November 2009 Archives

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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Roasting brussels sprouts brings out their sweetness and mellows their strong flavor.




The brussels sprout is a vegetable people love to hate.  It's as pungent as a cabbage but comes in a small compact miniature head.  I suspect that many people have tasted only mistreated brussels sprouts or they would look forward to them every fall as I do.  Here is one of the simplest ways to prepare them and bring out their best side.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

serves 4-6

Ingredients:
3 lbs brussels sprouts
1/4 cup olive oil
coarse salt to taste
pepper to taste

Method:
 

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare the brussels sprouts by peeling away the top 2 to 4 leaves, depending on how dirty they are.  Clean them.  Cut away any surplus stems.  Slice large and medium-sized sprouts in half but leave the small ones whole. Put them in a roasting pan.  Drizzle with the olive oil.  Grind as much fresh pepper on them as you like and sprinkle as much salt as you like.  I generally use about a teaspoon and a half of coarse salt.  Turn them with a spatula until they are all coated.  Put them in the oven.

It will take about 20 to 25 minutes for them to roast.  You want to turn them every so often to prevent any of them from burning and to get more surface roasted.  When they are tender and browned they are done.

Serve hot.

Recipe Notes: How brown you like them is a matter of personal taste.  I like mine to get to a nice medium brown where the vegetable surfaces are starting to caramelize.  I don't think they taste good being too dark and if they're too light you miss out on the sweetness.  If you like a touch of heat you can sprinkle some crushed hot pepper onto them.  An alternative to using olive oil would be to use bacon fat which would compliment the flavor of the brussels sprouts well.
All I want to suggest is to keep your variations simple because this dish doesn't need much to shine.


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

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Because I have an excessively picky eater to feed who doesn't eat enough protein, I am always looking for ways to get more into him.  He has a huge sweet tooth and when it was established that he likes peanut butter cookies I went on a search for the recipe with the most peanut butter and the least amount of sugar.  Naturally I had to adapt what I found and this recipe is the one that has evolved and become our standard.

 

These cookies don't spread so you have to push them down a little bit after making them into a ball.  It isn't necessary to make the classic hash marks with a fork, but I enjoy doing it this way.

 

Each cookie is about an inch and a half in size when baked.



This is the color the bottom should be when you take them out- a nice deep golden without being too dark or too light.


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

yield: approximately 60 cookies

Ingredients:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light-brown sugar
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 oz mini chocolate chips

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream the butter and sugars together in a big bowl until they are fluffy and light yellow.  Add the peanut butter and continue beating until it is completely blended with the butter.  Next beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then add the vanilla.

In a separate medium-size bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Gradually stir the flour in with the wet ingredients until completely incorporated.  Add the chocolate chips and mix them into the dough thoroughly.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  To form the cookies use about a table-spoon of dough and roll it in the palm of your hand to form a ball.  Place it on the cookie sheet and flatten it gently with either a fork or your hand.

When the sheet is full, bake for 10 minutes until the bottom of the cookie is golden brown.  Cool on a rack for a couple minutes before eating.

Recipe Notes: You can make this dough using a stand mixer, as I do, using the whisk attachment for mixing the wet ingredients and a paddle for adding the flour.  If you use a mixer to cream the eggs and sugar it will take about 5 minutes on high-speed to get it to the fluffy light consistency you want.  If you're doing it by hand be sure to use a whisk and give it the full power of your arm muscles!  If you can get it, use organic peanut butter, but if not, be sure you're using a natural peanut butter with no added sugars or preservatives.  We store this dough in the fridge and make batches of 12 cookies at a time.  We think they're best fresh.  The yield you get will depend on the size of cookie you make.  You can make them larger than we do if you like a bigger cookie.


Leek Strata

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A strata is an Italian egg and bread casserole.  You can assemble this dish and refrigerate it over night, then cook in the morning which makes it a great dish for brunches.  This version makes use of seasonal leeks when you don't feel like eating them in the tradition potato leek soup (though that's something I look forward to every year!) or leek quiche.  I liked making the strata because I could make a dish as satisfying as a quiche but with wheat bread instead of a crust.

 


The cubed bread in the buttered baking dish.



The eggs mixture being poured over the bread.



Leek Strata

Ingredients:

3 slices whole wheat bread, cubed

7 large eggs

3 medium sized leeks, chopped fine

1 cup milk

8 ounces feta cheese (or chevre), crumbled

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dried thyme (or 2 tsp fresh thyme)

1/2 tsp salt

pepper to taste

1 Tbsp butter

Method:  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on med/high heat and then add the leeks.  Saute them until they are soft.  Meanwhile butter a 3 quart casserole dish and fill the bottom with the cubed bread.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, thyme, salt, and pepper until will blended.  Add the crumbled feta and the leeks when the leeks have cooled down a bit.  Mix well and then pour over the bread cubes making sure you spread it out evenly.  Let the dish sit for about ten minutes to let the eggs and milk soak the bread.

Bake in the oven between 45 minutes to an hour*.  The sides should pull away slightly and be golden.

Recipe notes:  This is a very flexible dish.  You can make many substitutions such as chard and onions for the leeks.  You can use a sharp cheddar instead of feta or add Parmesan to it.  Keep the bread and the milk proportions the same and change out any of the other ingredients you like.

*Check it at 45 minutes, which is when mine was done, but some ovens cook hotter and some cooler so if it seems a little wet on the top still let it cook a little longer.  It should be moist inside but the top shouldn't have a runny appearance.



Bean and Tomatillo Salsa Soup

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bean and eggs 2

Growing your own beans to dry is easy and rewarding.  For this recipe I used the last of my home-grown dried beans, a mix of varieties including Jacob's Cattle and Tiger's Eye, and a jar of my home-made tomatillo salsa.  It is unbelievably easy to make and not only filling, but really tasty!  The beans and tomatillo salsa mixed together make a soup that you can eat plain, but when you poach a couple of eggs in a portion of the soup and top it with sour cream and cheese it is even better in my opinion.

The Bean Soup Ingredients:
Approx 2 cups of dried beans (pinto or similar style bean recommended)
1 pint jar of home canned tomatillo salsa (store-bought if you have no home-made)
Salt to taste

Making the bean soup into a whole meal:
1.5 cups bean tomatillo soup
1 or 2 eggs
1-2 ounces jack cheese
1-2 Tbls sour cream

Method for making the soup:

Put your dried beans in a crock pot and fill the crock pot with water.  I put my crock pot on high for a few hours and the beans were perfect.  The cooking time will vary depending on the age and size of the dried beans.   When the beans are tender pour them, liquid and all*, in a large enough sauce pan and pour your whole jar of tomatillo salsa into the beans and mix well.  The salsa will have salt in it already so you should taste the bean soup before adding additional salt.  I added about a teaspoon of salt to mine.

Heat the beans and tomatillo salsa up until hot.  If you want a vegan dish- it's really good plain like this.  No diary.  No meat.  I love to add sour cream and cheese to this soup but it's really good without any additions.

Method for poaching eggs in the soup:

To make this soup into a hearty breakfast or lunch ladle about a cup or cup and a half of it into a medium saute pan and turn the heat to medium high.  With a spatula make two wells in the soup- it should be just thick enough for you to do this.  Into each well crack an egg.  Cover the pan and let the eggs cook until they reach the consistency you like.  I like my eggs whites to be completely cooked but the yolks to be just barely cooked all the way through.

When the eggs are as done as you like them, remove them from the pan with the spatula and put them in a bowl, then pour the rest of the soup over the eggs.  Top with the cheese and sour cream.  That's it.



Recipe notes: this is a protein rich meal, if you want to serve the soup with a grain instead of more protein you could serve it with corn muffins or fried or grilled polenta rounds.  This soup works because the beans have a rich earthy flavor which is perfectly complemented by the salsa.  Don't be afraid to try different kinds of beans or different kinds of salsa.  I came up with this recipe because I want to develop an arsenal of satisfying meals made almost completely with my pantry staples.  Salsa with beans is pretty simple and two things I almost always have on my shelves.  If you don't have a crock pot for the beans use a soup pot on the stove on medium heat, add water as necessary.  Obviously you can used canned or frozen beans if that's what you have.  But it is better when you make them from dried.
*If you have so much liquid that your beans are more brothy than soupy then drain some of it out.  If the liquid in the beans is fairly thick then don't drain any of it away.  While cooking beans I keep my eye on them, even when they're in a crock pot, so that I can add small amounts of water as needed so the beans cook up thick but have enough water for the beans to soak up and become tender.   If you've never cooked dried beans before consult your all-purpose cook book and if it's a good one it will have all the information you need to know about cooking dried beans well. Recipe for my tomatillo salsa Soup Philosophy


Ratatouille: Lisa E's Version

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ratatouille grilled 2

These are the vegetables on the grill.  You can broil the eggplant separately in the oven at 450 degrees if you are doing a huge batch and need more room on the grill for the summer squash, peppers, and onions.

 ratatouille roasted 2

The vegetables are done when they are cooked all the way through but aren't mushy.

 ratatouille tomatoes 2


Cook the tomatoes while the vegetables are all grilling and/or broiling.


ratatouille basil 2

You can use other seasonings for ratatouille such as thyme, bay leaves, or herbes de Provence, but Lisa and I both prefer to simply use a truck load of fresh basil added right as you remove the ratatouille from the heat.

 ratatouille 2

There are as many recipes for ratatouille as there are passionate cooks.  A traditional ratatouille is made by cooking the various ingredients separately first and then layer them in a casserole and then baked.  The main (important components) of ratatouille are: eggplant, tomatoes, summer squash, sweet peppers, fresh basil, and garlic.   There are hundreds of variations of this dish possible- you can use mushrooms, omit the peppers (I don't digest sweet peppers well and never cook with them), make it chunkier or saucier.  What you must never leave out (if you want it to still be a ratatouille) is the eggplant, summer squash, tomatoes, garlic, and onions.

It should always be made in summer or early fall when all of these ingredients can be had fresh from the garden or from the farmer's market.

The following version is from Lisa E and involves roasting and grilling most of the different ingredients and then adding them to the pot of cooking tomatoes.   She doesn't give specific amounts for the ingredients because she never measures them.   My suggestion is to use roughly equal quantities of tomatoes and eggplant, slightly fewer summer squash in proportion, and even fewer sweet peppers, and for one big pot of ratatouille I would use two to three onions.  You can't use too much fresh basil and the garlic should be to your personal taste.  My preference for a giant pot would be about 10 cloves minced.

Lisa's Ratatouille


Ingredients:
tomatoes- peeled, cored, seeds squeezed out then coarsely chopped
eggplant, zucchini, red peppers- cut lengthwise into slabs, brush with olive oil, salt  & pepper
onions- quartered, brush with olive oil, salt & pepper
garlic- loads of it finely chopped
basil: chiffonade

In a large heavy bottomed pot heat olive oil (about a quarter cup), add tomatoes and cook at medium high; continue to cook while preparing other ingredients and until tomatoes get nice and broken down and saucy.

I usually roast the eggplant in the oven at 450 while the rest of the veg is on the grill.  Usually timing works out perfect: when veg is all cooked allow to cool enough to handle then coarsely chop it all and add it to the tomatoes along with the garlic.  Simmer until the flavors develop and it gets to the consistency you like, adjust salt & pepper to taste.  Stir in the basil when you turn off the heat.

When it has cooled I usually keep enough out for dinner and the rest goes (in either 2 cup or 4 cup increments) in quart size freezer bags (squeezing out all the air) or in food saver bags to freeze and then vacuum seal when it is frozen.  It isn't high enough acid to can safely.

When I said it is a big batch technique I mean a full stockpot or if I am really ambitious I have my two biggest pots going at the same time.  That way I do it once during the season and have it stowed away in the deep freeze for meals throughout the year.

Serving Notes: I like it by itself with Parmesan, feta or goat cheese, with polenta, grilled or soft, any kind of pasta.  I have used it to make lasagna too.



Yam and Kale Soup with Coconut Milk and Curry

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yam and kale 2

Sometimes the very best way to stay healthy in the flu season is to eat food that can repel the plague.  Spicy stews and soups are invigorating, warming, and healthy.  This particular soup is a variation on one I made years ago from either Moosewood's Low Fat cook book, or from Vegetarian Times.  I have forgotten because it's been so long now.  The original had some fresh Serrano chilis in it and I'm not sure what else since I couldn't find the original.  I was feeling low this week and wanted to make a soup that could help me bounce back and not get sick.  This soup did the trick!  It is always satisfying that what I want to eat is actually in season, most of the vegetables in this soup came from my organic CSA!

Yam and Kale Soup


Ingredients:
3 onions sliced in thin rounds and then in quarters
2 lbs yams* (sweet potatoes), cut in 1" pieces
1 large bunch of kale chopped smallish
2 quarts stock or water
1 can coconut milk
2 Tbsp olive oil
1" piece of fresh ginger peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves minced
1 red dried hot chili such as cayenne
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt

Method:

In a soup pot on medium heat: saute the onions in the olive oil until they caramelize.  This should take about 20 minutes.   When the onions are soft and browned and slightly sticky add the minced garlic and ginger.  Cook for a couple of minutes with the onions, stirring frequently, then add the 2 quarts of water to the pot and turn the heat up until it comes to a boil, then turn down to medium/high.  Add the yams and cover the pot.  Let the yams cook until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

When the yams are tender add the curry, salt, chili pepper, and the kale.  Stir well and then cover and let cook until the kale is well-cooked, about five minutes.  Now add the coconut milk and when it is completely blended into the soup it is ready.

This recipe makes approximately 8 servings.



Recipe Notes: If you are short on time you can simply saute the onions until they are transparent rather than caramelize them.  That will save almost 15 minutes off the cooking time.  I like the onions caramelized here because it compliments the spiciness and deepens the flavor of the broth.  If you want to shave even more time off of the cooking time you could cut the yams in smaller cubes which will cook faster (try doing 1/2" cubes).  This is an easy and versatile soup to make and you can make many substitutions to please your own palate:  chard instead of kale, winter squash instead of yams, and of course if you don't have coconut milk it is excellent without it. *When I was growing up my mom cooked with yams a lot.  Our favorite was the "Garnet" variety.  I have always known them as yams...however, what I grew up eating weren't true yams.  True yams are an African tuber that is very rarely available in the United States.  What I grew up eating are actually orange varieties of sweet potatoes.  This knowledge is becoming more common and now there is almost always someone who feels the need to correct me when I say "yam" instead of "sweet potato".  So why do I still call them yams?  Because that is what most Americans (particularly in the West) know them as and it's what I've called them my whole life.  I choose to continue to call them yams but if you choose to do as I do, just be prepared to have people pipe up with this information! Soup Philosophy An article about soup making basics.



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