Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Crisp spice cookies

For many years I kept two otherwise-unused ingredients in my house for a single family recipe: crisp spice cookies my grandmother, and then my mom, used to make for Christmas. The two ingredients? Crisco and Karo syrup. But I was determined to find a way to make the cookies without using trans-fats or high fructose corn syrup. Molasses, brown sugar and a combination of butter and Spectrum's organic shortening did the trick. (I found that butter alone made the cookies spread too much.)

I also tweaked the spice blend a bit.

(Of course, I once scandalized my dad regarding those cookies. He asked me what my favorite cookies my mom made at Christmastime, confident that my answer would echo his: oatmeal-date cookies. Though delicious, my favorites since childhood have been these little gingersnap-like goodies.)

1 stick butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening (preferably non-hydrogenated)
1 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour (you can use a combination of all purpose and whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
granulated sugar (about 1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 375. Cream butter, shortening and brown sugar till light and fluffy. Beat in molasses and egg. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients and gradually combine them into the egg and sugar mixture.

Shape the cookies into little balls, about 3/4" in diameter. Roll them in granulated sugar and place them well-spaced on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 12 minutes; allow to cool on the pan for 4-5 minutes, then remove them to a rack.

You may need to adjust the baking time a bit to get the right degree of crispiness, but in my experience, no one complains about a slightly soft, chewy cookie.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Vegetable Stock

Usually when I make soup I use water. I always use tons of vegetables, and I let them get nice and caramelized in the oil or butter when I'm sauteing them, so I figure, it sort of turns into its own stock, right? Plus, you know I'm a bean-cooking fiend, so I always have plenty of "bean stock" to round out the soup with flavored broth.


Sometimes one needs a good stock (I'm thinking particularly of the stuffing I made last month for Thanksgiving, or this baked dish with beans and potatoes I've been making from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, or, even, sometimes, to add depth to soup.)

So, how to proceed?

I've been making one that's very close to Mark Bittman's roasted vegetable stock, where you roast the usual suspects (onion, garlic, celery, carrot, maybe a potato and/or a parsnip, if available), plus mushrooms, in plenty of olive oil in a really hot (450!) oven, till they get nice and browned. I de-glaze the pan with some white wine, then throw in several cups of water and a little soy sauce. Dried herbs or a couple of sprigs of fresh (parsley, thyme), plus a bay leaf help round out the flavor. I let it gently simmer for about an hour before cooling and straining.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Squash bread, a.k.a. "vegan challah"

The circumstances:

1. I wanted to take bread to a pot luck a couple of weeks back
2. I had a plethora of squash (that's the understatement of the year)
3. At least one vegan would be attending, and, as a sometime/semi vegetarian, I am highly sympathetic to the plight of "oh, crap, the only thing I can eat in this entire spread of food is the thing I brought myself!"

I decided braided loaves would be nice for presentation, but of course I didn't want to use eggs, butter or milk. Beard On Bread has a recipe for sweet potato bread that my sister and I have riffed on for years, often subbing in squash for the sweet potato. And for what it's worth: I don't think it matters at all what kind of winter squash (or pumpkin) you use.

Preparing the squash: I usually halve the squash, scoop out the seeds, oil the cut surfaces lightly, and then bake, face down, at 350 or 375 till soft. Lately, I've been putting a cup or so of water in the roasting pan as well. I think it cooks better when there's some moisture in there.

Next, I let the squash cool, then scoop out the flesh and run it through the food mill. I know people who skip this step and use the processor instead, but I wouldn't just mash it by hand. Strings or lumps will mar the quality of your bread!

If your squash is particularly watery, you may need to adjust the quantity of water in the bread. (For pies, I generally cook the puree down in a skillet; for bread, it doesn't much matter because you can just add less liquid.)

To make the breads (this recipe makes two loaves):

6 cups flour
1 1/3 cup squash
1 scant T yeast (I use instant)
1 T salt
1/3 cup oil
3 T maple syrup
1 1/3 cup water

Mix all ingredients till you have a nice, elastic dough. Knead then shape into a round; cover the bowl and let rise till doubled.

Divide the dough into six equal pieces (I use a scale but you could just eyeball it). Braid into two loaves and cover and let rise again, about half the time you let it rise the first time. Brush with water and sprinkle with poppy seeds, if you like.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour.

(Note: the first time I made this I did an overnight [about 12 hours] rise on the counter and only used 1/4 tsp of yeast. Given how cold my kitchen is overnight in November, I probably should have used a touch more yeast, but it did okay.)

I liked this bread so much (and I still had the plethora of squash) that I used it for my Thanksgiving stuffing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving prep, etc.

It goes without saying that I'm hopelessly behind on posts, but I wanted to say what's cooking TODAY (it's Tuesday, and Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away!)

Cranberry sauce (I used this recipe, but cut the sugar down to 1.5 cups and added two peeled, diced apples). I particularly like this because you add the bourbon after it cooks, making it nice and boozy.

Preserved lemons (I have my eye on this recipe, to help deal with my plethora of squash--I used his recipe for the lemons, too, which is linked somewhere in the recipe).

Pumpkins, baking for pie.

Toasted bread cubes, from a new recipe I made up for bread. I will post the recipe in a day or so--I've now made it twice and it got good reviews at a pot luck I took it to on Saturday. This is the recipe I use as a guide for stuffing amounts and proportions--but I don't think I'm including apples or walnuts this time. And I may just use Penzeys poultry seasoning for the herbs!

Last but not least: rice krispie treats.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Last chard? (for my own reference)

I just wanted to make a note that I just harvested what might be the last of my chard. It's clear and cold, and I'm thinking that's a recipe for a hard frost, so I just cut down nearly all of the plants. I still left the "hearts" of the plants out there, in case I'm wrong about the frost, so it can keep growing. I love that I'm still getting food from my yard on the 18th of November!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chard with apples

I'm still here, and still cooking. I'm just having a two-pronged crisis. Prong A: In a nutshell, I'm having trouble downloading pictures and figuring out how to store and sort photos efficiently. Prong B: I can't figure out what to do about posting recipes copyrighted by other people, which covers a lot of my cooking.


That's not why I'm posting today. I'm posting today (without a picture, it's true) about a Brand New Recipe that I Dreamed Up All By Myself. You can probably figure out how to make it from the title, up there--it's that simple. But it is SO delicious, so much more than the sum of its parts. The apple adds a subtle, beautiful sweetness that's hard to identify in the finished dish.

I'm partial to ruby chard, myself: it's what I grew this year and I'm still harvesting, even now in the first week of November. Woot! Next year I'll grow more, even! These proportions work with a small bunch of chard.

Anyway: chop an onion and the chard stems nice and fine. Saute till mostly tender with a few pinches of salt. Add half a diced, peeled apple and the chopped chard leaves, as well as a tablespoon or two of water. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 more minutes.

This is delicious on its own as a side dish, or tossed with rice and topped with feta.

I did this because I love chard with dried fruit: raisins, apricots, even (especially?) dried cherries . . . but one day I had a ton of garden chard to cook and no dried fruit in the house. But I did have apples, and thought, oh, why not? Why not, indeed. Try it. You won't be sorry.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Raspberry syrup

I barely have time to post this, but don't want to forget what I did.

Combine 1/2 cup of water and 2 cups of sugar until dissolved over medium heat. Add a pint of raspberries and stir till it boils. Let it boil for 5 minutes (stirring often), then line a strainer with cheesecloth and let it drain for an hour. Done. It made about 2 cups.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dill pickle chips

I have no picture to accompany this post, but you all know what sliced cucumbers, and pickles, look like, anyway, right?

I've been using my mandoline in the kitchen lately (story of why to follow, assuming I ever catch up on all the posts I haven't written this summer), so I sliced the 3 lbs. or so of pickling cukes I got at the Waltham Farmer's Market nice and thin.

I threw in 2 or 3 crushed garlic cloves as well as a bunch of dill flowers from my wildly overgrown patch of dill (I planted six plants this spring, so when they went to seed, they went with a vengeance!)

Here is the recipe I used for the brine, from one of my new favorite blogs. I made about 1.25 quarts of brine, which was a lot, but I've had trouble in the past with lacto-fermentation and liquid evaporation. It's much better to have too much brine than too little.

If the temperature hadn't been quite so extreme, I think I'd have left them out for another day or two to ferment before packing them into jars and fridgeing them. It was awfully hot, though, so I went with 48 hours.

(Thanks, Susan, for the nudge I needed to get this up here!)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Vegetarian baked beans, ketchup-free

I've noticed that this post gets my blog more hits than practically anything else. I guess there's quite the demand for vegetarian baked beans! Honestly, it's not that hard to make them, either. A little time consuming, but not difficult.

But I've been tinkering with the recipe. It still stands as a good one (pretty loosey-goosey, but I think that's okay: it gives plenty of room for modification to individual tastes.) I've been making these about twice a month since April, so I'm updating with the latest incarnation.

As if it's not enough to make baked beans from scratch, though, I decided I wanted to make them without ketchup. Ever hear that old Carol Sagan quote? "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." So, um, yeah, I know that perhaps "from scratch" can be taken too far. Still.

I used canned tomato sauce (about 1.5 cups, I think), and some additional spices, instead. Perhaps a little extra molasses as well.

You know, the ketchup label doesn't give a whole lot of detail about what's in there (other than the HFCS, of course). "Spices." What does that mean? I checked a couple of cookbooks, notably Laurel's Kitchen and The Complete Book of Home Preserving, by Kingry and Devine, and added small amounts (no more than 1/4 tsp) each of ground celery seed, ground cloves, oregano, and about a pinch each of cinnamon and cumin. I wanted depth without making any of those noticeable, although I may have erred too far on the side of caution. Next time I may try just a touch more.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


These pictures, as frequently happens, are out of order. For reasons I can't quite understand, blogger uploads the pictures backwards from how one selects them. Or else it's just messing with me.

Anyway, I frequently get a bunch of cilantro, and don't know quite what I'm going to do to use ALL of it. I often use a few sprigs to half the bunch, but the rest doesn't quite make it into, well, anything but the compost pile.

I vowed it would be different this time -- and I decided to make this Moroccan sauce, traditionally used on fish. I used it two ways: once to dress some thinly-sliced raw salad turnips. The other time I put over a couple of portobello mushrooms Jon grilled for me. Totally delicious.

(The first picture is, um, maybe not as clear as it could be. It's a grilled mushroom on a roll. Blurry, of course.)


about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
about 1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 garlic scapes, minced
4 scallions, minced
salt to taste
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fun with garlic scapes

I'm pretty much out of scapes (I have two more hoarded from last week to use in pesto later) but next year, I'm going to make this.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A perfect early summer meal

This isn't so much a post about recipes, as just a celebration of a dinner made from local food.

First, steamed beets, sliced and tossed with butter. My sister loves beets so much that she believes butter's purpose on earth is to be combined with beets. Usually I make pickled beets, which is my favorite way to eat them, but for the first beets of the season, I made them Julie's way. They were sensational.

Next, a beautiful salad, with two kinds of lettuce and arugula, radishes and salad turnips. Dressing loaded with garlic scapes, and a couple of tablespoons of chopped parsley and dill from my herb garden.

Finally, a classic in my kitchen: "Spinach Squares." Also known as crustless quiche, and the basis for those little mini-quiches I made a few weeks back. (These are also great brunch food.)

3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup (or more - up to 1/2 lb) grated sharp cheddar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
as much spinach as you can procure
onion/garlic/leeks/etc. (I'd use one small onion -- use that as your guide for amounts of other things)

Saute onion (I had some lovely spring leeks so I used those) in 2 tablespoons of olive oil till softened.

I had one good-sized bunch of spinach, but could easily have used two. Also I have successfully made this with frozen chopped spinach -- a one-lb. bag works perfectly.

Chop the spinach and add to the pot with the onion. Let it just wilt -- don't cook it too much. Allow it to cool.

preheat oven to 350.

In a 9x13 pan, melt a tablespoon of butter. Tilt the pan so the bottom and sides are coated.

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl.

In another bowl, beat the eggs, then add the milk, the cheese, and the spinach mixture. Carefully mix in the dry ingredients, then spread into the prepared pan.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Strawberry roll cake

We picked strawberries, 6.5 lbs, which yielded enough for 4.5 pints of jam (still making the old-fashioned, long-simmered, no-added-pectin kind), plus the sauce for this strawberry roll cake, and some just for snacking. I still have plans to pick more in a few days. I want to be drowning in jam. Jon loves strawberry jam; I love making it. Good thing we're married.

Several factors contributed to the making of this cake:

1. I had a weird hankering to make a roll cake a couple of weeks ago, and told Arij maybe I'd make one for my birthday in a few months. (Planning ahead is so important, don't you think?)

2. The kids requested shortcake (complete with whipped cream), but I was pretty sure they were thinking "cake" and not "biscuit," so I thought I should make something cake-like for the base.

3. I consulted The Joy of Cooking for cake recipes; they suggested a sponge cake. My original intention (lacking little cake molds) was to cut it up into squares and layer them with a little strawberry syrup and top with whipped cream.

4. But then all three of these things coalesced and I thought, why not just roll that sheet of spongy-sweet goodness up with some strawberries?

The result was yummy.

The cake was moderately fussy. The recipe instructed me to beat 5 eggs with 3/4 a cup of sugar for 5 minutes (with a stand mixer) or 7-10 minutes (with a hand-held mixer). Well, since I don't actually BAKE cakes (or so goes the logic in my little brain), I don't own a stand mixer. Besides . . . where would I *keep* it?! But I was making this as I was stirring jam, sterilizing jars, supervising my kids, etc., so I couldn't very well stand there all that time. So I took breaks, and estimated, and tried to gauge whether it resembled "soft whipped cream." (Oh, I also worried if one could OVER mix it and ruin it irreparably.) So I finally just stopped beating it already and added the 3/4 cup of sifted cake flour, the teaspoon of baking powder, and the 3 T of melted butter combined with 1/4 cup of hot milk.

The baking was uneventful: I poured the batter into an 11x17 pan lined with the sil-pat (basically reusable parchment paper) and baked for 9 minutes. You have to invert it right away onto foil, wait for it to cool, and then peel off the parchment, flip it back over and peel the foil off. Then it's ready to go.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

basil and garlic scape pesto, with an elaborate presentation

Do you ever fiddle around with food, preparing multiple parts of a dish, only to realize you've just spent an inordinate amount of time on something that doesn't really even count as a full meal?

Oh. Maybe it's just me, then.

Moving right along . . . We got a little bunch of basil, yielding maybe a loosely-packed cup, from our CSA this week. Not enough to really make pesto with. But we also got a generous clump of garlic scapes, and together, I thought they'd make a great pesto. I shelled a couple of walnuts and tossed them in the processor, followed by 3 or 4 coarsely chopped scapes and the basil, adding a little olive oil to loosen it up. I added a few pinches of salt and some parmegano reggiano, and scooped it into a jar. Lovely.

But what to eat it on? Pasta? Yawn. How about polenta? But I apparently am incapable of making it and leaving it alone. I made my oven-baked polenta, then stirred in about a cup of grated romano cheese. I scooped it into a loaf pan and let it solidify.

Somewhere along the way, I realized I had a few mushrooms that my mom had brought me, and they weren't getting any fresher . . . . so I chopped those up and seared them in olive oil with a little salt.

Once the polenta was (almost) solid -- almost because I ran out of time -- I (washed the processor and then) processed up a couple of slices of pain de campagne from several days ago to make crumbs. I dipped the polenta slices into a an egg beaten with a little salt and a couple tablespoons of milk, and then into bread crumbs. I baked them at 400 for 20 minutes, flipped them over, and baked for 20 more minutes.

But really, does fussed-over polenta topped with fungus and elaborately-wrought weeds mushrooms and pesto really constitute a meal? No, I didn't think so either.

So I threw together a salad, with scallions, radishes and beautiful lettuce, dressed with a lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette. (Um, is it still vinaigrette if it doesn't contain vinegar? Clearly, one for the ages.)

Know what? It's a good thing I have an indulgent spouse who puts up with this kind of thing for dinner. The fact that it tasted beyond fabulous probably had something to do with it.

(As you can see, the camera situation is getting pretty desperate around here. I have *got* to upgrade.)

braised turnip and radish greens, for breakfast

We had two beautiful bunches of turnips and greens, as well as one of radishes. I've read that radish greens are edible, and they looked so fresh and yummy, so I decided to toss those in with the turnip greens.

I cleaned them and chopped them, then tossed them into a heavy pot with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. I added a couple of minced garlic scapes and some salt.

I stirred for a bit, and then wondered what I'd use for braising liquid. Water would do, I guess . . . then I remembered that I'd just cooked lentils for lentil salad (see two posts ago) . . . that lentil cooking water would be perfect!

I cooked them for about 10 minutes, maybe, or a little more, till they were tender.

Leftovers, pictured above: toasted pain de campagne, topped with warmed juicy greens and an egg.

(Yes, this would be Jon's plate, with the leftover steak for breakfast. He and my dad were in heaven.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Garden radishes!!

So, so excited about my own radishes, harvested this morning.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lentil salad with my favorite vinaigrette

I have been using a fabulous combination of salad dressing ingredients for quite some time, now. But as part of my ongoing internal dialog about whether I can post a recipe from someone else verbatim, I have not shared it here.


I have recently found variations on this dressing in more than one place, and I realized that I have indeed varied it enough myself that I can post it in good conscience.

So here it is, My Favorite Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 tsp to 1 T minced allium-family item (shallot, onion, garlic, scallion, chive, garlic scapes)
1/4 tsp salt
freshly-ground black pepper
1-2 T fresh parsley, minced (other fresh herbs work well, too, but don't use too many at once)
about 1 T sour cream
about 1 T dijon mustard
about 1 T capers (optional)

Mix the vinegar, salt and minced allium and let stand for 10 minutes. Then add the rest of the ingredients and shake or stir vigorously.

This dressing is great on a green salad, or on julienned radishes or baby turnips (a personal favorite), or on legumes.

I threw together a version with lentils de puy when I realized last week at 5.30 that I had no protein item for our dinner.

Lentil salad

3/4 cup lentils, sorted and rinsed.
4 radishes, halved or quartered and thinly sliced
2 scallions, chopped fine

Cook lentils in 3 cups salted water till tender but not falling apart, about 40 minutes. Drain. (I used the cooking water to help braise some turnip and radish greens we ate with the lentil salad.)

Toss the lentils with the dressing while they're still hot. Allow to cool to room temperature before adding the radishes and scallions.

You might want extra salt or pepper.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Simple rhubarb

Yesterday I went to the Lexington Farmer's Market. What a great market, with tons of vendors and great local food energy. I had to restrain myself, as I have another CSA pickup today, but I did buy a few things, including a big bundle of rhubarb from Blue Heron Organic Farm in Lincoln.

Once home, I cleaned and chopped the rhubarb. It yielded maybe 3 or 4 cups? I put it in a baking dish, stirred in maybe a half cup of brown sugar and a half teaspoon of cinnamon and baked it at 350 for about 40 minutes, stirring often.

It's a lovely little compote, just a little sweet but with that inimitable rhubarb flavor shining through! I'm thinking I'll stir it into oatmeal . . . spread it on toast . . . mix it into yogurt and eat it with granola . . . I don't think it will last long!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Vegetables for breakfast

I'm trying to incorporate more vegetables into my life. One strategy I hit upon was to try to eat a vegetable with *every* meal -- even breakfast, even lunch -- even if it just means a few lettuce leaves, or a raw carrot. I don't claim that I am managing this all the time, but it's a goal to strive for. One strategy, of course, involves using leftovers.

I like a shot of protein in the morning, so I often eat an egg. I'm a big fan of the improvised fritatta -- with leftover greens, or pasta, or even quinoa. (One of these days I'll blog my quick quinoa dish -- fast fast and very versatile, and the leftovers make a great fritatta.)

Today I didn't have an egg, though: I had the classic radish sandwich, the makings of which are pictured above. (I made the bread yesterday.) A slice of pain de campaigne, lightly buttered and covered with thinly-sliced radish, topped with a sprinkle of kosher salt. Heavenly.

I also ate the other night's turnips and greens, also pictured above, reheated and spooned over another slice of bread, lightly toasted. (Side note: I generally prefer baby turnips raw, sliced thinly or julienned and dressed with my variation on Deborah Madison's mustard vinaigrette, but this time I sliced them, sauteed in olive oil with some garlic and their chopped greens. A delicious preparation, but I do think I prefer them raw. They're sharper raw, whereas cooked they're SO sweet and melting. They provide a nice foil for their greens, though, which retain their sharpness even when they're cooked.)

Finally (don't be grossed out), I ate leftover baked beans on toast. Didn't I say I need protein in the morning? I usually go for an egg, but beans can serve me well, too!

(A final note: I apologize for the lousy quality of the pictures. My camera is not doing that well. Maybe one of these days, I'll upgrade.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Quick bok choi

Today was the first pickup at our summer CSA. (It also might be a year ago today that I started this blog -- can that really be?!) I participated, a little, in a new member orientation that was instituted this year, and Ellie, one of the growers, pitched this blog (Thanks, Ellie!) And then I had a conversation with a new member about what to do with bok choi -- I sort of rattled off a "recipe," but told her (hi, Debbie!) that I'd put one up here.

1 bunch bok choi (these bunches were huge -- maybe a pound?)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 large-garlic-clove-size piece of fresh ginger, minced
2 T soy sauce
1 (scant) T rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 heaping T corn starch
1 T canola oil mixed with 1 tsp Asian sesame oil

The biggest trouble I have with bok choi is how watery it can be. I think I came up with a solution. I chopped the leaves, but kept the stems separate, and cooked them first. Also, I used plenty of corn starch in the sauce.

Note: as you can see from the pictures, I wasn't super-careful about keeping the stems and leaves separate. It doesn't really matter; just be sure you get most of the stems separated.

Heat the canola and sesame oils in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the stems and cook, tossing or stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until they're tender (try a piece -- you don't want it soggy, but you want it to cook down a bit and let that excess water cook off.)

Add the green part of the leaves as well as the ginger and garlic. Continue tossing/stirring for another 3 or 4 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and corn starch and stir well.

Give the sauce an extra stir right before adding it to the skillet of greens. Stir constantly to coat all the bok choi with sauce and let the sauce thicken (about 30 seconds?), then remove from heat and serve.

Edited to add: We get a *lot* of bok choi, so I reprised this a few days later. This time I used Loriva brand roasted peanut oil combined with canola to cook with, and drizzled on a couple of teaspoons of toasted sesame oil at the end. I also increased the amount of sauce I made to accommodate the cooked soba noodles I tossed in to make a meal out of it.

Next up, maybe, fried rice with bok choi.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Asian" spinach

No picture of this one, sorry! I forgot to take one before we gobbled it up. I went to Wilson Farm last weekend for some seedlings, some black beans (Baer's, of course) and to check out what they had for local produce.

I came home with a giant bag of spinach and two bunches of asparagus. (Jon looked at the asparagus and said, "only two? are you serious?" Looks like I'll have to go back.) The first bunch of asparagus I just boiled gently till just tender in salted water and served with a combination of olive oil and butter. Heavenly. I have a plan for the second one, but that will have to wait for another post.

Spinach: that's what I'm writing about today.

1 lb spinach, give or take
1 T toasted sesame oil (or to taste)
1 T soy sauce (or to taste)
2 tsp sugar

Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl.

Wash and stem the spinach. Spin or blot it dry, but don't worry about getting it totally dry, as it will steam in the moisture left on the leaves. Get out a big pot -- I used a 6-quart stockpot and still couldn't fit it all at once. Fill the pot with spinach, put a lid on it, and put it over medium heat for a minute or two. As the spinach wilts down, put more into the pot, tossing it around with tongs or a wooden spoon. Once it's all wilted, drain it well, squeezing out the moisture so it doesn't make the dressing watery.

Chop the leaves coarsely, then toss with the dressing.

Serve hot or cold. Love that kind of versatility.

I could also imagine throwing a splash of rice vinegar into the sauce, and some hot pepper flakes. Maybe some scallions or minced garlic? Really, the possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Wild thing" mini quiches

I was going to call these "weed quiche" but the attorney we had over for dinner advised against it. It's nettles, people!

I keep reading about the edible weeds that grow wild in our gardens . . . we've tried purslane, which I rather like. The burdock is crazy but you can't eat the leaves, only the root, and I haven't managed to dig one up. Their taproots are really hard to pull out and must go all the way to the core of the earth. Lamb's quarters? Haven't seen 'em. Dandelion, check; violets, check. But what about stinging nettles? Finally I found some growing in one of my flower beds. I even proved that it was indeed nettle by (wait for it) getting stung by it. Ouch. Seriously, ouch.

So, what to do? I went to my friend google and learned how to handle it, for one thing. I wore a rubber glove on one hand and wielded scissors in the other. I swished the nettles in a bowl of water to clean them off, and then put them into a small pot of boiling water for 1.5 minutes. Then I fished them out with tongs, blotted them with a towel, and let cool.

3 T melted butter

2 extra large eggs
1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup finely grated cheddar

4 oz mushrooms, diced fine
1 smallish onion, diced fine

salt and pepper

3 stalks spring nettles (could substitute spinach, chard, etc.), blanched (see instructions), stemmed, and chopped fine.

Preheat the oven to 350.

First, saute the onion with a few pinches of salt till softened, then add the mushrooms. Let them relealse their juices and get tender. (I used a little olive oil for the sauteeing.) Toss in the blanched, chopped nettles and remove from the heat.

Next, beat the eggs with another couple picnhes of salt and add the milk. Combine the flour and baking soda in a bowl, then grate in the cheese (that 1/4 cup is an approxiate measurement). Add the egg/milk mixture and then the onion, mushroom and nettles. Grind in some pepper, and mix gently but thoroughly. You don't want any clumps of flour! .

Brush the mini muffin pan (24-muffin size) generously with melted butter. Fill each muffin cup with 1 level tablespoon of the batter.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Vegetarian baked beans

(For an update of this recipe without ketchup, please click here.)

Canned baked beans are one of the few convenience foods I buy regularly. And since I'm not exactly a vegetarian (except sometimes, ha ha), and I live with omnivores, I can happily eat Bush's baked beans and just avoid that chunk of pork they put in there and not get too worked up about it. But still. If you're me, you reach a point where you wonder why, exactly, you're so dependent on that can. Surely we can come up with good baked beans with a little tinkering . . .

I've tried most of the vegetarian baked beans out there, and I have not been impressed. They seem overwhelmingly sweet, which led me to conclude that, without meat, it must be hard to make full-flavored baked beans. What was I thinking?

Here's the other thing: as someone who is frequently choosing to make a meal out of low-protein "side dishes," I really like having a "side dish" that provides a real alternative protein to the meat on the grill. Vegetarian baked beans fill the bill: they're familiar; everyone likes them, but they still mean I don't HAVE to eat meat or get protein-deprived. (My other standby on these occasions is hummus, of course. Any others?)

I had amazingly good luck with Goya navy beans (available at the Hannaford down the hill for $1.67) (but doesn't that seem sort of steep for pre-packaged dry beans? Am I hallucinating that a few short years ago, they were about a buck cheaper than that?)

I didn't plan ahead terribly well, but did a strong saltwater (2 hefty T of salt dissolved in about 3 quarts of water) soak for 4 hours in warmish water, and it worked fine. I brought the beans to a boil for about 5 minutes, then added a medium onion, chopped fine, and some garlic. I covered the pot and let it simmer for about 45 minutes and they were done: tender but still holding their shape. Bean perfection!

My sauce is a work in progress, and I would strongly suggest playing with the proportions to suit your own tastes. (Expect updates throughout grilling season as I continue to refine the recipe.) It's a long ingredient list, but don't let that intimidate you: if you don't have some of the items, just leave them out.

Optional sauce additions, particularly if you don't have some of the items on my list: bottled barbecue sauce (we like Dinosaur in our house), if you happen to have some around; citrus, like a splash of lemon or orange juice; pineapple; hoisin sauce. Personally, I think that citrus can easily become overwhelming, which is why it's not part of my recipe, but everyone's palate is different.

My inspirations for this recipe come from Laurel's Kitchen, The Moosewood Restaurant's Low-Fat Favorites, and Emeril's Every Day's a Party.

2-3 medium onions, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 T vegetable oil
1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground fennel
1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp tamari
generous 1/2 cup of ketchup
scant 1/4 cup molasses
1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 generous tablespoon brown mustard
1-2 tsp Pickapeppa sauce
1 tsp tamarind concentrate
2-3 tsp cider vinegar (go easy -- it can easily become too tangy!)
1 tsp vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
several generous grindings of black pepper

Saute onions in oil with a couple of pinches of salt, stirring often. Allow them to caramelize for as much time as you have. Add garlic, fennel and allspice, stirring constantly. Add remaining ingredients (except beans) and bring to a simmer.

I use about 3/4 of the beans (rough guess) for this much sauce. Adding more ketchup is a good plan if there doesn't seem to be enough sauce, but you can also thin the sauce with some of the bean broth. Be sure to taste for salt and add more if you need to.

After the sauce has simmered a few minutes, add the beans. Bring it back to a simmer, then put it, covered, in a 250-degree oven for 45 minutes. Needless to say, they can be made ahead and they reheat beautifully.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Black bean soup

Did I say, in that last post on "veggie chili," that I make soup out of the leftovers? Well, I do.

Basically I just puree the leftovers with the cooking broth from the black beans, sometimes adjusting the seasoning with a little more salt or cumin.

Garnishing with sour cream and chopped cilantro is completely optional, though delicious.

Occasionally it will wind up a little thin, texture-wise, but fear not. I got a great little trick from (where else?) a Deborah Madison cookbook to thicken this soup: whisk in a couple of tablespoons of masa harina. (That's the corn flour treated with lime that you use to make tortillas from.) It adds a really nice flavor dimension as well as the thickening.

Oh, and regarding blenders: I have a hand-held "stick" blender that I've been using less and less. I don't know if it's just gotten old, and sort of worn out, or what -- but I really think that the standard countertop blender is more effective. Only problem is, it is more of a chore to wash.

I don't have a fancy one, either. It's an Oster that cost about $30 in about 1992, bought, if memory serves, at the Montgomery Ward in Morgantown. But it is effective for pureeing soups.

A final note: there's no picture with this post because this soup may not be the most photogenic thing going. Delicious, but kinda plain.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Beans and rice, redux

In my house, there is a dinner we eat easily once a week. Over the years, its name has evolved. Once it was "tacos" or "veggie chili." Then it became "Permission" (as in, "permission to eat junk food for dinner," because we'd scoop it up with chips that had cheese melted over them.) Its current iteration is "chips and cheese" because that's how the kids think of it. They also love the sour cream we serve as a condiment.

But, um, in recent months, I've been trying to watch what I'm eating a little more closely, and I decided I don't really need to gorge on chips and cheese, delicious though they are. So I've been experimenting with other sides to go with the veggie chili so I don't have to fill up on the chips. I'm trying to treat them as a garnish or whatever, instead of the main dish!

Polenta works well, as do potatoes boiled then combined with sauteed onions and chili powder.

But today I decided to make rice.

I've been relying more and more on cooking my own beans instead of canned, and that results in lovely broth that I often use to make soup (more on black bean soup in another post). But there's a recipe of Deborah Madison's where she uses the black bean broth to cook rice. It's not perhaps the prettiest thing going, but it is tasty.

"Veggie chili"

I usually use black beans, though kidney or pinto beans also work, as does a combination.

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp oregano
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 to 1 cup diced canned tomatoes, including the liquid (or salsa)
3 cups or so of cooked beans (or canned)
salt to taste

Saute the onion in oil for 10 minutes or so, then add the corn. Let it thaw and even get a little browned. Add the spices and garlic and stir constantly for a minute or two. Add beans and tomatoes, and simmer for as long as you have. I often add some bean broth to make it a little juicier.

Oh, and I used corn from the freezer from the farmer's market last summer! As I said earlier in the week, I've finally been using all the local produce I froze last summer.

The rice is pretty standard: saute a little onion and garlic plus 1/8 tsp anise seeds with a cup and a quarter of rice and 1/2 tsp of salt. Add 2 cups bean broth and bring to a boil; turn down the heat and let it simmer till done.

Leftovers of this veggie chili make a great base for black bean soup. But I'll write about that in another post.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Indian-inspired dinner

Okay, I'll get that top picture out of the way right away. People sometimes ask me how I cook so much with small children in the house. That picture provides one of the answers: those are brown mustard seeds that Anne was playing with while I cooked. You wouldn't believe how long she enjoyed those for . . . or how long it took me to clean up afterward. This was about three weeks ago and I'm still finding them around the kitchen.

The second picture is the sort of standard red-lentil dal that I make -- I used to make it a LOT, but then Arij kind of lost interest in it so I don't make it as often. It's almost not worth posting a recipe for, because you could find it in any number of cookbooks, but what I do is this:

Red lentil dal

1 cup red lentils, sorted and rinsed, then cooked in 2.5 or 3 cups water till soft
1 large onion, chopped
(1 T minced ginger -- I don't always have it on hand, so I don't always include it)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T Penzeys sweet curry powder
salt to taste

Saute the onions in a couple of tablespoons of oil till nicely soft and browned -- then add garlic and ginger (if using). Stir constantly and keep cooking for another minute or two, then add the curry powder. Turn off heat and stir all this into the cooked lentils.

This time I also added a cube of frozen eggplant from last summer into the simmering dal. It kind of melted in and nearly disappeared, but still provided some depth of flavor.

Potatoes with Indian spices

This time, I sauteed twice as much onion, garlic, ginger and curry powder, and then kept half of it out to combine with the cubed, boiled potatoes.

Green beans

This recipe I adapted from one that Phantom Scribbler gave me. It is seriously yummy.

I made it with Drumlin Farm green beans from the freezer -- they have been delicious!

2 T oil
2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 lb green beans
1/4 cup water
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Heat the oil and add mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Have a lid handy, because those mustard seeds pop everywhere! Fry for a couple of minutes; add the beans and stir fry for 2 or 3 minutes. Add water, cover, and cook for 4-5 minutes.

Uncover, raise heat to boil off any remaining water, and add remaining ingredients.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Blueberry pancakes

These are pretty standard pancakes (from an old edition of The Joy of Cooking) that we have used for years, with the addition of BLUEBERRIES FROM THE FREEZER. (That is, from Honey Pot Hill.)

It's funny, it takes me until about March to start realizing that I froze all this wonderful produce for a reason, and I need to use it! Whee! Arij has been requesting these so much that, alas, the blueberries are gone. Next summer, I'm going to freeze more. Well, I will if I can convince Arij to help me pick them ;-)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Beans and rice

Isn't this a beautiful combination of food? I feel I can't post the recipes, because I make them more or less verbatim from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen, but I had to post the picture, and I'll describe the dish. If you're desperate, email me and I'll send you the recipe, but I feel weird posting HER recipe without permission.

Basically it consists of a "sauce" for the black beans with onion, cilantro and coconut milk, and then you use the other half of the can of coconut milk as part of the rice cooking liquid. I think it's saffron making it yellow, though maybe it's both turmeric and saffron. (It's been awhile since I made this.)

The pickled red onions on top are so delicious and make a nice contrast in flavor and texture.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Elemental bean soup with polenta croutons

This is the soup I made with some of the Baer's "money" beans I cooked the other day. I'd been reading Deborah Madison soup recipes for days, and this is what materialized in the kitchen. It was good enough that I wanted to jot it out.

The beans: I cooked a pound of them with an onion, a garlic clove, two bay leaves and a couple of pinches of asafoetida. Toward the end of cooking, I added a teaspoon or two of salt.

The soup:

1/2 an onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, diced fine
2 garlic cloves, halved and finely sliced
1.5 cups cooked beans PLUS another 1.5 cups pureed till very smooth in the processor
about 3 cups of bean cooking water
a splash of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

Saute onion in olive oil over medium-high heat; add a few pinches of salt. After 5-10 minutes, add carrot and continue to saute for another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and stir constantly for another minute, and then add 2 cups (or so) of bean broth and bring to a boil. Simmer till the carrots are tender. Add the beans and bean puree and enough additional bean cooking liquid to make it soupy.

The polenta:

Earlier in the day, I made a batch of my oven-baked polenta and put it into a loaf pan to cool. About 20 minutes before I served the soup, I made 4 or 5 thick slices of polenta and then cut each slice into cubes (see picture above). I fried it up in an unholy amount of olive oil, turning it after 3 or 4 minutes to be sure at least two sides of each cube got toasty. A spatter guard was essential -- the popping and spitting was really unreal. I wish I could have put in an audio file so you could actually hear the noise it made.

The combination of the creamy soup and the cruncy polenta cubes was really amazing.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cooking beans, again

If you've read through much of this blog, you know I have a fixation on cooking beans. I do use canned beans, but I prefer cooking them myself. However. Just when I think I've got it all figured out, I'll cook some up that refuse to cooperate.

I bought an 8-lb bag of chickpeas from one of the Indian groceries here in town, and I have had terrible luck with them. They were a lot cheaper than the ones I'd had previously from Whole Foods, but they are taking forever to cook. Like, 3 hours or more. The last batch that I'd bought from Whole Foods cooked like a dream -- after soaking, they took barely an hour. And they tasted wonderful: sweet and rich. The ones I'm using now? They don't even taste that good, and the texture is weird. It's really aggravating.

I've had similar things happen with kidney beans -- the Baer's Best ones (a Massachusetts grower) cook up beautifully, by and large, but a large bag of kidney beans I bought just won't soften properly without that salt-water soak thing.

What's the lesson here? I'm guessing that it's an age issue. The ones I've had better luck with are fresher? But how do you always know? I have been toying with the idea of trying to find a buyer's club/co-op thing to buy bulk foods, but what if I buy, say, 20 lbs of chickpeas and find that they're not good ones? But what I'm doing now doesn't seem surefire, either, by any means.

All that said, an old friend from college who found me on Facebook suggested that I try using whey in the soaking water, a la Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions. I tried that last night and I'll see how it goes. But I used it on a 1-lb. package of Baer's "money" beans, so I'm guessing that they'd have cooked up pretty well regardless of what I did.

Vegetable stock

Always on the lookout for more things to do with root vegetables, today I made a really nice stock. I roasted this array of veggies (onion, garlic, rutabega, celeriac, carrots, parsnips) in a bit of olive oil and butter.

I cut everything small and used maybe a tablespoon of fat, sprinkled on some salt and tossed them all so everything was coated. I roasted them at 400 for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

When they were done roasting, and things were nicely browned in places, I scraped it all into a 3-quart pot and added water to cover. I brought it to a boil and then lowered it to a simmer for another 45 minutes.

The stock is a rich brown in color with a nice round depth of flavor. I'm thinking a mushroom risotto might be a good use for it . . .

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

This is an old recipe of my mom's. I'm pretty sure she got it from a Fleichman's Yeast package many years ago. It is incredibly easy, but also really good. I've tweaked it a little over the years. You mix these up the night before, the dough rises in the fridge, and then you shape them in the morning, let them rise, and bake. Perfect for brunch.

If you have a stand mixer, use it for sure. I don't, so I have used a hand-held mixer, but I've also just mixed it up by hand with a spoon.

4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

1 T instant yeast

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup water

1 stick butter, cut in pieces

2 eggs

1 tsp fiori di sicilia or lemon flavor

To make the cinnamon sugar filling, mix 1/2 cup sugar with a tablespoon of ground cinnamon.

Combine 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar, salt and yeast.

Heat milk, water, and butter over low heat to melt the butter. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Add eggs and the whole-wheat flour, and mix again. Add enough additional flour to make a stiff batter. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, turn the dough out onto a floured board. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. as you work with one piece, keep the others covered so they don't dry out. Roll each piece into a 9x12" rectangle. Sprinkle dough with a generous amount of cinnamon sugar. Press it gently into the dough with your fingers, and then roll up the dough from the short side. Carefully seal the seam and the ends. Cut the roll into 1" pieces and place them evenly spaced into a greased 8" cake pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes; remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tamale Pie

Aaron was coming for dinner and I wanted something a little bit different, something I hadn't made in awhile.

First I made a batch of polenta (using my oven-bake method, of course), but I halved it. I'm not sure that was the best bet -- next time, I think I'd make a full batch and use about 3/4 of it. I added a lot of grated extra-sharp cheddar -- maybe 1 1/2 cup? -- after it came out of the oven.

Grease a gratin dish (or a plain rectangular or square baking dish) and spoon in the hot polenta. Spread it evenly around, and as far up the sides of the dish as you can easily manage.

While the polenta was baking, I prepared the filling:

1 large onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 T flour
1 cup bean broth (or vegetable broth, or water)
1 cup crushed tomatoes
2-3 cups cooked pinto beans
1/2 tsp oregano
1 cup grated cheddar (this is for the top -- in addition to what gets mixed into the polenta)

Sauate the onion till golden, then add garlic and spices. Stir constantly for 1 minute, then stir in the flour and continue stirring for another minute. Add the broth, tomatoes, beans and oregano and stir well. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then spoon into the prepared polenta "crust."

Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 30 minutes, covered, then 15 minutes, uncovered, at 350. You might want to let it stand for a few minutes so the cheese sets.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mashed potatoes and rutabegas with cheese and caramelized onion (or, oh, god, enough with the root vegetables, already!)

Yes, more root vegetables!!

One of my best childhood/cooking memories is of my paternal grandmother (who died last year at the age of 98). She made pierogi by the gazillion several times a year when the extended family gathered at her house. She taught my mom to make them, too, and hers were even better than Grandma's. Beautifully supple egg-noodle dough, encapsulating a cheesy, onion-y, mashed potato filling. (Grandma also made ones stuffed with "kapusta" -- which was a combination of canned sauerkraut and fresh cabbage -- also delicious, and ones stuffed with stewed prunes, about which, well, the less I say, the better.)

After filling, they're dunked in boiling water long enough to cook the pasta, and then fried in a pan with butter and served, brown and crispy, with sour cream and/or more butter. Heavenly.

My mother and I have made pierogi together, with the help of the pasta machine to roll out the dough (Grandma used a rolling pin, of course). They're fun, but incredibly time-consuming (not to mention highly caloric!)

I was thinking of these the other night as I made this root-vegetable mash for dinner.

Mashed potatoes and rutabegas with cheese and caramelized onion

(maybe) 2 lbs potatoes, scrubbed (peeling optional) and cut into chunks
(maybe) 1.5 lbs rutabega, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 medium onions, sauteed in 2 T butter until brown and caramelized
1.5-2 cups grated sharp cheddar
salt and pepper to taste

Mash everything together. Use a scraper to get all the butter and onion out of the pan and into the mash.

Notes: the rutabegas and potatoes should really be cooked separately, as the potatoes cook a lot faster. The rutabegas are easier to mash if they're cooked nearly to falling-apart.

The broth from cooking the rutabegas and the potatoes is great to save for soup.

I served this with these lentils.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Root vegetables for breakfast

I'm crazy, aren't I? Driven over the edge by a surfeit of rooty goodness from my Winter Share, apparently.

Not quite. In Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone (Deborah Madison, natch), there's a recipe I've been meaning to try forever, and I finally did. Really, it's so beautifully simple, it's hardly even a recipe.

Peel and thinly slice some parsnips (this is the most work of all). Melt 2 to 4 Tablespoons of butter over medium or even medium-high heat, and let it sizzle. Then add the parsnips, sprinkle with a little salt, and stir occasionally. Let them get a little browned around the edges. Dump them on a plate and drizzle on some maple syrup.

Really, a LOVELY dish, even for supper.