This is the composed salad that we serve every Christmas Eve. Tradition!
This is the Chocolate Mousse Trifle that we served this Christmas Eve–destined to become a tradition.
I hope that your holidays have been merry, and that good things loom on your horizon in the new year. As we make our exit from 2011, a bit of a roller coaster year in our household, I’ve been thinking about cycles: beginnings and endings. There’s a life to everything–relationships, jobs, homes—and when one cycle ends, it lays the foundation for a new, often better cycle. In the meantime, there’s that odd place “in between” where one cycle is ending and the other has yet to take hold. Uncertainty can be uncomfortable. It’s a great life lesson, likely to repeated again and again, recognizing endings, forging new beginnings, and surrendering to What Is, in the moment.
I don’t mean to wax all philosophical–this is, after all, a food blog. But we all experience changes–big and small—and life filters into the world of food! Bill recently had a health scare, potential cancer, and he lost his job of 23 years. That he learned both things side-by-side one recent afternoon (“You are cancer-free” from his doctor, post-biopsy, to “We need to discuss your departure date” in a voice message from his manager.) puts a stark perspective on what is really important, what is indeed a blessing.
With big change inevitable in 2012, I know that we’ll all land on our feet–just like our new cat, Sid. In the meantime, I’m sharing two recipes from our holiday dinner, a great beginning: Composed Winter Salad with Brown Sugar Vinaigrette and an amazing ending: Chocolate Mousse Trifle.
Come the new year, I’ll still be cooking, blogging, and staying connected. Always good things in the kitchen and the garden!
Best wishes to you all. As always, thank you for visiting Good Food Matters.
CHOCOLATE MOUSSE TRIFLE
12 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate
6 T. Strong Coffee
2 T. Vanilla
2 T. Creme de Cacao
2 T. Creme de Cassis
2 sticks Unsalted Butter, softened, cut into pieces
8 Eggs, separated
1/2 cup Sugar
1 package Savoiardi (firm Italian ladyfingers)
Heady Dipping Liquid: 1/2 c. Strong Coffee, 2 t. Vanilla, 4 T. Rum
Whipped Topping Garnishes:
2 cups Heavy Cream, divided
1/2 c. Confectioner’s Sugar, divided
1 T. Vanilla
2 T. Cocoa Powder
In a heavy 2 qt. saucepan under low heat, melt the chocolate and coffee together.
Whisk in the vanilla and liqueurs. Then, stir in the butter, one chunk at a time, until it becomes smooth and shiny. Remove from heat.
Using an electric mixer with a balloon whisk, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until the yolks become really pale yellow and thickened, almost triple in volume. This will take several (at least 5) minutes. The yolks will cling to the whisk.
Check your chocolate mixture; it should be warmâ€”but not hot.
Beat it into the thickened egg yolks; the mixture will seem like chocolate mayonnaise.
Pour this into another large mixing bowl.
Clean and dry your mixer bowl and whisk. Beat the egg whites until stiff and glossy. Fold about Â¼ of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites.
Select a pretty glass bowl. One by one, dip the ladyfingers into the coffee-rum mixture and line the bottom of the bowl. Spoon in a layer of mousse. Repeat with another layer of dipped ladyfingers, then more mousse until bowl is filled.
Whip one cup of cream with vanilla and 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar. Set aside. Whip remaining cup with 2 T. cocoa powder and 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar.
Smooth the vanilla whipped cream over the top of the trifle. Pipe rosettes with the cocoa whipped cream. Garnish with chocolate shavings, chopped toffee, hazelnuts, or berries, if desired.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.
Serves a crowd! (12-16 servings)
FESTIVE WINTER SALAD
Citrus Fruits: Clementines and Ruby Grapefruit
Maytag Blue Cheese
Brown Sugar Vinaigrette
BROWN SUGAR VINAIGRETTE (aka Southern Sweet-Sour Vinaigrette)
4 T. White Balsamic Vinegar
2 T. Grapefruit Juice
1 t. Celery Seed
1 t. Paprika
1/4 cup Demerara Sugar
1/4 piece of a medium Onion
2 t. Dijon Mustard
1 t. Salt
1/2 t. Black Pepper
1 cup Olive Oil
Place all of ingredients EXCEPT the olive oil into a food processor fitted with a swivel blade. Pulse until the onion is pureed into the mixture. While the processor is running, pour in the olive oil slowly. It will incorporate nicely into the vinaigrette. The dijon will keep the dressing emulsified.
Sid is living the good life!
A woman I scarcely knew gave me this cookbook, Blue Ribbon Recipes, in the summer of 1975, an unsold item from her yard sale. She was getting rid of everything–moving out of the sultry South to an arid intentional community on a mesa near Santa Fe. I don’t recall much more about the circumstances, how I’d come to briefly meet her, or why she thought I should have the book.
But I’d like to thank her.
We all know how cookbooks can be—intriguing to thumb through, eye-feasting at times, with the occasional wonderful recipe that you actually use. But not so with this Blue Ribbon. Throughout the years, it’s been one bearing numerous good recipes, ones that I use again and again, such as these Cream Cheese Crescents.
The smudged and splattered pages tell the story.
Mary Ann Hill of Perry, Ohio, won a Blue Ribbon at the Lake County Fair for these flaky confections, sometime in the early Sixties. Her recipe is deceptively simple, but the combination of cream cheese and butter whipped with egg yolks into all purpose flour yields a remarkably light and supple dough that bakes into tangy layers.
I first tried Mary Ann’s recipe around 1980. My sister and I had a kiosk in an old warehouse, “Goodies” where we sold sandwiches and baked goods, including the famous Marbled Cream Cheese Brownies. We were always on the lookout for something delicious and different. This recipe caught our attention.
We tweaked it slightly, and substituted almonds for walnuts.
The dough is made in advance, and can be divided and frozen, even, if need be.
The recipe can also be easily cut in half–but for catering purposes, it made sense for us to leave it as it is. The complete batch makes up to 8 dozen filled crescents!
We also valued the recipe for its versatile nature. You could enhance that seductive meringue filling with cocoa, espresso powder, different extracts, if you wanted another flavor profile. You could add pecans, pistachios, even dried fruit and jam.
The pastry dough is not sweet at all, and only gets its sweetness from being rolled in the powdered sugar on the work board.
Indeed, Mary Ann Hill deserved the Blue Ribbon for this recipe, and should be pleased, if she’s still on the planet, that it is inspiring cooks today. It is a delicious shaped cookie.
I’d like to thank her, too.
An afternoon of rolling, filling, twisting and folding–this is why I love baking cookies.
A soothing rhythm that results in a roomful of treats–
Crescents for now, Crescents for later, Cresents to keep, Crescents to share.
ALMOND CREAM CHEESE CRESCENT COOKIES adapted from Blue Ribbon Recipes
1 lb. softened Butter
1 lb. Cream Cheese
4 cups All Purpose Flour
4 Egg Yolks
Confectioner’s Sugar—at least 2 cups
4 Egg Whites
1/2 cup Sugar
1 t. Almond Extract
1/4 t. Vanilla
1 cup toasted, ground Almonds
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese together. Beat in egg yolks, then the flour. Separate dough into 4 balls. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight. Take reserved egg whites and refrigerate overnight as well.
The next day:
Beat egg whites into soft peaks. Beat in sugar, almond and vanilla extract. Filling will hold its shape without being too stiff.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees, if convection)
Sprinkle 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar on the work counter, and roll out dough ball. Flip and roll on the other side, so that the sugar gets layered in.
Score dough into 2″ squares, and sprinkle with ground almonds. Place a dab of filling in the middle of each, and roll up–diamond corner to corner.
Place rolled crescents onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Dust with more ground almonds, if desired.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.
Makes 7-8 dozen crescents.
Here’s a happy Post Script.
Many of you were so kind when I posted about the passing of our sweet old cat, Cass, just three months ago. Last week, I awoke early to the sound of plaintive crying somewhere outside, near my home. I investigated, called out, and this young fellow bounded up onto my front porch, encircling my legs, positively beaming that he’d been heard.
I’ve checked around the neighborhood, posted on the area list serv. No one has claimed him. I took him to the vet for a check-up. No micro chip in him. But the poor guy, neutered and declawed, had been somebody’s cat—and he had been out in the world for a while. Dirty, dehydrated, anemic, hungry, a terrible mouth infection….but he’s coming around nicely.
My vet says that sometimes that Cat Angels take over—send someone new to replace the one who died. Bill says that our previous cats sprayed the word “Suckers” all around our house, so that any in need would immediately know that ours was a cat-friendly place.
In any case, Sid is safe with us, in a good home. An early Christmas present!
We’re crazy about him already.
Sid, the Christmas Cat, aka Sid-Not-Vicious
Living with a vegetarian restricts my intake of red meat. This is not a complaint–trust me. I consider it a benefit. I’m an omnivore who is happy–and better off– not consuming the vast quantity of beef that many Americans do. And, with just two in our household, it doesn’t make sense for me to buy those great hunks needed for pot roast, meat loaf, and the like.
But, cooking for our Third Thursday Community Potluck is a different matter. No restrictions! Here I get the chance to Go Big and Meaty, should I choose. From time to time, I splurge, and cook up a cauldron of something wonderful and stew-ish. Because it’s so infrequent, I enjoy the process, lengthy as it can be, and really savor the results.
For our most recent potluck gathering–a week before T-Day–I indulged in stewy-splurge. I made a supa-sized batch of Shepherd’s Pie, fancy-pants style. Onions, carrots and parsnips, oven-roasted to a caramel sweet, were folded in with tender chunks of beef, browned and simmered in an enamel cast-iron pot.
Not so fancy, you say?
Not until this step–
Potatoes seasoned with chives and paprika were whipped light and buttery—then piped in a mound of pretty rosettes, sealing in the stew. The whole she-bang went into the oven for a final blast, emerging puffed and golden and utterly irresistible.
Another fancy note, regarding the green you see flecked in the pot. This is “Par-Cel” a parsley-celery hybrid that one of our local farmers was selling last week. Have you ever seen–or used it before? I couldn’t resist something so new. I was surprised at how it tasted: Indeed a true hybrid–possessing both fresh parsley and celery leaf flavors. It was a nice addition, plunged into the pot at the end of cooking time.
FANCY SHEPHERD’S PIE
STEP ONE: THE BEEF
5 lb. Boneless Chuck Roast, trimmed and cut into cubes
4-5 cloves Garlic, minced
1/4 cup Olive Oil
4 T. Balsamic Vinegar
1 1/2 t. Kosher or Sea Salt
1 t. Black Pepper
a few sprigs of fresh Thyme
a couple of sprigs of fresh Rosemary
2 Bay Leaves
1 T. Olive Oil
2 T. Flour
Place cubed meat into a mixing bowl. Stir in minced garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Strip the sprigs of thyme and rosemary and stir into the meat. The meat should be well coated. Add bay leaves. Allow to marinate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Heat the stew pot on medium. Add olive oil. Add meat, a few pieces at a time. Do not crowd. Brown the meat on all sides, and remove–putting into a separate bowl. Continue the browning process. When all the meat is browned, toss with 2 T. flour.
Return to the flour-coated meat to the pot and cook gently–toasting the flour. Stir in water to cover, scraping up browned bits from the bottom and sides of the pot. Cover and simmer for at least an hour. Meat should be fork tender.
STEP 2: ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES
1 lb. Carrots, cleaned and sliced on the diagonal into pieces
1 lb. Parsnips, cleaned and sliced on the diagonal into pieces
2-3 medium Onions, sliced lengthwise into 1/2″ strips
Salt and Black Pepper
Par-cel, or Fresh Parsley Leaves, or Celery Leaves
Spread out vegetables on a baking sheet and lightly coat with olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
Roast in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, until pieces are softened and caramelized. Remove from heat.
When the beef is tender, add the vegetable to the pot. Stir in chopped Par-cel (or parsley, or celery leaves) Taste for seasoning.
STEP 3: WHIPPED CHIVE POTATOES
4 lb. Russet Potatoes, washed, peeled, quartered
1 stick Butter, cut into pieces
1 bundle fresh Chives
Salt and Black Pepper
1 c. Milk
pastry bag fitted with a star tip
Place potatoes into a large pot of lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife tip.
Pour cooked potatoes into a colander. Drain well and return to the pot. Under low heat, toss the potatoes in the pot to cook off any remaining water.
Place warm potatoes into a big mixing bowl. Using a stand or hand-held mixer, beat the potatoes until the lumps are broken down. Beat in the butter. Season to taste with salt, black pepper. Beat in chives. Slowly add milk, continuing to whip the potatoes until they become creamy and somewhat fluffy.
Spoon whipped potatoes into a large pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe rosettes allover the top of the beef stew. Continue to mound the potato rosettes.
Sprinkle with paprika and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes—until stew is bubbly and potato topping is puffed and golden.
Serves a Potluck Crowd!
Third Thursday Potluck friends surround the feasting table.
It’s a rainy afternoon in Nashville, and I should be doing other things. I have a writing assignment, due tomorrow, barely started. We leave early Tuesday morning for the long drive up to DC for Thanksgiving festivities with my daughter and son-in-law—and I gotta get cooking, too.
Cornbread dressing needs its cornbread base; pumpkin pies need their butter-rich crusts, and roasted garlic mashed potatoes ain’t nothin’ without a bundle of roasted garlic cloves.
I will get to all of that; I promise. I’m a seasoned procrastinator, if nothing else. For ill or naught, I’ve convinced myself that I do better work under the tick-tick-tick of a deadline.
Besides, I have something more enticing at hand to share with you: a rich bowl of risotto, laden with gold: Chanterelles!
For their rare yellow-orange hue, silken but meaty texture, and delicate taste—nutlike, earthy, with hint of stone fruit—-I prize these mushrooms above the others.
Foraged or harvested, Now is their Time. I’ve seen these beauties turning up at the grocery store (Whole Foods) but I was stunned this week to find them at Costco. And, at $10 a pound.
The chanterelle’s distinctive flavor warrants simplicity in preparation, perhaps imbued in a bisque, or tangled in a pasta. You really want to showcase this mushroom–and not overpower it with heavy or competing tastes.
Today, using some pantry staples, I made a risotto. It didn’t take long, and was a pleasure to make. Leeks lent a sweet green contrast. Chanterelle stems chopped and cooked into the mixture added depth.
A good risotto is dependent on a good broth. Organic mushroom broth purchased at the market is a bit of a “cheater” –but a respectable product. I find it preferable to vegetable or chicken broth in this instance.
I didn’t use it exclusively—I added water as well. If there had been a bottle of sherry in my pantry, I would have stirred in a cup.
I’ve talked about Carnaroli Rice before, and if you can find it, I encourage you to give it a try. A larger, plumper grain with higher starch content, the Italians call it their superfino.
Stir-stir, pour, and stir some more–
It’s actually fun to watch the rice absorb the liquid, plump up, and release its starches. Time? Thirty minutes–and it goes quickly. When you’re immersed in the process, that dimension vanishes.
Risotto-making gives you time to think–and today, while stirring and savoring its perfume, I thought about you, and this blog. And how I’d better post this recipe as soon as possible. Because you’d enjoy this dish on a dreary fall afternoon.
It is simple comfort food, with fancy-pants style.
My thoughts also turned to this season of giving thanks and expressing gratitude, the ebb and flow of what we give and what we receive. Health. A warm home and loving family. A stocked pantry. A garden. Art. Words. Beautiful things.
And, many friends, some unseen.
I want to thank you all for stopping by to visit, reading and commenting. It’s always nice to have you along on my little culinary journey, sharing good food and camaraderie. I value our connections.
Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving! If you’re traveling, be safe. Enjoy the bounty at the table and the time spent together. We’ll visit again soon—
1 lb. Chanterelles
8 T. Butter
1 1/2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1 qt. Mushroom Broth
2 cups Water (or 1 cup Water, 1 cup Sherry)
Salt and Cracked Black Pepper
a few shavings of Parmegiano-Reggiano
Carefully clean the mushrooms. Trim the stems, and reserve.
Cut the remaining bulk of the mushroom (mostly cap, some stem) into slices.
Clean and thinly slice the leeks. Divide.
Coarsely chop the reserved stem pieces.
In a large stockpot set on medium heat, saute the chanterelle pieces with half of the chopped leeks in 4 T. melted butter. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in short-grain rice, and let the grains get coated with the buttery saute. Reduce heat to low.
Pour in one cup mushroom broth and stir well.
In a separate skillet, melt remaining butter. Saute sliced chanterelles and leeks with a flick of salt and pepper for about 5 minutes–until leeks collapse, and chanterelles become soft, tender. Remove from heat. (You can do this step before cooking the rice, if you like.)
Continue adding liquid to the rice mixture, stirring often, scraping the sides and bottom of the pot so that nothing sticks. Alternate mushroom broth and water. (or water/sherry), adding more liquid as the rice absorbs it.
It takes about 30 minutes for the rice to plump up, while releasing the starches that make that delectable spoon-creaminess.
Stir in sauteed chanterelles and leeks, reserving a few spoonfuls to place on top of each bowl.
Spoon risotto into bowls. Place a scoop of sliced chanterelles in the center. Garnish with a few shaving of parmegiano-reggiano, if desired.
She’s at it again. Friend Maggie has become quite the baker, and during our visit last week, she showed me how to make her latest favorite: a delicious—and easy— granola bread.
Doesn’t it look tempting?
It’s chock full of dried fruits, almonds, and honeyed grains. The dough itself is barely sweetened; the abundance of jewel-like fruits provides bursts of sweetness throughout the loaf.
If she could, Maggie would have you over right now, for “a set” on her porch in the country. We’d savor the fall afternoon with a buttery slice and cup of coffee. Lining the front of her yard are the shrubs called burning bush–at this moment in their brilliant red blaze. We’d watch the flurry of chickadees, snatching and storing seeds for the coming winter. We’d talk about oddities we experienced gardening this year–how the tomatoes put more of their energy into vines than fruit, and did you know that groundhogs could climb a fence and eat green beans?
Instead, we’ll have to do the next best thing, and show you how it’s done…
What a fetching assembly of ingredients!
You could make this bread with just raisins and granola, if you prefer. And, if you’d rather put in pecans instead of almonds, you’d be well-pleased with the results.
Maggie had all kinds of dried fruits–apricots, blueberries, cherries, cranberries—in her pantry, so we took the “more is better” approach. For this bread, it proves to be the right one!
Yes, it’s a kneaded, yeasted bread, but don’t be dismayed. Remember, Bread=Time. And most of that time means leaving the dough alone. (after a vigorous kneading!)
This recipe calls for one major rising, followed by a brief one, once the loaves are formed.
The holidays are drawing near. Wrapped up in festive packaging, her fruit-n-granola bread would make a much appreciated gift.
Even better though, would be to have a loaf on hand to serve guests, sliced and smeared with soft butter. Served alongside a cup of hot coffee or tea—ah, I can’t think of a more pleasant way to share a chilly afternoon visiting with friends.
MAGGIE’S FRUIT-N-GRANOLA BREAD
1/3 cup Rolled Oats (not the “quick” kind)
1 1/2 cups Dried Fruit (use a variety & dice if necessary)
1 tablespoon Unsalted Butter (substitute vegetable oil for vegan)
2 tablespoons Honey
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup boiling Water
1 cup Granola (chop into coarse crumbs if necessary)
1 cup lukewarm Water
1 pkg. Active Dry Yeast
2 1/2 cups Unbleached All-purpose Flour
1/2 cup Almonds, roughly chopped
In a large bowl, combine oats, 1/2 cup of the dried fruits, butter, honey, and salt. Add boiling water, mix well. Stir in granola and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine yeast and lukewarm water. Cover bowl with a dish towel and set aside to ferment.
When granola mixture has cooled down to lukewarm, stir in yeast mixture.
Stir in flour, 1 cup at a time. Stir in the remaining dried fruit and almonds. The dough will be fairly sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Flour your hands, and adding flour as needed. knead the dough for about 8 minutes, or until itâ€™s smooth and no longer sticky.
Place dough into an oiled bowl, making sure to coat all over. Cover bowl with a dish towel and place in a warm area – the oven with light on is a great place. Let rise until itâ€™s doubled in size – 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Punch dough down. Cut in half and shape into two slightly oval balls. Place on an oiled sheet pan. Cover with a dish towel and let rise for 15 – 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375F. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes. It should have a golden brown crust and sound slightly hollow when tapped. Foolproof test is 190F on an instant read thermometer. Let cool on a wire rack.
Let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing! (Gives you time to brew up that pot of coffee-)
Makes two small round loaves.
The first of November! The lure of the Feast!
A couple of years ago, Kim Severson and Julia Moskin, food writers at the New York Times, staged a battle: Turkey vs. Sides. Which brought more happiness to the Thanksgiving table, the noble bird or its myriad accompaniments?
Now I ‘m not one to take sides; I want ’em all. One is incomplete without the others. But, if pressed to choose, I must say that I’d rather have a table full of exciting side dishes than a roast turkey. And, for the vegetarian in our household, there’s no contest. The sides have it.
With the onset of each holiday season, I know that there will be constants–certain beloved dishes that appear during this time, and vanish until the next. (Like Cornbread Dressing. Cranberry-Walnut Relish. Pumpkin Pie. )
But I like change. With side dishes, those supporting players to the Big Feast, there’s the opportunity to introduce variety. It’s good to bring something new to the table, while still upholding treasured traditions.
Today I’m sharing two terrific side dishes that I made recently for our potluck. I want to put them out there early, for your consideration. Both use lesser known, seasonal ingredients. Either would bring happiness to the holiday table.
First up: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Pear, Shallots, Sage, and Hazelnuts. I have Gigi to thank for this one. Adding Red Pear to the mix is pure inspiration, a wonderful flavor balance, and color-wise, a true holiday beauty.
I’ve roasted and sauteed everything in olive oil. You could make this with butter–which would become brown butter—and I wouldn’t blame you for that. Brown butter!
But, the shallots, toasty hazelnuts, sage, and fragrant pear bites bring a rich harmony of flavors to the brussels, in a more healthful way.
I know what you’re thinking. For a long time, I wasn’t crazy about brussels sprouts either. This dish could change your mind. Even those who usually turn their noses up at the very thought of “little cabbages” relished the savory-sweet combination.
Next up: Roasted Baby Yukon Potatoes, Harukei Turnips, and Thyme
It’s been a while since I’ve written about these remarkable turnips that Tally grows each year. Petite, white, and earthy-sweet, they defy all my former notions and experiences with the lowly turnip. ( I have bitter, bitter associations with ill-prepared gratins from my youth.)
Harukeis are naturally mild and sweet. Roasting only coaxes that out all the more. And they pair beautifully with potatoes.
When simply roasted in a little olive oil with buttery yukon golds and fresh thyme, the turnips burst with juicy sweetness.
I first made this dish for the Fretboard Journal Local Farm Feast last month. Another time, I added roasted cauliflower and onions to the batch. This made a very tasty melange, and visually worked as an “all white” vegetable dish.
In the process, I realized that I liked the roasted harukei turnips better than the potatoes. Kind of shocking, I know. I wished I had included more of them in the dish, and fewer spuds. That’s how delicious they are.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH RED PEAR, SHALLOTS, HAZELNUTS, AND SAGE
1 lb. fresh Brussels Sprouts, washed, dried, ends trimmed
1 large Red Pear, firm but ripe–cored (not peeled) and diced medium
2 medium, (or 1 large) Shallots, diced small
1/2 cup chopped Hazelnuts
1 bundle fresh Sage leaves
Place brussels sprouts on a baking pan and lightly coat with olive oil.
Season with salt and pepper and place in a preheated 325 degree. Allow to slow roast for about 25 minutes. Outer leaves will get crispy-brown, and the interior will be firm but tender.
In a deep saucepan set on medium heat, saute shallots in olive oil ( 2-3 T) until translucent—about 2 minutes. Stir in hazelnuts and sage leaves and saute a couple of minutes longer. Add diced pear, and gently stir. The pear will break down slightly, and get coated with the shallot-hazelnut mixture.
When the sprouts are roasted, remove from the oven and add to the saucepan. Stir in, combining all the elements well. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
ROASTED BABY YUKON POTATOES, HARUKEI TURNIPS, AND THYME
2 lbs. small Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 bunch Harukei Turnips
several sprigs Fresh Thyme
Because these yukons were small, I was able to roast the turnips and potatoes together. But it is also fine to roast them on separate sheet pans, and then combine, post-roast.
Place turnips and potatoes on a sheet pan, and lightly coat them with olive oil. Season them with salt, black pepper, and the leaves from several sprigs of fresh thyme.
Place in a preheated 375 degree oven and roast for 40 minutes. Check on them, about half-way, shaking them in the pan, and rotating in the oven. Test for doneness.
Serendipity and A Tale of Quinces
I had never seen a quince, let alone eaten one, but the benevolent forces aligned last week…
It started the morning I read Rachel’s latest blogpost, “Quincing My Words.” Her description of this odd but intriguing fruit drew me right in: Illusive. Ancient. Properly Sensual.
Picture, if you will, a bulbous cross between an apple and a pear, with a heady fragrance both floral and citric.
My mind whirled, imagining its heft and scent, a fruit both exotic and seductive. (Perhaps these were the love apples of Venus?) I could envision bowls of quinces perfuming kitchens of antiquity, and prized trees laden with great yellow-green knobs planted outside Persian homes.
Rachel made the quince sound paradisaical, something from a dream. I doubted that I’d ever have the chance to taste this fruit, but enjoyed the read, and went about my day. My cousin Cathy was soon arriving to visit, and speak at the Southern Festival of Books.
That night we went to Anatolia’s, our favorite Turkish restaurant, and Cathy inquired about dessert.
“We have a special tonight,” our waiter said. “Baked quince. It is stuffed with walnuts and pistachios and we top it with cream. It is beautiful dessert, only here for a few weeks.”
He presented the confection, half an oblong fruit baked firm but spoon-supple, its center filled with a mixture of finely chopped nuts, cinnamon, and sugar. The pastry chef had garnished it with sweetened whipped cream and a scatter of pomegranate seeds.
The quince was like nothing else I’d ever eaten. Its texture much firmer than apples or pears–but smooth, not grainy–and its sweet-tart taste embodying a bit of both, but with layers of lemon and rose.
The whipped cream indeed gilded the lily, and the pomegranate seeds were little tangy firecracker bursts in each bite. Sublime!
And so was born our mission to seek them out, and recreate the dish.
The next day, Cathy and I began our quince quest. First stop: Whole Foods, as recommended by the waiter at Anatolia’s. No luck. We drove across town to a large global market, again to no avail. And then Cathy made this observation, “This is a Middle Eastern dessert. We need to shop at a Middle Eastern market. Do you have one?”
Of course! We motored from the west side of town to the southside, out Nolensville Road, Nashville’s diverse global corridor for shopping and dining. A sign with distinctive script advertising fruits, vegetables, and Halal meats held promise but its owner had sad news; he had sold out a couple of days ago. “I have a friend. He may have some at his store.” He made the call, turned to us and said, “Only two pieces.”
Sold. Two would be all we needed.
Blocks away, there they were, awaiting us, in a small market that held other delicacies worth exploring.
You’ll notice a light downy fuzz covering the quince that you’ll need to rinse off. And, until cooked, they remain devilishly hard. The yellower the quince, the riper. But, the oven-poach will transform even a green quince into a wondrous thing.
At the Turkish restaurant, they may have baked the quince in some rosewater–a splendid idea. We chose pear nectar and lemon, which imparted lovely notes to the poach, and its resulting caramel-like sauce.
When Cathy visits, she likes to bring recipes for me to try. The wedge you’ve seen plated with our quince is Oat Pudding, a simple rustic dessert from the Friuli region of Italy that Cathy had been making recently. We knew that this pudding would be an ideal accompaniment to the fruit.
OVEN-POACHED QUINCES, STUFFED WITH WALNUTS AND PISTACHIOS
2 Quinces, cut in half, and cored
1/4 c. Pistachios, finely chopped
1/4 c. Walnuts, finely chopped
3 T. Sugar
1/2 t. Cinnamon
2 T. Butter
1 1/2 cups Pear Nectar (or juice)
1 1/2 cups Water
1 Lemon, cut into strips
Optional: Pomegranate seeds (taken from a quarter section)
lightly sweetened Whipped Cream
You’ll need a good sharp knife for this. The quinces are hard-hard, but will remarkably soften and yield their marvelous flavor in a long oven-poach.
Mix water and pear nectar in a deep casserole dish. Add lemon strips.
Mix nuts, sugar, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Press nut mixture into the center core of each quince half. Dot with butter.
Place each half, facing up, into the pear-water bath. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven. Bake for an hour and uncover. Baste the quinces. Bake uncovered for another 20-30 minutes.
Serve warm, and drizzle the caramelized juices over the quince.
2 Quince=4 large half-size servings, or 8 nice wedges to eat with Oat Pudding.
adapted from Recipes from an Italian Farmhouse by Valentina Harris
1 1/4 c. Oatmeal
2 1/2 c. Milk
4 Egg Yolks
7 T. Sugar
2 T. Pear Nectar
Spread oatmeal on a baking sheet and toast in a 225 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
Bring milk to a boil. Sprinkle in oatmeal, lower the heat, and stir constantly for about 10 minutes. Add more milk if the mixture seems too stiff. Remove from heat.
For a smooth pudding: puree oatmeal in a blender. For heartier texture, leave the mixture as is.
Beat egg yolks until fluffy and light lemon colored. Add sugar and beat for at least 5 minutes longer. Fold into oatmeal mixture and cook on low heat for 7 minutes, stirring until thickened and custardy.
Coat the bottom of a small mixing bowl with pear nectar. Pour in oat pudding mixture. Chill for at least 4 hours. Turn out and serve.
How strange to think of giving up all ambition!
Suddenly, I see with such clear eyes
The white flake of snow
That has fallen in the horse’s mane.
I found this Robert Bly poem, “Watering the Horse” tucked in the back of a mottled recipe notebook, long untouched. It was on a sheet of mimeographed paper, that odd purplish ink, the public school printing method of long ago.
I still love this poem today, perhaps more than when I was a teen–the notion of ambition having altered with experience. At the other end of child-rearing and career building, I call it into question: what I embrace; what I give up; what has meaning.
And then I cook.
One clear ambition, I tell myself, is that each autumn, I seek out alternative ways to prepare butternut squash.
You may recall, in seasons past, that we’ve cooked up Butternut Lasagna layered with leek bechamel, swiss chard-butternut gratin, flan-like timbales with walnut pesto, and savory bread pudding , served with vegetable veloute, perfect for the holiday dinner table.
Each recipe, a tasty vehicle for this versatile gourd.
Now, that ambition could run wild: this being the first year that I tried my hand at growing our favored winter squash—and harvested a healthy basketful.
All sizes and shapes!
This morning, a cushy blanket of fog cloaked our neighborhood. Emerging colors of yellow, gold and burgundy fairly glowed as the fog gave way to an overcast day. I love how brilliant colors come forward in that kind of dull, diffuse light.
The air was cool, too. Chili weather! And then, it occurred to me that the meaty nature of the orange-hued squash would work well in a vegetarian chili.
I decided to give it a go. With Rancho Gordo beans in my pantry, assorted peppers: poblano, banana, jalapenos along with a few stray tomatoes from the garden, garlic, onions, and spices, I had the foundation for a hearty batch.
While the beans began their long simmer, I roasted the diced butternut pieces along with the poblanos. I let them get a little caramel crust, and set them aside to cool. Not wanting the squash to break down in the chili, I would add the chunks towards the end of the cooking cycle, to meld with the “pot liquor” the sauce made by the beans as they cook. I turned my attention to bread–cornbread.
My go-to recipe uses 12 tablespoons of melted butter–an ingredient I lacked. My friend Maggie has a skillet cornbread recipe that uses canola oil–another ingredient missing at the moment in my pantry. What if I made the cornbread with olive oil?
What if, indeed!
I hand whisked the batter. It came together quickly-easily, and went into the cast iron skillet, into the oven.
It baked into a firm but tender crumb, the olive oil imparting depth, an Old World sense to a New World dish.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the Rancho Gordo Beans (used in this recipe: “Good Mother Stallards” but other beans would also be delicious) are remarkable for their richness. Meaty beans make mighty good chili.
The butternuts proved their mettle in the mix, too. Slightly sweet, they latched on to the layers of peppery heat. A little allspice and cumin, perfect with this squash, added intrigue. It’s a worthy veggie chili, complex with minimal ingredients, hearty, full-bodied, aand satisfying on a gray autumn day.
And, not at all ambitious to make.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH-HEIRLOOM BEAN CHILI
3 cups chopped (large dice) Butternut Squash (I used 2 small butternuts for this)
1 large or 2 medium Poblano Peppers
1 heaping cup of dry Beans ( I used Rancho Gordo’s Good Mother Stallards. But, use a good bean of your choice. This recipe would work with black beans, too.)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 Banana Peppers, chopped
1 Jalapeno, sliced thin
2 t. Allspice
1 t. Cumin
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread diced butternut squash and halved poblano peppers on a baking sheet pan. Coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for about 20 minutes. The squash will roast and caramelize. Pepper skins will blister—peel, chop and set aside separately.
In a large saucepan on medium heat, saute diced onion, banana peppers, and garlic in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until onion is translucent. Add dry beans, and stir until they are coated with the olive oil-onion mix. Pour in water, covering the beans by at least 2 inches. Add roasted poblano pieces.
Simmer until beans are tender ( at least 2 hours), adding more liquid as necessary. When the beans are “soupy” and yield tender flesh, add the roasted butternut. Season with allspice and cumin. Taste for salt, and spicy heat.
Serve alone, or over rice. Dollop with sour cream, garnish with green onion, if you like. Enjoy with cornbread.
OLIVE OIL CORNBREAD
1 1/2 cups Cornmeal
1 cup All Purpose Flour
1 T. Sugar
1 T. Baking Powder
1/2 t. Salt
12 T. Olive Oil
1 1/2 cups Milk
1 cup corn kernels (optional)
1/2 cup shredded white cheddar (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Sift the dry ingredients together. Beat the eggs, oil, and milk together lightly, then beat into the bowl of dry ingredients. Fold in corn kernels, shredded white cheddar.
Pour into an oiled cast-iron skillet (or bread pan.)
Bake for 20-25 minutes. Test for doneness. Cool slightly, cut into wedges and serve right out of the skillet.
Sweet Potato Tart with cornmeal crust
Maple Pecan Tart with gingersnap crust
Today, an embarrassment of riches!
Between house parties and a special local farm dinner, I’ve been busy-busy cooking this month. In the process, I’ve created a couple of lush desserts suited for fall.
It’s a beautiful day in Nashville, the essence of early autumn: sunny, neither warm nor cool, with that slant of light that makes all things clear.
Ripe for sharing both recipes.
The first, sweet potato pie with cornmeal crust, was one that I made for the local farm dinner, hosted by Fretboard Journal, a guitar-afficianado’s dream-magazine based out of Seattle Washington. With all the “box” pickers, builders, traders, and listeners, Nashville is one guitar lovin’ town, the perfect site for the Inaugural Fretboard Feast.
Working with Tally, I designed a menu, basing it on what was seasonal and available at the moment. We sourced meat, eggs, fruit, and vegetables from her farm, and her neighboring farmer-colleagues.
Here are some of the highlights: Rosemary-Sage Roasted Fresh Ham with Fig Sauce, Fall Lettuces with beets, pears, walnuts, chevre, Sherry-Plum Vinaigrette, Butternut Squash-Swiss Chard Gratin, October Beans, Pole Beans, and Leeks with blistered cherry tomatoes and peppers, Yukon Golds and Harukei Turnips roasted with Thyme and Garlic…
And, this very local pie, distinctively Southern with its slightly gritty cornmeal crust. A drizzle of sorghum, a dollop of lemon-basil scented creme fraiche, and Mer-cy, was it ever down-home elegant good. Have a bite, please!
SWEET POTATO PIE WITH CORNMEAL CRUST
3/4 cup Yellow Corn Meal
3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
2 T. Sugar
1/2 t. Salt
7 T. cold Butter, cut into pieces
3-4 T. Ice Water
Place all dry ingredients in a food processor fitted with a pastry cutter blade (or swivel blade). Pulse quickly to “sift” them together. Add cold butter, and pulse until the pieces are cut throughout the cornmeal-flour mix. Continue pulsing, add water, one tablespoon at a time. The dough will begin to amass. Continue pulsing until it forms a ball. Collect, pat into a firmer ball, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can do this well ahead of time–a day in advance.)
2 cups cooked Sweet Potatoes (2 medium or 1 large Sweet Potato, baked, meaty insides scooped from the sweet potato shell))
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Cream
1 T. Vanilla
1 t. Ginger
1/2 t. Cinnamon
1/2 t. Nutmeg
pinch ground Cloves
I used the food processor (swivel blade) for the filling too.
Place sweet potatoes into the food processor and process until smooth. Add brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and spices. Continue processing. Taste, and adjust for seasoning. Add eggs, one at a time, and process until very smooth and well-incorporated.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove doughball from refrigerator and allow to soften. Sprinkle counter with a little flour and roll out crust. Fit into a 9″ or 10″ pie pan. If the dough breaks or crumbles, (which it might) don’t worry. The cornmeal makes it a bit that way, but is very forgiving as far as piecing the crust back together.
Fill the pie with the sweet potato mixture and bake for about 35 minutes. Test in the center for doneness (whatever you stick in to check will be clean when removed)
Cool. Serve with lemon-scented creme fraiche.
LEMON BASIL SCENTED CREME FRAICHE
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 T. Buttermilk
3 T. Lemon Basil Simple Syrup
1 T. Lemon zest
Mix the cream and buttermilk in a clean glass mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit out, in a cool dark place, for 24 hours, to thicken. Stir occasionally. Refrigerate, and allow to culture for 3 days.
Make your simple syrup. (recipe below)
Whip the creme fraiche with lemon zest and simple syrup until fluffy. Serve over pie.
Lemon Basil Simple Syrup
1/2 c. Sugar
1/2 c. Water
1/2 c. Lemon Basil Leaves
Dissolve sugar into water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Plunge in the lemon basil leaves.
Stir well and simmer. Allow to cool. Strain the leaves.
Next up, Maple Pecan.
Southern pecan pie is traditionally made with corn syrup, and I’ve generally made it this way, with delicious results. But, for this tart, I wanted to use maple syrup that I was able to source from a farm in neighboring Kentucky. I had always thought about maple syrup coming from New England and Canada—so it’s nice to know that locals are making it too.
And, a different, “spicier” crust seemed to be in order. For its sweet and heady bite, a crust made from ginger snaps makes a nice shell to hold that pecan studded custard, and is a snap to make.
I’ve used the same recipe, pressed the crust into an 8″X8″ square baking pan, and made Maple Pecan Bars, instead of the round tart. This works, easy-peasy.
I hope you all are enjoying the change of season. Take time outside, have a slice of one of these tarts, sip hot coffee, drink in that rare slant of light.
MAPLE PECAN TART WITH GINGERSNAP CRUST
24 Ginger Snap Cookies (from an Archway Cookie Bag)
3 T. Melted Butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Pulse gingersnaps in a food processor into fine crumbs. Place into a mixing bowl, and stir in melted butter. Press mixture onto the bottom and sides of a 9″ pie pan. Bake for 5 minutes.
1 cup Maple Syrup
1/2 cup Sugar
1 stick melted Butter, slightly cooled
1 T. Vanilla
1/2 t. Salt
2 cups Pecan Halves
Line the bottom of the gingersnap crust with pecans.
Make the filling, using a stand mixer, or a hand-held. Beat maple syrup, sugar, vanilla, and butter together. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Pour over pecans in the pie pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Serve warm or cold, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (drizzled with caramel sauce!)
What good meal could you make for under five dollars?
Slow Food USA initiated this cooking challenge, one which meshed nicely with our Third Thursday Community Potluck this month. In a rough economy, and an ever-widening “food gap,” knowing how to prepare tasty, nutritious food at an affordable price is a crucial survival tool.
Calling it “The $5 Challenge,” Slow Food encouraged potluck gatherings to share “true value meals.” Last Saturday, 30,000 people allover the country came together to dine on these good dishes, all made with fresh ingredients, and costing less, per person, than an Abe Lincoln. Recipes from these events will be amassed and shared.
Informally, our Third-Thursday group did the same, although we kept our potluck on its given day, rather than the Saturday, as suggested by Slow Food. In the quest for community—and tasty affordable food—we didn’t think a couple of days mattered. It’s part of our monthly pursuit anyway.
And, serendipity, we had already chosen a “Breakfast for Dinner” theme. That meal provides plenty of hearty, nutritious, and inexpensive dishes: Omelettes, vegetable frittatas, mock souffles, noodle kugels, cheese grits casseroles, and the like.
We know that cooking seasonally, using of-the-moment produce, is far more cost-effective.
In Nashville, fall is in air. Bushels of apples and potatoes are plentiful at the market. With that in mind, I chose to make a batch of fresh applesauce, and my crispy potato pancakes. Both are ridiculously simple, and “cheap” recipes–short on ingredients, but long on satisfaction.
I hadn’t considered applesauce in a long time, although it’s something that I associate, in a pleasant way, with childhood. It was one of the acceptable things that this super-picky eater would deign to let past her lips.
We always had jars of Mott’s Applesauce on the shelf, something my beleaguered mother could count on to spoon onto my plate, and not be met with eyes of abject horror or disgust.
But nothing could be easier than making a pot a fresh applesauce. Core and rough-chop the apples–leave their peels on. Cook them down with a little lemon, brown sugar, and cinnamon–that’s really it. (This could be adapted to a slow-cooker–throw everything into the pot, and let it go all day, while you work.)
The peels mostly dissolve as the apples soften into a chunky sauce, providing flavor, nutrients, and needed pectin to thicken. If you want a smoother sauce, you can run the cooked mixture through the food mill.
Ginger Gold Apples, with their pale green skins tinged with rosy blush, proved to be a good choice. They have a bright, pleasing balance of sweet and tart.
Pommes-de-terre, Aardappelen, Potatoes are indeed the Apples of the Earth! We love potatoes in all iterations.
My potato pancake, or latkes, recipe is gluten-free. Years ago I would add flour, but learned later that there was no need; there’s enough natural starch in the potato to accommodate. Eggs add a little protein, and help bind the crispy shreds together.
What’s not to love about these little potato nests? Crunchy golden brown goodness, with a hint of sweet onion in the mix…they make terrific accompaniments to any meal, breakfast or not.
What I must note about the $5 challenge: it’s an easier one to meet, if you are cooking for a group. (And, likewise, if that group is sharing dishes, in the potluck spirit!)
My big batch of potato pancakes cost just about $5, and fed a crowd. Making 30, that’s almost 17 cents a cake. The applesauce cost less, around $4, and was delicious in its own right, or dolloped onto the potatoes.
But I think that we would all be hard-pressed to consistently create well-rounded meals for under $5 a person, especially if cooking for one or two. And many today have less than that to work with.
I lead a charmed life, and I am grateful for it. I am generally frugal, but have the where-with-all to buy, cook, and enjoy more expensive foods. And that’s fine. But access to basic, affordable good food should be a right, not a privilege. It’s important to share our knowledge, so that people can cook delicious meals using fresh food for themselves and their families.
Have you got a favorite inexpensive dish to share?
6 large tart green apples, such as Ginger Golds
1/2 cup Demerara Sugar
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Lemon, quartered
Core and rough-chop apples. Place into a large saucepan on gentle heat. Add brown sugar, lemon quarters, and cinnamon stick. Cover and allow apples to cook on slow medium heat, for about thirty minutes. Stir occasionally. Covered, the natural juices will release, condense, and fall back into the apple mixture. The peels will mostly dissolve and add their natural pectin.
Remove cinnamon stick, lemon peels. Serve warm or cold.
Makes about 4 cups of applesauce.
POTATO PANCAKES (gluten-free)
4 lbs. Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 large Yellow Onion
4 large Eggs
2 t. Sea Salt
1 t. Cracked Black Pepper
2 t. Paprika
canola oil for frying
1 T. butter to season the oil (optional)
Shred potatoes (I used the food processor with the shredder attachment.) and place into a large mixing bowl. Finely dice the onion and toss in with the potatoes.
In a separate bowl, whip eggs, sea salt, black pepper, and paprika together. Pour over potato-onion mix. Toss well so that everything is well coated.
Heat a skillet and pour in canola oil, about 1/2″. Melt in a tablespoon of butter, if you’d like to flavor this neutral a bit.
With a slotted spoon, scoop up a small mound of shredded potato mix and place in hot oil. Repeat until the skillet is filled but take care not to crowd. (I fit 4 at a time.) Cook for about 3 minutes—look for crispy brown edges. Wait for the right “brown-ness” before flipping with a spatula.
Rotate in the pan, as needed, so that the ‘cakes brown evenly.
Place cooked potato cakes onto a metal grid to drain, (or paper towels).
Note: As the mixture sits, some of the water from the potatoes will release into the mixture. This is not a problem. Continually stir, lifting out each mound with the slotted spoon, leaving some of that liquid behind.
Makes about 30 crispy potato pancakes