September 15th, 2014

Farinata with Onion Jam and Homemade Mozzarella, part one

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It’s been hard for me to take a restorative day, the kind where I drive out to my friend Maggie’s place in the country, hang out and cook. We have a tradition of selecting a recipe or technique that has piqued our interest, and embarking on a day-long kitchen adventure. A couple of weeks ago, I found the time, and we had a project: mozzarella.

Or so we thought. Mozzarella making is both easy, and not.

To begin, you must have some key ingredients that are likely not in your pantry: citric acid and vegetable rennet. Easily remedied: visit a cheesemaking shop, or order from an online source. I went to a local shop.

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Critical, too, is organic milk that has NOT been ultra-pasteurized. Here’s where plans went awry. Maggie’s co-op, which sells raw milk (for pets, wink-wink) couldn’t fill her order. When Maggie texted me: “Can you bring the milk?” I didn’t pay attention to our book’s instructions that ultra-pasteurized would not work. (The curds won’t properly form and separate from the whey.) On my way to Maggies, I purchased a gallon of the “ultra” whole milk from the market.

Instead of heating milk, separating curds and stretching cheese, we sat on her front porch. We watched the territorial hummingbirds buzz one another away from the feeder. We chatted, mused and caught up. Over coffee, and toast spread with her homemade raspberry jelly, we plotted our next kitchen adventure. We would not be thwarted again.

At our following get-together, we made up for lost kitchen time. In addition to the homemade mozzarella project, we added Farinata and Onion Jam. An ambitious roster, no?

Today I am going to share with you two of the three. The mozzarella deserves its own post. And, while we were fairly successful, Maggie and I both agreed that making mozzarella is like baking bread or making pasta. They are all very basic, yet at the same time require practice. It is not so much the recipe, but the technique that makes the difference. In this case, it’s in heating the milk to the right temperature(s) straining the curds, getting the right feel for the heating and stretching the cheese. We did well–but believe we could do better.

However, the other recipes were simply done and absolutely delicious. And, I am confident in sharing them with you now.

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The first is called Farinata. It is a rustic savory pancake originating from Liguria Italy, and uses 4 basic ingredients, 1 optional:
Garbanzo Bean (chickpea) Flour
Olive Oil
Salt
Water
Rosemary (optional)

I call it a deceptive recipe because of its simplicity. You cannot believe how tasty this is, from such spare and humble ingredients. There is not much of a technique either. You can whip up it in a snap, and bake in a hot-hot-hot oven–best in a cast-iron skillet.

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The texture of the pancake is so pleasing–a golden toothsome crust with a custardlike interior. The chickpea flour lends a slightly sweet somewhat nutty taste. Use your best olive oil, as the farinata provides a fine canvas for it.

In places like Genoa, farinata is sold in pizzerias and bakeries, and is best eaten fresh and hot, with a generous grinding of black pepper over the top. Along the Cote d’Azur, it is known as Socca, and served as street food. The Italians will sometimes add fresh finely chopped rosemary to the farinata. The French often prefer a pinch of cumin.

Either way, it is a protein-rich dish that will please anyone, with any dietary preference. Gluten free-check. Vegan–check. Truly Delicious–check!

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The second is Onion Jam. We all love the caramel sweetness of onions long simmered in a skillet. This recipe carries it just a little further, with salt, turbinado sugar, white balsamic vinegar and a petite bouquet garni of fresh thyme and chives.

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It’s one of those recipes that needs little tending–saute the onions; mix in the remaining ingredients; cover and cook on low. Yes, you’ll want to check on it occasionally, give a stir—make sure nothing is sticking. You could also process the onion jam in a hot water bath, just as you would fruit preserves.

Maggie and I relished a dollop of onion jam with the farinata. I can well imagine it with steak or on a grilled burger, or spread over a round of Camembert.

And, yes, I promise to post about the mozzarella. We did enjoy eating it. And we’ll make it again, only better. Soon!

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FARINATA adapted from Food Wishes
1 1/2 cups Garbanzo Bean Flour (also called chickpea flour)
2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
fresh ground black pepper

cast-iron skillet (or any oven-safe skillet)

Place flour into a medium bowl, and whisk in the water. When the batter is smooth, cover it with a plate and set it aside for about an hour, room temperature. After an hour, skim off any accumulated foam off of the top and discard.

Place your skillet into the oven and preheat to 500 degrees.

Whisk salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil and finely chopped rosemary into the batter. Let the batter sit for about 10 minutes.

When the oven is preheated and the skillet “smokin’ hot” add 3 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet. When that hot sheen forms over the pan, pour in the batter. Carefully place the skillet onto the middle rack in the center of the oven.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. The farinata will have a beautiful browned crust, and a yellow, almost custardlike center.

Serve immediately, cutting into wedges. Grind fresh black pepper over the top.

Serves 6-8

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ONION JAM
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large yellow or white onions (4 medium) coarsely chopped
1/4-1/2 cup turbinado sugar*
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 bundle fresh thyme

*start with 1/4 cup if the onions are sweet. Increase to 1/2 cup if they are not.

Heat a large skillet on medium. Add the olive oil, then the chopped onions. Stir, to coat the onions. Cover and cook undisturbed for 10 minutes.

Uncover, and stir in the sugar, vinegar, and salt. Add the bundle of thyme. Cover and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.

Uncover and reduce heat to low. Continue cooking until the onions are dark caramel colored, very soft and jammy.

Makes a pint

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Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Breakfast, Egg/Cheese Dishes, Gluten Free, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes | 14 Comments »




July 29th, 2014

Summer Risotto with sweet corn and purple hull peas: a cook’s musings, while stirring

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As a first time author of a cookbook, having just passed a milestone birthday, I have found myself in a reflective mood. I’ve been thinking about my culinary evolution, how I got here today, how I’ve grown up and grown in the world of food. It had a shaky beginning: a girl, born in New York, who didn’t care for most foods at all.

Moving to The South made a big impact. It took time, but I came to embrace its culinary ways. There’s a real focus on vegetables that we never experienced up North.

The climate supports a greater variety, that alone surprised me. I had never seen or tasted okra, crookneck squash, pole beans, yellow wax beans, collards, turnip and mustard greens, October beans, or purple hull peas.

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Have you heard of purple hull peas? These are tender pulses belonging to the family of Cowpeas, Vigna unguiculata, whose relatives include black-eyed peas, crowders, lady peas, and field peas. High in protein (24%) and easy to grow: they actually thrive in poor soil, and hot, dry conditions.

Their history in the South has dark roots in slave trade. Their seeds were brought on ships, along with enslaved West Africans to the Caribbean and eastern Atlantic seaboard. Rejected by the Europeans as poor man’s fodder, fit only for cattle, they acquired the name “cowpeas.” Little did the Landed Gentry realize all the good they were rejecting.

Make no mistake, the lowly legume has far-reaching benefits for man, animals, and plantlife. Easy to grow and prepare, the peas are delicious. They are high in amino acids, lysine and tryptophan. According to Cooking Light’s notes on healthy living, they are among the foods that will help insure better sleep. (Ahhhhh.)

And, used in crop rotation, cowpeas infuse nitrogen in vast quantities into the soil. That’s important, as corn, for instance, consumes nitrogen greedily. (NOTE: read Dan Barber’s book, The Third Plate–which goes beyond “farm-to-table” detailing an integrated model for vegetable, grain, and livestock production that is truly sustainable.)

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As a picky child, I did enjoy corn on the cob–what self-respecting kid doesn’t? Once you got through the task of shucking (and avoiding any green worms!) the prospect of eating it was as fast as a plunge in the kettle of boiling, lightly salted water.

There’s nothing as blissful as sitting on a back porch stoop, chomping on an ear in the summer, hands and face sloppy with kernels, spurted “corn milk” and butter .

But until I came to Nashville, I had never eaten fresh fried corn–cut from the cob, scraped and skillet-simmered in butter and water. More a technique than a recipe–this is not “creamed corn.” No cream, milk, or flour.

I learned about the pure pleasure of this dish at my first restaurant job in the late ’70’s at a Southern style “Meat-and-Three” called “Second Generation” run by Anna Marie Arnold. Anna grew up cooking with her mother, first generation founder of The White Cottage, a tiny yet legendary eatery that vanished–closed and bulldozed in the ’90’s, when a city bridge had to be widened.

Silver Queen was the favored corn of the day–a small kerneled white corn that had candied sweetness.

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Peas–Corn–Rice

A delectable summer combination.

One of the shifts in my “food evolution” is using local ingredients in classic recipes. That practice makes good sense, but I didn’t awaken to that sensibility until more recent years. Nonetheless, a creamy risotto lends itself readily to accepting these Southern staples in the stir:

Purple hull peas, cooked in onion, garlic and red pepper
Sweet Corn, cut and scraped from the cob
Short-grain Rice, cooked in tomato-vegetable broth

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The tomato-vegetable broth is key too. Certain ripe tomatoes have high water content. When you cook summer tomatoes to make sauce, or chop them to make salsa, if you strain the pulp, you’ll have a lot of remaining juice, or “tomato water.” Use it, in combination with vegetable broth (made with trimmings of carrots, celery, onions, garlic)

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Stir—stir—stir. It can be a meditative process. You might find yourself reflecting on your own life in food!

As the rice becomes plump and savory, releasing its starch into the broth, a seductive creaminess results. Fold in the corn and its scrapings, and finally the purple hull peas, along with the “pot likker” in which they were cooked.

Garnish with fresh thyme, if you like, or a few curls of pecorino romano.
But it is not necessary–the risotto is rich with flavor, and wonderful texture. Enjoy it with spoon, to capture every luscious bite.

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SUMMER RISOTTO WITH SWEET CORN AND PURPLE HULL PEAS
3-4 ears fresh corn
1 pound purple hull peas (weight is unshelled)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, slivered, divided
2 medium onions, chopped, divided
1 chili pepper of choice, split in half (cayenne, serrano, jalapeno)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter (may use oil to make this vegan)
1 1/2 cups short grain rice, like Arborio or Carolina Gold
8 cups tomato-vegetable broth
salt and black pepper to taste

Cut the corn from the cobs, scraping the cobs for extra “corn milk,” into a bowl and set aside.

Shell the purple hull peas, rinse, drain, and place into a bowl. Set aside.

Place olive oil into a 2 quart sized saucepan on medium heat. Add 2 cloves slivered garlic and 1/2 onion, diced, into the saucepan to saute for 2 minutes. Add chili pepper, purple hull peas and enough water to cover the peas by 2 inches. Season with a little salt and black pepper. Increase the heat to bring it to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, until peas are tender, yet still firm. Let the peas cool.

Place tomato-vegetable broth into a saucepan and warm.

In a large heavy duty pot, (such as an enameled cast iron Le Creuset) melt the butter over medium heat. Add remaining diced onion and minced garlic. Saute for a minute, then add the rice. Stir until the grains are well coated.
Begin adding the broth, a cupful at a time, stirring the rice, watching it plump up from the savory liquid, monitoring its creaminess from the released starch.

This process will take 30 minutes: stirring, pouring in more cups of broth, stirring, stirring, but I do not constantly hover over the pot. I’ll turn my attention to making salad, slicing tomatoes, visiting with my friends…

At the 20 minute mark, fold in the corn. Stir stir stir.
At the 25 minute mark, fold in the cooked purple hull peas. Stir Stir Stir.
At 30 minutes, turn off the heat. Taste for seasonings. Serve

Serves 8

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Posted in Casseroles, Gluten Free, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Soups/Stews, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 16 Comments »




June 4th, 2014

Shrimp-Sweet Pea-Rice Croquettes

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Making those grand “never” statements can get you into trouble. Things will come along in life to prove otherwise. Like when I recently told a friend, “I never fry food.” In a blink, not one but two recipes caught my attention, very different from each another, yet both requiring a plunge into a skillet of hot oil.

Stay with me–they are worth it. In fact, they can be made at the same time and served together–making the most out of the oil-filled fry pan. I’ll amend my grand “never” statement to “I don’t usually fry food, but there are times when it is just the thing.”

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The first, Shrimp-Sweet Pea-Rice Croquettes, comes courtesy of Chef B J Dennis. Hailing from Charleston, South Carolina, B J is a personal chef and caterer whose focus is the food of the Gullah-Geechee people, his heritage. Descendants of enslaved West Africans who were brought to this country to work the rice plantations, they live mainly on the Sea Islands dotted along the South Carolina-Georgia coast.

In part, because of the isolation of the islands, in part, because the climate and growing conditions were similar to their coastal West African homes, the people were able to form their own communities, easily adapt their fishing and farming practices, continue their arts, rituals, and cuisine. Because the Africans came from different tribes, they formed their own language, a meld of various West African tongues and English. Over the centuries, the Gullah community evolved and endured.

But with “progress,” the communities have become threatened. Many adult children have the left the islands, seeking work elsewhere. And the islands themselves have seen the creep of gentrification, as land has been sold off for vacation places and resort homes.

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B J is seeking to preserve the Gullah culture through food. I attended a six-course tasting dinner here in Nashville where he partnered with chef Sean Brock to educate minds and palates to the cuisine, and its strong connection to West African cookery. His crispy shrimp-sweet pea-rice croquettes, our first tasting, were spectacular: rustic and sophisticated, chockful of shrimp, with green onion, ginger and nuanced heat in the mix.

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He happily shared his recipe, which uses Carolina Gold rice. This grain, once the main cash crop of South Carolina, almost vanished with the Great Depression. Post World War 2, rice production became industrialized, and corporately grown Uncle Ben’s took over the market. It wasn’t until the late ’90’s that Glen Roberts decided to repatriate the Southern pantry, and revive lost ingredients. Since 1998, his Anson Mills has brought back native cornmeal and grits, red peas, and the plump flavorful grains of Carolina Gold.

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One of the beauties of the recipe is that it makes ideal use of leftover or overcooked rice. The combination of shrimp, onion, sweet peas, sweet bell pepper and ginger laced through the rice is fantastic. The juxtaposition of hot crisp exterior and delicate filling is very pleasing. Someone at the dinner mentioned that it reminded her of arancini, the Italian rice fritters. Yes, in a way. If you want to make the dish entirely gluten free, use a little rice flour instead of all purpose to help bind the mixture.

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B J calls his approach to food “Vibration Cooking.” That term was first coined around 1970 by Vertamae Smith-Grosvenor, a food writer, culinary anthropologist, and storyteller. No strict measurements or method, but rather the magical combination of a person’s intuition, attitude, energy, and the ingredients at hand are what make plate of food delicious.

Therefore, in his recipe, he gives a range of quantities. You could add more rice, use whatever kind of onion you prefer, spark it with more than salt and black pepper, serve the croquettes by themselves, or with a sauce of choice. He served his with a Geechee peanut sauce, which is inspired by Senegalese sauce of tomatoes, peanut butter, onions, and spices. He did not share his recipe, but this link to Cooking Light’s version is a close approximation.

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I’ll attempt that sauce another day, as I had another sauce to try. Part 2 of my oil-frying includes this simple Fried Broccoli Florets with Vegan Mustard-Shallot Aioli–adapted from a local restaurant, Pinewood Social. The florets are not battered, but simply fried until crispy. After frying, dust the florets with sea salt and lemon zest. So good!

Even better is this vegan dipping sauce, made with ground raw almonds, golden raisins, shallot, garlic, lemon, Dijon and olive oil.

Toss the whole shebang into a food processor and let it rip! The almonds eventually puree and thicken the mixture, but some terrific texture remains. The tang of the shallot and mustard is tempered with the sweetness of golden raisins.

You’d “never” believe there’s nary a speck of egg or dairy in this creamy aioli.

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B J DENNIS’ CRISPY SHRIMP-SWEET PEA-RICE CROQUETTES
2 cups overcooked rice or leftover rice,(Carolina Gold)
1 cup seasoned and cooked shrimp (wild American) coarsely chopped (about 1/2 pound shrimp or more)
½ cup cooked fresh sweet peas or thawed frozen peas
¼ cup minced spring onions (or any onion you like)
¼ cup minced red bell pepper
1-2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
2 tablespoons rice flour or all-purpose flour
cooking oil, such as canola or peanut

Pulse the cooked rice in a food processor.
Place all of the ingredients except flour into a large bowl and mix.
Add enough flour just to make sure the mixture binds together.
Roll out into little balls or cylinders, size depends on how big you like your fritter.
Place a skillet on medium heat. Add vegetable oil to 1 inch.
Shallow fry until golden brown and thoroughly cooked, rotating and turning the fritters so that they brown on all sides.

Makes approximately 20 croquettes.

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VEGAN MUSTARD-SHALLOT AIOLI (adapted from Josh Habiger, Pinewood Social)
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
pinch salt

Place almonds, raisins, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, and lemon juice into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse and then process, pouring in the olive oil followed by the water. Process until smooth. Stir in a pinch of salt, if desired. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. It will continue to thicken as it sets and chills.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

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FRIED BROCCOLI
Canola oil
1 head of fresh broccoli, cut into florets, cleaned and thoroughly dried
zest of one lemon
sea salt

Fill a saucepan or skillet with 2 inches oil. Heat to 375 degrees.
Fry broccoli until the edges appear crispy. This should take about a minute.
Remove and drain on a paper towel.
Sprinkle with lemon zest and sea salt.
Serve with Vegan Aioli.

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Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Fish/Seafood, Gluten Free, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Sauces, Vegan, Vegetables | 8 Comments »




February 19th, 2013

Cauliflower Love

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Cauliflower Cauliflower Cauliflower
Everywhere, Cauliflower.

Lately this cruciferous vegetable, a beautiful mind, a compact head of rumbled white curd, has been The Thing
The Veggie King !

Raw, roasted, boiled, steamed, sauteed,
it has turned up in all kinds of dishes that I have eaten at restaurants, or read about in blogs, or cooked at home.

What was once commonly boiled into oblivion and buttered, or chopped into florets and tossed onto a tray with other crudites and dip, has taken on new respect and new dimension.

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At Etch, a forward restaurant in our downtown area, chef Deb Paquette makes magic with that vegetable. A recent lunch special featured a riff on an egg salad sandwich–using blanched cauliflower. The components–aioli, mustard, capers, onions, celery, and olives–all cloaked the “curd” in what had the feel and flavor of egg salad,

but no eggs.

Trust me, it was an improvement over an egg salad sandwich.

She also serves raw cauliflower curds broken into granules and folded with creamy feta to spread on a crostini. Incredible.

Our food blogging friends have made terrific contributions of late, as well.
Check ‘em out:

Rachel made a lush casserole, “cauli-cheese” where the florets melt under a blanket of perfectly made bechamel.

Faith roasted a head generously doused in her “bloomin” Indian spices.

Over at Food 52, the editors highlighted slabs of cauliflower, grilled like steaks.

It’s a testament to good change, creativity,
And the versatile meaty nature of this vegetable.

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I have one to toss into the fray: roasted cauliflower with sweet red pepper sauce over vegetarian brown rice, dusted with buttery Marcona almonds, and chopped scallions.

The recipe is simple–and points more to technique than ingredients. But it yields a delicious main-dish meal that satisfies many dietary concerns.

Not only vegetarian, it is vegan AND gluten-free.

But “meaty” enough to make us omnivores happy too.

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The recipe is in three parts, but easily accomplished in about the same time. (it won’t challenge your multi-tasking too much!)

While you’re roasting the grand florets, simply brushed with good olive oil and sea salt, you can also roast red bell peppers, onions, and garlic on a separate tray. As the nubbed edges of curd get that compelling brown crisp, red bells and company get charred and candied.

Caramel sweetness all around.

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Meanwhile, make the brown rice.

I admit; I have shunned brown rice, and wrongly so. It stuck in my mind that it takes too long to cook. I also believe that I had one too many dishes of it, improperly prepared. You’ve probably experienced it too–either undercooked and waaaaay too chewy, or underseasoned and overcooked: gummy and insipid.

This recipe is more about technique. When you soak and rinse the brown rice and “scrub” the grains between your fingers, it helps to soften the outer husk. Cooking in vegetable broth helps infuse more flavor. I discovered that it takes less liquid and less time to cook, and yields savory rice, not clumpy, but plump nutlike grains.

This rice, which we know is better for you, is now a pleasure to eat.

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CAULIFLOWER WITH ROASTED RED PEPPER PUREE, BROWN RICE, MARCONA ALMONDS

THE CAULIFLOWER
1 large head cauliflower, cleaned, and cut into large florets
olive oil, to brush over florets
salt and black pepper to sprinkle over florets

to garnish later:
1/2 cup Marcona almonds
1/4 cup chopped scallions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place cauliflower pieces onto a baking sheet and brush with olive oil.
Sprinkle salt and black pepper over the pieces.
Roast until caramelized, about 15 minutes.
Keep cauliflower warm in the oven (set on 200) until time to assemble the dish.

ROASTED SWEET RED BELL PEPPER SAUCE
2 red bell peppers, cut in half, seeded
½ medium onion, cut into chunks
3 cloves garlic
olive oil
salt and black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Brush red pepper halves with olive oil and place on baking sheet.
Brush onion chunks with olive oil and place next to pepper halves.
Coat garlic cloves with olive oil and place underneath pepper halves.
Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
Roast until the pepper skins get blackened and blistered—about 15 minutes.
Cool and remove skins.
Place roasted peppers, onions, garlic, and any residual oil into a food processor fitted with a swivel blade.
Add ¼ teaspoon (or less) of cayenne, if desired.
Process until smooth.
Keep sauce warm in a saucepan on the stovetop.

SAVORY BROWN RICE IN VEGETABLE BROTH

1 1/4 cups brown rice
2 cups vegetable stock

Place rice in a large bowl and cover with water. Let this sit for 5-10 minutes.
Stir the grains around in the bowl—you’ll notice that the water has become cloudy.
Drain well.
Return the rice to the bowl and cover with fresh water.
Dip your hand into the bowl, and rub the grains between your thumb and fingers, “scrubbing” the grains. Drain.

Place rice in a large saucepan. Stir in vegetable stock. Bring to a boil.
Cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Turn off heat and let the rice sit and steam for another 10 minutes.
Fluff with a fork and serve.

Makes 2 1/2 cups cooked rice

ASSEMBLY
Place a layer of cooked brown rice on the bottom of a casserole or baking dish. Nap a layer of roasted red pepper sauce over the rice, and nestle the roasted cauliflower pieces into the sauce. Dot remaining sauce over the cauliflower, garnish with marcona almonds and cilantro.

Serves 4

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POST SCRIPT: Several of you have been very kind to check on me, in my blogging absence. I’m happy to report that I am making excellent progress on the cookbook, which has taken so much of my attention. I’m seeing an end point–and ahead of my May deadline. So, with luck, I’ll be around here a bit more. Nancy

Posted in Casseroles, Gluten Free, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 25 Comments »




November 8th, 2012

An Edible Mosaic: Faith’s Middle Eastern Flair

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Faith Gorsky, author of the widely-read blog, An Edible Mosaic, is celebrating the release of her first cookbook, with a virtual launch party.

It is a wonderful moment, when a food writer makes the leap from blog to book. As a follower and supporter, I applaud her achievement. I am also pleased to take part in the launch.

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Her book, An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair, compiles over 100 recipes that come from the region known as The Levant, (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine,) where Faith has both traveled and lived.

Not only does Faith have a love for the cuisine, she also has an inside track to its traditions. Her Syrian mother-in-law, Sahar, has guided her on authentic recipes and techniques. Faith has put this knowledge into practice, and created recipes that are enticing but not overwhelming to the novice cook.

Her book is an excellent introduction to this healthful, flavorful cooking. And, her photographs are beautiful.

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The recipe that she asked me to share is a fragrant rice dish, flecked with onion, sultanas, and pine nuts. It is uncomplicated to prepare, yet possesses complex tastes. Basmati rice alone has a wonderful nutlike flavor; the other ingredients bring toasted notes, sweetness, and a hint of pungent spice.

The original recipe calls for saffron, those delicate, heady, and costly stigmas collected from a type of crocus. If you don’t have saffron in your pantry, Faith writes that turmeric is an acceptable (and widely used) substitute. The result will be less sophisticated, but delicious, nonetheless.

Either way, the rice has versatile applications, and, by virtue of being vegan and gluten-free friendly, universal appeal.

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The trick to making the grains light and separate is by rinsing them in warm water. (This could be a wide-spread regional technique-my friend Muna from Iraq insists that the rice be rinsed 3 times–until the water is clear!)

This releases the starches that can cause clumpy-sticky rice. This also serves to soften the grains, thereby lessening the amount of water needed in the actual cooking.

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Another trick is sauteing the rice before adding the liquid. First, Faith pan-toasts the pine nuts in oil. After removing the golden bits, she stirs the onions and ultimately the rice in the now-toasty oil. When you add the water, you’ll notice that it is at a much smaller ratio than, say, conventional recipes that call for 2:1. This is almost 1:1.

Covered, the rice absorbs all the flavor, and steams into a savory dish, ready for any accompaniment. Faith recommends a shrimp-tomato dish, also featured in her book.

For my meal, I marinated and pan-grilled thick lamb chops in a piquant blend of coriander, cumin, and cayenne. The marinade quickly infuses that lamb with flavor, and grills to a nice charry crust. You can use this for cubes of kebab meat, too, with great success. It’s a recipe that we teach our young chefs in Teen Cooking Camp.

Be sure to visit Faith’s website for special book-launch giveaways–and convey her your best wishes. An Edible Mosaic can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your local bookstore.

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SAFFRON RICE WITH GOLDEN RAISINS AND PINE NUTS
ROZ MLOW’WAN

Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.

Serves 4 to 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking

1½ cups (325 g) basmati rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon saffron threads (or ½ teaspoon turmeric)

1. Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.
2. Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.
3. Add the onion to the saucepan in which you cooked the pine nuts. Cook until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sultanas, boiling water, salt, and saffron (or turmeric), turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil.
4. Give the rice a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the rice sit (covered) 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
5. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top; serve.

OPTIONAL Add two pods of cardamom, two whole cloves, and one 2-inch (5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick at the same time that you add the rice.

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CORIANDER-SPICED LAMB CHOPS
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon salt

2- 1″ thick lamb chops
Whisk the ingredients together in a medium bowl.
Add the lamb. Toss to evenly coat. Marinate 10-15 minutes.
Skillet-sear on medium heat, 4-5 minutes per side, until the meat is crusty brown but still pink inside.

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Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Vegan | 23 Comments »




January 10th, 2012

Grits and Grillades

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In early November, on one of those rare days when the skies roll out wide and blue and the sun shines with the strength of summer, Maggie and I took a day trip to Falls Mill. Located in Belvidere Tennessee, it’s about a hundred miles from home, and over a hundred years back in time.

There, in the bend of a creek, by a rushing cascade, sits a grist mill built in 1873. Outside, a great water wheel churns, powering a system of belts and pulleys that drive huge cutting stones inside the mill. From inside, emanate the slow, almost groaning sounds of the stones in deliberate rotation, a bass line to the melody of water rippling over rocks, falling in sheets from the mill buckets.

And, inside are bins filled with the results: unbolted yellow and white cornmeal and grits. In an adjacent room, a 19th century press is poised to print a stack of white sacks, soon to be filled with those prized grinds.

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Jane and John Lovett own and operate Falls Mill, and have earned a reputation for their extraordinary milling. Sustainable practices–from the pure water-driven power to the sourcing of local, chemical-free grains, are part of what makes this so. The milling stones themselves hold the key. Unlike commercial steel rollers which smash the grain and adulterate it due to increased friction and heat, these stones slice the grain, leaving more texture, nutrients, and taste intact.

Chefs and cooks across the country who value that difference order from Falls Mill–especially the white corn grits. They are……..grittier! in the best possible way.

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I’ve been having a lot of fun working with their products, baking wonderful cornbread and corncakes, buttermilk spoonbread, and rich grits casseroles. The difference in texture and taste is delightfully Huge.

Today I’m sharing a couple of easy recipes that together make a New Orleans-style dish, often enjoyed for brunch, but good anytime.

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Toasted garlic, brown butter, white cheddar and pinch of cayenne combine with these pearly Falls Mill grits to make a luscious casserole.

And, then, the Grillades: (pronounced Gree-yahds)

The grillades are often made with a cheaper cut of beef, such as round steak—but it is acceptable, by NOLA standards, to use pork. Browned and then braised with tomatoes, spice, and the “Trinity” ( onions, bell peppers, celery) it’s a Creole take on stew: hearty and delicious with the grits.

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There’s nothing new or surprising about the method. There’s a modest assembly of ingredients. The pieces of meat are pounded, dredged, and browned.

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A saute of tomatoes and “The Trinity” form the foundation for the grillades to finish in a long simmer. To add some savory toasted depth, you can make a quick roux, using the leftover seasoned flour. Cook it in a skillet with a little butter and vegetable oil, stirring occasionally, as it acquires a medium brown sheen. Stir in water or broth, and add to the Tomato-Trinity saute.

Grillades, like stews, improve with time.

These fabulous grits, though, are creamy perfection, right out of the oven.

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TOASTED GARLIC GRITS
2-3 cloves fresh Garlic, minced
1 1/2 T. Butter
2 cups Water
1/2 t. Salt
1/4 t. Black Pepper
dash or two Cayenne
1/2 cup Stone Ground Grits
1 Egg
1/4 c. Half and Half
1/2 c. shredded White Cheddar

Melt butter in a 2 qt. saucepan on medium heat and sauté minced garlic until it becomes toasty golden brown. Add water. Stir in grits. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Simmer for about 20 minutes—grits will become creamy. Remove from heat. Stir in half of the shredded white cheddar.

Beat egg with half-and-half. Beat mixture into cooked—and slightly cooled grits. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. Dust with remaining shredded cheddar.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until puffed and golden, about 25 minutes.
Serves 3-4

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PORK GRILLADES

1 lb. boneless Pork, cut into chunks, trimmed, pounded (the “grillades”)
Seasoned Flour Mixture: 1/3 c. All Purpose Flour, 1/2 t. Salt, 1/2 t. Black Pepper, pinch Cayenne, 1/4 t. Paprika, 1/4 t. Granulated Garlic
2 T. Vegetable Oil
1 T. Butter
1/2 c. each Diced Onion, Sweet Red Bell Pepper, Celery (aka “The Cajun Trinity”)
1 t. Fresh Thyme
1 can Tomatoes (whole or diced) and Juice
1 1/2 t. Worcestershire Sauce
1 t. Louisiana Hot Sauce
1-2 T. Quick Roux
1/2 c. Water or Broth (chicken or vegetable)

Dredge the grillades in the seasoned flour and shake off excess. Reserve unused flour mixture to make quick roux.

In a skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Brown the grillades well on both sides, a few at a time. Transfer the grillades to a plate. When finished, melt butter over medium heat in the same skillet, scraping any browned bits from the meat. Add the Onions, Bell Pepper, Celery, and Garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft. Stir in Worcestershire, Tomatoes and their juice, fresh thyme.

Make quick roux:

In a separate skillet, melt 1 T. Butter with 1 T. vegetable oil. Add the remaining seasoned flour mixture and stir well, dissolving the flour. On low heat, cook the flour mixture until it becomes toasty brown. Add water or broth and stir well, until thickened. Pour into the other skillet, and fold into the tomato-vegetable meld.

Return the grillades to the skillet. Cover and simmer for 1 hour or until tender. Taste for seasoning, and add a few dashes of Louisiana Hot Sauce to deepen the mild heat.

Serves 3-4

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Posted in Casseroles, Egg/Cheese Dishes, Meats/Poultry, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes | 31 Comments »




November 20th, 2011

Chanterelle Risotto

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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!

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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.

Irresistible.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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—

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CHANTERELLE RISOTTO
1 lb. Chanterelles
2 Leeks
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.

Serves 4-6.

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Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Vegetarian Dishes | 30 Comments »




October 12th, 2011

Butternut Squash-Heirloom Bean Chili, olive oil cornbread

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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.

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All sizes and shapes!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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
Olive Oil
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
Salt
Black Pepper
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.

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OLIVE OIL CORNBREAD

1 1/2 cups Cornmeal
1 cup All Purpose Flour
1 T. Sugar
1 T. Baking Powder
1/2 t. Salt
2 Eggs
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.

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Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Soups/Stews, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 30 Comments »




July 17th, 2011

Gluten-Free Summer Cookin’

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How’s your summer going?

Some writing projects, a bit of catering, and teaching teen cooking camp this month have kept my days very full; and like those lumbering yellow squash in the picture below, summer is fast getting away from me. I’ve been remiss at blogging.

But, I’m going to make it up to you today with not one, but two recipes: one is wonderfully healthful, the other a bit guilt-laden; both are gluten-free vegetarian dishes that revel in the glory of summer.

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We’ll start with healthy: these herbed quinoa stuffed tomatoes are downright delicious. A variation on the Provencal style baked tomato that is topped with herbs, cheese, and breadcrumbs, I created these to suit a friend who needed a gluten-free menu for her guests.

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You’ll want to select ripe juicy tomatoes for stuffing. These are Cherokee Purples–one of my favorites. But other heirlooms would be just as terrific: Bradleys, Brandywines, Mortgage Lifters…

Part of the heirloom is diced and cooked into the quinoa, further flavored with bits of onion and sweet basil.

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Ah, the wonders of quinoa. Unusual in the plant kingdom, it possesses a balanced set of amino acids, making it a complete protein. ( A marvelous source, too, for iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and dietary fiber.)

Once stuffed, this versatile seed/grain takes on the sweetness and juices of our beloved tomatoes, and bakes up toasty and nutlike under a shower of parmesan cheese.

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And now, for the guilt-laden…

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I have a couple of urban gardens that I’m tending. One is tee-niny: my front yard patch of herbs, swiss chard, and tomatoes. The other, larger garden is located in the backyard of my brother’s office, where we are growing haricots verts, yellow wax beans, a variety of heirloom tomatoes, peppers, along with prodigious squashes: zucchini, butternut, and yellow crookneck. (I’ll post some pics soon.)

This is the time of year when people complain about zucchini overrun. In our garden, it’s been yellow squash.

This recipe is the right one for using some of those colossal squashes that somehow escaped your notice and went from barely emerging on the vine to baseball bats. Well, not quite that big, but you know how it goes.

An old school recipe, it’s one that I came across in 1984 when I was working for a large catering firm. It had been supplied by a client, and boasted a fancy-pants name: “Posh Squash Casserole.” Ingredients include eggs, parmesan cheese, and (shudder) Hellman’s mayo; I confess that I was leery of the recipe.

But, of all the squash casserole recipes I have ever made, this one is, without question, the best.

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It’s great for cooking up a squash bounty. You can feed a crowd with thick bubbly casseroles, or “posh it up” with petite souffle scallops or ramekins. The recipe multiplies easily without compromising the outcome. We would extend the recipe to make it for parties over 200!

Throughout the years, it’s remained tried and true. Rich for sure. Despite that, it has a lightness, a compelling souffle-like quality.

Even people who claim to hate squash and casseroles love this one. And love it in all its forms.

From time to time, for variety’s sake, I’ve tweaked the recipe by using both yellow and zucchini squashes, or roasting the squashes and onions, or adding other veggies, like sweet red bell pepper, even steamed broccoli.

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It’s okay to indulge in a little guilt, especially when it’s balanced by a lot of health. Here are some of summer’s best. Enjoy ‘em soon, before they get away from you.

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HERBED QUINOA STUFFED HEIRLOOM TOMATOES

4 medium sized ripe Heirloom Tomatoes (cherokee purple)
1 small Onion, diced
6-8 Sungold Cherry Tomatoes, quartered (optional)
2 T. Olive Oil
Salt
Black Pepper
1/2 cup Quinoa
3 T. fresh Basil, chiffonade
1/4 c. grated Parmesan Cheese

Core tomatoes with a wide slice around the top, and deep enough to remove some of the inside. Dice the meaty tomato flesh from the coring, and place into a bowl with quartered sungold tomatoes.

In a medium saucepan, warm olive oil. Saute onion until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in quinoa and let it get gently toasted in the saute–about 2 minutes or so. Stir in diced tomatoes and juices and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup water. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, until quinoa is tender, fluffy, but nutlike. Stir in basil chiffonade afterwards.

Rub casserole or oval ceramic dish with olive oil. Stuff cored tomatoes with quinoa mixture. Dust heavily with grated parmesan and bake for 25 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

Serves 4

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SQUASH SOUFFLE CASSEROLE “POSH SQUASH”

2 lbs. Summer Squash, sliced into medium sized pieces
1 Onion, diced
2 Eggs
1 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 cup Hellman’s Mayo
1/2 t. Sea Salt
1/4 t. ground Black Pepper
1/4 t. granulated Garlic
1/4 t. Paprika

Boil squash until tender. Drain and cool. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, mayo, parmesan, and seasonings. Fold in diced onion, then fold in cooled squash.

Place mixture into individual ramekins, or a casserole dish. Bake in 350 degree for 20 minutes (if in ramekins) to 30 minutes (if in casserole dish) until puffed and golden.

Serves 4.

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Posted in Casseroles, Gluten Free, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 33 Comments »




June 26th, 2011

Favas, Sun Golds, Lemon Basil, Summer!

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A recent post of food blogger friend Tracy reminded me of the contemplative pleasures of repetitive vegetable prep—stringing sugar snaps, husking and de-silking corn, shelling peas. I recalled how, in my catering kitchen, my assistants–especially my sister and comrade Jennie— would always scramble and fight over who got to snap the bushel of green beans, or peel the shriveled skins off of roasted tomatoes and red bell peppers.

“Kids,” I’d have mediate these women like a mother, “there’s enough for both. Share.”

But, I understood “the fight.” The hands happily occupied, it was fun, and soothing, to move through these tasks while chatting with co-workers, or imagining how the meal would take shape, or allowing the mind to drift to some other far-away place. It’s a blissful part of kitchen life.

Like Tracy, I also find pleasure in focusing on the process itself, its tactile sensations, studying the size and shape and color of the produce, the incremental chipping away at what some might deem a daunting task.

Fava beans satisfy in all those ways.

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Favas have thick, fleshy pods, with a fine bit of fuzz on the exterior of the jackets. If you’re lucky, they’ll zip open to reveal a number of plump, light green seeds. The white interior is a custom cushion, protecting each one.

If small enough, (as in smaller that your thumbnail) you can cook those beans as they are. Larger ones need to be briefly blanched to remove yet another sheath, making it a two-fold process.

Trouble? Not at all. Fava beans have a special look and flavor that makes them worth the work–if you want to call it that. In the time it takes to prepare them, you can slow down, enjoy the moment,
breathe as Tracy says.

And then, Dine. Mightily!

This past week, I was able to buy a bagful through our Fresh Harvest Co-op. And, in harmony with the solstice, the summer bounty is beginning to show itself in my garden. Volunteer plants from last year’s lemon basil have sprung up, and a sun gold cherry tomato plant, covered in a mass of yellow flowers, is now offering a handful of ripe yellow globes.

I had a salad in mind: favas cooked in olive oil with pieces of garlic scapes, later to be combined with the sweet-acid bite of those sun golds, along with a chiffonade of lemon basil, and a few shards of pecorino.

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As I was pinching the beans to squeeze out each lovely green seed, a larger idea began to form: Accompaniments.

Often, throughout the summer, we will eat an all-vegetable plate for supper. It’s a true embrace of the garden.

I would make a couple of other side dishes, simple in preparation,using our just-harvested goodies to go along with our fava salad:

Tiny new potatoes and pearl onions pan-roasted together in brown butter.
The bi-colored Zephyr squash, remarkable for its sweet nut-like flavor, julienned and quickly sauteed.

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At the last minute, I fried each of us a farm egg–add a little protein, a little more summer yellow to the plate.

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FAVA BEANS WITH SUN GOLD TOMATOES, LEMON BASIL, SHAVED PECORINO
1 lb. Fava Beans (in their pods. shelled will yield about 1 cup)
3″ piece of Garlic Scape, chopped, (or 2 cloves minced garlic)
Good Olive OIl
5-6 large SunGold Tomatoes, cut into tiny wedges
Several leaves Lemon Basil (Fresh Mint is also very good)
Salt and Black Pepper
White Wine Vinegar–a splash
a piece of Pecorino Romano, for shaving

After removing beans from their pods, blanche for 2-3 minutes in rapidly boiling water. Shock in an icy bath to cool the beans. Pinch each one , to squeeze out the beautiful green seed.

Gently heat 3 T. good olive oil in a skillet. Add beans and chopped garlic scape. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir to coat beans well. Cover and simmer, effectively poaching the favas, for 10 minutes.
They will absorb the oil as they cook.

Place favas in a bowl. Stir in sliced sun golds, lemon basil chiffonade. Splash with white wine vinegar. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Dust with shaved bits of pecorino romano and serve. Makes 2 servings.

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SPECIAL NOTICE, PLEASE READ:

Until I started reading The Ordinary Cook, an anything-but-ordinary food blog written by Kath of the UK, I had never heard of The Fairy Hobmother. What you need to know is that this British based Wonder of Appliances On Line visits Food Blogs the world over, and is drawn to interesting posts and comments. It is The Fairy Hobmother’s task to spread Joy by granting gifts to worthy commenters. No strings attached, either. Very Nice Indeed.

I know this, because I was the recipient of such a joyous gift ( a tidy-sum of a gift card to Amazon, to spend however I like. Oh, yeah. )

So, dear readers, know that by commenting on this post today, you’ll be drawing the attention of said Fairy Hobmother–and could be the recipient of a special gift yourself. How cool is that?

Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 28 Comments »