Tuesday, September 30, 2008
And now it's Tuesday.
Except Saturday morning, before we took off on a shopping extravaganza in Freeport, which is when I went out and took some photos. Isn't this stone duckling sort of creepy?
The people who owned this house before my parents were really into ornamental fountain grasses, which is cool because look at the neat colors they turn in the fall!
Saturday night we went out for dinner, my mom, Alyse, mom's friend Barb and Barb's daughter Christy, and me. We went to the Frog and Turtle.
We had a 7pm reservation, and we didn't leave until 10:30. People, if you are in southern Maine and you want some damn delicious food in a relaxed and cozy spot, you could not do better than F&T.
We started with a cheese and charcuterie plate with house cured pickles, and moved on to mussels and salads and rabbit tart and crepes with ratatuoille and meatballs served stroganoff style and cheesecake. Yum. And man, did we have FUN.
I've got no recipe (again) today; I've actually spent most of the day on the couch after spending yesterday sneezing all over my cubicle. You know how you lose your appetite when you have a cold? Yeah, sorry about that. I'll be back to the kitchen soon enough, but in the meantime, have a good week, everyone.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Big sigh, the weekend is here
The reason I haven't bought any veggies this week is twofold: I bought some at the SoWa market on Sunday, and I'm not going to be around this weekend. I'll be going up to Maine tonight with an old friend to hang out with my mom and enjoy the many outlet shops of Freeport. We're trying a new restaurant in Westbrook on Saturday night, so there won't be quite the same level of feasting as my last trip to Maine, but I'm sure I'll have plenty to share next week.
Until then, please enjoy this pictures of the most bizarre of the family Brassicaceae, the Romanesco. Some people call it cauliflower, some people call it broccoli, everyone agrees it's fractal and awesome. If you're in the northeast, try to stay dry this weekend. It's going to be very good soup weather! Have a good weekend, everyone.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Tarts with Strawberry Tomatoes, aka Cape Gooseberries
After I had tried one, I asked the woman at the farm stand what I could DO with them. She told me to just eat them (ha) but then mentioned that some people make pies with them because they are so sweet. Iiiiinteresting.
A few months ago I was given three small (4 inch) tart tins as a gift, but I hadn't found a recipe yet that struck my fancy enough to actually make tarts, so I made one up. I made a dough, wrapped it in plastic and stuck it in the fridge.
A few hours later I decided eating at 5pm was a bad idea for a Sunday, because I was still hungry. So I took the dough out, and cut it in three pieces, which I rolled out and laid in the tins, pressing the dough into the ruffled edges. I cut off the excess, lined them with foil and added pie weights (look, Hugh! I used the pie weights!).
I baked them in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, then I removed the weights and foil and let them cool while I mixed up the filling.
First I husked the berries.
Then I cracked two eggs in a bowl, and added a splash of half & half.
I added salt and pepper.
Then I whisked it all together.
I put a little bit of soft goat cheese in the bottom of the par-baked tart crust, and divided the fruit (vegetable? fruit? vegetable? fruit?) between the three tarts.
I spooned the egg mixture into the tarts and stuck it back in the oven for another 20 minutes, until the filling was set and golden.
I ate one for dinner #2 on Sunday night, but the other two have made wonderful breakfasts and reheat well in the toaster oven. I suspect this would work very well with other veggies, too, particularly those that straddle the sweet/savory line. I have some leftover dough, so I'll probably be experimenting again soon.Tarts with Strawberry Tomatoes (Cape Gooseberries)
I only had three tart tins (the kind with removable bottoms), but I had enough dough for four. If I had a few more berries I could have stretched this to four, but the recipe below is for exactly what I did.
makes three 4-inch tarts
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I like unbleached)
4 Tbsp ice water and more as needed
3/4 tsp vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 tsp salt
One pint strawberry tomatoes, removed from their husk
5-6 tablespoons soft goat cheese
1/4-1/3 cup half and half or cream
1/4 tsp salt
10-12 grinds black pepper (1/4 tsp?)
Make the crust: Put the ice water and vinegar into a liquid measure cup or bowl. In a food processor or bowl mix the flour and salt together. Add butter cubes and process (or cut in using a pastry cutter or two knives) until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the vinegar and ice water slowly while processing or stirring, until the dough clumps together. Add teaspoonfuls of ice water one at a time if dough is too dry to come together. Gather the dough in plastic wrap, flatten into a disk and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours.
Preheat oven to 375. Give the dough a couple of minutes on the counter, then cut the disk into three pieces and roll each piece into a 6-7 inch round. Line each tin, pressing dough into the corner and into the fluted edges. Trim excess dough - you will have extra. Line tarts with foil and weigh them down with pie weights (or dried beans) and bake for 15 minutes, until just golden (put them on a cookie sheet to ease transfer in and out of oven, and in case of leaks). Remove weights and foil, and allow to cool while you mix the filling.
Crack two eggs into a bowl, and add a splash of half and half or cream. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and several grinds of black pepper. Whisk to combine. To assemble the tarts, spread about two tablespoons of soft goat cheese in the bottom of each tart and divide the berries evenly between the three. Spoon or pour the egg mixture evenly between the tarts, then put them back in the oven for another 20-25 minutes. Remove when the filling is set in the center and golden. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from tins. Tarts keep, refrigerated, for a few days and reheat well in the toaster oven.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Chicken Tortilla Soup
I used a combo of jalapeno and poblano peppers but I added cayenne and red pepper flakes in the cooking. Nex time, I'll probably add another hot pepper, though I like the mellow flavor of the poblano. You could make a delicious soup with whatever heat level you can handle.
There are tons and tons of tortilla soup recipes on the food blogs and on recipe sites like epicurious, so google away if you're looking for an option sans chicken or avec something else. Most of the recipes I read called for corn tortillas, but we didn't have any, so I used wheat and they were just delicious. I also made too many and snacked on crunchy tortilla strips all day.
1 jalapeno pepper, diced as small as you can
1 poblano pepper, diced not quite as small as you can
1/2 onion, chopped
1 chicken breast, cut in strips or bite sized pieces
4-5 c. chicken broth
1 can roasted diced tomatoes
kernels from 2 cobs of fresh corn (see this removal method), or a generous cup of frozen corn
red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to taste
salt to taste (start with half a teaspoon)
juice of one very juicy lime
1-2 handfuls cilantro (half a bunch)
1/2 an avocado per serving
tortilla strips (from 5 6-inch corn or four tortillas)
shredded jack cheese
Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the peppers and onion and sauté until they've softened a bit, about 3-5 minutes. Don't worry if they get a bit of color on them, but don't let them burn. Add the chicken and sauté until it is mostly cooked through - 5-7 minutes.
Now add the chicken broth, diced tomatoes, and a shake of the pepper flake of your choice. Let the soup come almost to boil, then knock the heat back to low and let it simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Taste and add salt and more pepper flakes or cayenne if you need more heat - mine did. Simmer another ten minutes or so.
While soup is simmering, make tortilla strips: using a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut the tortillas into strips about 3/8" wide. Toss with a little olive oil, spread on a sheet pan and bake in a 350 degree oven, tossing a couple of times for 10 - 15 minutes.
About a minute before soup is done (though really the timing is quite loose) add the corn kernels - give it a few minutes if you're using frozen corn. When it's done, turn off the heat and add the lime juice. Now build the soup: dice the avocado and place in a bowl. Add half a handful of chopped cilantro and some tortilla strips. Ladle soup into bowl, then garnish with shredded jack cheese and a dollop of sour cream.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I don't know about you guys, but I love Alton Brown. I think he is the coolest, nerdiest, most awesome Bill-Nye-meets-Food-Network host of all, and I am really enjoying his Feasting on Waves series (so is Hugh). I dvr Good Eats on the regular. I got his first cookbook, I'm Just Here for the Food, as a Christmas gift two years ago and I had read the whole thing by the 27th. His turkey brine method is brilliant, and I trust him for a LOT of other methods.
So back to the wonton wrappers. Last year I made Alton's Perfect Potstickers from the Wonton Ways episode of Good Eats and they were delicious. But Alton has been ousted in the potsticker world, because these are better.
Last week Bitten ran a post by Ed Schneider in which he used chard in lieu of Napa cabbage and made his wrappers from scratch. I had this beautiful ruby chard from the farmer's market and my wonton-wrappers-bought-in-frustration in the fridge, so I followed his suggestions and made APPROXIMATELY THREE THOUSAND potstickers. Ok, sixty, but still Hugh and I only ate twenty and there are tons in the freezer now. Heads up guys, this makes a lot of food. It's also assembly-heavy, but if you need a project or have a bunch of people helping, it's fun!
Potstickers with Chard
adapted from Ed Schneider and the New York Times
1 bunch swiss or ruby chard, finely chopped
6 or 7 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
1 inch knob of ginger, finely chopped
4 green onions, whites and greens, finely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 poblano pepper, finely chopped
1/2 lb ground pork
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp soy sauce
a few drops sesame oil
1 package of round wonton/dumpling wrappers
water for sealing the wrappers
For dipping sauce:
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 inch grated ginger
1/2 tsp aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
I did all of the chopping by hand because I needed a project, but you could also use a food processor. Chop the chard first, then salt it well and let it sit in a colander for 15-20 minutes while you chop the rest of the ingredients. When you're done practicing your knife skills, wrap the chopped chard in a clean towel or cheesecloth (I used a paper towel, but it tore) and squeeze as much liquid out of it as you can.
Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix together using your hands. Stick this in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. Make the dipping sauce while you wait - just combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk/fork it together a little bit. Take the filling out of the fridge and put the little buggers together.
I will now commence using a clock analogy: to assemble the wontons, hold a wrapper in the palm of your non-dominant hand. Put a little bit of filling (about a tablespoon, but you'll get a feel for the right amount as you keep making them) in the center of the circle, and wet the edge of the wrapper at about twelve o'clock. Bring six o'clock up to meet 12 and seal them by squeezing. Now we are looking at the top half of a clock: Wet 1 o'clock and bring 2 o'clock up to seal it. Wet 11 o'clock and bring 10 o'clock up to seal it. It's ok if you make just one dart per side, that's how I started (first photo) and they taste just as good, but you could also make two darts per side (second photo) and you'll get a curvier dumpling that stands up better in the pan.
Is this not making any sense? Watch this video and I think you'll see what I mean. Jayden of Steamy Kitchen also has some helpful photos in this post. As you assemble, be sure to keep the wrappers and just-constructed wontons under a damp towel so they'll be easier to work with. Also be sure to seal tightly - you don't want the filling to come out in the pan.
Once you've made your million dumplings, now you get to cook them! I could fit twenty in my 12 inch skillet (non-stick, unless you're insane) and that was perfect for 2 people for dinner. Put a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a 12 inch (non-stick, unless you are crazy) skillet and place the wontons in - stand them up on their flat little butts (the way they are sitting on that cookie sheet, please). Now add about a 1/4 inch (3/4 cup or so) of water, cover the pan, and turn it to medium-high. Once it boils, turn it down to low for 7-8 minutes. This gives the dumplings chance to steam to done-ness. Once they're steamed through, take off the lid and let the water cook off - probably another 5-10 minutes. Here is where the magic happens: all that's left in the pan is the vegetable oil, so the bottoms (the aforementioned flat little butts) get nice and crispy and golden brown.
Serve the potstickers crispy side up with dipping sauce.
Serves 6, but you can freeze them - place the assembled but uncooked potstickers on a cookie sheet so they are not touching. Freeze for 30 minutes, then take them off the cookie sheet and put them in a plastic freezer bag. This way you can take out as many as you need instead of a giant frozen clump.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Dimply Plum Cake
Alas, I had no cardamom. This lack led me on an interesting search this weekend at Christina's spice shop in Inman Square. If you are in Boston and looking for an unusual spice at a reasonable price, I must recommend it most highly - plus the same-owner ice cream shop next door is great! But I digress.... I made this cake last week when I had no cardamom, so I subbed in garam masala, an Indian spice blend which listed cardamom as the second ingredient.
The original recipe also called for sweet Italian prune plums, and damson plums are VERY tart. I like tart so I like them on this cake, but I'm sure it's delicious in its original incarnation as well. As an aside - I have to thank Adam for his help with this cake: emergency canola oil run and (!) pitting the plums. The tiny, multitudinous plums. He's so patient.
The cake itself has a wonderful flavor - the garam masala lends an interesting exotic note to a fairly straightforward cake with a sturdy crumb. I've been eating it for breakfast topped with plain yogurt. It's not going to make anybody dance and sing, I don't think, but if you're looking for something interesting that isn't a muffin or coffee cake, give this dimply plum cake a try.
Dimply Plum Cake
1 1/2 cups all purpose four
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
Grated zest of one lemon (I used the zest of half a lemon, but I should have used the whole thing!)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 lb damson plums, halved and pitted
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8x8 baking dish (or pie plate).
In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and garam masala.
Using an electric or stand mixer, cream the butter with the brown sugar. Beat in the eggs, mixing to combine well, then beat in the oil, lemon zest and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture. Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish, lay the plums cut side up on top and bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let cool and serve with plain yogurt, if desired. Cake keeps for several days at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I finally got it right: slow roasted tomatoes
Now, there is no need to convince me of how delicious a tomato IS. But when I read the posts about how delicious a tomato can BE? Well I was smitten. Various blogs recommend between 6 and 12 hours of roasting, but I'm not always at my house on the weekends and I can't leave the oven on while I go to work, so I started small. For my first attempt (I teased you with a photo here) I used grape tomatoes roasted for 3 hours at 200 degrees. I can do that in the time between work and bed. They were delicious. I had them in pasta with fresh pesto.
But what I really lusted after was the roasted Roma tomato I had first read about on Orangette. At the last farmer's market of August I finally found some plum tomatoes and I took them home, excited because I had found a solution to my time crunch: I would roast them overnight! I sliced and drizzled and sprinkled and put them in the oven at 8:30pm on 200 degrees. When I got up at 6:30 to take them out, excited for my 10 hour slow roasted delicious beauties, this is what greeted me:
Sigh. Really not even edible and CERTAINLY not delicious. I am getting to know my new oven, and 10 hours at 200 was just too much for the ol' girl.
I couldn't come up with any way to salvage them and so, ashamed and disappointed, I threw them away. The next Monday (just a few days ago, actually) I tried again, this time with grocery store tomatoes I probably wouldn't have eaten in a salad: they were overripe and several were bruised. I had heard this method would salvage even a questionable tomato, so I pressed on. I sliced, drizzled and dusted and this time I used a glass baking dish instead of my old warped cookie sheet. I popped them in the oven at 10:30 pm on the lowest possible temp - 170 degrees. When I woke up at 6:30 (8 hours later), this is what I had:
Exactly what I was looking so forward to! You know, basically angels singing in tomato format. And the garlic cloves? Hoooo, boy. Hugh declared that one tomato tasted like an entire bowl of tomato sauce in a bite. I agree, and I STRONGLY encourage you to try this, particularly if you come across inexpensive tomatoes or are lucky enough to have a very productive garden.
As you can see, experimentation is important, but here is a run down of my successful method:
Roma (plum) tomatoes
Optional: fresh or dried herbs such as thyme, or an Italian herb blend
Slice the tomatoes in half along the axis (the long way). Pour a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a baking dish, and arrange the tomatoes cut side up in the dish. Intersperse unpeeled cloves of garlic. Sprinkle very lightly with kosher or sea salt and, also lightly, with the herb or seasoning blend of your choice. You don't need a ton of seasoning since everything gets so concentrated after all that time in the oven. Drizzle with more olive oil, making sure each tomato gets a little splash. Place in the oven, and turn the oven to its lowest setting (mine is 170F). Go to bed... or just leave the tomatoes alone for 8-12 hours. Check at 8 and if need be, give them some more time.
After eating about half the tomatoes, I used a few for this delicious savory muffin recipe from Heidi at 101 cookbooks - you should definitely check it out; it's my favorite muffin.
If I haven't convinced you to try this before the weather cools off (you can freeze them for tomato-ey deliciousness in January!), more slow roasted tomato goodness can be found in the following places:
The Wednesday Chef makes Molly Wizenberg's slow-roasted tomatoes
Molly Wizenberg makes Molly Wizenberg's slow-roasted tomatoes
Kalyn of Kalyn's kitchen gives a tutorial of her method
Deb of Smitten Kitchen uses cherry tomatoes
Lydia of the Perfect Pantry uses them for bruschetta
Alanna of Kitchen Parade makes fifteen batches
Monday, September 8, 2008
But since I only started getting 'into food' in the last couple of years, it wasn't until I had Tammi's pickles that I wanted to try making my own. Since then I've come across approximately 497 pickle methods and home-pickling stories on various blogs made from a plethora of fruits and vegetables. I wanted to start with a classic cucumber dill pickle, and I knew I would want them to be sandwich appropriate (Tammi's were delicious on burgers) so I sliced them into rounds instead of spears.
I poured in a pretty standard brine: 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt. I added two garlic cloves and a bit of dill. I stuck it in the fridge.
The next day I gave the pickles a try. WHOA. SO vinegary. And maybe even too salty. And frankly, they did not improve with age, even though I poured out some of the brine and added more water. Next time I will go skew the ratio in the favor of water if I want to eat them out of hand. All is not lost, however! The extra tart pickles are DEEElicious on Hugh's turkey burgers with marmalade mustard glaze, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato.
My Too Acidic But Delicious on Burgers Pickles
Inspired by Tammi, who I think was inspired by Tom's Grandma
1 glass jar
1 large cucumber
1/2 c rice vinegar
1/2 - 1 c water
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
a few sprigs dill
2 cloves garlic
Clean the jar. Slice the cucumber into rounds between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Slice the garlic cloves into a couple of pieces. Put the cucumbers, garlic and dill in the jar - you will probably have extra cucumber slices. In a large measuring cup or bowl combine the vinegar, water and salt, and stir to dissolve. Pour the brine over the contents of the jar. If there is still space fill it with water. Stick the jar in the fridge. Pickles are ready the next day but will keep for weeks in the fridge.
I knew I wanted to keep them somewhat intact because again, look how pretty! But it was just Adam and me so we only reeeally needed one to feed us. One beautiful stripey eggplant, brushed with olive oil and grilled:
And stacked up with polenta disks (I had a package in the pantry of pre-made, all I had to do was slice it, brush it with olive oil, and bake it) and roasted peppers (from a jar, look at me cheating my way through dinner!). Also in the pile: feta cheese, basil, pine nuts and a tangy dressing/sauce of garlic, crushed pepper, lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil (inspired by the one in this eggplant recipe over at Kalyn's Kitchen, it has a nice little kick from the pepper flakes). Apparently the pine nuts didn't make it into the photos. Oops. Oh, and if you're wondering what I mean by "tube" of polenta, this is what I mean.
A note: these will not stay together as you eat them. They just won't. Attack with a fork and knife and be happy in the memory of your previously pretty plate.
There was probably enough food here for four as a first course, but for the two of us it was a light meal. We made one stack each and then just poured the rest of the sauce on the leftover eggplant and polenta. And then I ate about 90% of that plate, too. Oink.
Eggplant and Polenta Stacks
I used a tube of pre-made polenta for this dish, so I got nice little circles just from slicing it. You could also prepare polenta from scratch, spread it thickly on a cookie sheet and refrigerate until firm, then cut it into pieces to bake. Use a biscuit cutter for circles or cut free-hand and go for that rustic, carefree look.
1 globe eggplant
1 tube pre-made polenta (or your own, cooled and cut)
roasted red peppers (your own or from a jar, you'll need one pepper for every two stacks)
handful of basil, chiffonade
half a handful of pinenuts, toasted
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
a few grinds black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 F and the grill to medium-hot. Trim the top of the eggplant and slice into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Sprinkle with salt and leave in a colander to drain for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the polenta into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Brush the polenta rounds with olive oil and lay out on a lightly oiled baking sheet, then stick in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning after 10 minutes. I ended up broiling mine for a few minutes at the end because I wanted a little color on them.
Once the polenta is in the oven, squeeze excess moisture out of the eggplant slices with paper towels. Brush with olive oil and place directly on the rack of a (clean!) grill. Flip after 5 minutes and grill the other side for 5 more until it's soft and delicious but not falling apart.
Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl and taste - if it's too acidic, add more oil, if it's too oily, add more lemon juice. Slice the pepper into four equal pieces - I bisected mine the long way then cut each long half into two pieces.
Assemble the stacks, starting with eggplant, then polenta, then a small crumble of feta, then a piece of pepper. Another piece of eggplant, polenta, feta, pepper. Sprinkle with basil and a few pine nuts, then spoon the sauce over the stack.