Thursday, November 27, 2008


Oh, my goodness.

Usually I host Thanksgiving dinner (I know! Try to stifle your amazement!). It may be my favorite holiday -- one that hasn't been corrupted by rampant materialism, one that's all about food. True, the menu can be kind of limiting . . . but not this year.

Our wonderful friends the Hendersons hosted Turkey-day this year, and what fun it was. And we didn't collapse into food coma. We figured that was for two reasons. 1. we forgot to make mashed potatoes. Freaky, no? Maybe it was the Scotch whiskey we were all sipping that induced a little of that forgetfulness, or maybe it was all the other stuff we were busy making. 2. Morgan's mom is gluten-intolerant, so both the stuffing and the gravy were, I think, lighter than when they're made with wheat.

I forgot my camera, but Morgan came through with these photos.

They fried the turkey. If you eat meat, and you have never eaten fried turkey, I'm here to tell you, you are missing out. I could not stop nibbling the crispy bits. Absolutely phenomenal. (Plus, an 18-lb turkey cooked in an hour. Seriously.)

Morgan's dad, Bob, made the porcini mushroom gravy, and it was incredible (I believe he used a combination of rice and quinoa flours in the roux). Rich, silky -- everything you want in gravy. We had two kinds of cranberry sauce, one made by Morgan containing bourbon (here's the recipe) and one with port, walnuts, ginger, and citrus from the Hi-Rise Bread Company in Cambridge, where we had lunch last weekend while Christmas shopping. Bob also made the fantastic stuffing (pictured above with the sage leaves decorating the top).

I made butternut squash with caramelized onions and toasted pecans (pictured twice, I think), Greek-style green beans with about a cup of chopped garlic, and roasted parsnips, carrots, and red onions.

Desserts and appetizers were also amazing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Squash soup

Have you ever checked out 101 Cookbooks?

If not, you should.

(That makes me think of Dr. Seuss: "Have you ever flown a kite in bed?/Have you ever walked with 10 cats on your head?/Have you ever milked this kind of cow?/Well, we can do it. We know how./If you never did, you should./These things are fun and fun is good.")

Ahem. Where was I?

Oh, yes. If you have a plethora of winter squash right now, you should definitely try this different and yummy recipe. And did I mention easy? It has like four ingredients, and very little work.

Monday, November 24, 2008


A vegetarian version of cacciatore would probably strike most people as the height of oxymoron. (Cacciatore means "hunter" in Italian.) Replacing the animal protein with a plant-based one means that no actual hunting went into the making of the dish. On the other hand, the chickens and rabbits that go into the traditional version are certainly domesticated . . . hm. I didn't think of that before. Maybe one ate cacciatore after one's hunting was unsuccessful?

I digress.

The point is that I love the rich flavor of cacciatore's sauce, but I don't particularly want chunks o' meat in there. So, what to do with that hankering?

I've made two versions in the past week, one with mushrooms and one with chickpeas, and both were delicious. I also want to try one with cannellini beans, but three inside of a week was undoubtedly too many, even for me.

I think the thing that distinguishes this sauce from "regular" red sauce is the red wine reduction.

2 T olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium carrots, diced small
6 or 8 oz mushrooms, quartered (optional)
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
splash of balsamic vinegar
2 cups cooked chickpeas or cannellini beans

Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the onions and a few pinches of salt. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the onions get soft and a bit browned. Add the carrots and continue sauteing. The goal is to get the carrots to caramelize a little bit, too. Add the mushrooms (if using) and let them get a bit brown, too. Add the garlic and stir constantly for 1 minute. Add the wine and stir well. Keep stirring until the liquid is basically gone. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and continue simmering for 20 minutes or so. Add the beans of choice and allow them to heat through.

Serve over pasta, polenta or garlic-rubbed toast.

Warming and delicious on a cold fall evening . . . and the leftovers rock.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How To Freeze Kale (for chichimama)

(I started to write this as a comment on the previous post after chichimama asked . . . then I realized it was really too long for a comment.)

Bring a big pot of water to a boil.

Wash and prep your kale -- I usually coarsely chop it.

Prepare a bowl full of cool water and dump in some ice cubes.

Line a large cookie sheet or try with an absorbent towel, and have another handy.

When the water boils, drop in the kale. Leave it in there for two minutes, regardless of when or whether it returns to a boil. It should turn a brighter green.

Drain thoroughly in a colander, then dump into the ice water to "shock" it. After it's thoroughly cool, drain it again, pressing the moisture out gently.

Spread it out on the cookie sheet, and press the other towel gently on top to wick out as much moisture as you can.

When it's dry, pack it into a ziplock freezer bag, pressing out as much air as you can. Fold over the top of the bag and then put it into another ziplock freezer bag, again pressing out air.

Label the bag, then put it in your freezer. (If you press the kale-filled bag sort of flat, it will make it more compact for storage.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

First CSA pickup, or, if you don't like squash, look away!

Crazy, no?
Already I've started freezing kale and baking pumpkins. Yummy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Really good one-day bread

I've reached a point where most lean breads -- those without added milk, butter, or other enrichments -- made in only one day, without any kind of starter, taste kinda flat. One-dimensional, even. It's kind of a bummer, because I don't always have a ripe starter in the fridge (keeping a ripe, ready-to-use sourdoubh/wild yeast starter in the fridge at all times requires a certain amount of flour waste I just can't live with). And sometimes I get the inspiration to make something for dinner that would go great with bread, but I didn't think to make a starter the night before.

This bread, though it does require the extra step of cooking potatoes, just might be the one to fill the gap.
5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1 T salt
1 c well-mashed potatoes
2.5 c warmish water (include the water from boiling the potatoes!)
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
Combine all ingredients. Mix/knead till gluten is well-developed.
Let rise till doubled; gently deflate and, if you have time, let rise again (if you don't have time, go ahead and shape the breads now)
For shaping: divide the dough in half, and gently form into a round. Don't deflate it altogether -- handle it gently.
Let it rise (covered) on parchment paper while the oven preheats.
Heat oven to 400 with a pizza stone for 30-45 minutes. Slash the bread, and then slide it onto the hot stone.
Bake for 1 hour. I like to remove the parchment paper after about 20 minutes -- makes the bottom crust nicer.
(Oh, and to give credit where it's due: this is closely based on a recipe from James Beard's Beard on Bread.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Apple butter and applesauce

I've had so much fun making these and canning them in the past weeks.

I did have a little issue with the applesauce "siphoning" when I tried to can it -- somehow the seal failed and it oozed down the sides of the ostensibly sealed and processed jars. I took a little sauce out, used new lids, and reprocessed with no ill effects. Phew.

The apple butter is really wonderful -- made with cider, a little cinnamon, and some sugar -- spread on pumpkin bread, it is amazing.

I'm looking forward to giving it to friends for the holidays.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Three sisters stew

A classic I return to every fall/winter.

I cooked up a big pot of kidney beans. I didn't salt-soak them, but they turned out nice and tender. I get so frustrated with beans. I just don't know what I do that works or doesn't work from one time to the next. This time, I soaked them for about 5 hours, then brought to a boil on top of the stove. I threw in an onion and a carrot, boiled hard for 5 minutes, and then put them into a 250" oven (covered) for about an hour. I checked on them at that point, added a couple teaspoons of salt, and then I think I put them back in for 15 minutes.

Maybe it's the nice, even, consistent heat of the oven that made them turn out well this time. Or maybe this particular batch from the store was just fresher or whatever.

Anyway. I will keep experimenting, because I really love all the benefits of cooking my own beans.

1 onion, chopped
2cloves garlic
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp Aleppo pepper
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 heaping cups cooked kidney beans
1.5 cups kidney bean broth
1.5 cup frozen corn kernels
1 16-oz jar crushed tomatoes (yes, my own home-canned ones -- I am using them so fast! Next year, I'm SO doing more. Phantom, I'm looking at you!!)

Saute onions and a couple of pinches of salt till soft; add squash and corn and saute another 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and spices and stir constantly for another minute. Add tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Simmer gently, covered, till squash is tender, and then stir in the beans.

As with many bean dishes, this one's even better the next day.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Veggie burgers

This is my standard quickie veggie burger. It's fast, it's easy, and it's yummy. I usually make pitas to go with it, but sometimes I serve them on rolls. I love it with a yogurt sauce with crushed garlic (or minced scallions) and salt.

1 1/4 cup red lentils, sorted and rinsed
scant cup bulghur
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
2 tsp. cumin (or maybe a little more)
1 tsp. paprika
salt to taste
2 T. olive oil, plus more for frying the burgers

Cook the lentils in 3 cups of water seasoned with 1 tsp. of salt. (Bring to a boil, then simmer till the lentils are soft, about 20-25 minutes.) Add the bulghur, stir well, cover, and remove from the heat. Allow to stand for 20 minutes or so.

While the lentils are cooking, saute the onion in 2 T. olive oil with a couple of pinches of salt until soft and browned. Add the cumin, paprika and garlic and saute, stirring constantly, for another couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and stir into the lentil/bulghur mixture after it has sat long enough to absorb all the liquid. The mixture should be pretty stiff.
I find mixing with my hands is the easiest way to go.
I use pieces about 1/3 of a cup, fried in a couple of tablespoons of hot olive oil.