April 8th, 2013 § § permalink
I was walking to my car one day in my teens when I heard some frantic chirping – the kind that comes from small hungry little birdies. I was a bit more than shocked to find a nest on the ground where it had fallen from the tree above. I tried saving those chicks. I’m no mother bird.
I was told to always leave little birds alone because mother birds will not come back to the nest if you disturb them… Is this true? My favorite nests to find are always empty because somewhere some little birds are all grown up. Spring is beautiful.
A few weeks ago right before Easter, I was making a lovely pizza with garlic thread – thinly sliced green garlic green garlic. I love charred green garlic. This pizza uses green garlic pesto, peas, asparagus, and eggs – all the great things that you should eat this time of year… This photo depicts a pastry version that is overly decadent dinner, but I’m sure it will also make a great brunch dish.
To build a nest
Gather: 1 Dufour Puff Pastry, 1 cup of shaved asparagus, 1 cup of green garlic thread, green garlic pesto, 1/4 c blanched fresh peas, grated mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan cheese, soft boiled eggs.
Assemble: Using a large bowl and pizza cutter, cut a round pastry circle – cut strips out of the discards (the puff pastry is square) and layer them around the edges to resemble a bird nest. I was very loose with my design… Then, evenly spread 1/4 cup pesto with fresh blanched peas on top of the nest surface. Sprinkle some parmesan and mozzarella on top. Lastly, weave a bird’s nest out of layers of cheese, asparagus, and green garlic (you can also do this on a chopping board and then slide it onto the pastry when done). You will have to re-chill your pastry for 30 minutes before baking.
Bake: Preheat oven to 375 and bake until golden brown. Serve immediately with soft boiled eggs.
November 18th, 2012 § § permalink
Day 4 of my 7 Days of Thanksgiving posting brings you my main dish! I underestimated my time for this so I brought out a soft box to take some nighttime photos, but I’m not happy with them at all. I hope I make it through to Thanksgiving day. Making/posting everyday is very hard, and I applaud anyone who does that. Pheeewwwwwwww. Did I mention this dish is vegan?
Feeding Vegans can be difficult this time of year. Last year, I made Peter Berley’s roasted seitan but it was quickly eaten by meat eaters who thought it looked like meat – they also thought it was great (I kindly informed them that they had two turkeys and ham, so please stop). This year, I’m making this sausage stuffed squash and hiding it. I tested these on the meat eating men of the household and they approved. Paul even had a second one – he thought it tasted like meat. I migh tadd some celery to this stuffing so I’ll let you know after Thanksgiving how it goes!
I’m not being paid for this endorsement, but here it is. Buy this sausage. I eat it all the time sautéed with kale, garlic and red chili flakes, but now I’m using it as a meaty stuffing. It’s perfectly seasoned and sticky. Wonderful vegetarian products like this is great for thanksgiving when you don’t need to make everything from scratch. Save your efforts for gravy.
Also, I must say, I’m tired of quinoa stuffed acorn squash or anything like healthy grains. It ‘s Thanksgiving! I need something heavy and ridiculous because there’s a digestive that needs to be fed (Wednesday’s Post). The mushroom level in this recipe is a must. If you have to give up eating meat, dairy, and eggs, this is a good way to go.
Vegan Sausage and Mushroom Stuffed Acorn Squash with Mushroom Gravy
6 mini acorn squashes or 3 regular acorn squash, halved and deseeded
1 Gimme Lean Sausage Style (don’t get ground beef style)
1 lb mixed mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 TB sage, chopped
1 spring of thyme, chopped
1/2 c coarse bread crumbs
1 mushroom gravy recipe (I used my basic veggie stock in lieu of chicken)
+ Soak dried mushroom in hot water for gravy recipe.
+ Preheat oven to 350. Brush squash with melted butter and sprinkle a little salt onto the cut flesh. Fill a casserole dish or pyrex pan with 1/2″ water and placed squash cut side up. Bake for 30 minutes.
+ Meanwhile, make the sausage stuffing. Sautee the onion, garlic, and herbs until onions are tender. Add mushrooms and cook until soft. Depending on how large your mushrooms are cut, this might take more than 15 minutes. I don’t let them get too soft because they add to the texture of the stuffing. The less tender they are, the more contrast to your stuffed squash.
+ Mix the cooked mushroom mixture with the Gimme Lean sausage and breadcrumbs. I think a stand mixer might be useful. I did this with my hand, but I couldn’t do anything else until that was thoroughly mixed.
+ Remove the squash from the oven and evenly distribute the stuffing amongst the halves.
+ Bake uncovered in the oven while you finish the gravy. The stuffed squash should be ready by the time the gravy is finished. Check the internal temperature – it should be around 160 degrees.
November 15th, 2012 § § permalink
Do you ever have one of those days when your keyboard types nothing but zzzzzzz? Really, it’s hard to make an entire paragraph made of the letter Z. I had to restart my laptop twice, but then just gave up and moved to another computer- I feel like I am cheating on my macbook.
Despite the technical glitches, I’m really excited to be blogging this evening because I’ve missed writing – did I just say that? I’ve been making a lot of meals but it’s all been in the dark of the evening and I don’t take photos without natural light, i.e. I’m lazy.
Another reason why I am excited is because this is the first post of my 7 Days of Thanksgiving series. Really, there will be new things on here until Thanksgiving. One will even have two! I hope all of the recipes work out. Maybe they won’t. In which case, I will have plenty to tell you, and we will commiserate together over the digestives I’m testing and still have a blast on Thanksgiving Day.
This is Day 1, which is a snack of sorts – Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions, and Oyster Mushroom Quesadillas served with a crunchy jicama slaw. It’s super easy, delicious, and fast. I make it with only 1 skillet and eat them with my hands because Thanksgiving is a crazy day when your roommate starts grilling the turkey wayyyyy too late in the afternoon so no one eats anything until 8pm.
I hope you will enjoy this as I have this week (twice already). Tomorrow, I’m sharing a roasted pumpkin soup. See you soon!
Jicama Slaw (for two)
1 small jicama, julienned
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed and finely diced
1 TB olive oil
1 TB cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 ts cumin seeds (half will be used in the slaw and the rest in the quesadillas)
Pinch of Salt
+Toast 1/2 ts. cumin seeds in your skillet until they are aromatic. Remove the seeds and use a mortar & pestle to reduce to a coarse grind. Combine 1/4 ts. of cumin with the remaining ingredients and allow to rest while you make the quesadillas.
Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions, and Oyster Mushroom Quesadillas (for two)
1 c butternut squash, sliced 1/4″ thick
1/2 c red onions, sliced 1/4″ thick
1 c. oyster mushrooms, sliced
8 tortillas, 8″ in diameter
1 c. grated mix of cheddar and/or monterey jack cheeses
Olive Oil for frying
+ Heat 1 TB of oil in a skillet and caramelize the onions with a pinch of salt on med-low heat until tender. I prefer mine wilted but not mushy… Some people do not eat raw onions so that’s something to consider. Next, pan fry the squash slices until slightly charred and tender to the fork. Top these with the remaining cumin seeds. Next, fry the oyster mushrooms until tender. I placed a lid over the skillet for the mushrooms as I find they tend to dry out too easily. Depending on how old/large your mushrooms are, they will take longer to cook. The stems are especially woody.
+ Turn on the oven on its lowest setting. Assemble the quesadillas by brushing the skillet with oil, place one tortilla down onto the hot skillet, liberally cover the tortilla with cheese, top with an even amount of cooked squash, onions, and mushrooms. Put more cheese over the fillings, cover with finishing tortilla, and cover with a lid. Flip your quesadilla over once it is crispy and golden brown on the bottom. Place the finished quesadillas into the oven while you make the rest.
+Serve with sour cream, hot sauce, and jicama slaw.
October 1st, 2012 § § permalink
I can only imagine how many terrible childhood okra stories are out there… slimy, mushy, overcooked dramas that line the plates of discontent. That’s why I like to throw okra around my kitchen and see who runs away first. Honestly though, while most people carry these dreadful vegetable experiences around for a lifetime, I prefer to hang with adventuresome eaters who climb the mountain of plant phobias by eating their way through food fears.
That said, my experience tells me the best way to make amends with strange vegetables tend to be when they change their guises and make an appearance in something familiar like a cute tartelette. Anyone who runs away from a tart doesn’t deserve to eat animals because these tarts are mostly harmless – however, I put serrano peppers in them, so they might kick you a bit when you bite into them. There’s also a lot of corn in this recipe – it’s corny in all the ways you’d want it to be really – a corn crust you don’t have to pre-bake and fresh corn kernals!
Earlier this summer I had a great time grilling okras, but I also eat them raw as often as I can find them. Chilled, raw, and tender! Young, uncooked okras are less slimy this way and their crunchy greenness is refreshing compared to typical gumbos and fried okras. Additionally, my favorite sushi restaurant in this city, Ryoko, serves the best okra tempura. It’s so perfect, I don’t bother trying to make my own.
This recipe was inspired by Maria Speck’s Artichoke-Rosemary Tart and uses the same crust.
1 1/2 c. vegetable broth
1 1/4 c. water
1/2 ts. salt
1 1/4 c. polenta or coarse grits
1/2 c. shredded parmesan ~ 2.5 oz
1 large egg, @ room temperature
1/4 ts. freshly ground pepper
1 c. yogurt
2 oz. goat cheese
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
1/4 ts. salt
1/4 ts. freshly ground pepper
2 TB cilantro
1 corn on the cob, removed from cob and steamed
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 serrano, thinly sliced
1 c. tender young okras shorter than 4″, sliced @1/4″
+ Make the crust by bringing the water and broth to a boil. Add salt and dissolve. Slowly pour in the polenta in a thin stream while whisking for 30 additional seconds. Turn the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring at least every two minutes to prevent sticking.
+ Turn off heat completely and cover polenta for 10 minutes. Stir in cheese, egg, and pepper.
+ Grease your mini tart pans with olive oil or give it a liberal spray of non-stick spray. Dip your wooden spoons in water and distribute evenly between 7* mini tart pans (I just did two batches using 4 pans) – this is about 2.5 TB of polenta per tartelette. Press the polenta evenly onto the bottom of the tart pans.
+ After 15 minutes, fill a bowl with a bit of water to wet your fingers and press the polenta into the sides and bottoms creating an even crust. This part is messy, tedious, and rather fun.
+ Create the custard by mixing together yogurt, cheeses, egs, salt, pepper, corn and cilantro. Pour the blended custard into the tart pans, leaving a 1/2″ gap from the crust’s top. Distribute three slices of serrano peppers per tart and fill in the remainder the raw okras and slices of scallions.
+ Preheat oven to 325 °F and bake tartelettes for about 10 minutes, or until the custard is firm.
September 6th, 2012 § § permalink
I’m really late to the bean parade. It’s just that I am a lady if you know what I mean – but there’s one exception, and I will often make such and exception if the cause is beauty. So let me introduce you to the most beautiful bean I know. It is called Borlotti, or cranberry or sometimes even French Horticultural beans despite being quite Italian. I’ve never cooked dried cranberry beans because I will most certainly burn them. I burnt the last batch of dried beans and caused a minor uproar when everybody thought the house was on fire. I have this way of making a mess of the least persnickety things in the kitchen. So, the most convenient solution to this is to gorge on fresh beans while they last. That time is now – the cusp of summer and fall.
Fresh Borlotti beans are like little dinosaur eggs that range from creamy white with little red and pink speckles to solid bright pink; although their coloring is quite fleeting because once you cook them, they all turn white. This is sad, but hey, they taste amazing when fresh. If you’ve eaten dried and canned beans all of your life, this is the time to stop and try some fresh beans. They are creamy and delicate, unlike anything you’ve ever expected from legumes. Plus, they cook in about 20 minutes.
This Tuscan dish is vegan and uses five very simple ingredients: beans, tomatoes, garlic, sage, olive oil. You’ll be tempted to augment it with all sorts of creative and mundane things, but just try it and see what I mean; its comfort is simplicity. All’uccelletto in Italian means “a small bird” so to cook in this fashion is to use the same ingredient, though the bird here is replaced by Borlotti beans. If I ever find myself in Tuscany, I hope an Italian family takes me home and serves me a heaping bowl of this.
1 1/2 c. fresh Borlotti beans*
4 c. roasted tomatoes**
2 TB fresh sage or 2 ts. dried sage
1/4 -1/2 c. olive oil
3 cloves of minced garlic
+ Cook beans in salted water until tender – about 20 minutes, taste for softness. Save cooking water.
+ Heat 1/4 c. olive oil on medium heat and add garlic, cooking until soft. Add sage and stir to heat for about a minute. Add tomatoes and cooked beans and bring to a simmer. Cook, covered for 25 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, adding more oil and reserved water to acquire a nice sauce consistency. I never skimp on the oil…
+ Serve over pasta such as ziti for a vegan meal or as a side.
* You can also use dry beans, just be sure to soak them overnight and cook with more care than I do.
** I roast large batches of tomatoes and keep them in the fridge to use as needed. If you have fresh ones, you can certainly put in 2lbs of fresh ripe tomatoes in lieu of roasted ones.
August 13th, 2012 § § permalink
My sentimental palate was born from warm memories of modest cafes; but one in particular will get repeated throughout the life of this blog: The Dynamic Dish. It has since been closed so it might be a disservice to those wishing to visit, but their twitter page is a record of worthy reading: http://twitter.com/dynamicdish.
My very first CSA was from a farm whose pick-up location was The Dish, so it became a Sunday affair to get fresh packages of rare vegetables followed by a simple, organic meal. Brie & pear sandwiches with almond butter? Yes please. My only regret was not having eaten there more often. My heart was broken when I first heard the terrible news of their closing, but David is currently at Cakes and Ale in Decatur, GA so I am intent on eating my first lunch there if I ever return South. For those who have frequented the “The Dish“, I offer up my version of this picturesque pie I ate one beautiful Wednesday evening.
There’s no real recipe here, just make (here & here*) or buy your favorite pizza dough and top away:
+ Bring a few tablespoons of olive oil and a sprig of rosemary to a boil. Turn off heat and allow to cool. When dough is ready brush rosemary olive oil on dough – go lightly.
+ Place slices of manchego on top of oil and follow with fig and pink peppercorns. I also sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on the pie before baking it on the highest heat available.
* I used to own this book but someone borrowed it and it has not since been returned. . . there is a bounty on that person’s head, and a flawless pizza dough recipe in there.
This pizza gets a yearly reprisal so look for it again here next year when figs are abundant. I must thank my friends Nathan and Dean for resurrecting this year’s pizza obsession. Their recent pizza soiree had me testing my culinary faculty in a four hour whirlwind of pizza inventions. It feels great to be so pleasantly exhausted.
July 31st, 2012 § § permalink
On most market days I am armed with a strictly defined list of ingredients and their quantities to prevent superfluous vegetables from rotting. However, my eyes get the best of me as I am frivolously drawn to purple colored vegetables. For some reason, this summer of vegetables has brought a bounty of purple colored edibles: purple bell peppers, purple tomatoes, purple string beans, purple cauliflower, et cetera. What’s a girl to do? Naturally, I started to collect these violet specimens, which accumulate themselves in my fridge as I frantically seek out the perfect recipe for these devilishly hued fruit. As I am writing these words, I’m also racking my pantry for various starches to fry up a handful of baby Japanese eggplants (imagine: finger sized purple beauties in a tempura batter).
As a cook, I am a creature of habit. Despite all of my good intentions to ‘explore’ new cooking methods, I will make a quiche on most weeks. Perhaps I should devote those hours to exploring something new and different? This past week was no exception. I discarded all of those good intentions for a sack of these lovely Chocolate cherry tomatoes. For good measure, I also tossed in some of those cute Yellow Pear cherry tomatoes. Purple and yellow makes such a lovely contrast, I reasoned as I took my defiant quiche habit to the kitchen and made a rich ricotta tart dotted with these roasted lycopersicum miniatures. As soon as the quiche came out of the oven , I ate a slice immediately. The Francophile in me purred a bit.
This particular quiche recipe (I usually just wing it) comes from my favorite cookbook, Cafe Paradiso Seasons. Denis Cotter is a kitchen genius whose complex recipes taste elegantly simple – the ingredients just belong. I’m constantly underestimating the length of time it takes to throw together a Cafe Paradiso dish, but the efforts are worth every bite. I pair weekend quiches with weekday soups and salads to make a meal. Additionally, a double batch of quiche can fit in a conventional oven if you are feeling super constructive.
Recipe adapted from Dennis Cotter’s Cafe Paradiso Seasons with some pastry advice from Tartine. This is a pretty intensive recipe with multiple steps. I’d recommend setting aside an afternoon.
Flaky Tart Dough (Pate Brisee): This basic flaky dough is based on Tartine’s 3:2:1 ratio of Flour: Butter: Water (by weight) that converts easily into larger double or triple recipes for multiple tarts. Be sure to add water about 1/4 c. at a time to account for various humidity levels. Below is enough for 1 tart.
1 1/4c. White Pastry Flour (5.5 oz.)
6 TB Butter (3 oz)
3 TB Water (1.5 oz)
1 ts Salt
6 strands of Saffron soaked in 1TB of hot water
1 c. Ricotta
1/3 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. Grated Parmesan
20 Chocolate cherry tomatoes & Yellow Pear cherry tomatoes
10 Kalamata Olives
Tomato Pesto: 4 sundried Tomatoes reconstituted in hot water, 1 Garlic, 1/4 c. Olive Oil
+ Start the pastry dough by dissolving salt in water and placing it in a freezer to chill. Cut the butter into 1 inch cubes and place in the freezer to chill on a plate, covered with plastic wrap (I’m paranoid about unwanted freezer smells). Measure out the flour into a metal bowl and place it into the freezer along with the butter and water until the butter is extremely cold. I usually have some tea and cookies at this time. To mix the dough, place sifted cold flour into a food processor with the cold chunks of butter. Pulse a few times, making sure to keep mixture chunky with pea sized butter bits. Slowly add water to this mixture, pulsing while drizzling cold water into the processor (mix as little as possible to prevent your gluten from overworking and shrinking during baking). Remove onto a floured surface and shape into a 1″ thick disk. You might have to knead the dough a bit to get it to solidify, but keep this to a minimum. Wrap the dough in a sheet of plastic and chill for at least two hours.
+ Roll out the pastry dough to a circumference 1 1/2 in. larger than the tart shell. Do not roll the dough out too thin or the shell will shrink in the baking process. You want to use the most dough as possible and reduce overworking the dough which causes the gluten to shrink. Roll your dough disk onto the rolling pin and unroll it onto the tart shell. Gently press the bottom and sides into the shell mold and remove excess dough with your pin by rolling it over the metal edge. Using a fork, put some holes into the dough to prevent the pastry from bubbling during baking. Cover the shell with plastic and chill for 1 hour. Or, freeze for up to 2 weeks. This step is especially important for flakiness.
+ Preheat the oven to 375°F
+ Prepare the fillings. Make your pesto by draining the tomatoes of their water and pureeing them in a food processor with the garlic while slowly adding olive oil. Set aside. Slice the olives and tomatoes. Place the tomatoes cut side up in an ovenproof dish and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt.
+ Bake the dough by lining the shell with parchment paper and then topping the shell with an even distribution of pie weights such as beans or rice. After 20 minutes, remove the pie weights and parchment and bake the shell for about 3 minutes more. Place the shell on a cooling rack.
+ Roast the tomatoes for about 30 minutes – you want them to remain juicy. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Meanwhile, make the custard. Blend saffron with soaking water, ricotta, eggs, cream, and parmesan to a smooth consistency. Spread an even layer of tomato pesto onto the cooled pastry shell placed onto a flat cookie sheet (this makes the quiche easier to handle and prevents spillage in the oven). Once the tomatoes are done roasting, pour the custard into the tart being careful to not completely fill the shell ( I leave about a 1/4″ from the top). Place roasted tomatoes cut side up into the custard in an even pattern. Distribute olives in between the roasted tomatoes. If there is space left in your tart, spoon in any remaining custard (if there is any) using a tablespoon.
+ Bake your quiche for 30-40 minutes until the custard is set. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.