many to refute it: blue cheese, blue potatoes, blueberries, blue grapes, blue plums, and chokecherries, and blue-colored herbs, including borage, hyssop, rosemary, sage.

Interestingly, because blue foods are rare, the color blue is an appetite suppressant.

Plum Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

From Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson, recommended by my friend Duff. This dessert can be made in individual ramekins, or a 10″ skillet, which I used. It can be made with any small stone fruit, such as apricot, plum or pluot. I chose a local variety of plum, though mine were too ripe. Look for ones that DON’T resemble water balloons, the authors of this book say. This is the second dessert I’ve made from this book and both were very good. The recipes are well-written, as you’ll see below, and the baking is non-fussy–no need to remove skins!

Stone Fruit Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake
Baking time 30 min. for ind. cakes, 45 to 50 min. for 10″ skillet. Serves 8.

Fruit Topping

4 small stone fruits such as apricots, plums or pluots
1/4 c. (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. packed (3 3/4 oz) brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Score the skin of the fruits with a few strokes of a knife, then slice them in half and remove the pits.

To prepare the fruit topping for individual cakes, distribute the melted butter among eight 5-oz. ramekins, brushing the butter up onto the sides of the ramekins. Sprinkle 1 Tbl. of the brown sugar in each ramekin, then place half of a stone fruit on top of the sugar, cut side down. Place ramekins on a baking sheet.

Alternatively, to prepare the fruit topping for a single large cake, melt the butter in a 10″ cast-iron skillet set over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves and blends with butter to form a caramel. Remove from the heat and arrange the fruit halves on top of the caramel, cut side down.


1 1/4 c. (6 1/4 oz.) all purpose flour
3/4 c. (3 3/4 oz.) fine cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 c. (4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temp.
2/3 c. (4 1/2 oz.) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 c. buttermilk

To make the cake, whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl. Using a handheld mixer with beaters or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition, then stir in the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the buttermilk in two additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.

Distribute the batter evenly among the ramekins (about 1/4 c. per cake) on top of the fruit, or transfer all of the batter to the skillet and gently spread it evenly over the fruit. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 min for ind. cakes or 45 min. for the skillet, or until the center of the cake springs back lightly when touched.

Plum Cake, upside up

Allow the ind. cakes to cool for 5 min. before inverting onto plates; the large cake will need 20 minutes to cool before you flip it over.

Plum cake, upside down

Storage: This cake is best if eaten the day it is made, but any leftovers can be covered with plastic wrap and enjoyed the following morning for breakfast.

Plum Upside-Down Cornmeal Cake, detail

Using up Late-Summer Veg

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Here’s a colorful dinner from last week.

Salad with Green Goddess dressing

Green salad with sliced raw turnip, chopped raw broccoli, and green goddess dressing, which is such a good recipe I’m going to post it again:

Green Goddess Dressing, from Cook’s Country

Makes 1 1/4 cups—enough for 6 wedges of lettuce

To appreciate the full flavor of this rich dressing, drizzle it over chilled wedges of mild iceberg lettuce or leaves of romaine lettuce. A blender yields a brighter, slightly more flavorful dressing, but a food processor will work, too.

2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 medium clove garlic , chopped
1 anchovy fillet , rinsed and dried
1/4 cup chopped chives

1. Combine tarragon, lemon juice, and water in small bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.

2. Blend tarragon mixture, mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, garlic, and anchovy in blender until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Transfer to medium bowl, stir in chives, and season with salt and pepper. Chill until flavors meld, about 1 hour. (Dressing can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)

Yellow- and blue-corn nachos with WI cheese and canned black beans that I sauteed with tomatoes, jalapeno, corn and onion from last week’s CSA farm share box, garnished with sour cream and K8’s homemade salsa.

Veggie nachos

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Monday, September 7th, 2009

A recipe to use up zucchini and buttermilk which I always buy for a recipe and then end up having to throw out unless I work to use it up. Cook’s Country says it can be frozen in 1 Tbl. amounts for up to a month, so I may try that.

You may notice that my cake doesn’t look chocolate, but rather chocolate chip. I forgot the cocoa, so it came out more like chocolate chip bars. Unlike my zucchini bread, my boys, 6 and 3.5yo, ate and liked it, even with visible zucchini.

Chocolate chip zucchini cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake from Cook’s Country, Serves 16

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter , softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 medium zucchini , seeded and shredded
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 13- by 9-inch baking pan. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves in bowl. With electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, oil, and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk and mix until incorporated. Stir in flour mixture until combined. Stir in zucchini, then pour mixture into prepared pan.

2. Top batter with chocolate chips and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Serve.

End-of-Summer Cooking

Friday, September 4th, 2009

I’m not the only one cooking and baking. A couple weeks ago, I came home from yoga class to this:


My husband G. Grod and the boys made biscuits, which were very good.

My next baking attempt was Drake’s birthday cake, with the recipe from Smitten Kitchen:

birthday cake

The sour-cream chocolate frosting was too rich, so I may try a ganache next time. The boys really liked the “6″ constructed of Lego candy.

I’d long meant to try the oatmeal cookie recipe from Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious. It calls for zucchini puree, which produces a dark brown cookie with no telltale veggie taste. While tasty, these cookies wouldn’t hold together. I find her recipes hard to work because they call for ridiculous low-fat ingredients like egg whites and trans-fat free tub margarine. Puh-lease. This is cooking for kids. It’s OK to use whole eggs and butter. Perhaps that’s why my cookies didn’t turn out.

oatmeal cookies w/zuke

For a simple supper, I made a pasta caprese, with red and yellow tomatoes. It was lovely to look at and good to eat, plus used up the tomato, onion, and basil from my veg share.

Caprese pasta

Pasta Caprese, from Cooks Illustrated

This dish will be very warm, not hot. The success of this recipe depends on high-quality ingredients, including ripe, in-season tomatoes and a fruity olive oil (the test kitchen prefers Columela Extra-Virgin). Don’t skip the step of freezing the mozzarella, as freezing prevents it from turning chewy when it comes in contact with the hot pasta. If handmade buffalo- or cow’s-milk mozzarella is available (it’s commonly found in gourmet and cheese shops packed in water), we highly recommend using it, but skip the step of freezing and add it to the tomatoes while marinating. Additional lemon juice or up to 1 teaspoon sugar can be added at the end to taste, depending on the ripeness of the tomatoes.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (see note above)
1 small garlic clove , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1 small shallot , minced fine (about 2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes , cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese , cut into 1/2-inch cubes (see note above)
1 pound penne pasta or other short tubular or curly pasta such as fusilli or campanelle
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon sugar (see note above)


1. Whisk oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, garlic, shallot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Add tomatoes and gently toss to combine; set aside. Do not marinate tomatoes for longer than 45 minutes.

2. While tomatoes are marinating, place mozzarella on plate and freeze until slightly firm, about 10 minutes. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in stockpot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente. Drain well.

3. Add pasta and mozzarella to tomato mixture and gently toss to combine. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in basil; adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice or sugar, if desired, and serve immediately.

Baking, again, I tried the Bon Appetit recipe for Top-Crust peach pie with cardamom. My peaches weren’t ripe enough (a hazard of living in MN) and it was very wet, but the crust and juice were very tasty.

Top Crust Peach Cardamom Pie

Yesterday’s farm share box had the following veg in it: spinach, corn, broccoli, turnips, onions, melon and tomato. Last night I made a green salad topped it with chopped broccoli florets, peeled and sliced turnip and carrot and chopped tomato with a green goddess dressing that’s been our go-to recipe all summer. It was bright, simple, and good.

Green Goddess Dressing, from Cook’s Country

Makes 1 1/4 cups–enough for 6 wedges of lettuce

To appreciate the full flavor of this rich dressing, drizzle it over chilled wedges of mild iceberg lettuce or leaves of romaine lettuce. A blender yields a brighter, slightly more flavorful dressing, but a food processor will work, too.

2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 medium clove garlic , chopped
1 anchovy fillet , rinsed and dried
1/4 cup chopped chives

1. Combine tarragon, lemon juice, and water in small bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.

2. Blend tarragon mixture, mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, garlic, and anchovy in blender until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Transfer to medium bowl, stir in chives, and season with salt and pepper. Chill until flavors meld, about 1 hour. (Dressing can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)

State Fair, MN Cooks Day 2009, Sans Kids

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

MN State Fair

Our friend Queenie and her now-husband Blogenheimer introduced us in 1999 to the wonder that is the MN State Fair. I have been every year since; this is my tenth anniversary and my 11th fair. Drake arrived about a week before the fair in 2003. My husband G. Grod didn’t think it was a good idea to take a newborn to the fair, no matter how I wheedled, so Queenie and I went for a quick trip between feedings. Drake’s first fair was 2004; Guppy’s was 2006. This year, G. and I attended the State Fair on our own, without kids, just like in the old days.

To begin, we checked out the demonstration for the MN Cooks panel that hour, sampled some lamb, then had roast corn for breakfast, quickly followed by a root beer and one of my favorite fair treats, a chocolate-covered mocha on a stick from J & S Coffee (available year round at The Bean Factory in St. Paul!)

We had to ask directions to the new Spam stand, but the breakfast sandwich was worth it. I am not generally a fan of Spam, but something about the soft white bun, oozy orange cheese, a slab of salty Spam and a fried egg created a perfect storm–an utterly crave-able breakfast item. We devoured it.

Next were fried green tomatoes dipped in ranch sauce with a bit of Tabasco mixed in, suggested at Heavy Table. Unfortunately, the Tabasco bottle was set on full-throttle, so our sauce was more spicy than we liked, but tomatoes and sauce were still good. I got the combo plate with corn fritters. I enjoyed them and their accompanying honey butter; G. Grod was less impressed.

G. got his annual fried cheese curd fix while I tried one of the new items recommended at Heavy Table. The cheese curds were as good as always. The $3 Lefse Delight was not. The idea of it–soft thin potato bread wrapped around tart lingonberries and topped with whipped cream and crunchy almonds–was good. In reality, though, the lingonberries were sour, the whipped cream was wet and overly sweet, and the almonds weren’t crunchy. Instead, I’d opt for a more traditional lefse offering, like butter and brown sugar.

Outside the Eco experience, we stopped for a local Minne-soda. I wanted to try both flavors, but at $4 each, I picked the maple over the chokecherry. It was flavorful but way too sweet for our tastes. Next year, the other flavor. On the way back we looked around the Fine Arts and Creative Activities displays, something not possible with the kids.

In a lame attempt at more substantive food, I got one of my favorite items from last year, Axel’s tater tots on a stick–fried potatoes, cheese, bacon, and a sour cream/chili powder dipping sauce. I liked them well enough, but G. didn’t care for them.

A cider freezie hit the spot while I tracked down the Salty Tart outpost, which I eventually found in the Produce Exchange across from the International Bazaar. $5 seemed steep for 3 macaroons, but their compact sweet insides and dense outer crusts made me understand why these are named “Crack-aroons.”

G took the opportunity to check out the butter sculptures of the fair royalty candidates,

Butter sculptures

and got a chocolate malt in the Dairy Building, then we made our way back to the food demonstrations to see Judi Barsness of Chez Jude (where we celebrated out 10th anniversary on a weekend getaway to the North Shore last fall) and J.D. Fratzke of St. Paul’s Strip Club (where my friend K8 and I recently attended the wonderful Simple Good and Tasty August supper).

Cooks demo

Local farmers attended from Pastures Aplenty, whose bratwurst and sausage are regular items in our family, and Hidden Stream Farm, whose cheddar bratwurst we enjoyed last summer. We were able to sample Fratzke’s dish, which he called a PPLT: pork, pancetta, lettuce and tomato, on focaccia with seasoned mayo. It was an upscale sandwich to die for.

For “dessert,” I got a cone of Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookies and glass of milk, then we wondered if we should stay or go. We let a street-blocking parade help us decide, and had a lemonade on the way to the exit, where we passed K8 and her family coming out of the Miracle of Birth barn, having just seen a calf born.

G. and I didn’t stay much longer than I had with the kids and didn’t spend much more either. It was a good day, with beautiful weather and not too crowded. Like my trip with the kids, it would be nice to make this an annual tradition.