Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ooey Gooey and Delicious - October 31, 2013

It is that time of year when I get excited about a hearty bowl of soup, stew or warm pasta.  Melted cheese is especially high on my list right now.  One great way to have it is in a warm cheese dip, but invite some friends because it makes more than you can eat alone and it's always more fun to share.  This an especially great recipe for cleaning out your cheese drawer because it calls for several types of cheese.  It also is great for using up green veggies and herbs.  I have riffed on this by replacing the artichoke hearts with cooked spinach, the leeks for shallots or the asparagus with broccoli.  Try it once as described below and then adapt to your liking (or your refrigerator).

Vegetable and Goat Cheese Dip
1 c. chopped asparagus
2 T. unsalted butter
1 c. chopped leeks (white and light green part only)
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c. whole milk
1 c. grated white cheddar
salt and pepper
14 oz. drained and chopped artichoke hearts
1/4 c. peas (thawed if frozen before)
2 T. each chives, mint and parsley
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
4 oz. crumbled goat cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Cook asparagus in salted water for 2 minutes to blanch.  Drain and cool.  Melt butter in saucepan and add leeks, cooking until soft, about 10 minutes.  Whisk in flour and then slowly add milk.  Keep whisking and cook until thickened.  Remove from heat and add cheddar.  Mix until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.  Fold in most of asparagus (leave the pretty tips for the top), artichoke, peas, herbs, zest and 2 oz. goat cheese.  Pour into ramekin and arrange remaining cheese and asparagus on top.  Bake 15-20 minutes until brown and bubbly or ooey-gooey.  Let rest 5 minutes and serve with sliced bread.

One year ago - Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Friday, October 25, 2013

Honey Pear Muffins: YUM! - October 25, 2013

We bought a bunch of Asian pears at the farmer's market.  They looked beautiful and they did taste sweet, but the texture was too grainy to be enjoyable for eating.  I thought about reproducing a beautiful Pear Honey Pie I made last year, but was leaving town and knew most of it would go to waste.  I thought more and finally decided I could still use the pear honey combination but instead try a muffin.  They turned out to be the best muffins I've ever made.  I ate one the next day and froze the rest to save for my next board meeting.

Honey Pear Muffins
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. buttermilk, room temp.
1/4 c. butter, melted and cooled
1/4 c. honey
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. diced pears
sugar to sprinkle muffins, Turbino best

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease or line muffin tins.  Whisk flours, sugar, powder and spices. In another bowl whisk milk, butter, honey, egg and vanilla.  Mix the two together and gently add pears.  Fill 15 muffin tins and sprinkle each with sugar.  bake 18-20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean after inserting.  Cool and serve warm.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Beets Can’t Be Beat – October 19, 2013

For most of my life, I thought I hated beets.  This all resulted from a bad elementary school lunch experience where I tasted my first beet thinking it was an apple ring.  It was over 30 years before I decided to give them another try and what a pity because I love beets.  They are healthy, sweet and easy to cook.  And, if you avoid the bright red ones, (which actually are the healthiest) they don’t bleed into the rest of your meal.  Usually, I simply wrap beets in Reynold’s Wrap and bake in the oven for about an hour.  When you unwrap them, the skins peel right off and you can slice and salt the beets and serve just like that or add some blue cheese.  But recently, I have been adding beets to Asian food.  They are great chopped with steamed carrots, unsalted peanuts and boiled pasta as a cold noodle salad.  You can make your own noodle salad dressing or buy a great one at Trader Joes called Asian Style Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette.  Or try John’s stir fry:

John’s Stir Fry
3 beets, peeled and chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 c. snow peas
1 red pepper, chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard stems, chopped (great way to use chard stems after steaming leaves)
1 T. oil
1 T. soy sauce
2 T. Schezwan sauce
½ c. unsalted peanuts
½ lb. spagetti, cooked

Heat oil and soy sauce in wok or large pot.  Add veggies and begin cooking while stirring.  (If you wanted to add beef or pork, cook those a bit in the oil before you add the veggies.  If you want to add seafood, toss in after the veggies get soft.)  While veggies are cooking, prepare spaghetti and drain.  Add Schezwan and fully coat veggies before tossing in spaghetti and peanuts and stirring to coat well.  Adjust sauce, peanuts and pasta to taste.

While thinking about uses for beets, I had my drier out so that I could dry and put up cherry tomatoes.  I tried making beet chips.  I simply covered very thin beet slices with olive oil and salt and added to the dryer.  They were good, especially dipped in yogurt dip, but it was a lot of work and dryer space and time for the amount you can produce.  I think an oven would be a much better way to make beet chips.

One year ago – Winter Squash withChicken and Winter Squash Cheesecake Squares

Monday, October 14, 2013

Harvesting and Marinating Mushrooms – October 12, 2013

Last year I blogged about planting Shiitake mushroom spores at our community garden.  So far, a few have poked out but immediately been consumed by squirrels, but there are still old mushroom spores in the garden planted 4-5 years ago and they all sprouted at once into beautiful soft mushrooms.  I have found that you need to pick mushrooms right away because they get tough and they start to be eaten if left very long.  So, another gardener and I split the harvest and I still had over a pound of mushrooms.

The stem of the Shiitake (unlike many other mushrooms) is too tough to eat, so I removed those, brushed all the dirt off the mushrooms and began considering how to put them up until needed.  My original idea was to dry the mushrooms, but after some Google searching, marinated mushrooms sounded much more delicious, so I decided to give them a try.  I can also report they were so good, I marinated another batch several weeks later.

Marinated Mushrooms

1-2  pounds small, meaty mushrooms
1 pint white vinegar or cider vinegar
Kosher salt or pure sea salt
Zest of a lemon, sliced into wide strips
2 dried hot chiles, split lengthwise
1/2 T. oregano
1/2 c. olive oil

Cut the Shiitake mushrooms into 1/2 inch strips. With small mushrooms, like a button mushroom, you need only cut them in half, and you can leave the smaller ones whole.
Lay down a layer of salt on a tray and place the mushrooms on it. Then salt them on top to cover. Let them stand at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
Put the mushrooms between paper towels and gently squeeze them a bit to remove any remaining water.  Then, boil them in the vinegar for five minutes.  Fish out the mushrooms and put them between paper towels again and gently squeeze them to remove some of the vinegar.  Lay the mushrooms on a clean cloth to dry.  Let them air dry until they are no longer damp, but still pliable (not until they are leather.) Turn the mushrooms once or twice during this time, 12-24 hours.
Put the oil, lemon zest, oregano and chile in a bowl and toss the mushrooms in them. Pack this into glass jars. Use a chopstick or some other kind of clean stick to poke around the jar — you want to find and remove as many air bubbles as possible. Make sure the mushrooms are submerged in the oil.  Refrigerate and wait at least a week before eating. These mushrooms will keep in the fridge for 6 months.
One Year Ago - Green Tomato Relish

Friday, October 4, 2013

Snacking with Edward Lee – October 4, 2013

I admit to having a bit of a crush on Edward Lee.  I have had the opportunity to eat at 610 Magnolia and attend events at the wine bar across the street.  I haven’t tried Milkwood yet, but I am looking forward to the chance.  But, lately, I have been more obsessed with his new cookbook, Pickles and Smoke.   It gives you great insight into the way he combines Asian and Southern cuisine.  It also gave me the opportunity to impress my husband and mother-in-law with a whole chicken stuffed with potatoes under the skin.  But, this week, I have been trying the appetizer in the book and having a blast.  The first I have renamed Edward Lee Bacon Crack because you will quickly become addicted.  The second is pickled jalapenos which he doesn’t even bother to can because they go so quickly at his house.  The key is that they are pickled with bourbon.  I tried this recipe twice and for my palette, they were nicer the second time when I got a milder pepper.  He recommends using them in drinks.  I like them with nachos.

Bacon Candy and Curried Cashews

3 slices thick bacon, diced
2 T. sugar
1 c. cashews
2 tsp. sweet Curry powder
¼ tsp. cayenne
Pinch of salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook bacon pieces on medium 5-6 minutes until they start to crisp.  Drain off all but 1 T. fat.  Add sugar and cook while stirring 2-3 minutes until bacon is all coated and starts to look shiny.  Quickly add remaining ingredients and toss to coat. 

Remove from heat and spread on cookie sheet.  Bake 10 minutes or until lightly toasted (keep an eye on it throughout especially if your bacon isn’t too thick).  Cool and store in air-tight container.

Bourbon-Pickled Jalapenos

1 lb. peppers, seeded and chopped in rings
¼ c. white vinegar
1 c. bourbon
½ c. honey
2 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
2 pint jars

Pack pepper rings into two pint jars.  Combine remaining ingredients and bring to boil before simmering 5 minutes.  Pour over peppers.  You can now keep in fridge for up to two weeks or seal in boiling water for 10 minutes to make shelf stable.

One year ago today – minestrone stew