Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Live Blogging Christmas Eve

So I figured I would get a jump on the Christmas Eve blogging. It is a massive undertaking each year to pull it off but it us so worth it. As you may recall from Christmas pasts, Christmas eve is really the special part of Christmas for me. Sharing all of the food and traditions with friends and family is really important to me, even though it sends my anxiety through the roof. This years menu has a few new things on tap as well as having my mom on hand to help and make her seafood chowder. As I prep and make dishes I am going to try to take notes here.

The Menu
Course One
Fried calamari
Fried smelt

Course Two
Salami cheese bread  

Meatball soup.
Seafood chowder 

Course Three
Smoked salmon ravioli
Vodka sauce
Brown butter sauce
Anchovy spaghetti

Course Four

Calamari stuffed with shrimp and crab
Lobster Cheesecake

Course Five
Baked whole fish

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Beef stew with Brooklyn Black Chocolate stout, home made biscuits and caramelized brussel sprouts with pomegranate molasses and feta

Every winter, Brooklyn Brewing comes out with their winter black chocolate stout and every winter I drink it as often as I can while it is around. Which is not very much since it is very strong and does not lend itself to having more than one or two.

Kerrie and I were walking through Wegmans trying to figure out what meals to have before the upcoming Christmas Eve Fish Feast and I saw the stout sitting on the shelf, after drooling for a moment it became my focus for a meal to serve to so friends for dinner. Partly because I knew that Chris would join me in drinking one as well. They come in a convenient 4 pack. One for the stew, one each for Chris and I before dinner, and one as I sit here and type this.

Each year for our annual St. Patrick's Day dinner I make Guinness beef stew so I figured this would be a perfectly yummy substitute. I use the basic beef stew recipe from The 1997 Joy of Cooking. It works very well as followed in the book, it also works great if you brown the meat and saute the vegetables in a pan then load all the remaining ingredients into a crock pot.  The only significant variation I make is that instead of just sprinkling the meat with flour I use a mix of flour, paprika, salt, pepper, and thyme. I am sure the recipe has not changed in the Joy of Cooking in decades. I also almost always use some of the vegetable variants instead of just potatoes and carrot. Parsnips and turnips in particular often make it to the pot. Parsnips are a favorite of mine and are one of those magical trans-formative ingredients.

I will leave it to Kerrie to post her biscuit recipe when she is ready but tonight's were wonderful.

The side is a dish I have been wanting to make again for over a year. I threw it together at Thanksgiving last year and it was a hit. It brings together several rich deep flavors and comes together in a way I didn't quite expect. The Pomegranate molasses is something I love to have on hand. I saw it used on a cooking show and Alton's recipe is wonderful and simple. It is great on pork, fish, couscous, and today's veggie, brussel sprouts.

You will need
12-18 brussel sprouts, all about the same size.
2 Tbsp Butter
1/4 cup chicken stock
kosher salt
pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup crumbled feta

Cut the stems off of the sprouts and peel off any leaves then come of easily. then cut in half, or quarters if your sprouts are bigger than walnut.

Heat a large pan to medium high,  ( I use my Calphalon 12-Inch Everyday Pan) and add the butter.
Once the butter melts and sizzles then add the sprouts cut side down to the pan. Cook for 6-8 minutes until they are nice and brown. Try not to mess with them too much. Once they have browned add the chicken stock and a pinch of kosher salt and put a lid on the pan. Reduce the hit to medium low and cook for another 6-8 minutes. Check to see if the sprouts are tender.  Add the sprouts to a serving dish, sprinkle with feta and drizzle with the molasses.

I love this dish and it makes a tasty accompaniment to just about anything.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I wish I was a butcher

I say this to myself every time I have a big hunk of meat like a leg of lamb, or a pork shoulder or a whole chicken, turkey etc. As much as I enjoy cooking, a significant part of that enjoyment is the trans-formative aspect of turning raw ingredients into a finished product that tastes, smells and looks delicious.
I do need to work on the looks part for the blog, I make some darn tasty looking food but I just don't think of taking pictures. Usually because I am too hungry to wait.

All that introduction leads me to tonight's dinner. Broiled butterflied chicken with roasted carrots and onions, mashed potatoes, gravy and steamed kale with feta and olives.

The chicken is yet another Alton Brown recipe. The butterflying step is one of the things I really enjoy. Breaking down a whole chicken into a big flat canvas of meat just waiting to be seasoned and roasted is pretty special. And of course it is the reason you can roast a chicken on a weeknight. Toady Kerrie made gravy instead of the jus in the recipe.  The jus is wonderful and I strongly recommend you try it. It also works out well because the roasted vegetables soak up a lot of the juice so you don't have quite as much as you would if you just roasted the bird on a rack.

Roasted carrots and onions and perfect examples of the trans-formative aspect of cooking that I love. I enjoy onions just about any way you want to serve them, raw, cooked, steamed, sauteed, fried etc. However there is something about roasting them in the oven and finding that perfectly caramelized bit of onion that has stuck to the pan that just makes me a happy boy. Carrots might as well be a completely different entity. Raw carrots are tasty, roasted carrots are sweet earthy tender bits of awesome.

I could never be a vegetarian, carrots and onions roasted in meat juice would call to me. I could actually give up the chicken but you would catch me some night scooping up big serving spoonfuls of meat juice and carrots from a pan. it would not be pretty.

I don't really measure for mashed potatoes so it's tough to put together a recipe. I use the standard amount of potatoes I was taught by my mother which is one potato per person and one for the pot. So a family of 4 potato eaters needs 5 potatoes. Wash and cut the potatoes into about one inch pieces and boil them in salted water until soft drain well then add them back to the pot.

about 1/2 cup milk (skim is all we have in the house, cream is of course awesome)
2 Tbsp of salted butter
a few grinds of black pepper
and the star recently is about 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt. it adds a great tangy flavor and richness.
Lately Greek yogurt has become a staple in our house for a variety of reasons. This is one

Mash with a potato masher and add more salt and pepper to taste. I almost always leave the skins on unless I know I have picky eaters around who will turn up their noses at the skins. They may be wrong and out of their minds, but I cater to guests.

the kale was a new recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food. I love this book for veggies.

It is a pretty simple recipe that would be equally good with collard greens. you will need

8-10 big kale leaves or more depending on your pan
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 cup of dry white wine
A block of feta cheese ( we used crumbled it was fine)
Kalamata olives
1 tomato (I did not have a tomato on hand so I skipped it)

First wash and slice off the kale leaves from their stems. If the stems are not to thick you may not need to do this for all of them. Chop the stems and garlic into small pieces then saute  in oil. Place some feta pieces and some broken up olive pieces into the individual leaf strips and roll them up. Place them in the pan on top of the chopped stems and garlic,  pour a half cup of dry wine over. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat, cover tightly and simmer for about 10 minutes until kale is tender and feta is melted.  This was really tasty. the tomato would have been a nice addition as the acid would have cut through some of the saltiness of the olives and feta.

The whole meal was served with a delicious  un-oaked chardonnay from  McGregor Winery, which of course was the wine I used in the kale. Any dry white would be fine.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chicken and Biscuits

This is one of my favorite comfort foods. And having just returned from vacation, being sick, and dealing with several feet of snow, I had a craving for some comfort food yesterday.

Of course, I also wanted something easy as I hadn't yet had time to thaw an entire chicken nor did I have the inclination to stew and shred it, etc. but I didn't want to use canned condensed soup or packaged baking mix. So I looked over several recipes and came up with this one:

For the chicken:
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 lb., or, about 3 c. shredded chicken, cooked any way you like to)
1 pint of chicken stock, perhaps a little more if needed
3 Tbsp butter, salted
3 Tbsp flour
1 stalk celery, diced small
1 medium onion, diced small
1 large carrot, diced small
Poultry seasoning, thyme, sage, etc.
salt, pepper
cream (optional)
Mixed vegetables, thawed

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Poach the chicken breasts in the stock until cooked through. Or, you can of course use any cooked chicken or even turkey and skip this step. I saved the stock to use a little later. You can use your favorite broth but if you're not going with homemade I really like Pacific Foods organic free range chicken broth. Set the chicken and broth aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add the onion, carrot and celery (mirepoix). Cook on medium until the vegetables soften, about 10-15 minutes. Starting your soup or stew with a mirepoix gives it a wonderfully rich flavor so here's where you don't want to skimp on cooking time.

Meanwhile, shred or cube your cooked chicken and make your biscuits. Use your favorite recipe, or here's the one I used:

2 1/4 c. flour
1 stick butter, grated or diced and kept very cold
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. buttermilk

Combine flour, powder, soda and salt. Cut in butter until it resembles cornmeal. I generally just use my fingertips. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add buttermilk, all at once, stirring only until it's just combined. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 10 times by patting it out and then folding it in half. Pat out into a flat circle about 1/2 inch thick. Use a floured biscuit cutter and cut out your biscuits, place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 12-14 min or until golden brown. If you want, you can brush the tops with beaten eggs or butter before baking, or add a little thyme to the dry ingredients before adding the buttermilk.

Sprinkle seasonings over the veggies, add flour and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add 2 c. broth, and bring to a boil. Stir in the cream, chicken and veggies, and cook just until it's all heated through. Turn off heat and let it sit and thicken for a few minutes, then serve over halved biscuits.

Have a couple of extra biscuits fresh out of the oven with butter, too.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pork Roast with Warm Cabbage Mustard and Champagne

As soon as I saw this recipe on Cook Like an Iron Chef I knew I was going to be making it. It is right up my alley. I had a boneless pork roast in the freezer so I knew it wasn't going to be a perfect recreation but it was going to be good. I also did not have the fresno chilis and I would have loved to include them but I just couldn't find them.
I disappointed myself by overcooking the pork a bit but that was my fault not the recipe. The flavor was fantastic.

I would definitely recommend it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Blackened haddock with flash fried daikon and pea puree

I love the internet.I was milling around today trying to find a recipe that would use up some of the ingredients I had in the house. Ingredients that would also fit into a diet type thing we are currently on. We had some haddock fillets in the freezer and some daikon radishes from last weeks CSA pickup.  I was trying to fit celeriac or kohlrabi in as well but that was not in the cards for today. I did however find this beauty on a blog called The Portobello Kitchen, sadly it looks like it has been abandoned but I plan to mine it for several more recipes.

I followed the recipe pretty faithfully, I used haddock instead of halibut, the haddock fillets I had included the skin on one side which actually takes to blackening beautifully. I also didn't have any sprouts but I topped it with some arugula and a drizzle of olive oil to finish it and it worked wonderfully.

I must say that I am not typically a fan of blackening things. There was a period where everything seemed to be blackened in restaurants and it was often done so badly that I really avoided it as a technique.  It is so easy to go over the top with salt and other seasonings that you destroy the flavor of what you are cooking. You might as well blacken your hat for all the flavor the ingredients brings in some dishes. That being said, really be careful with your spice rub, don't over do it on the cayenne or salt. I would add them last and really mix it up well before tasting it. Try dipping a celery or carrot stick in your rub before applying it to your fish, that way you have a measuring stick for how overwhelming the flavor is ( or hopefully isn't)

The daikon was a real treat, I got lazy and did more of a thin steak fry cut instead of a true julienne, and looking back I think I should have gone for the julienne. The daikon strips were really tasty but since they had to fry a little longer they got a bit soggy.

The pea puree was a star, I used regular old frozen peas, added some salt to the water before boiling them and then used the stick blender with some granulated garlic and olive oil. It was really tasty, the pea flavor shined through while providing a great base for the fish and a contrast in texture and flavor. Pea puree will be involved in my food again very soon.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Green Tomato Pie?

Yes it is exactly that, and it is a sweet pie rather than savory. As odd as it may sound it is really delicious. It is similar to an apple pie in many ways. I followed the recipe from food network with a few exceptions. I omitted the raisins. I like raisins, I just don't typically like them in things. After tasting it tonight I can say they would have brought in nothing else but more sweetness which in my opinion this did not need at all. I also didn't use the pie crust recipe they had as a part of it. It looks like a good recipe but I have a family recipe I love and can make by feel so I don't mess around. If you are like many other people and don't make your own crust go ahead and use your favorite store bought brand. I won't judge. (much)

The taste was really quite unique, it definitely says "hey I'm and apple pie" and then it says "well maybe not quite, I have citrusy flavor and savory quality that is not quite apple" followed but "you really want another bite of me though."

As a way to use up a lot of green tomatoes, readily available this time of year I would definitely encourage you to try this. I am tempted to try dredging the slices in a completely savory spice blend and maybe tossing in some caramelized onions, or leeks or something because the texture was really delicious and I can see it working well as a savory pie.

Great stuff.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tomatillo Chili with Pork

I was trying to figure out what to do with a mountain of tomatillos and decided the time had come to figure out a way to use them more than a few at a time. Enter green chili , chili verde or Colorado chili as it is also known.
I had heard of green chili but never made it. I knew it was made with pork (always a winner in my book) and a variety of green peppers both hot and not
I figured there had to be a way to make green chili with the abundance of tomatillos so a quick google search later and I found this recipe. A quick peruse of the other entries in the Meathenge repertoire and I was convinced this was going to be good.

I followed the recipe pretty closely other than I really backed down on the hot peppers since Kerrie is not a big fan of heat. In hindsight I should have gone for 5 or 6 poblanos instead of the 3 I had, to really bring the pepper flavor without the heat.

As I was making it and adding stock I was thinking "gee you know a beer would be great in this in lieu of some of the stock" I was right, beer would have been a nice subtle flavor.

As the recipe states it is very busy at the beginning if you follow those steps. I did not find any compelling reason not to get the tomatillos done first, then roasting the poblanos, then starting the pork while the poblanos rest. It was manageable but I don't see it as necessary to do all at once.  The flavor of this dish is outstanding, the tomtatillos have a great tartness and the sweetness of the peppers  really plays off of it nicely.The cumin and onions and chilies give you the traditional chili flavors you expect but at the same time it is something very different.
The pork was fall apart tender after 4 hours or so. We served it over a bed of rice to absorb some of the really fantastic broth. If I had let it simmer with the lid of it would have thickened up nicely and I am sure tomorrow it will be nice and thick and I can try it on a tortilla for lunch.

French Toast with toasted pecans and brie

Both kids have come to the realization that french toast is awesome and we are happy to oblige.

French toast is one of those things that there are a million variations on, I use Alton Browns recipe. It is a bit fussier than many recipes but I think the extra step for allowing the french toast to sit after soaking makes a difference, you really get the custard to soak all the way through making for that crispy outside but creamy in the middle goodness of french toast. For the bread we used Kerrie's oatmeal bread but Alton's recommendations are good as well. We used almost 2 loaves this morning so we can freeze a bunch for the kids breakfasts

For an added treat, when you put the pan cooked french toast onto a cookie sheet to warm in the oven, add a slice of brie to the top, once the brie melts top with some toasted pecans and drizzle with your favorite maple syrup (grade B syrup is my favorite) and serve. The flavor of the brie cuts some of the sweetness and the crunch of the nuts is a great contrast to the overall softness of the dish. We were served french toast with brie at a Bed and Breakfast in Ontario and have been loving it ever since.

Baked greens and beans

I really don't like sauteed greens. They're slimy, and gross me out. However, because they're so nutritious I still try.

We had escarole and turnip greens to use this week and I came across a recipe for baking them. I loved it! They're not that slimy and have a delicious roasted flavor and texture. I think you could use a variety of cooking greens in this recipe.

Clean your greens well, as they can be very sandy and gritty. I just fill the sink with cold water, dump in all the greens and swish them around for a while. Then pick them up from the top where they float (all the grit settles to the bottom), and drain in a colander or salad spinner. Stem and coarsely chop all of them (I probably had a good 8-10 cups of chopped greens).

Meanwhile, heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil in a pan; cook a few cloves of chopped garlic until fragrant. I think shallots would be good in this too but I didn't have any. Add your greens and cook down for 5 minutes or so. They should still be a pretty bright green. Add a splash each of good white wine or white balsamic vinegar (helps to cut the bitterness of the greens), 1/8 tsp crushed dried rosemary, a dash of salt and some black pepper. Stir in a can of white beans, rinsed and drained, and heat through.

Pour into a 1.5 quart glass baking dish. Sprinkle a handful of whole wheat Panko bread crumbs and a handful of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, and bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until the topping is browned.

You can serve as a side dish, or with a good crusty bread, or as we did: alone, as a tasty lunch.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tomato Basil Butter, and some stuff to serve with it.

I just had a bunch of this sauce with my dinner, and as I think of it I still want more. The whole meal was pan seared scallops, broccoli stir fry, potato and parsnip puree, sourdough bread that we picked up at the market today and the sauce, the yummy sauce.

I made this sauce for the first time many years back after tasting it in a restaurant down in Virgina Beach. My friend Tom and I were eating dinner and it was a special on the menu, served on some kind of white steaky fish, mahi or swordfish perhaps.  I don't recall the fish, I know it was well prepared but the sauce was the star of the show. I went on a mission to recreate it. I nailed it pretty well the first time out (if I do say so myself) and have refined it a bit over time.

As with many dishes this recipe is not exact but it should be a good start. This takes a while to cook down. 40 minutes to an hour, however this sauce freezes great so feel free to make it up ahead of time. Just reheat in a pan and finish as described below.

1 stick butter
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can whole tomatoes
12-14 large basil leaves
kosher salt

Today I varied from this recipe by replacing most of the tomatoes with a few cups of fresh tomato sauce I made previously. I used some fresh whole cherry tomatoes instead of the canned whole tomatoes.

In a large wide saucepan melt 3/4 of the butter. Once the butter has melted start adding the whole tomatoes by grabbing one from the can and crushing it on your hand then repeat. It is pretty therapeutic. If you are using fresh tomatoes slice them into quarters and cook until they soften a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the can of crushed tomatoes (or tomato sauce) stir well then reduce heat and simmer. After about 20 minutes or so take about 10 of the basil leaves and chop them. Add them to the sauce and add a fat pinch of salt. Stir and continue cooking until the whole tomatoes have broken down almost completely. The sauce should be almost smooth.Taste for seasoning. There should not be any raw tomato taste at all and the acidity of the tomatoes and the richness of the butter should balance each other out really well.

To finish the sauce, once the tomatoes have completely broken down chiffonade the last of the basil add the remaining butter to the pan, once the butter has melted toss in the basil and turn off the heat. Serve immediately on top of your food of choice.

Today that food of choice was pan seared scallops. There are about 95,200 recipes for pan seared scallops on the Internet. They all follow a similar format, for simplicities sake I usually go to Alton Brown
If you have not experienced the joy of a "Dry" scallop yet I encourage you to do so. If you like scallops already then I can assure you that you will never want to go back to the scallops you have known and loved. They just have the very essence of scallop.

Drizzle some of the tomato basil butter sauce on some seared scallops and you are in for a treat. It is also great on swordfish, mahi mahi, cod, haddock or any nice firm fish. 

I wanted to do some kind of a puree to work with the scallops and the sauce.I had turnips in the house, Kerrie is not a big turnip fan so I was going to do potatoes instead until we went to the market today and saw parsnips. Parsnips or one of my favorite vegetables, they are versatile as heck. Anyplace you might use a carrot you can replace with a parsnip. However comparing them to carrots just does not do them justice, they have a nutty earthy flavor that balances the sweetness of the parsnips. I love them pan roasted or roasted in the oven with chicken or beef, or pork any thing that you want to slow roast in the oven. For a puree you will need

3 medium sized parsnips
1 large potato
kosher salt
black pepper

Cut the parsnips parsnips and potatoes into 1 inch pieces then place in a pot and cover with enough water to cover them by an inch or so. Add a pinch of salt and turn on the heat. Once they come to a boil reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Drain the vegetables and put them pack into the pot. Add about 1/2 cup of milk and 2 Tbsp of butter. The use a stick blender or hand blender to break them down. After they are smashed but not smooth, add some salt and pepper to taste. Then finish blending until smooth.

Add a mound of your puree to the plate, lay the seared scallops on top and drizzle with the tomato basil butter sauce. Tasty stuff.

All of the components for this dish are really versatile and I encourage you to try the sauce with different kinds of fish or even as a pasta sauce. Try the puree instead of mashed potatoes with a roast and you can do anything with seared scallops.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Oatmeal Bread, or French Toast Bread

Usually I just go ahead and call it "French Toast Bread" because while it's delicious by itself, it makes AMAZING French Toast the next day.

I got this recipe from my friend Jill a few years ago and it's still a favorite.

I use molasses instead of honey, as it provides a great flavor and dark color. You could also use maple syrup. Just don't use white sugar, that's way too boring. :)

2 cups boiling water (I like to use milk, just for some added nutrition)
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons salt
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
4 cups bread flour

2 tablespoons honey, warmed slightly
2 tablespoons rolled oats


In a large mixing bowl, combine boiling water, oats, 1/2 cup honey, butter and salt. Let stand for 1 hour.
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
Pour the yeast mixture into the oat mixture. Add 2 cups of flour; mix well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 20 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and form into loaves. Place the loaves into two lightly greased 9x5 inch loaf pans. Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove loaves from pans, brush tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons honey and sprinkle with oats.

To make it into French toast, slice it the night before and let it get stale. It's going to break my heart, but it must be done.

French toast recipe tomorrow!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Baked Cauliflower and Broccoli Cannelloni

We got turned on to this Baked Cauliflower and Broccoli Cannelloni recipe last year from our CSA and were excited to have the right produce and the cooler weather to bake this really incredible dish.

We made a couple of substitutions from the original recipe.Mostly done for ease.

First off we used sour cream instead of creme fraiche,  I know they are not really the same but I can always find sour cream even at our little tiny Wegmans so we substitute them a lot.

The other is with the cannelloni tubes themselves. I can't bring myself to buy store bought manicotti shells or cannelloni shells, not when they are so darned easy to make. I had to look up what the difference truly is between the two other than manictti is usually stuffed with cheese and cannelloni is usually seen with meat.
This explains it really well. Apparently I have been making crespelle my whole life and I am OK with that. Crespelle are fantastic.

So on to the recipe. Really the pan is the key. I keep a pan around that I don't use for anything but crepes. I don't use a traditional specialized crepe pan, I've never owned one so I can't compare them. I use an 8 inch non stick frying pan with a very heavy bottom. You will need

3 eggs
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cups water

Whisk together all three ingredients and set aside.

Heat up your frying pan and spread a very thin layer of butter on the bottom. I just run a stick of butter around the hot pan. This is where practice comes in, put one hand on the handle of the pan and pour in somewhere between a 1/4 and 1/3 of a cup of batter with the other. I use a 1/3 cup measuring cup not filled to the top. As you pour you want to swirl the batter around in the pan until the bottom of the pan is covered. Don't worry if you have some little holes in the crepe. The crepe will be done when the batter fully sets and the edges just start to pull away from the side of the pan. Then flop the crepe out onto a clean kitchen towel and return the pan to the heat. There is no need for more butter after the first one, just keep repeating one at a time until the batter is gone. This recipe covers a 9 x 13 baking dish with no trouble.

Using these hand made crepes saves you the trouble of having to let the filling cool all the way and you don't have to use a piping bag. you can just spoon in the filling and fold over, lay them seam side down in the pan. and proceed with the recipe as normal.
I can't tell you how tasty this cannelloni is. The fresh basil really makes the dish, though last year we used fresh sage instead with equally delicious result. If you are squeamish about anchovies, well, get over it. In a dish like this they melt and disappear leaving behind nothing but a briny flavor that really adds depth to the dish.

If you want to make my family version of manicotti you can find the recipe here

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tomatillo Quesadillas

Until we started getting tomatillos from our CSA a couple years back I had never really seen them outside of salsa. Once I started playing around with them I really learned to enjoy their tartness and acidity. The share a lot in common in tomatoes but their flesh is much firmer so they hold up to cooking very very well. I like to chop them up and saute them with garlic and little olive and then scramble in a couple eggs. It is a favorite breakfast this time of year.
Today we made them into quesadillas, the recipe was on the fly so I will do my best with amounts.

8-10 ripe tomatillos
6 saladette tomatoes (shaped like a plum tomato but smaller)
2 small red onions
2 cloves garlic
kosher salt
Shredded chedder cheese
whole wheat tortillas
olive oil

Remove the husk from tomatillos and wash them well. They have a sticky resin on the skin that is not very tasty. you can core the tomatillo like a tomato, just removing the portion where the stem was attached. Slice the tomatillos about 1/8 inch thick and set aside.

Heat a couple Tbsp of olive oil in a pan, chop the onions and add them to the hot pan. Saute the onions until the start to caramelize then add the garlic and tomatillos. reduce the heat to medium and let the tomatoes start to soften and cook down. After 5-7 minutes slice the tomatoes in half and add to the pan, season with salt, cumin and oregano. Continue to cook them down until most of the liquid has cooked out then remove from the heat.

Heat up a large frying pan to medium high with just a bit of olive oil and use a paper towel to spread it around. Lay one tortilla down in the pan and spread a layer of the tomatillo mixture out close to the edge. Sprinkle on some of the cheddar cheese and lay on the other tortilla.  Cook until the bottom tortilla is browned and crispy then use your biggest spatula to flip the quesadilla. Alternately you can spread the filling and cheese onto one half of a tortilla and fold it over. It is much easier to flip that way.
slice the quesadilla with a pizza slicer and serve with guacamole and sour cream if you are so inclined.

The sweetness of the onions and the tartness of the tomatillos really work well together and the cumin worked really well.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Roasted Eggplant and Feta

I am LOVING all the eggplant we're getting this summer! Haven't gotten sick of it yet.

Well, it was time for something a little different. But, I still wanted to use what we have in abundance, which is eggplant, tomatoes and peppers. And, I wanted something healthy (which means nothing fried, alas). I had some feta in the fridge and did some poking around online, and this is ultimately what I came up with after combining a few recipes.

1 large or 2 small eggplant, peeled and diced into 3/4" cubes
2 small green bell peppers, diced
1 quart cherry tomatoes, halved and seeded
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
fresh herbs
olive oil
salt and pepper
Cooked grain, 4 servings

Preheat oven to 400F.

Make sure all the veggies are of similar size so they cook evenly. Combine all the veggies and garlic on a baking sheet with several good glugs of olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Stir in herbs (I used about 2 Tbsp of Mark's latest batch of basil pesto) and mix well.

Roast at 400 for around 30 minutes. At this point, I added the leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh oregano and left it in the oven, turned off, to keep warm for a few minutes. The oregano cooked just a little bit but was still nice and fresh.

Spoon cooked grain (I used whole wheat couscous) into a bowl; top with veggies; sprinkle with crumbled feta and serve.

Mark's feedback, as with most of my vegetarian dishes, was that it would be really good with meat. :) Specifically lamb. However, I thought it was good as-is. This made 4 healthy sized servings for a main dish, could serve more as a side.

Unstuffed Pepper Casserole

The first week we received green bell peppers in our CSA share last summer, I had quite the craving for stuffed peppers. Unfortunately, those yummy early green peppers were a bit too small and mis-shapen for stuffing. But the craving was not to be denied.

So instead, I cooked the filling as I normally do but diced all the peppers and added them to the pan. Then I combined them with cooked bulgur, spread into a baking dish, topped with cheese and baked it. It was delicious and easy and a great way to use up a variety of veggies. And no blanching the peppers first! For some reason, I always get hung up on that stupid extra step (even though I rarely did it, and usually made these in the crockpot because it was a hot summer day).

My version is vegetarian, but of course you can add ground beef in the beginning steps if you like meat in yours.

1 medium onion, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
4 small green bell peppers, diced
Any other veggies you have around: eggplant, zucchini, broccoli, etc.
Italian herbs of choice
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
Cooked grain, enough for 4 servings
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. grated Parmesan or Romano

Preheat oven to 350.

Saute onion and garlic in a glug of olive oil until softened. Add tomatoes and cook about 5 more minutes; add peppers and any other veggies and cook a few more minutes, stop while the peppers are still green (before they turn that drab olive green). Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper and herbs; I usually use basil, oregano, and parsley.

Meanwhile, prepare your grain. I have used bulgur, brown rice and couscous in this but I think it would also be good with pasta.

Combine the grain, veggies, and beans in a 13x9 baking dish; top with cheeses. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the entire dish is bubbling. This reheats really well so it's great for lunches all week, and makes about 6 servings.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eggplant Patties, Fresh Tomato Sauce and Mojitos

So I made a couple things for Kerrie's Bunco group on Saturday. The eggplant patties are a recipe my mother has perfected over the years and I am very happy to pass it on. The fresh tomato sauce recipe I grabbed from one of my favorite food blogs. They actually take pictures that look good and the food is pretty awesome as well. Mojitos, well I just kind of figured those out but I will try to put together a recipe.

First up the sauce. I followed the Smitten Kitchen recipe pretty closely. We have a food mill so if you read the note about food mills you can pick up what I did from there. The flavor is fantastic, and it freezes well so it won't be a fresh ripe tomato in December but it is pretty close. By only cooking it for 45 minutes or so you don't really finish the alchemy that takes place with an all-day sauce so it will be a great base for other things as the winter goes on.

The eggplant patties are really quite simple. In a nutshell they are meatballs with eggplant as a replacement for meat. The proportions on this one are really guesswork, most of it is to taste but here goes.

3 medium eggplant
2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs
1 cup Parmesan/Romano cheese
3 Tbsp dried basil
3 Tbsp dried oregano
1-2 eggs
vegetable oil for frying.

Peel and chop the eggplant into 1 inch cubes. Place all the eggplant in a steamer and steam until very soft. In my electric steamer it took about 20 minutes to steam it all. You want it to be soft enough so that if you press it with a fork, it mashes.

I like to press the eggplant into a colander to remove as much of the moisture as possible, then dump the mashed eggplant into a bowl and mix well with the breadcrumbs, cheese, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Taste the mixture at this point for seasonings. It should be dry enough that you can form it into a patty that will hold its shape pretty well, but it should not be hard.  Add one egg and mix well, if it is too soft to hold its shape then add more breadcrumbs and herbs. Set the mixture aside and heat up your biggest frying pan or electric skillet with enough vegetable oil on the bottom to form about 1/4 inch layer. Once the oil is hot carefully lay your patties into the oil and cook until golden brown on one side then flip and cook through. About 3 minutes per side or so. Set the cooked patties onto paper towels to drain.
This recipe made 25-30 patties. Serve warm with tomato sauce for dipping. These are moist enough to handle hanging in the oven for a while to keep warm if need be so you can make them up ahead an hour or so.

The mojitos I make by the pitcher. Making individual mojitos is a pain in the butt so I don't do it. But a pitcher makes it worthwhile. You will need

White rum
Soda water
fresh mint leaves
simple syrup

First off a note about simple syrup, amazingly enough it is really simple. Mix equal parts water and sugar and heat to a boil, reduce the heat, simmer for a few minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved.  I keep mine around in a squirt bottle and it keeps very nicely in the fridge.
For each pitcher I use 1 whole lime cut into small wedges, a dozen or so mint leaves, roughly chopped, 5? oz rum, perhaps 2-3 oz of simple syrup, more to taste, a tray of ice cubes and as much soda water as needed to fill the pitcher.

Put the limes and mint in the bottom of the pitcher and muddle it. Don't have a muddler? I don't either but the wooden food pusher thing for my kitchen aid grinder attachment works just fine. A mortar and pestle also works well. If you don't have any of those you can give it a quick buzz with a stick blender, just don't go crazy, you don't want a paste. Once your green stuff is muddled add the simple syrup, rum and ice. Pour in your soda water and stir. Taste it and add more booze, syrup, limes or mint as needed.
Yes you will wind up with pieces of mint in your drink. it won't hurt you.

Several people who had the eggplant patties remarked that it was either the  first time they had eggplant, or the first time they have liked eggplant. That is the best possible praise in my book.

After a week in L.A.

I have no really good food tales to relate. The best meal I had all week, and it was a great meal, was at
The Water Grill

Incredible fresh raw oysters and 1/2 a dungeness crab made for a perfect meal. Since I didn't have any of their actual menu items I can't say much else, but the bread was good and the menu looked great.

I also had time to visit a great local micro brewery owned by a Father and Son team from my home town of Scottsville. If you get to .LA. you need to go to Eagle Rock Brewery
It is in a very unassuming building with no signage but after 6 or 7 pm a food truck shows up and you can find it without much hassle. They have a really nice tasting room where you can buy their beers and a few other guest beers as well.
 The Solidarity Black Mild was really tasty, a nice light way to start. They also had a seasonal Red Rye ale that was incredible, big hoppy tastes with a grapefruit flavor that always makes me happy. The rye added another layer of flavor that mellowed out some of the bitterness and really made it a treat. Jeremy Raub and his Dad Steve have a great thing going and my only disappointment was  that I could not take any home on the plane with me.

This week it's back to my kitchen and I have a few things I put together for Kerrie's bunco night that I need to write down by request.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


What more needs to be said. When the tomatoes come in it's time for gazpacho. Unfortunately the cucumber season at the CSA and the tomato season didn't really overlap so I had to pick up my cukes at the market. You can find a million variations of gazpacho out there and it really comes down to your tastes. At a minimum it should include fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red wine vinegar, olive oil, some fresh herbs and bread, yes bread.

If your recipe does not call for day old bread it is missing some of it's roots. I make mine with green peppers, onions, garlic and jalapeno peppers as well.
This recipe  comes pretty close to what I do. I would  replace the cayenne with a fresh jalapeno.

I like to drizzle a bit more olive oil on mine as I serve it. Some fresh bread for dipping is a winner as well.

If you want to get creative try replacing your hot tomato soup with gazpacho and dip a grilled cheese in it. I love it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The joys of fresh, local and well prepared.

My travel schedule of late has kept me from the blog, and cooking in general for a few weeks. I have had some great meals out at Berthas Mussels and Burkes seafood in Baltimore. I made eggplant rollantini while on vacation with eggplant from our CSA. Lots of fresh grilled veggies, summer squash, eggplant, onions.

Today we grilled some tasty grass fed sirloin steaks, some amazing sweet corn and grilled vegetables. As I was eating it, it dawned on me how much each of them tasted like the thing they are. The steak tasted like steak, nothing more than salt, pepper, olive oil and fire. The corn was boiled for just a few minutes to heat it through and that's it, it still had a nice snap to it. It tasted like corn should.
It just reinforces the message that permeates the food world at the moment. Eat as seasonally and locally as you can. If you eat animals, eat those that have been raised in a good environment and fed diets that they like and keeps them healthy. If you eat things you can't get locally (ocean seafood in Syracuse NY) do your homework, find out how the fish was raised or caught. All these little things can make a difference in the world around you, and make your food taste better. I've never been out to save the world, but if it helps the world to not eat mushy tasteless tomatoes in december then I can make that sacrifice. Ok off my soap box now. Not that I was on one. Most of this was written from a hammock after a tasty, local, sustainable meal like I have been blathering about.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cabbage with Pancetta

This is a quick and simple side that I have done a few different ways. This variant was served alongside Ratatouille this weekend. The cabbage we get from our CSA is really delicious but Kerrie is not a huge cabbage fan so sometimes I struggle to use it up.  I could eat most of this myself.

This time around I used

1 small head cabbage
1/4 - 1/2 cup of chopped pancetta (as will all things pancetta you could use regular bacon but it's not quite the same)
1/2 Tbsp coriander seeds

slice the cabbage into 1/4 inch thick slices and set aside. Crush the coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle (yes seriously, ancient tools still rock)
Heat up a small frying pan and add the crushed coriander seeds, dry toast for a minute or two until you can smell them, then add your chopped pancetta. Cook until the pancetta is beginning to brown and has released some of its fat then add your cabbage. Toss and cook until the cabbage is softened but not completely cooked through.

This was the first time I used coriander for this dish, I typically use cumin seeds or caraway seeds, coriander brings a nice citrusy note that I really enjoyed but all three are excellent choices.


This time of year ratatouille is the perfect dish.  All of the ingredients are in season and and the peak of their tastiness. Their are many many variations of ratatouille.

I kind of made it up as I went along. I read through the recipe in  How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food on Saturday morning and then tossed it together at my parents house out in Sodus.

I used:
2 small Eggplant  (Calliope eggplant from the CSA)
1 large Zucchini
1 large Yellow Squash
2 large Tomatoes (some incredibly tasty heirloom varieties)
8 cloves Garlic
6 Cippolini onions (2 regular onions)

Slice the Eggplant, Zucchini and Yellow Squash on a mandolin or v-slicer if you have one. A knife will work just fine you just want to get the slices as even as possible. Cut each slice in half so you have a big pile of half moon shaped veggies. Chop the onions and garlic and set aside. 

Pre heat your oven to 375 and completely oil a casserole dish. Starting with tomatoes make layers of tomato, onion and garlic, squash, zucchini and eggplant. Sprinkle salt, pepper and herbs every other vegetable or so. Once your casserole is full to the top drizzle with a bit more olive oil and bake at 375 for an hour or more. You want the vegetables to be fully cooked and soft but still hold their shape. 
If you want more of a stew, don't take the step below.
At 40 minutes or so of cooking, pull the ratatouille and press down with a spatula, drain off some of the accumulated liquid and return to the oven to complete cooking.

It is more of a texture thing for me, I like my vegetables to be a little more dry and retain more of their independent flavors and textures. Stew just doesn't say summer to me so I like this is more of a side that is perfectly at home on a paper plate versus something that really needs a bowl.  I think I may experiment with all the veggies in this dish this week and slice and freeze them together for a nice winter ratatouille.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

An off week

Being on the road for a week really puts a crimp in my cooking. Sadly the food at the resort this week is nothing to write about. All in all I have to give the Big Sky Resort a solid meh. I never expect much from conference food and my expectations were met.  The two best parts of the food and beverage portion of the trip were the beer tasting at Lone Peak Brewery  (thanks Marilyn) and the BBQ at the off site dinner at the 320 Ranch.

Lone peak had some nice offerings, their ESB was really delicious and their Porter and Stout were also tasty. The star was the steep and deep winter ale. Oddly by itself it was not as great as it was when it was transformed into a Steep and Deeper, with the addition of some vanilla vodka. The vanilla vodka really enhanced the flavor and highlighted the bourbon cask aging. Their flight was served in a ski  as a rack which was a nice touch.

The 320 Ranch had some pretty tasty bbq, the ribs were fall apart tender, but a little on the mushy side rather than the nice bark you should get on ribs, but the flavor was there so it all worked out in the end. 

I'm back at home for most of this week and a ratatouille is on the horizon due to some squash, eggplant, and green peppers form the CSA.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Balsamic Onion Marmalade

 I found  this recipe at another recently discovered blog called  One Perfect Bite

I won't re post their work here but I will say I changed a few things.

I had to scale down the recipe as I only had 3 cups of onions. I used cippolini onions which I had a ton of from the last few weeks of CSA pickups and wanted to get them used up. I also replaced the white sugar with brown sugar. Since the cippolinis were too small to slice them all by hand I ran them through the food processor which worked out really nicely. Kerrie is not a huge fan of large stringy onions so pieces will make her happy.

Very tasty stuff, caramelized onions with this great vinegar tang. I can't wait to drop them on top of some pork or a lamb chop

Pesto and Ricotta pasta

This is a quick and easy dish that you can toss together in no time if you have pesto on hand.
 As with most things, home made pesto with local ingredients is certainly preferable to store bought but hey, baby steps right. I made  a batch of pesto the other night, I was out of pine nuts which I do usually use in pesto but it is just fine without it.

Pesto is an all taste recipe for me, the basic ingredients ar:
olive oil
Romano cheese
pine nuts

Put all of your basil into your food processor, add 4-6 cloves of peeled garlic ( more or less to taste) add a pinch of salt and grate in some Romano. Add about a Tablespoon of pine nuts if you have them. Put the lid on your food processor and then turn it on to low as you drizzle in olive oil through the spout. I tend to make mine pretty dry as I don't like having to account for all the oil in it when I use it for cooking. Blend it until it has all come together as paste but not so oily that you can see the oil sitting on top of the paste. Pesto is always better after a day or so in the fridge for the flavors to blend.

For the final dish you will need
1/2 lb Pasta (something with some grooves is best)
3-4 Tbsp Pesto
1 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper

sun dried tomatoes
Shaved Romano cheese
fresh basil leaves

Boil a big pot of salted water for cooking your pasta.
Once your pasta goes down into the water heat up a pan large enough to hold all the pasta when cooked. Heat a tablespoon of oil in the pan and add the pesto and ricotta, add salt and pepper to taste. When you pasta is done to a nice al dente add a few tbsp of the pasta water to your sauce to thin if necessary and then toss in your drained pasta.

Serve immediately with some basil chiffonade, thinly sliced sun dried tomato and shaved Romano.

CSA Week 7

I was slack last week and did not post what we got in our share. This week we got

Cherry tomatoes
green leaf lettuce
new potatoes
summer squash
cippolini onions

The tomatoes are just going to be eaten, I can't help myself, they are like candy.
 We have a backlog of cippolinis so I am going to try find a way to process a lot of them. Onion marmalade perhaps?

I made my first batch of pesto earlier in the week and I think this huge bunch of basil will make some more, it is really the only way I know to handle a big bunch of basil besides drying it. I have some cilantro in the house that needs to be used up so I may do a cilantro basil blend.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Phyllo Feta Torte

My friend Klo shared this recipe and I've been dying to make it, for, oh, a year. Finally got some good local feta and honey, and decided to brave phyllo dough for the first time. Klo has this to say about the recipe:

The Phyllo Feta Torte is one of my NYT finds. Apparently it's traditional fare at Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations. It's also the single easiest way to use phyllo dough that I have encountered (spanakopita is the hardest, baklava relatively easy). In fact, the whole recipe is a cinch to make, yet everyone gasps at its beauty when you unmold it. While it doesn't hit my cooking-for-myself trifecta of easy, healthy, and yummy, it more than meets my cooking-for-guests trifecta of easy, gorgeous, and yummy. This dish may well be the winningest I have.

When I made it the first time, I was delighted with how it tasted plain, but then I bravely tried the honey--yes, honey with feta and dill!--and ZOMG it was transcendent! A light to heavy drizzle of local honey really should be a requirement for this impressive and easy dish, and everyone who likes flaky pastry and a complex array of flavors should give this baby a go.

And I have to agree! This would be a great dish to pass for a potluck brunch, as it doesn't have to be served straight out of the oven, and it's quite impressive!

Here's her recipe, with my minor modifications noted:

Sonia’s Phyllo and Feta Torte with Dill and Nutmeg

Time: An hour and a half, plus cooling

1 pound Greek feta cheese, crumbled
3 cups cottage cheese*
3 large eggs**
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese (I used fresh Parmaggiano Reggiano)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1-pound box phyllo dough, thawed overnight in refrigerator if necessary
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted***
Greek honey, for serving (optional).

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, combine feta, cottage cheese, eggs, dill, 2 tablespoons Romano, the nutmeg and pepper and pulse just to combine (you can also use a large bowl and a fork). Mixture should be well combined, but still chunky, not smooth.

2. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons Romano into a Bundt pan. Drape a sheet of phyllo on top of Bundt pan, poke a hole into phyllo where center tube is and push phyllo into pan to line it. Do this with another phyllo sheet, but place it perpendicular to first sheet. Continue adding phyllo sheets in this crisscross manner until all sheets are used. Edges of phyllo should hang over edges of pan. NOTE: I layer the phyllo off-center, doing four sheets at 12, 3, 6, and 9 on the clock in a clockwise pattern--this gives enough edge to cover the filling.

3. Scrape cheese filling into pan, and fold edges of phyllo over filling. Using a sharp knife, poke many holes (at least 20) in dough that reach all the way to bottom of pan. Slowly pour melted butter over torte; some butter will seep through holes and some will remain on top of dough.

4. Place Bundt pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes, or until torte is puffy and golden brown. Allow torte to cool in pan for 1 to 2 hours before inverting onto a plate and slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature, with honey if desired.

I had some great local buckwheat honey that was tasty. Mark skipped the honey, of course, and was still perfectly happy with it.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings.

*I can't stand cottage cheese, so I used ricotta instead. Still very good!
**I found myself with only 2 eggs and that worked just fine.
***I couldn't use 3 sticks of butter, I just couldn't! I'm sorry, Klo! I'm sure 3 would have been better, and maybe some day I will, but 1 or so worked pretty well too.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Boiled cake (Spice cake)

This recipe isn't "clean" or healthy in any way (Crisco, anyone?). However, it was my grandmother's recipe, so I make it the way she did. Mark doesn't like sweets, so this is what I make for his birthday every year, and it was the top layer of our wedding cake (I just had to be careful to stay away from the frosting when I fed it to him!). It's in the oven right now, filling the house with its beautiful spicy aroma, and for once it's not insanely hot on July 31st. (Why couldn't Mark have been born in fall or winter?).

Boiled Cake

¾ c. raisins

½ c. shortening

2 c. + almost 1 c. water

2 c. sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp baking soda

About 3 c. flour

Chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine raisins, shortening and water in a small saucepan; simmer 15 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Add the raisins in cooking liquid. Dissolve baking soda in ½ c. hot water, and fill cup with cold water to 1 c. mark. Add to sugar mixture. Add enough flour to make a batter. Stir in nuts if desired. Pour into greased Bundt pan. Bake 50-60 min. Wait about 10 minutes then turn out onto rack. Serve plain, with cream cheese frosting or sprinkled with powdered sugar.

I skip the nuts, but always add a little extra spice: maybe ground nutmeg, sometimes ground cardamom. This is a great cake for tea, a picnic, or hostess gift.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Potato and Broccoli Gratinatta

"What is a Gratinatta," you ask? Well I don't know for sure, I just made it up today. We had a bunch of potatoes and broccoli around from our CSA and needed a way to use them up. I make a lot of frittatas as a way to clean out the fridge. Any combination of leftover potatoes, meat, vegetables, whatever else you have on hand is fodder for frittata in our house. However, for I always use cooked potatoes so they wind up like hash browns in my frittata, and that would not work today. A potato gratin, on the other hand, starts with raw potatoes and a lot of butter and cream.

Well, I figured I could smash them both together and come up with something good.

8-10 medium red new potatoes
6 small heads of broccoli (about 3 cups or so chopped)
1 large onion or several small onions
6-8 sage leaves
8 eggs
2 cups milk (I used 1%)
1/2 lb grated Swiss cheese
Parmesan or Romano cheese
granulated garlic
olive oil

Slice all the potatoes on a mandolin or v-slicer, if you don't have one you could use your food processor or of course, a knife. The key is to get the slices all of even thickness. Slice them right into a bowl of water so some of the starch rinses off. Chop the onion and the sage leaves and set aside. Chop the broccoli into small pieces.

Preheat your oven to 375 F.

I used my Calphalon everyday pan for this dish, but any deep-sided oven-safe pan would be just fine, cast iron would work like a charm.
Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the onions and sage leaves in the hot oil. Once the onions are soft, remove them from the oil and set aside.
Add enough oil to fully cover the bottom of the pan to a depth of about 1/8 inch and get it nice and hot, medium high heat should do it. Build a layer of potatoes on the bottom of the pan, sprinkle with about 1/3 of the broccoli, add some Swiss cheese and top with some of the reserved onions and sage. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic then repeat with another layer of potatoes, broccoli, cheese, onion, and seasonings until you have filled the pan or run out of potatoes.

Beat the eggs with the milk, season with salt and pepper and pour the liquid into the hot pan until it is just below the lip of the pan. Sprinkle with some more Swiss and grate on some Parmesan or Romano cheese.
Place the whole pan into the oven and bake for 1.5 hours or until the liquid is all absorbed, the eggs are set and the potatoes are soft.

My first attempt at this today I undercooked and under seasoned so the ingredients I listed here are my best guess at appropriate amounts and time. Obviously you could scale this down for a smaller batch as this thing was huge and will provide leftovers for a couple days.

We served it with some very simple roasted beets (also from the CSA) with just a bit of salt and pepper, these were the sweetest beets I think I have ever eaten, and believe me I have eaten a lot of beets.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sweet and Sour Tofu

I combined a few recipes for this one. Coating the tofu with flour or cornstarch makes it nice and crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and the coating soaks up sauce really well.

Drain tofu for an hour or so, or freeze for a few days and then thaw, so it's firm. Pat dry. Cut into cubes about 1/2 inch, toss in 1/3 c. whole wheat flour seasoned with Chinese five-spice until each piece is well coated.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil + 2 tsp sesame oil in a wok or skillet, add tofu chunks a few at a time, cooking on all sides until it's all brown and crispy. Set aside. Add your vegetables, diced into 1-inch pieces: we had broccoli from the CSA, some red peppers, a little garlic, and red onions. Cook about 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Meanwhile, drain a can of pineapple chunks, reserving the juice in a 2-cup measuring cup. Mix 1 Tbsp cornstarch with 1-2 Tbsp cold water until it's a paste, add to juice. Add broth until liquid measures 2 cups; whisk in 1 Tbsp jam (I had mulberry jam around, of course), 1 Tbsp tomato paste, 2 Tbsp soy or tamari sauce, 1 Tbsp honey, and 1 Tbsp fresh grated or 1 tsp dried ginger.

Add to veggies, add tofu back in and add the pineapple. Stir until it's all heated through and the sauce has thickened.

Serve over brown rice or soba noodles.

Zucchini pancakes

My dear mother-in-law has made these for years, and they've become a favorite in our family as well. Mine are a little different; I think I add more pancake mix so they're closer to pancakes than fritters. And I think Noreen adds more cheese. This recipe is a great way to use up excess zucchini.

We've always made them with Bisquick but were in search of something a *little* less processed today. I was going to try making them totally from scratch but Mark reminded me of our buckwheat pancake mix so I decided to use that. Best batch ever.

Shred 4 small or 2 large (if using large ones, you may want to remove the seeds) zucchini. I use the food processor but you can get by with a box grater instead.
You can also use any veggies you'd like in these; adding starchier ones to the zukes is nice. Carrots, beets, corn, and potatoes are all good. (Great use of leftover corn on the cob)
Shred or chop 1 medium onion
Place shredded veggies into a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tsp kosher salt; let sit 5-10 minutes. Press out excess water. Zucchini is a pretty wet veggie and your pancakes will never cook if you skip this step.
Sprinkle with 1/2 -1 tsp garlic powder (fresh is harder to completely mix into the batter) and black pepper.
Add 1/2 c. grated Parmesan or Romano
Add 2 eggs, lightly beaten
Stir in about 2 c. buckwheat pancake mix. Enough to soak up a lot of moisture.

Heat a griddle brushed with oil over medium to medium high heat. Drop about 1/4 c. batter onto the hot griddle and spread it out a bit. As with breakfast pancakes, watch for the edges to partially cook and for bubbles to form on top in the batter. Flip when the bottom is golden-brown, cook 2 more minutes or until the other side is also golden-brown. They may be kind of moist inside but the egg should still be cooked through.

Mark likes his served with butter. I've always liked mine with sour cream and salsa, but in the interest of making this "cleaner" I used fat free Greek yogurt tonight instead of the sour cream and that was pretty tasty (and provided a little extra protein and calcium).

These are great leftovers, just reheat in the toaster oven.

Also, if you can't get to the zucchini right away, or you have a metric ton sitting in your kitchen, grate/shred and freeze it in small bags, pressing the air out and storing flat. When you thaw it, you can skip the salt and drain step because the freeze/thaw process already pushes a lot of the excess water out. Just salt to taste instead. I love making this recipe from frozen zucchini in winter; it's like a taste of summer in January.

Easy Herbed Pork Chops and Homemade Mac and Cheese

Mark is getting twitchy because we haven't added much lately; I blame the heat (eating more salads than anything else), a crazy schedule, and traveling. But here are a few recipes.

We got some amazing bone-in pork chops through CNY Bounty last week and wanted to do something quick on the grill, and in the spirit of local week.

I made a paste of 2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1-2 tsp dried sage (we had some great stuff leftover from an early CSA week that I just hung upside down in the kitchen to dry), 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 4 minced garlic cloves, and a few cranks of the peppermill. I LOVE the combination of sage and garlic on pork. Patted the pork dry and rubbed it with the paste, and marinated for a little over 24 hours.

They were rather thin so they cooked in just a few minutes on each side, in a grill pan or on the grill, on medium.

Served with broccoli from our CSA, and Alton Brown's Stovetop Mac and Cheese made with organic orecchiette from the farmer's market and McAdam NY Cheddar. I love this recipe, and also the baked mac and cheese from the same episode. My only changes were using about 1.5 Tbsp butter instead of 4, and a little less cheese because it was very flavorful XXX Sharp.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Local Scotch Eggs?

I have been trying to figure out what to do with the remaining 1/2 lb of sausage we bought at the market and it popped into my head today. 

Scotch eggs, why not? I have always wanted to make my own Scotch eggs. A Scottish gentleman I met once upon a time assured me, in a loud alcohol laden voice,  that "Scotch eggs have f*#@ all to do with Scotland" so I won't make any silly references to enjoying them in a kilt or any other such thing.

What is a Scotch egg you say? Well wikipedia to the rescue. 

I used
1/2 lb bulk sausage form Sweet Grass Farms
panko bread crumbs
4 hard boiled eggs
dried sage
salt and pepper

Set up your deep fryer, or cast iron dutch oven, or whatever vessel you like to deep fry in. Any heavy bottom pot will work in a pinch but I love my cast iron dutch oven for a variety of applications but for frying it is hard to beat.

Mix some salt pepper and dried sage into about 1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs
Beat one egg into a bowl and put your sausage on a plate

Peel your eggs and coat them in sausage, the stuff I used is an Italian sausage, the traditional version would use breakfast sausage, you are looking for a nice even coating about 1/4 inch thickness. Don't worry if it is thicker than that, but don't go to far. 

Dip them in eggs and roll in the breadcrumbs, then place them in the fryer two at a time. Cook for 5-7 minutes or so until they are just beyond golden brown, the whole thing should feel pretty solid if you tap it with your finger.

Slice and serve with hot sauce, or blue cheese, or ranch dressing or anything that strikes your fancy

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Zucchini ribbon salad

This was a dish I've wanted to make for a couple of years now and hadn't gotten around to it. But today I wanted a quick salad and didn't feel like cooking much, so it was perfect! This is a great way to use some of that early zucchini, the small ones that are sweet and tender, before they grow into huge monstrosities that you're trying to give away to strangers (those are made into zucchini pancakes, but that's another post).

I used a vegetable peeler to peel 2 small zucchinis into long, thin strips, like fettuccini. I'd read online a suggestion to use a V-slicer or mandolin and tried it briefly; the pieces were too thick and the chunks of zucchini too unwieldy for the slicer.

So, the vegetable peeler it was! The slices are so small and tender, you can eat it raw, tossed with just a little of your favorite vinaigrette. I wanted a bit more bulk, so I cooked a cup of quinoa and sprinkled it on top for protein and more fiber. You can also add chick peas, they'd add even a little more. No, the quinoa is not a local product but I recently stocked up on grains and flours at the Syracuse Real Food Co-op so I had them in the house already. I dressed it with a glug of sunflower oil, splash of lemon juice, chopped fresh herbs from our garden (the ubiquitous mint, oregano and chives), and tomorrow I'll add a few of the last of our garlic scapes (today I'd forgotten we have them). I think the early squash and late scapes are a good combination.

By the way, the sunflower oil was purchased through a local program we have now, CNY Bounty. It's like an online, year-round farmer's market, with free delivery to select locations around CNY (our Y is one of them; they deliver on Thursdays when I work so we save some gas!).

Hamburger or sandwich rolls

For our "traditional" dinner Monday night of burgers, salad and corn on the cob, I decided to make my own rolls. I used the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day recipe, begun 2 days before, and pulled off 4 small balls of dough, roughly the size of lemons. Stretched them out to 3.5" in diameter, and let rest on a floured stoneware pan for 20 minutes, covered with a dishtowel. Turned on the oven to 400 degrees F, and let the bread sit for another 20 minutes before putting it in the oven and baking for another 20 minutes. (40 min rest time, 20 min bake time). I did not add a pan of hot water to the oven like I do when making a crusty loaf because I don't like really crusty sandwich rolls, I like them a bit softer.

Let the rolls rest at least half an hour after baking before you slice into them, otherwise they'll crumble and never hold the burger.

I have also made this recipe for Beautiful Burger Buns from King Arthur Flour and they're excellent. I had the artisan dough made up and wanted to use that recipe to show its versatility.

We served the grass-fed beef burgers on homemade rolls with Sweet Grass Farm's bacon, some local bleu cheese; tossed salad and market-fresh NY corn on the cob rounded out the meal.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Local week Dinner Grilled Beet and Fava bean salad with blue cheese

Today's dinner was inspired by a recipe Kerrie found for grilled fava beans (hopefully she can find the link to it)
We had lots of fresh salad greens and beets from last week, alongside with some locally made blue cheese and fava beans from the regional market.

1 lb whole fava beans
4 small beets
4-6 cloves of garlic
lemon juice
olive oil
cumin seeds
kosher salt
black pepper

pre heat your grill

Peel and slice the beets, I use a vegetable peeler for my beets but you can easily do it with a knife. Try to get your slices cut to a similar thickness. Lay out a sheet of foil and layer the beets in the center drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Wrap them tightly and set aside.

For the fava beans, most recipes I looked at called for cooking the favas right on your grill grates or in a grill basket. The recipe that Kerrie found called for cooking them in foil which is what we did. Wash the favas to be sure there is no loose grit, as you wash them give them a shake, if they sound like they are rattling around in the pod they may not be very fresh. They should still be OK but if they are really loose you may consider chucking them. You will want to do two packets of foil for a lb of beans. Lay 1/2 of the beans on the foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on some lemon juice, add 2-3 gloves of smashed garlic and a tsp or two of cumin seeds (toasted)
Seal tightly and repeat with the other 1/2 of the beans.
Place the beats and the favas on the grill and cook  at medium heat for 20-25 minutes flipping every 5-7 minutes or so.

Once the beans and beets have cooked through remove them form the fire, open the packets and let them rest until they are cool enough to handle. Open the fava bean pods and set  the beans aside. While they cool pile up some greens in a bowl or on a plate, crumble on some blue cheese and then top with the warm beets and fava beans.

We dressed them with some white balsamic vinegar and sunflower oil and a little more cracked black pepper.

The seasonings for the fava beans are pretty much limitless, I will say they did not pick up much flavor from the cooking process but the flavors around them, and the texture were great. I might add some more liquid next time and go for more of a braise to get the flavor into the pods, and therefore into the beans.