December 29, 2011

Olives + Mozz



Ingredients:
1 cup Castelvetrano olives
3/4 lb mozzarella balls
2 tablespoons juice from the olives
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

Directions:
Toss all ingredients together. Serve at room temperature.

My thoughts:
This is a super easy yet tasty appetizer for NYE or whenever. Castelvetrano olives (under the name of Verdi) are available at Costco now and are seriously addictive. They might have big pits but the flavor of the olives make up for it. They are buttery and the perfect accompaniment for creamy mozzarella.

December 27, 2011

Winter Vegetable Beef Stew


Ingredients:
group #1
1 1/2 lb beef top round or sirloin, cubed
1 large onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, cut into coins
2 parsnips, cut into coins
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 3/4 cups cubed golden acorn squash
1 cayenne pepper, minced

group #2
12 oz beer (I used this)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 (loose) tablespoon whole rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

group #3
1 1/14 cup frozen peas


Directions:
Saute the ingredients from group #1 in a bit of canola oil until the vegetables are softened and the meat is lightly browned. Add to a 4 quart slow cooker. If the meat and vegetables gave off a lot of liquid and it isn't too oily, I add a little less than 1/4 cup of it into the slow cooker. Add the ingredients from group #2. Stir. Cover and cook for 7-8 hours. Stir in the ingredients from group #3. Cover and cook for an additional 1/2 hr. Stir and serve.


My thoughts:
I liked this stew a lot because while the beef added flavor and texture, it really wasn't a super meaty stew, it was mostly vegetables. Plus it is super easy to make, I did all of the prep the night before and just had to brown the meat in the morning.

December 21, 2011

Pepparkakor



Ingredients:
1/4 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup Swedish light syrup or molasses
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon roasted ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups flour

Directions:

In a small pot, melt the butter and the syrup together. Allow to cool. Pour into a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate 5 hours or up to overnight. Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with silipats or parchment paper. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface and cut into shapes. Bake for 8 minutes or until brown and crisp. Cool on a wire rack.




My thoughts:
My interest in all things Swedish continues with these cookies. When we went to the St. Lucia festival they served these and as part of the performance, the children carried mock pig-shaped pepparkakor, danced and sang a song. I then knew I had to make them! Similar to gingerbread, these crisp cookies are very spicy and fragrant.

December 19, 2011

Oyster Wild Rice Casserole



Ingredients:
16 oz shucked oysters, drained, liquor reserved
2 slices cooked thick cut bacon, crumbed
1/4 cup butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 cubanelle pepper, diced
1 cayenne pepper, minced
2 tablespoons flour
12 oz evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup defrosted frozen spinach (squeezed dried and packed tightly)
pinch nutmeg
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs



Directions.

Grease a  1 1/2 quart casserole. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet. Saute the shallot and peppers until fragrant. Add the oysters and saute for 5 minutes. Melt the remaining butter in a small pot. Whisk in the flour. Add the evaporated milk and a few tablespoons of the oyster liquor. Whisk until the milk is near boiling and the mixture thickens. Stir in the cheese. After the cheese melts, stir in the bacon, rice, spices and spinach. Stir in the oyster/pepper mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Broil or bake at 350 until bubbly and browned.




Tips: Cook the bacon and make the rice the night before. While I like using evaporated milk because it is very creamy but low in fat, regular milk could be substituted.

My thoughts:
I don't have much of a casserole background. We just didn't eat them (save mac and cheese if that counts) growing up. However, I occasionally hear of one that intrigues me. I came across a mention of oyster casserole and it sounded good but 1. seemed too plain (mostly just oysters, sauce and cracker crumbs) or 2. included cream of whatever soup which I've never had and sounds slightly gross. So I thought I'd make one I'd enjoy. Adding the wild rice and extra veg turn it from a side dish to a main dish that can be a meal on its own.

December 14, 2011

Cranberry-Cranberry Bread


Ingredients:
2 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup halved fresh cranberries
3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1 1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon roasted Saigon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour one large loaf pan. Beat together the eggs and sugar. Add the vanilla, butter and milk and stir. Slowly stir in the baking powder, salt, spices and flour. Mix until just combined. Fold in both types of cranberries and pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes, then invert and continue to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.





My thoughts:
It has been ages since I've made a quick bread or at least it seems that way. This summer so was hot then this fall seems to be going by in the wink of an eye. Happily, my return to the quick bread was a successful one. I was a little worried when I saw how much it peaked over the top of the pan but not a drop escaped and I think the height made it even prettier when sliced. I brought this to a family dinner and everyone raved about it. The contrast between the fresh and dried cherries is more pronounced then one might think, the fresh are tarter but the dried have a deeper, more concentrated flavor.


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December 12, 2011

Grapefruit Lemongrass Jam

Ingredients:
8 cups supremed grapefruits segments (I used Duncan)
5 cups sugar
1/2 box liquid pectin (3 oz., one of the little packets in the box)
3 stalks lemongrass (thick bottom parts only)

Directions:
Prep jars/lids for canning. Add the grapefruit segments and lemongrass into a large, heavy bottomed pan. Add the sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring carefully to avoid splashing, break up the segments, occasionally. Boil until it begins to reduce and thicken. Stir in the pectin. Continue cooking at a low (rolling) boil for 10 minutes or until it looks jammy. Fish out the lemongrass. Fill the jars leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Process in the hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield: 6-7 8-oz jars.

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.




My thoughts:
Grapefruit is not one of my favorite fruits. I mean, I like it but I find it a bit too much to eat regularly. But I can't resist buy fruit when they are in season, especially during the winter when nothing local is in season. So I bought a couple of truly huge bags of grapefruit, ate some and then boiled some up with lemongrass to create this sunshine-y jam. I like making jam with citrus fruits even though it is more unusual than jam made with berries and of course, citrus fruit is most often turned into marmalade. It is easier than marmalade (no pith removal/slicing the peel) but still has that strong citrus flavor. Plus I love having peels to toss in my compost bin during the winter, it really seems to help things along.

Anyway! This jam is the perfect match of sweet and tart and the lemongrass provides this lovely floral note that just pushes it to the next level. Perfect on scones or pretty much anything. It would make a wonderful holiday or hostess gift.

December 07, 2011

Chicken Farro Soup



Ingredients:

group #1
2 medium turnips, diced
2 carrots, cut into coins
2 parsnips, cut into coins
2 stalks celery (with greens), diced
2 cups pearl onions
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon (dried) Valencia orange peel
2 bay leaves
salt
freshly ground pepper

group #2
3 cups diced, cooked chicken breast
1 cup farro
4 cups chicken stock
.25 oz porcini mushrooms, re-hydrated in 1 cup water, liquid reserved.


Directions:
Place the ingredients from group #1 in a 4 quart slow cooker. Stir. Cook for 6-8 hrs on low.

About 40 minutes before you would like to serve the soup, add the chicken, re-hydrated mushrooms (chop the mushrooms if needed) and the mushroom liquid.

Meanwhile, bring 4 cups stock and farro to boil in medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Drain or add the liquid leftover to the soup. Stir the farro into the soup. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I think what I like the most about soup is that it is a great way to use up a bunch of ingredients without a lot of effort. I always end up with small amounts of ingredients from other recipe creations and I hate throwing them out but some times there just isn't enough of them make much of anything. Luckily with most soups, you don't need too much of any one ingredient to make a delicious soup.

I roasted a chicken yesterday and ended up with a ton of leftover meat. I also had a lot of odds and ends of vegetables that I figured I could use up. I also wanted to try the new Valencia orange peel I bought (McCormick).

I have a big bag of farro leftover from when I was writing my most recent cookbook that I thought might be a good addition to the soup. I'd never had farro in soup before but I like farro so it was worth a shot. Luckily it worked well! It had a lovely chewy texture and while it made the soup more filling that I think it would have been otherwise, it didn't make the soup seem "heavy".

Note: I made this in the slow cooker but you could make it on the stove top, just saute the vegetables until softened then add the chicken, stock and cooked farro. It is just slightly easier to make in the slow cooker and makes your house smell great all day.

December 05, 2011

Satsumas in Ginger-Mandarin Syrup



Ingredients:
15 Satsuma mandarin oranges, peeled and sectioned*
6 cups water
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons ginger juice
peels from 3 mandarins


Directions:
Prep your jars and lids. Evenly divide the segments between the jars. I found that each jar could hold 3 mandarins’ worth of segments. Bring the sugar, ginger juice, peel and water to a rolling boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Discard the peel. Ladle into cans, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Seal and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.



Yield: 5 pints

*Remove any large bits of pith. My oranges were virtually pithless.

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.


My thoughts:
This was a fast, fun recipe to make. I had a huge bag of Satsuma (the really small, flatish mandarins) that I just wasn't getting through quickly enough. I was trying to think of a recipe that would use a bunch when I remembered those little tins of mandarins I'd seen at the store. I've actually never had the store bought variety before (they always looked too sweet with all of that heavy syrup) but I was intrigued. I made a light syrup and added some of the nearly pithless peels and some fresh ginger juice for extra zing. The result is so good! The best part is that the membranes surrounding the slices is so thin, you don't have to supreme them prior to canning, it is super tender and soft. Plus satsumas are seedless and have a thin, loose, easy-to-peel skin so I was able to peel and section all 15 in just a few minutes.

Just imagine how great it will be to eat citrus when it is out of season?

December 02, 2011

Ärtsoppa (Swedish Yellow Pea Soup)


Ingredients:
16 oz whole or split yellow peas*
1 onion, chopped
4 strips thick cut bacon, cooked and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
6 cups ham or chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon marjoram
white pepper
sea salt
grainy hot mustard



Directions:
Place the peas, stock, onion and spices/herbs. in a 4 quart slow cooker. Cook on low 10-12 hrs or on high 6-8. Stir in the bacon. Cook for 15-30 additional minutes. Serve in bowls with a dollop of (Swedish) hot mustard ready for dipping or swirling.


*Whole yellow peas is more traditional but more difficult to locate. If you use split peas the soup will taste the same but be a bit thicker.

My thoughts:
I've been reading a lot about Swedish food lately and the pea soup that seems to be nationally consumed on Thursdays called to me. It has been unseasonably warm (and I am not complaining, this time last year we went to the Caribbean for two weeks to escape the cold) but it is slowly returning to the normal temperature for this time of year making it time for soup. Traditionally, I think the soup is made with salt pork but I made do with thick, thick chunks of bacon instead. It is easier to find and I think just as (or more) tasty.

November 30, 2011

Kåldolmar (Swedish Stuffed Cabbage)



Ingredients:
1/4 cup white rice
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 onion, chopped
1 egg, beaten (if needed)
1 head cabbage, cored
12 oz ground pork
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon thyme
salt
white pepper
golden syrup


Directions:

Bring rice and water to a boil in small pot. Cover and simmer until the water is absorbed. Add the milk and simmer, covered, until most of the milk is absorbed, about 20 minutes. It will look sort of like rice porridge/a loose pudding. Set aside and allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile, saute the onion until softened. Allow to cool slightly. Mix the egg (if needed), rice, meat and onion together thoroughly. Set aside.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the cabbage. Cook until the leaves are softened. Remove the leaves. Cut off any very tough bits at the root end.

Place a small amount of filling towards the stem side of the center of each leaf. Fold the sides in over the filling and then roll away from you to close each bundle.*If the leaves are sufficiently soft, they will stay closed on their own.

Heat some butter in a skillet. Brown the cabbage rolls on each side.** Drizzle with syrup. Arrange in a wide dutch oven. Barely cover with stock. Simmer 20-30 minutes or until cooked through.

*My leaves were very big and I ended up with about 12 rolls. Keep the filling amount proportionate to the size of the leaves, take care not to over fill.

**I used a very large cast iron skillet so I could brown all of the rolls at once. If the pan is deep enough, you could also simmer the rolls in the pan you fried them in rather than a fresh dutch oven.

My thoughts:
Today's recipe is in honor of Kåldolmens dag, a day of celebrating Swedish heritage with cabbage rolls and coffee, Swedish national symbols of immigrant background. I came across a mention of this date while researching something else and knew I had to make these rolls!

I do love cabbage. I know it isn't stylish but I am always happy to eat a bowl of buttered cabbage. So it stands to reason I also enjoy cabbage in other dishes as well. When it comes to stuffed cabbage I've made both the Polish kind with a tomato based sauce and the steamed Chinese style cabbage rolls but when I heard about Swedish stuffed cabbage, I know I had to make it. I had to cobble the recipe together about from anecdotal information but I think this is reasonably close to the real thing. I even had some Swedish syrup on hand thanks to my tendency towards ingredient hoarding but regular old golden syrup would work just as well. I have heard of making a quick white sauce to drizzle over the rolls made with either drippings, cabbage water or stock but honestly, I don't think they needed it. They were moist, flavorful rolls and while it looks like a lot steps, I think it took me just over an hour after I started cooking to sit down and eat. The steps are simple and many can be completed at the same time (making the rice, cooking the onion, boiling the cabbage were all done simultaneously) and well all quite simple. Traditionally they served with boiled potatoes and lingonberry sauce but they would be good along side nearly anything. 

November 28, 2011

Dilled Shrimp on Crispbread



Ingredients:
8 crispbreads (I use rye or sourdough Wasa crisps)
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
3 tablespoons minced celery
2 tablespoons minced shallot
8 ounces small salad shrimp
white pepper
salt
butter

Directions:
Spread a very, very thin layer of butter on each crisp. Create a single layer of egg on each of the rye crisp breads. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, dill, shallot and celery. Stir in the shrimp.Top each crisp bread with an equal portion of the shrimp mixture. Serve open-faced.


My thoughts:
Since I work from home, I am always trying to think of new things to eat for lunch at home. Often it is leftovers but some times I want something different. Lately I've been making these open-faced sandwiches. I can make the shrimp salad and hard-boiled eggs ahead of time so I just have to assemble at lunch time. The thin layer of butter sounds slightly odd but it really holds the egg in place and in turn, the whole sandwich. They are the perfect, light, flavorful lunch.

November 25, 2011

Buffalo Turkey Sliders

Ingredients:
3 cups shredded cooked turkey
1 cup buffalo wing sauce
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
12 slider rolls
freshly ground black pepper


Directions:
In a saucepan, heat the sauce, turkey and pepper until warmed through. Stir occasionally to insure the sauce is evenly distributed. Divide amongst the rolls. Top with a dollop of dressing and serve.

My thoughts:
A super easy Thanksgiving leftover recipe for you today! Last year I received a few requests for a simple way to use up leftover turkey as many of you do not want to be doing much cooking the day after the holiday. Well, here you go: easy, tasty and adaptable. We used super hot wing sauce but you can use whatever variety is your favorite.

November 23, 2011

Cardone Cheddar Gratin


Ingredients:
8-10 cups* 2 inch chunks cardone(cardoon)soaked in salt water overnight
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded cheddar
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt
freshly ground black pepper


Directions:
Soak the cardone in salted water overnight.

Preheat oven to 350. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the lemon juice and cardones. Boil the cardones until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain throguhly. Grease a large lidded casserole. Pour in the cardones.

Meanwhile, n a medium pan, melt the butter. Add the flour along with the spices and stir until smooth. Add the milk and evaporated milk and whisk together until slightly thickened. Whisk in the cheddar until smooth. Pour over the cardones. Stir to evenly distribute. Top with bread crumbs. Bake covered about 15 minutes, then uncover and cook until hot and bubbly, about 10-15 additional minutes.

*About 1 large bunch of cardone



My thoughts:
When the nice people at Sea Mist asked if I wanted to try cardone, I accepted, as I am always eager to try a new-to-me vegetable despite not really knowing what it was. When it arrived, I still didn't really know what it was. Cardone is a relative of the artichoke but looks like giant, monstrous celery. I read up on it and a lot of people suggested either removing the strings in the ribs or soaking it in salt water overnight. I went with the salt water. I have to admit, the next day it still seemed tough and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make anything with it remotely edible. I am happy to say I went ahead and all turned out well. It did have an artichoke-like flavor and a crisp but not tough texture. It went wonderfully with the creamy cheddar sauce. If you have a bunch of cardone, I suggest trying this out!

November 21, 2011

Pineapple Infused Turkey



Ingredients:
1 17 lb turkey
guava wood smoked sea salt
Chinese five spice powder
coarsely ground pepper
core of 1 fresh pineapple*
1 onion, quartered
olive oil

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325. Place the turkey on the rack and position in the roasting pan. Drizzle olive oil over the turkey. Rub the spices into the skin of the bird. Stick the pineapple core and onion in the cavity of the turkey. Roast for about 3-4 hours or until the juices run clear and the leg is easily wiggled. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before carving.

*I used my pineapple corer to slice the pineapple and remove the core intact.


My thoughts:
In keeping with our theme this year, I used pineapple in our turkey. The pineapple core was the perfect size for the cavity and I liked having no waste leftover from the pineapple I cut up for the cranberry sauce. It really did infuse the turkey with a light, sweet flavor which went well with the rest of the meal. We used a bit of the drippings along with some pineapple juice and soy sauce to make a tasty turkey gravy.

November 18, 2011

Hawaiian Bread-SPAM Stuffing



Ingredients:
1 16-oz loaf Hawaiian bread
12 oz SPAM (lite or regular), diced
2 large onions, diced (about 1 lb)
1 bunch celery, diced (about 1 lb)
1/4 cup chicken or turkey stock
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon Hawaiian red clay sea salt
zest of one lemon


Directions:
In a large pan, saute celery and onions in butter and olive oil over very low heat until the onions are translucent. Do not brown. Meanwhile, saute the spam until well browned on all sides. Drain the spam on paper towel lined plates. Allow the spam and celery/onion mixture to cool slightly. Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to evenly distribute all ingredients. Add additional pineapple juice or stock to further moisten if necessary. Form medium-sized balls. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Place balls in the bottom of the roasting pan under the rack and around the turkey on the rack for the last 1/2 hour of roasting.



My thoughts:
Growing up, my Aunt A would always have lightly sweet King's Hawaiian bread* on hand. I always really enjoyed it so when I came up with the idea of having a kitschy Hawaiian themed Thanksgiving this year, I knew the stuffing had to include it. It ended up being really tasty, the light sweetness was the perfect contrast with the savory Hawaiian favorite, SPAM.

*King's now makes sandwich/hamburger rolls but before they were available, I'd make my own. That's how dedicated I am to Hawaiian bread!

November 16, 2011

Pineapple-Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:
12 oz whole cranberries
1 cup pineapple wedges
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 inch knob ginger, grated


Directions:
Bring the cranberries, ginger, pineapple, sugar and pineapple juice to a boil. Reduce heat then simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir. Serve hot or cold.

My thoughts:
Every year, we have a different theme for Thanksgiving. This year we decided to go slightly tropical-retro-kitsch and have a Hawaiian-inspired Thanksgiving. So of course, we had to add pineapple to our cranberry sauce! It turned bright pink but it added a ton of sweet, fruity flavor to the tart cranberries. Yum! I would make and eat this even if it didn't go with the theme.

November 15, 2011

Easy Pomegranate Cocoa Nib Chocolate Chip Cookies




Ingredients:
1 16-oz refrigerated roll Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
1/2 cup pomegranate arils
1/4 cup cocoa nibs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Slice the dough into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Place 2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheets. Gently press some arils and nibs into the tops of each cookie. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.

My thoughts:
Pillsbury contacted me about developing a recipe using one of their refrigerated cookie doughs. Honestly, I had never used one before but I was up for the challenge. I wanted to take the cookie out of the strictly kid realm so I came up with this more grown up cookie. Super simple to make but flavorful, attractive, tasty and fun. I love how the pomegranate pops!

November 14, 2011

Delicata Squash Apple & Pearl Onion Saute


Ingredients:
1 delicata squash, peeled and cubed
1 large Stayman winesap apple, cubed
1 3/4 cup pearl onions, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon mustard seed
seeds from the squash, washed well
freshly ground black pepper
salt

Directions:
Heat the butter and oil in a pan. Add the garlic and onion and saute until fragrant. Add the squash and apples and saute until the squash is nearly fork-tender. Add the squash seeds and mustard seeds. Saute until the squash is fork tender. Season with salt and pepper.


My thoughts:
It has been unseasonably warm here lately and I've been trying to pretend that is is not mid-November but something more like March, with warmer weather around the corner. But, alas that is not true and I have to resign myself to making some of the few vegetables available right now. This squash dish ended up being pretty tasty! It used up the last of the winesaps I had and the pearl onions were nicely caramelized. I liked the pop of the mustard and squash seeds as well. A great side for a fall day.

November 11, 2011

Ricotta Polenta with Fennel Pollen



Ingredients:
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen*
salt
freshly ground black pepper



Directions:

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the polenta, salt, pepper, and pollen and stir until it starts to thicken, 2-5 minutes. Simmer 30 minutes. Stir in the  ricotta.

*I found this at an Italian market


My thoughts:
This recipe is so good, creamy and easy, everyone should make it this weekend. It seems simple but the ricotta adds a ton of flavor and texture to the polenta.

November 04, 2011

Braised Oxtails with Tomatoes, Celery and Capers

Ingredients:
3 lb oxtails (about 5)
1 cup dry white wine
14 oz fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1 3 oz smoked pork chop, diced
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 cayenne pepper, minced
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoon nonpareil capers
freshly ground black pepper
salt
Wondra (or other super-fine flour)


Directions:
Heat some olive oil in a Dutch oven. Toss the oxtails in Wondra flour to coat. Lightly brown the oxtail and pork. Add to a 4 quart slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 8 hours.

My thoughts:
Oxtail isn't something I make a lot. Mainly because despite traditionally being a "cheap" cut of meat, they are either hard to find or oddly steak-expensive. But a new grocery opened up near by and they had good, meaty looking oxtails at a reasonable price so I picked some up. They are a wonderful cut of meat for the slow cooker, the low and slow means that that the end result is meltingly tender despite starting off tough. We've had oxtails in the Caribbean that were delightful but I thought I'd go Italian-inspired for this dish. It was great because it provided enough vegetables I didn't feel the need to make a side dish, I just served it over some polenta. I suggest you do the same.

November 02, 2011

Chesapeake Étouffée



Ingredients:
3 cups blue crab meat
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
1 tablespoon Old Bay
1/4 cup flour
2 clove garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cayenne peppers, minced
1 1/2 cup crab stock
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
14 oz canned diced fire roasted tomatoes, drained
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
1/2 cup diced green onion

cooked white rice to serve

Directions:
Place the butter, Creole seasoning, and flour in a skillet. Cook 1 minute, stirring twice. Add the garlic, shallot, celery, and peppers. Sauté until the mixture is golden. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tomato, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened. Add the crab, parsley, and green onion. Stir. Cook 5-10 minutes or until the crab is warmed through. Serve over rice.

My thoughts:
Okay, I totally made up this "Chesapeake Étouffée" title but I think it is an apt description. Matt has way more patience than I do and picked all the meat out of the steamed crabs we had this weekend when we were pretending it wasn't cold out. I think the crab place gave us extra crabs because we ate and ate and still ended up with a bunch leftover. Last year we met some people who said October/November was the best time for crabs and I think they were right. I have never seen so much crab meat in a crab.

Anyway! I had the "misfortune" to have a lot of crab leftover so I came up with something to use it all up. This dish is very crab heavy and very, very spicy and flavorful. Perfect over rice.

October 28, 2011

Awesomely Spiced Pear Butter






Ingredients:
10-12 Bartlett pears, sliced
1 cup pear cider
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 stick cinnamon
2 inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon lemon peel (powdered)
1/4 teaspoon allspice
splash dark rum (optional)

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a 4 quart slow cooker. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. Uncover and cook on low for an additional 10-12 hours or until is roughly your desired thickness and most of the liquid has evaporated. Allow to cool a bit. Fish out the ginger and cinnamon stick then pour into the food processor and puree. Cool completely and refrigerate up to 3 weeks or ladle into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace and process in a hot water canner for 10 minutes.



Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here are some of my other favorite canning books and supplies.

My thoughts:
A couple of years ago I made pear butter and it was so good, I've still been thinking about it. While you can make it on the stove top, I like making it in the slow cooker because it needs no stirring and there is no chance of scorching. It does take a full day but it will be worth it, I promise. It is awesome on homemade bread (as pictured) or on anything else you'd put jam on.

October 26, 2011

Apple Butter Cheesecake



Ingredients:
for the crust:
1 1/2 cups of gingersnap crumbs*
6 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled slightly

for the cheesecake:
4 eggs, at room temperature
32 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
16 oz labne, at room temperature
1 cup apple butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla


Directions:
Preheat oven to 250.

For the crust-
Mix the crumbs and the butter until damp. Press firmly into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan. Set aside.

For the cheesecake-
In a large bowl, slowly cream together the apple butter, sugar, cream cheese and vanilla. Add the eggs and labne, mix thoroughly. Pour into pan. Allow to sit 2 minutes, then tap the pan on the counter to encourage any air bubbles to come to the surface and burst. Bake 2 1/2 hours or until the surface is mostly set- the middle inch or so might still look even less set, almost jiggly. Remove to the counter and run a knife or thin spatula around the edge of the pan. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate 3-5 hours before serving. Refrigerate leftovers, promptly..


*I used this recipe and added 1/2 teaspoon of allspice and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg.

My thoughts:
I made this using apple butter we bought at the Apple Butter Festival in Berkeley Springs, WV this year. At the festival they cook the apple butter in large pots over a wood fire. It is so smooth and has a slight smoky flavor. Of course, home canned or store bought would work just as well. Anyway! This apple flavor was strong in the cheesecake and it had just the right hint of spice. I will note it takes a while to set up, so resist the urge to cut into it too quickly!

October 24, 2011

Vanilla Bean Caramel Apples



Ingredients:
12 "baby" apples

for the caramel:
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup cane syrup
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla
scrapings from 1 vanilla bean
pinch salt



Directions:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silipat. Set aside. In a small sauce pan bring the cream, butter, 1/4 cup water, vanilla, vanilla bean scrapings and salt to a boil. Set aside. In a medium sized, heavy pan, heat the sugar, the remaining water and cane syrup to a boil, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves. Boil until it turns a light golden color. Slowly, carefully, stir in the cream mixture. Stir until the caramel is 255 degrees (just beyond softball stage), about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully dip the apples in the caramel. Place the apples on the silipat and allow to cool before eating.


My thoughts:
I have to admit, half the reason I made these was to have an excuse to use my cute new Halloween picks I got from Wilton. The other half is that I found tiny apples at the grocery and they are my favorite to make caramel apples with. I think they have a better caramel to apple ratio than regular sized apples. I also used cane syrup instead of corn syrup which I think gives the caramel a purer taste.

October 21, 2011

Smoked Pepper-Cocoa Short Ribs

Ingredients:
2 full pork spare ribs, membrane removed
white vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

dry rub:
1/4 cup hot paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon aleppo pepper
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dehydrated minced onion
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cocoa
1/2 teaspoon ground lemon peel



Directions:
Wash the ribs with vinegar. Rub the mustard into both sides of the ribs. Whisk together the dry rub ingredients and rub into the meat. Place the ribs on both racks of your smoker. Place two chimmneys' worth of unlit coals in the coal ring. Add 3 chunks mesquite then add one chimney worth of lit coals on top. Place 3 additional chunks of mesquite on top of the lit coals. Reassemble the smoker. Fill the water bowl with warm water. Smoke for 5 hours keeping the temperature between 225-275. The meat should be falling off the bone when finished.


My thoughts:
This was the first thing we made in our new smoker. I was amazed at how easy was to smoke ribs! It was a cool day and the temperature stayed perfectly steady the entire time using this method. When the ribs were ready, just picking them up out of the smoker made the meat fall off. I swear, they were tastier than the ribs we've had at most barbecue joints. Moist and with a wonderful flavor from the dry rub. We are going be making this again and again.

I know some of you are thinking that a smoker is a bit of an investment and it is but if you like smoked meats and/or are currently smoking them on your grill, it is worth it. Once it is prepped, you just ignore the food until it is ready to eat. So much easier than grilling when I'd be prepping side dishes in the kitchen and running out to check on the grill all the time.




October 19, 2011

Barbecue Sauce Glazed Turkey Meatloaf

Ingredients:
2 lbs ground turkey thighs
3/4 cup pepper jelly barbecue sauce
1 egg, beaten
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 small onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon allspice
salt
pepper


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, mix together the turkey, egg, bread crumbs, onion, garlic and 2 tablespoons sauce. Form into a loaf. Place in a loaf pan (or, preferably, a meatloaf pan). Brush the top with the remaining sauce. Bake for 30 minutes or until fully cooked. Wait a few minutes before slicing.


My thoughts:
I am not a fan of ground turkey breast but ground thighs are another story. They are as moist and juicy as ground turkey breast can be dry and tasteless. Normally I am a beef or beef/pork meatloaf girl but turkey thigh is just as good. My smoky-spicy barbecue sauce added lots of flavor and sealed in the juices. It made the best meatloaf sandwiches the next day too.

October 17, 2011

Pepper Jelly Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients:
8 oz pepper jelly
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup thick Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup chili sauce (like Heinz)
1/4 cup dark rum
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon mesquite liquid smoke
1 teaspoon ancho pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Pulse all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and simmer on the lowest setting until heated through and it reduces and thickens, about 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Keeps in the fridge about a week.
My thoughts:
When I posted my spicy hot pepper jelly recipe a few people emailed me wondering about what else they could use it for beyond sandwiches and the like. I came up with this smokey-hot-sweet sauce that was not only good on pork but made the perfect glaze for the meatloaf I made (recipe coming soon) and well, in pretty much any situation barbecue sauce is called for. I don't like most commercial barbecue sauces because they are either too sweet or ketchup-y so I end up making my own pretty much any time the sauce is needed. Luckily, it is easy to make. I blend mine together in my Vita-Mix but if you have a less robust blender, you might need to chop your onion finely before mixing; I normally just quarter it. You want a smooth sauce. And of course, if you didn't make your own pepper jelly, just sub in your favorite store or farm bought. I am sure it will be just fine.

October 15, 2011

Rachel's Homemade Tomolives



Ingredients:
3 1/4 lb green (unripe) cherry tomatoes
6 cloves garlic (one for each jar)
6 cayenne peppers (one for each jar)
1/4 (loose) cup dill, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed
1/3 cup pickling salt
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water

Directions:
Evenly divide the tomatoes, garlic, peppers, dill and mustard seeds between 6 jars. Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Prep the lids/jars. Pour in the boiling vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Poke down any tomatoes that have floated too close to the top. Close the jars and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Allow to sit at least one week before eating.




Yield: I ended up with 3 half pints, 1 12 oz jar and 2 16-oz elite jars.


Note: This is a fairly flexible recipe. The batch of brine is a bit more than strictly needed because, depending on the size of your tomatoes, you may need more or less of it. You may need more or less jars as well. Just pack the tomatoes in tightly and put a clove of garlic and a pepper in each one.


Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
We did not have a good tomato crop this year. Lots of blossom end rot at the beginning of the summer then nothing. Well, nothing until September when we suddenly starting getting tomatoes again, most of which did not ripen. Among them were dozens of green cherry tomatoes, cherry tomatoes from a plant we didn't plant but just sprung up. I think it must be from some supermarket cherry tomatoes we bought and composted last winter when desperate for tomato and even store-bought cherry tomatoes started to look good. Anyway, that plant* was far and away the most prolific of all of our plants. I had Tomolives for the first time in Minneapolis this summer and loved them. Basically tiny "specially" grown green tomatoes, pickled like olives. So when faced with so many tomatoes myself, I thought I'd make my own version. I had pickled some wedges before but the whole tomatoes were just so cute, I thought I'd revisit the idea. I used cayenne from the garden and some fresh dill. They came out really well, perfect little pickled olive-y spheres.


*And a huge, crazy pumpkin plant that also grew up from the compost. That thing took over half the yard.

October 12, 2011

Smoked Citrus Spiced Chicken




Ingredients:
1 5-lb chicken, halved
olive oil

dry rub:
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground orange peel
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon roasted ground ginger


applewood chunks for smoking

Directions:
Rub the skin of the chicken with olive oil. Set aside. Whisk together the ingredients of the dry rub in a small bowl. Rub the entire dry rub into the skin of the chicken.

Place one chimney's worth of unlit coals in the coal ring. Add 2 chunks applewood then add one chimney's worth of lit coals on top. Place 2 additional chunks of applewood on top of the lit coals. Reassemble the smoker. Fill the water bowl with cold water (if the weather temperature is under 70, use some or all warm water). Smoke for 2 hours keeping the temperature between 225-275.

My thoughts:

We've only had it a short period of time but we love our new smoker. You could do this particular recipe on the regular grill and add a packet of the wood chips to the coals as we've done for years but it is so much easier in the smoker. Virtually no hands on time and so far, everything has cooked perfectly. The chicken has an awesome smoked flavor and the spices really sink in. Best of all, we can smoke two whole chickens at a time, one for dinner now and one for later.

October 10, 2011

Eggplant Fingers with Hummus-Labne Dipping Sauce



Ingredients:
3 Italian eggplants, cut into planks
1-2 cup(s) matzo meal
1/2-1 tablespoon hot Mexican chile powder
2 eggs, beaten
salt
freshly ground black pepper

dipping sauce:
3 tablespoons hummus, at room temperature*
3 tablespoons labne, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Ingredients:
Pour the egg into a shallow bowl. Then mix together the matzo meal and the spices in a second shallow bowl. Coat both sides of each eggplant slice in egg, then dip both sides in the matzo meal. Heat about a 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet.




Fry each plank in the hot oil, about 3 minutes on each side, until golden. If frying in batches, keep the cooked eggplant in the oven at 200 until ready to eat.


Stir together the dip ingredients. Serve the dip at room temperature and the eggplant very hot.

*I actually just used some Mediterranean style hummus by Tribe and not homemade. Just make sure you use really smooth hummus or the sauce is a little less dippable.

My thoughts:
For some reason, I had the biggest urge to make fried eggplant. I know a lot of people say that eggplant absorbs the oil but it really doesn't if your oil is hot enough. I always test by sticking the point of a chopstick into the oil. When small bubbles run up the sides of the chopstick, the oil is ready. Then, unless you lower the temperature, your eggplant will fry but not be greasy at all. In fact, it will be crisp on the outside and velvety smooth on the inside.

October 07, 2011

Scotch Bonnet Pepper Jelly



Ingredients:
3/4 lb Scotch Bonnet peppers, stems and most seeds removed
2 cups apple cider vinegar, divided use
6 cups sugar
6 oz. liquid pectin (both pouches in the box)

Directions:
In a blender, puree peppers and half of the vinegar. Prep jars/lids. In a heavy bottomed pot bring the puree, remaining vinegar and sugar to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Add the pectin. Return to rolling boil. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Ladle into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield: approx. 6 8-oz jars, 1 4-oz jar


Quick tip: I used my Vita-mix and it pretty much pulverized all of the seeds in the peppers. The few that remained, floated to the top of the jelly. I don't mind this but it you want an entirely seed-free jelly, run the pulp through a sieve before the boiling step.

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.
My thoughts:
I don't know about you but my peppers really don't seem to ripen until pretty late in the season in any real numbers. This is a great recipe to use up a bounty.

Pepper jelly has that unique quality of being both instantly shockingly hot and sweet at the same time. Luckily, scotch bonnets have a bit of a fruity note to them so this jam isn't all flames. It is rich and complex tasting as well. I recommend a thin spread of it on a sandwich or as a glaze on meat. Anywhere really, you need sweet heat.

October 03, 2011

Tuna Pasta Salad


Ingredients:
10 oz canned solid white albacore, drained
8 oz cooked rotini
3/4 cup chopped red onion
1 1/2 stalks celery, diced
2 tablespoons nonpareil capers
zest of 1 lemon


dressing:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon
1/2 teaspoon juice from the caper jar
salt
pepper

Directions:
In a large bowl, toss together the tuna, pasta, capers, onion, celery and zest. Break up any large chunks of tuna. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, lemon juice, caper juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad and stir to evenly distribute all ingredients.

My thoughts:
I know tuna pasta salad is hardly a revelation. But when I was finishing up my big project, for some reason tuna pasta salad was all I could think about. What they don't tell you when you start to develop recipes (for other people) for a living is that when you are typing up recipes and whatnot all day, you run out of time to actually cook dinner. Or make lunch. So we've been eating a lot of take out and having a lot of leftover take out for lunch lately. It has been tasty take out but for some reason, it has driven me to literally have a dream about tuna pasta salad. So, here you go. Tuna pasta salad. It is good. May you dream of it as well.

September 28, 2011

Sweet & Spicy Apple Slices

Ingredients:
20 Stayman-Winesap apples (or other firm, sweet apples)
10 cups water
4 cups sugar
6 cinnamon sticks
6 vanilla beans
12 whole star anise
12 black peppercorns
2 tablespoons whole cloves

Directions:
Prep 6 quart jars. Evenly divide the spices between the jars. Peel, core and slice the apples. Float them in water mixed with Fruit Fresh or lemon juice, to help retain their color. Meanwhile, bring the sugar, and water to a rolling boil. Add the apple slices. Boil for 5 minutes. Do not let it reduce. Pour the hot syrup and apples into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Run a knife or a jar scraper to dislodge any bubbles while turning the jar slightly. Seal. Process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.




Tip: I highly recommend the Blue Book Guide to Preserving for learning how to can. Here are some of my favorite canning related items.

Notes: I found some great long cinnamon sticks at Costco. They were the perfect size for the quart jars and quite inexpensive. This is a great recipe to use up vanilla beans that are slightly dried up. I buy them in bulk online and occasionally they get a bit tough before I am able to use them all.

My thoughts:
You all know about my Stayman-Winesap love if you have been readers during pretty much any fall. They are just a great, crisp not-too-sweet apple. We bought a whole bushel of them and while I was making great headway for a while there, we started to slow down and still had some apples left. I figured, why not can them? Even if they didn't work out, at least I tried and didn't just toss them in our compost bin. As it turned out, canning these apple was a success. They were infused with spice and allowed me to use them in any recipe that called for applesauce (by pureeing them) and were wonderful over yogurt and served on ice cream. You could even use the leftover syrup to sweeten a drink. Talk about a win-win-win.

 

September 26, 2011

Jammin' Pulled Pork

Ingredients:
2 1/2 boneless pork sirloin roast
8 oz  jam*
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chili sauce (like Heinz)
2 tablespoons thick Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons mesquite liquid smoke
1 1/2 teaspoons Mexican hot chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ancho pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a 4 quart slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hrs. When done, meat should shred easily with a fork. Remove roast from slow cooker. Shred with a fork and set aside. Mash any solid bits of the sauce in the slow cooker with a potato masher. Return the pork and the sauce to slow cooker, and toss to evenly coat. Serve on rolls.

*I used my homemade blueberry balsamic black pepper jam but any jam would probably be good.

My thoughts:
One of my favorite things to do with all of the stuff I can is to figure out new ways to use it. A person can only eat so much jam on toast. In this case, I used it to create a thick, delicious sauce for a pulled pork sandwich. The end result is a fruity, spicy not too drippy pulled pork that is easy to make as it is to eat. Plus it is a great way to taste fantastic summer berries in the fall!

September 19, 2011

Good Bite Weeknight Meals: Delicious Made Easy


A cookbook I contributed recipes to,  Good Bite Weeknight Meals: Delicious Made Easy, is now available! It features recipes from me and many other food bloggers including Steamy Kitchen, Simply Recipes, Gluten-free Girl, Picky Palate and more! Also exciting, the pictures of our dishes were taken by Matt Armendariz of Matt Bites! It really is a beautiful cookbook.


Shipping from Amazon now.

The contest has ended! Congrats, winners!

I will be back later this week with more recipes, I am finally near the end of my huge, summer-long project.

September 16, 2011

Hot Pickled Green Tomatoes


Ingredients:
8 small, green tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons pickling salt
1 habenaro, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon dill seed
6 peppercorns
1 small shallot, minced


Directions:
Evenly divide the tomatoes, pepper, spices and shallot between 2 wide mouth pint jars. Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Prep the lids/jars. Pour in the boiling vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Poke down any tomatoes that has floated too close to the top. Close the jars and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Allow to sit at least one week before eating.

Yield: 2 wide mouth pints

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.




My thoughts:
Just before the first frost was threatened, I picked all the green tomatoes I still had on the vine. In the past I've tried the old "ripen in a paper bag" trick but it didn't always work. Since I've become obsessed with canning, I thought I might try my hand at canning some pickled tomatoes. I'm honestly not sure if pickled tomatoes is a "thing" but I was already firing up my canning pot to make some jam so I figured making a couple of jars wouldn't hurt. I popped in a (really hot!) pepper some friends grew in their garden and a few of my favorite pickling spices and you know what? It totally turned out. The tomatoes stayed firm and had a great hot-pickle flavor. Easy-peasy. Added bonus: I felt great that I was able to eke out a tiny bit more from my garden.

September 12, 2011

Spicy Vegetable Ham Pea Soup


Ingredients:

5 cups ham stock
2 cups sauteed cubed smoked ham*
2 cups green split peas
2 cups watercress (stems removed)
kernels from 2 ears of corn (about 1 cup)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 poblano peppers, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced
2 small turnips, diced
2 stalks celery (with leaves), diced
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons pepper sherry
2 tablespoons dry vermouth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper
1/2 teaspoon chipotle
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 large bay leaf
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper



Directions:

Pick over split peas to remove any stones or stems that might be present. Place all ingredients EXCEPT the ham, peas and corn in a 4 quart slow cooker. Stir. Cook on low 10 hours. Stir in the remaining during the last 45 minutes of cooking. Fish out the bay leaf prior to serving.

*Use leftover ham or one of those cute boneless smoked ham steaks that are always on sale. I just saute them quickly in a dry, nonstick pan.

My thoughts:
I created this recipe to use up the last of the summer produce and some of the fall produce I've been accumulating in one go. I was a little nervous to see how it would come out but it was wonderful! Split peas turn so creamy in the slow cooker, you would swear you added cream. The peppers, watercress and turnips are meltingly soft and just add flavor and body to the soup. Adding the ham, peas and corn at the end add a fresh flavor that can some times be missing from a slow cooker soup. It all adds up to a warming, perfect for a weeknight meal.

Quick tip: Chop all of the ingredients up the night before and refrigerate them overnight. I even put the peas in a container with all of the spices so I didn't have to measure anything out. Just dump it all in and go!

September 10, 2011

Pickled Long Beans



Ingredients:
1 bunch long beans (aka yard long beans, Chinese long beans)
1 Korean or Chinese hot pepper, cut into strips
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
3 tablespoons shoaxing wine
1/4 cup pickling salt
4 cloves garlic
1 inch knob ginger, cut into 4 slices
1 tablespoon broken star anise
8 black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks


Directions:
Evenly divide the spices, ginger, pepper and garlic between 2 wide mouth quart jars. Cut the ends off the beans and divide into two even bunches. Fold them in half and fit into each jar. Bring the vinegar, salt, water and shaoxing to low boil. Stir to dissolve the salt. Pour the mixture over the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Seal. Process using the water bath mixture for 10 minutes.

Yield:
2 quarts

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
Some of my favorite dishes call for pickled long beans. Normally the recipes call for a quick pickle but some times it is difficult to find long beans at the market when the mood strikes so when I saw them recently, I picked up a bunch. Once I got them home I started to wonder if I could make a shelf-stable pickle out of them so I could have them on hand for when the mood strikes. I put in the appropriate spices and made this pickle. It is perfect in the dishes I would have made with the quick pickle and now I have extra.

September 05, 2011

Mussels with Zucchini and Basil



Ingredients:
4 lb mussels
3 small zucchini, diced
1 onion, diced
2 jalapeno, minced
2 cups stock or water
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon butter
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

Ingredients:

Heat the oil and butter in a large pot with a lid. Saute the onion, zucchini and jalapeno until the zucchini is tender. Add the liquid ingredients and herbs/spices. Add the mussels then cover and steam, shaking occasionally, until they are all opened. Discard any mussels that remained closed. Serve immediately.


My thoughts:
I am in a bit of denial that summer might possibly be drawing to an end. I've been busy with a big project (and a few smaller ones and a handful of food-related trips) all summer and that, combined with the horrible weather we've had most of the season, makes me feel like summer never really started. Luckily, there is still some good, local, summery produce to be had. In this case, I used zucchini to give a light, fresh flavor to the deeply savory mussels. I ended up eating the leftover stock and vegetables with a spoon like soup after we finished all of the mussels, it was that good!

September 03, 2011

Pickled Fennel

Ingredients:
6 bulbs fennel, in 1/4 inch slices
6 bay leaves
4 1/2 cups water
4 cups white vinegar
1/3 cup pickling salt
1/4 cup minced fennel frond
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons black peppercorns
3 teaspoons fennel seed
3 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed


Directions:
Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Prep the lids/jars. Evenly divide all of the spices, peppers and garlic between 6 wide mouth pint jars. Add the fennel, leaving 1/4 inch headroom.

Pour in the vinegar mixture. Close the jars and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Allow to sit 1 week before eating.


Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.


My thoughts:
When the nice people at Ocean Mist Farms offered to send me some fennel, I was pretty excited. It has been getting easier to buy fennel in recent years but sometimes it looks a little dodgy at the store. Not this fennel! It was blemish free and crisp. Unfortunately, I was headed to New Orleans for a few days and there was no way I would be able to use it all up before I went. So, I decided to pickle it. I am glad I did, it has a strong fennel-anise flavor and the fennel stayed remarkably crisp and sweet. Wonderful on a sandwich or salad. It was also delightful on grilled salmon.