Thursday, September 30, 2010

Snickerdoodles


After over 25 years working for the same organization, my Father-in-Law retired on Tuesday. It was a very momentous occasion for him and his office, and many parties and lunches have been planned. For his last day, my Mother-in-law asked me to make a platter of cookies for her to bring to his office. She requested three varities, Snickerdoodles being one of them. I have made Snickerdoodles once in the past, but it turns out that my version wasn't exactly traditional. See, what makes them traditional is the addition of cream of tartar for leavening rather than baking powder or soda. My Browned Butter Snickerdoodles contained baking powder.

I did a little research to find out what exactly it is that makes cream of tartar necessary in this recipe. I read that the Potassium Hydrogen Tartrate helps to stabilize and give volume to egg whites, which cases them to rise and puff. It is also said to give a creamier texture to baked goods. Cream of Tartar is actually a byproduct of the wine making process, it is the residue left in barrels of wine and sometimes wine bottles. 

When choosing a recipe, I simply googled Snickerdoodles, and found this recipe from allrecipes.com. There were many great reviews and it has a high rating, so I went with it. While the recipe says it makes 4 dozen, I made large cookies, and ended up with closer to 2 dozen. Also, I don't use shortening so I baked these with all butter rather than the 50/50 ratio.

While I thought the cookies tasted good, I guess I'm not much of a Snickerdoodle fan. However, my husband texted me and said people were raving about them! It appears as though most recipes are pretty much the same in terms of ingredients and ratios. However, I'd be sure to use a coarsely ground, turbinado sugar to achieve maximum crunchy crust. Perhaps a taste test will be in order though, because I'd like to compare Snickerdoodles made with cream of tartar, baking soda, and baking powder all side by side. It sounds like I'll have some very willing participants!

Tips and Trades:
-Because Cinnamon is the most important flavor in these cookies, be sure to use a quality product. You can read about the different varieties here at Penzey's.

Mrs. Sigg's Snickerdoodles
slightly adapted from allrecipes.com

1 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 3/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. turbinado sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Add butter to the bowl of a stand mixer, turn speed on low and cream.
Add sugar, increase speed and beat for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Turn speed to low, add eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions.
Scrape down sides.
Add vanilla, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, beat until just incorporated.
Turn mixer off, add flour, turn speed to low and mix until dough comes together and is just combined.
Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 400*
Add turbinado sugar and cinnamon to a small bowl, mix well.
Remove dough from refrigerator, spoon 2 tbsp. full balls out into hands, roll then press into cinnamon sugar mixture, press down lightly onto baking sheet.
Repeat with all cookies, placing them 2-3" apart on the cookie sheet.
Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes (8 if you're making smaller cookies).
Remove from the oven when cookies are cracked and puffed, slightly golden brown.
Place on a wire cooling rack until cookies come to room temperature.
Store in a cookie jar or airtight container.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bruchetta with Melted Mozzarella Toasts


If you ask me what dish represents summer best, I'd have to say Caprese Salad, or any variation of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Fresh tomatoes picked right off the vine mixed with bright, sweet basil and fresh, creamy mozzarella to cut through the acidity... it's a trifecta of flavor. 

Every day after work, I go outside with the dogs and survey the crops. During the peak of cherry tomato season, I'd stand next to the planter and pluck one after another off the vine and into my mouth. I harvested daily, and the vines were replenished daily. The same can be said for my basil plants, I'd tear off a handful every other day or so for a dish, and it would be replenished the next day. I honestly can't put into words how rewarding it is to have a garden, even one as small and challenged as mine! 

When my roma tomatoes finally started coming in, they were plentiful. I picked a basketful and left them on the counter to eat at our leisure. We were having  company one evening, and I decided to utilize the fresh tomatoes. Simple bruschetta typically combines tomatoes, basil, onions, and balsamic with toasted bread, so to make this a bit more interesting, I decided to add melted fresh mozzarella to the bread. The end result was a great contrast of flavors, textures, and temperatures. Each ingredient's flavors held their own, and were in perfect harmony. 

Tips and Trades:
-Try using different tomatoes, such as heirloom, for a gorgeous colorful dish.
-Select any bread variety for additional flavor, I used a kalamata olive sourdough from Whole Foods Bakery.
-Eliminate the garlic if you wish, but we all loved it and weren't bothered by the bite of fresh garlic.

Bruschetta with Melted Mozzarella Toasts

2 lbs. diced, seeded Roma tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. minced red onion
1 c. basil leaves, chiffonade
2 tbsp. balsamic vinaigrette
2 tbsp. EVOO
Salt and pepper
1 loaf of bread, sliced thinly on a bias
1 lb. ball of fresh mozzarella

Add garlic and onion to a mixing bowl.
Toss with balsamic vinaigrette, salt and pepper.
Set aside for 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, basil and EVOO to the garlic and onions, toss well to combine.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat broiler to high.
Place bread on a baking sheet and broil for 2 minutes, watching carefully so it doesn't burn.
Remove from the oven, flip, top with mozzarella and place back under the broiler.
Broil for another 2-3 minutes, until melted and slightly browned, watch carefully!
Remove tomato mixture from the fridge, taste and season as necessary.
Place on a platter with toasts and serve immediately.


And now, if you remember reading this post, I wrote about my parents letting my sisters and I choose fruit trees to plant at our new house. My sister was looking through old photo albums and found this photo! Here she is with my dad, planting her apple tree! 


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Four Bean Veggie Burgers


As I mentioned in the previous post, I used the Red Pepper Relish to top Four Bean Veggie Burgers. While I'm generally happy to spend hours in the kitchen on the weekends, weeknights are another story. I try to do as much over the weekend to prep for the week ahead, like making pizza dough, sauces, roasting or cooking double or triple batches of dried beans and grains. 

One of the last convenience food items I've been working to completely eliminate from my freezer is veggie burgers. While I'm sure there are some 100% natural and organic products out there, they're probably quite expensive! However, many other veggie burgers contain a huge list of ingredients, and I don't know what half of them are. I've also read in Prevention, Health, and other magazines to stay away from processed soy, a key ingredient in many commercial veggie burgers. On the rare occasion that I purchase veggie burgers, I lean toward the bean based, and scan the ingredient lists for the most real food ingredients.

For the past few weeks, I've been craving a big, fat, juicy veggie burger. I didn't want a specific bean burger, and I wanted it to be healthy and homemade, so I went with a mixture of vegetables and beans. I decided to make a huge batch so I could keep these in the freezer to use at my convenience. These had great flavor and texture, they held together well, and have been the perfect base for several topping variations. My favorite was this with red pepper relish and goat cheese. My husband's favorite was avocado, sprouts and cheddar  cheese.

This recipe relies heavily on a food processor to do all of the mincing. The recipe could be made without one, but you'd probably then want to grate your vegetables rather than mince with a knife.

Tips and Trades:
-I used dry, cooked beans, however you can use 1 can of each variety of beans listed in the recipe. Look for beans that say BPA free.
-If you're going to grill these burgers, freeze them first, then grill on a foil lined grill sprayed with nonstick spray.
-Wrap burgers in saran wrap, then place in a freezer safe storage bag or container. Burgers will keep for up to 3 months if wrapped well.

Four Bean Veggie Burgers

1 tbsp. EVOO
1 small yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
1 jalapeño
1/2 red bell pepper
2 medium carrots
Salt and pepper
1 dozen kalamata olives
1/4 c. water chestnuts
1/4 c. parsley
2 c. kidney beans
2 c. garbanzo beans
2 c. cannelini beans 
2 c. black beans
1 c. rolled oats
1/4-1/2 c. bread crumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1 tbsp. Mexican chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. Sriracha 
1 tbsp. Soy sauce
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

Heat a skillet over medium, add EVOO.
Peel and chunk onion, garlic, jalapeño, bell pepper and carrots.
Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade.
Pulse and run until vegetables are in a fine mince.
Add to skillet, season with salt and pepper, sauté for 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender and moisture is cooked out. 
Set skillet aside and allow vegetables to cool.
Place olives, water chestnuts and parsley in the food processor, pulse to a mince.
Dump into a very large mixing bowl.
Add 1 c. of each variety of beans to the food processor along with eggs.
Run food processor until beans are pureed, spoon into mixing bowl.
Add remaining beans to the food processor, pulse 10 times, until beans are just broken up, dump in the mixing bowl.
Place oats in the food processor, pulse 10 times, dump into the mixing bowl.
Add Italian seasoning, chili powder, cumin, Sriracha, soy sauce, mustard and 1/4 c. bread crumb to the mixing bowl.
Add cooled vegetables to the mixing bowl. 
Using hands or a large wooden spoon, mix very well to evenly distribute all ingredients.
Taste (if you don't mind the raw egg) and adjust seasonings, there's a good chance it will need more salt and pepper, but feel free to add Sriracha, mustard, etc.
Place mixture in the refrigerator and chill for at least 1-2 hours to firm up.
If the mixture seems too wet, add more breadcrumbs.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. 
Score bowl into 4 sections, out of each section form 3 patties, yielding 12 patties total.
Place on the baking sheet and into the freezer. 
Freeze for 4-6 hours, then wrap each patty very well in saran wrap, then stack in a freezer safe storage container or bag.
To cook, grill on foil spray with nonstick spray for 8 minutes per side, bake at 400* for 30 minutes, or sauté in a skillet until heated through. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Symon Sundays: Red Pepper Relish


I love condiments. Seriously, the more the better. I think the only reason I ever ate pulled pork back in the day was so I could drench it in a myriad of barbecue sauces. Luckily, I realized that sweet potato fries are also prefect for mixing and matching pools of barbecue sauce. While specialty condiments like rosemary-caramelized onion jam are delicious, I enjoy a squirt of ketchup swirled with a squirt of mustard just as much! 

For this week's Symon Sundays recipes, Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies chose Chef Symon's Homemade Sausage and Red Pepper Relish. I decided not to make the sausage, but the red pepper relish was right up my alley! As I've said before, Chef Symon's favorite spice is coriander seed, which he says he doesn't believe you can over season with. In this relish, I'm not sure I agree with that. I found that the whole seeds along with the cilantro overpowered the other ingredients a bit. I think next time I make this (and I will, for sure!) I would use ground coriander. 

I used the relish to top four-bean veggie burgers the night I made it, and then stuffed it in a pita with scrambled eggs the next morning. It was delicious is both dishes, and would be tasty in many more, I'm sure. While I love my condiments, I'm picky with them. So far, Chef Symon is 2 for 2 with this relish and his Shasha Sauce.   

Thanks to Natashya for choosing these recipes, please visit the other participants blogs to see their interpretation of this week's recipes at the bottom of the post. I'm pretty sure next week's recipes don't call for dill or coriander - shocking! And it figures, I just bought a new jar of coriander... 

Red Pepper Relish
from Live to Cook, Michael Symon

1 tbsp. EVOO
1/3 small red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and finely diced
2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
1 tbsp. coriander seeds, toasted
1/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1/2 c. fresh orange juice
1/2 c. fresh chopped cilantro

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
Add EVOO, onion, garlic and a pinch of salt.
Sweat vegetables for 2 minutes, add bell peppers and jalapeños.
Sweat vegetables for another 2 minutes.
Add coriander seeds and cook for another 30 seconds.
Add the sugar, vinegar and cook, stir until sugar dissolves.
Add the orange juice, simmer stirring until the liquid reduces completely, about 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat, allow the relish to cool to room temperature.
Taste and season with more salt, stir in the cilantro, refrigerate for up to a month

Visit the other Symon Sundays Participant's blogs for their take on this week's recipes! 
Joanne's Sausage and Relish

Friday, September 24, 2010

The $119 Sandwich (or Martha's Pressed Picnic Sandwich)


Every morning I listen to the Bob and Sheri Radio Show. It's based out of Charlotte, NC, so I stream it on my computer. Because I work in a secluded office, I like to think they're my co-workers and we're having our morning chat. Bob and Sheri appeal to a large demographic of people, so during the "chat room" segment (8-9am), they have callers based on a different subject each day. A few days ago, they were talking about how low the new Martha Stewart shows ratings are, and asked anyone to call in if they watched. A man called in, who I would guess is in the 40-year-old range, and said that his wife watches it. He was home with her one day when she put it on, and said while he'd usually be against watching it, she made a sandwich and they couldn't stop drooling over it. They immediately went out to the grocery store to buy all of the ingredients and make the sandwich. The total bill? $119. Bob and Sheri asked if it was even worth it, and he said it was a great sandwich, but he wouldn't make it again for that price! 

I immediately went online and looked up the sandwich to find out what could possibly be driving up the price... I expected truffles, Gruyère and sliced steak. What I found was something very similar to a recipe I made and put on the blog ages ago - Mediterranean Vegetable Subs. I do realize that it would be easy to make this sandwich add up to $119 if you buy a pound of prosciutto, the finest salami, a gourmet olive tapenade, and fresh bunches of herbs, especially if you make this in the winter and peppers and herbs aren't in season. 

Luckily, I'm a savvy shopper, I grow my own herbs, and have a well stocked pantry, so I was able to make this sandwich at 1/10 of the price! Keep in mind, I didn't include the meat, but if you add 1/2 lb. of each salami and prosciutto, that should only add maybe another $10. Instead, I added a layer of fresh heirloom tomatoes. I also made my own olive paste, the amount I needed, much cheaper than purchasing it. 

So the $119 verdict? I loved the complex flavors this sandwich presented, from the sweet peppers and basil to the savory goat cheese and artichokes with a surprising kick from the cilantro. I really don't think the deli meat is necessary, but would add a nice salty touch to pair with the olive paste. I wouldn't pay $119 for this sandwich, but I would definitely make it again for my next picnic!


Tips and Trades:
-Rather than buy fresh herbs, try using herbed goat cheese on the sandwich. 
-If bell peppers are out of season or quite expensive, look for jarred bell peppers.
-This recipe calls for marinated artichokes, which I find cheaper than regular in small jars. If you can't find marinaded, toss the artichokes in the vinaigrette you make before putting them on the sandwich.
-Ciabatta is a tougher bread, and stands up to all of the ingredients on the sandwich. If you're not eating this immediately, be sure to use a bread with crust, like a baguette, because sliced bread will get soggy.

The $119 Sandwich (Pressed Picnic Sandwiches)

3 bell peppers
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. EVOO (I used 1 tbsp.)
Salt and pepper
1 loaf of rustic Italian bread (I used Ciabatta from the Whole Foods bakery)
1/2 c. prepared olive paste (recipe below)
8 oz. fresh goat cheese
8 oz. marinaded artichoke hearts
2 1/4 c. mixed herbs, such as parsley, cilantro and basil
1 heirloom tomato, sliced

Olive paste:
1/2 c. mixed olives (I used kalamatta and Spanish green)
2 tbsp. minced parsley
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp. EVOO
Salt and pepper
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Add all olive paste ingredients to a food processor, pulse and run until a paste is created, add EVOO if necessary. Refrigerate until using.
Heat a broiler on high, place peppers directly under and broil until skin is charred, rotating as necessary. 
When all sides are blistered and charred, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam skins off.
Rest for 5 minutes, peel skins off and discard with seeds, slice peppers in half.
In a small dish, whisk together Dijon, balsamic, EVOO, salt and pepper.
Slice the bread loaf in half, rip out insides and reserve for another use (breadcrumbs or croutons).
Spread olive paste on one half of the bread, crumble goat cheese on top, then artichokes, tomatoes and bell peppers.
Drizzle with vinaigrette, add herbs and top, press down and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. 
Refrigerate until eating, at least 30 minutes, up a few hours. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bulghur with Caramelized Onions



I love having a great selection of grains and dried legumes on hand, but there are some that seem to sit in the pantry much longer than others. There are two specific grains that I am constantly looking up recipes for: bulghur and wheatberries. I have had some luck with great grain salads using them, but it just seems like quinoa, barley and lentils are much more common.

There are multitudes of studies that show a plant-based diet is ideal for staying healthy, but this doesn't mean you must be a vegetarian. Obviously it's my life choice, and it would be great if everyone was in my opinion, but I don't get on my soapbox about it. However, I do encourage the plant-based diet, eating local and organic, as you can see by reading this blog. 

One of my favorite cookbook series is the Moosewood Collection and other books by Mollie Katzen, a Moosewood contributor. The books vary from light and healthy to worldly recipes to classics and new classics. They are innovative and encourage consumption of seasonal vegetables, whole grains and plant-based protein. I highly recommend these books to anyone, vegetarian or not because I'm sure everyone can find something satiating. 

After deciding to construct a meal around the bulghur, I consulted with my Moosewood collection and found this recipe. It was a bit Middle Eastern in flavor, so I paired it with the Baba Ghanoush and the following Fattoush for a complete meal. I absolutely love caramelized onions, but I rarely find the time and patience to slowly cook them. Luckily, it was a Sunday afternoon and I was watching football, so every few minutes I popped over to the stove to give them a stir. 

I followed the recipe as written, but added some chickpeas to give it protein. I also substituted cranberries for the raisins/currants because I had them in the pantry. I found this dish to be a little on the sweet side, and had to use a decent amount of salt and white pepper to balance the flavors. Next time I would use vegetable stock rather than water for a savory flavor.

Tips and Trades:
-Bulghur is cracked wheat, similar in texture to cous cous. If you're unable to find bulghur, use a whole wheat cous cous.
-This would be a wonderful stuffing for a winter squash, such as acorn, butternut or a small sugar pumpkin.
-I used one very large red onion for this dish, but you can use any onion - yellow, white, vidalia, shallot or red onion. Whatever you can find cheapest and organic is best!

Bulghur with Caramelized Onions and Chickpeas
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

2 tbsp. EVOO
3 c. thinly sliced onoins
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. medium-grain bulghur
1/4 c. dried unsweetened cranberries
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/3 c. vegetable stock
Salt
White Pepper

Heat a deep skillet over medium-low heat.
Add EVOO, onions and thyme, toss with a pinch of salt.
Stir the onions and slowly caramelize (I stirred every 5 minutes or so for 30 minutes).
Bring the stock to a boil in a small pot.
Add the bulghur, cranberries and cinnamon to the onions, stir together.
Add the boiling stock to the bulghur, stir, cover and turn heat off.
Let the bulghur rest for 15 minutes, until the stock is absorbed.
Use a fork to stir, taste and season with additional salt and pepper.
Serve with some chopped parsley or other fresh herbs.

Roasted Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Fig Vinaigrette


To pair with the walnut pate and pear sandwiches, I chose to prepare the roasted pear salad. Sorry, I couldn't help it! 

Roasting pears results in a delicious, sweet, tender, and less mealy product. The warm, soft pear becomes buttery, and makes this salad something very special. Fresh figs are in season right now and you can make jam yourself, or you can purchase whole fig preserves. I haven't been able to keep any figs around long enough to cook with them. As soon as I get my hands on them they're diced and thrown into a bowl of yogurt and honey! 

The original recipe calls for a pat of goat cheese roasted in the pear cavity, but I had some Amish blue cheese to use up, and I love pairing blue cheese with fruit. I also had organic cherry tomatoes, so I topped the salad with those rather than the nuts called for in the original recipe. Clearly, I can't stick with a recipe, but that's ok! It's great to adapt things to suit your tastes, dietary needs and what you have on hand.

I look forward to roasting many more pears this fall for both sweet and savory dishes. Do you have any favorite pear-centric favorites?

Tips and Trades:
-When you're at the market, choose whatever organic green is on sale that week for the salad, you can't go wrong! Baby spinach creates a soft bed to let the pear flavor shine, and arugula's peppery flavor will contrast with the sweet, buttery pear, for example.

Roasted Pear salad with Blue Cheese and Fig Vinaigrette
adapted from Vegetarian Times, October 2010

1 Bosc pear, halved and cored
2 + 3 tbsp. Fig Preserves
2 oz. blue cheese crumbles
1 tbsp. EVOO
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dijon mustard

4 c. baby spinach
Red onion slices
Cherry tomato halves
Walnuts or pecans
Crumbled Cheese

Preheat oven to 350*
Wash pear, slice in half and use a melon baller to remove core.
Spoon 1 tbsp. fig preserves into each half, top with 1 oz. blue cheese.
Place in the oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, until tender.


In a small dish, whisk together EVOO, 3 tbsp. fig preserves, lemon juice, dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
Taste and adjust if necessary.
Remove pears from the oven, cool for 5 minutes.
Place greens on a plate, top with pear and other salad ingredients.
Drizzle with viniagrette, serve. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Baba Ghanoush


 I have always been enamored by vegetable gardens. Tiny seeds, planted in dirt, a little sun, a little water, and bountiful produce. I believe that because I saw the vegetables grow in the garden when I was young, I was more likely to try them. Watching my dad tend to the garden, weeding it, watering it, and my mom out there roto-tilling in compost during the spring, made me appreciate all that goes into producing one little eggplant. It's not easy work, but it is so rewarding when you harvest. 

When I moved to Florida and bought a house, I had big garden plans. So far I've had hits and misses as I learn about the Florida climate, soil, weather, and insects. I started my eggplant from seed in January, planted them outside in March, and they're just now producing. Nine months... my eggplant are my babies. I have about 20 more on the vines, and every weekend more buds appear, so it looks like well into December I'll be picking them! 


I've found that if I let them stay on the vines too long, they start to get pocks, which are light brown, eventually spreading and turning white. Anyone know what causes this? Every Sunday after my run, I do some weeding, planting, pruning, watering, and then a photo shoot for my garden blog (basically just photos to show growth progression). I decided to pick the three largest eggplant because they would probably start spotting if I didn't. 

When faced with three eggplant, I find myself with two options: Eggplant Parmesan or Baba Ghanoush. Since we planned to spend the afternoon watching the Red Zone channel and following our fantasy football teams, I decided a quick dip would be better than an afternoon in the kitchen tending to eggplant. 


I've seen many recipe variations depending on the country of origin for baba ghanoush, so I tasted and added ingredients as I made it. While grilling the eggplant is preferred, I was about to make granola and decided to roast it and kill two birds with one stone. 


Nothing makes me happier than spending the morning in my garden, harvesting vegetables during the day, and eating the veggies in a delicious dish at night. 

Tips and Trades:
-My eggplant are an Heirloom variety, but any eggplant variety will work! 
-Tahini is ground sesame seeds. While a jar can cost around $10, it should last quite a while. If you do purchase some to make baba ghanoush or hummus, try this recipe - you won't regret it! 

Baba Ghanoush

3 eggplant, roasted or grilled and peeled, about 4 c. pulp
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 c. tahini
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Parsley, for garnish

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor, run until smooth. 
If necessary, add EVOO or tahini to thin.
Taste and adjust seasonings (more salt might be necessary)
Eat immediately or refrigerate for up to a week. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Walnut Pate and Pear Sandwich on Maple Oat Bread


When I was 4 years old, my parents had our first "family home" built. I can still remember when we moved in, there was no grass, only straw covering the yard. I was so confused as to why we had dirt and straw with no grass, but eventually it grew in. My parents did all of our landscaping and gardening at the house, and decided to let my sisters and me each pick out a fruit tree. I don't remember what we chose then, and I think we moved to Ohio before the trees ever began producing. However, when we moved to Cincinnati, they let us pick out trees again.

Over the past few years, the trees have finally started producing fruit, two apple trees and one pear. I realize this sounds nerdy, but I love to get my little basket and go out to the yard and pick fruit from the tree when I'm at home! Now that I'm in Florida, I don' get to enjoy the fruit as much as when I lived in Indiana and would go to their house every few weeks. I was never a big pear fan, but when my dad handed me one that he picked off the tree a few years ago, I was so excited about it that I ate it, and loved it! Just like that I was a pear convert. 

Since then, I've been anxiously awaiting pear season each fall. Of course they're great eaten in plain form, but their mild, sweet flavor pairs so well with savory dishes. My most recent issue of Vegetarian Times highlighted pears in a few recipes, which I put on my dinner menu immediately. First up was this sandwich! My husband loves sandwiches of all kinds, and could eat a different one daily. After last week's Honey Oat Wheat bread success, I decided to whip up another loaf of bread for the week. 


The walnut pate had great flavor, and added a little heartiness to the sandwich with healthy protein and fat. The red pepper added a smoky sweet flavor, and the pear added great crunch and sweetness. The original called for arugula, but I've been on a sprouts kick lately, so I chose them instead. After constructing these sandwiches, I toasted them in a dry skillet, but that's not necessary. These sandwiches had such wonderful balance of flavor, I didn't even miss the fact that it was cheese-less! 

Tips and Trades:
-Keep the extra pate in the refrigerator for up to a week. It makes a great dip for veggies! 
-Pears are on the dirty dozen list, so buy organic when possible, or better yet, try u-pick.com to find an orchard near you and pick your own (ask the grower if they're organic or what pesticides they use).

Walnut Pate and Pear Sandwich on Maple Oatmeal Bread
Sandwich adapted from Vegetarian Times October 2010

Sandwich Ingredients:
4 slices Maple Oatmeal Bread (recipe follows)
1 c. Walnut Pate (recipe follows)
1 roasted red bell pepper, halved
1 Anjou pear (or any variety), sliced
1 c. sprouts, any variety

Walnut Pate:
1 c. toasted walnut halves
2 c. cannelini beans, cooked (or 1 15 oz. can)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp. EVOO
Salt and pepper
Water, if necessary

Add walnuts, beans, lemon juice, garlic and EVOO to a food processor, process until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper, add water, if necessary.
Taste and adjust seasonings.
Spoon into a food storage bowl and set aside.
Slice bread, slather pate onto all 4 pieces. 
Top 2 pieces with pear slices and red bell peppers. 
Top the other with sprouts.
Sandwich together and press down.
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.
Place sandwiches in the skillet, toast for 2-3 minutes per side.
Slice in half and serve. 


Maple Oat Wheat Bread

1 1/4 c. boiling water
1/2 c. rolled oats
1 package active dry yeast
1/3 + 1 tbsp. pure Maple Syrup
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. Canola oil
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 c. white whole wheat flour

Place oats in the bowl of a stand mixer, add boiling water, set aside for an hour.
Check water temperature, it should be around 110*, or just warm to the touch.
Add yeast, maple syrup, salt and oil, stir and set aside for 10 minutes to allow yeast to bloom.
Place the dough hook on mixer, add flours to the yeast, turn mixer on low and knead for 10 minutes.
Add flour by the tbsp. if dough is sticky, or water by the tbsp. if dough is dry.
Form dough into a tight ball, place in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel and place in a warm place for an hour to rise.
Punch dough down, form into a tight log and place in a oiled loaf pan.
Cover with a towel, allow bread to rise for another hour.
Preheat oven to 350*
After loaf has risen, for an hour, place in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool until bread is at room temperature.
Store in an airtight bag or food storage container for up to a week.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Moroccan Barley and Chickpea Salad


During the week, I pack myself and my husband the same lunch every day. There are small variations, but it's always some type of sandwich, fruit, vegetable and yogurt. We rarely have leftovers from dinners because I like to cook something new each night. On the weekends, lunch becomes a thorn in my side. I usually go on longer runs in the morning, so I need something more substantial than what I usually eat, but I don't want to make something too big. Since I'm often running errands around lunch time on the weekend, I tend to stop at a deli or sandwich type restaurant because I'm at a loss for what to make. However, when I'm home, I seek out some type of grain salad, the perfect balance between a load of vegetables with some whole grain carbs. 

Last week I saw this recipe on Dawn's blog, and she told me she thought I'd really like it. She was absolutely correct, I loved it! The barley adds a great chewy but soft texture, the chickpeas give a nice protein punch, the apricots add a nice sweet flavor to the otherwise savory spices and lemon flavors. I love Moroccan spices, they're so versatile in that they tie together sweet and savory dishes by highlighting the different ingredients in harmony. 

And since I'm on the subject of Dawn and her blog, Florida Coastal Cooking, I'm going to sing her praises! If you like the style of my cooking and the way I blog, I know you'll also love FCC. Dawn is not a vegetarian, but she limits her meat and only uses local and/or organic, grass-fed meat and fish her family catches. She is so positive, happy, and personable (for the internet!), and when you read her blog you feel like you're chatting with a friend. She is definitely a super-mom, her daughter has many food allergies, so she also has gluten/soy/dairy free recipes in the blog as well. I sincerely hope you check out her blog and become a regular reader, if you aren't already! 

Back to the recipe - I did make a few changes, just because of what I had on hand. I used cashews rather than pistachios, and I left out the parsley because I didn't have any. For the spice mixture, Dawn recommends Vindaloo seasoning, or lists proper measurements of the mixture. I used the very last bit of the Moroccan spice mixture my sister got for me when she was in Tangier last spring, which I'm certain is a similar mixture. 

Tips and Trades
-Peaches and other stone fruit are often on the Dirty Dozen list, don't forget this when buying dried! I used Organic Turkish Apricots from Oh! Nuts that I purchased in a recent order.
-Barley takes around an hour to cook, so if you're making it once, why not make double or triple the amount you need, store it in freezer safe containers and keep on hand so you've always got some prepared.
- While fruit you peel is generally safe to buy non-organic, when using the zest, organic is best! 


Moroccan Chickpea Barley Salad

1 c. pearled barley
1 c. vegetable stock
1 c. water
1 tsp. EVOO
Salt and pepper
2 c. cooked chick peas (or 1 15 oz. can drained and rinsed)
1/4 c. cashews, roughly chopped
1/2 c. dried apricots, chopped
4 scallions, green and white parts, minced (about 1/2 c.)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. Vinadloo or Moroccan spice mix
Spice Mix:
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric

Heat a soup pot over medium heat.
Add EVOO and barley, stir to toast barley, do not burn.
After 2-3 minutes, add stock and water.
Bring to a boil, turn to low, cover and simmer for 30-60 minutes, depending on your barley.
When barley is cooked, pour into a mesh sieve and set aside to drain while you prepare other ingredients.
Mix all other salad ingredients in a large bowl, mix well.
Add barley, toss well to coat, add more EVOO if the salad seems dry.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings and serve.
Note: I served this over a large bed of mixed baby greens and added one more squeeze of a lemon half. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Grilled Leeks with Romesco Sauce


I really enjoy seeking out recipes to make and blog about, but it can be overwhelming at times. I'm very bad at making decisions, I tend to go back and forth on just about everything (I'm sure my family can attest to this!) It actually helps now that I'm vegetarian and cooking only seasonal food because I don't even think about making butternut squash recipes in June! However, making my weekly menu is really hard because I'm not sure what I'll be in the mood for, and don't want to make a recipe I just feel "meh" about. Sometimes I wish I lived in a city with a farmer's market and I could cook on a whim every night, depending on what I'm in the mood for and what's in season.

To be completely honest, nothing makes me happier than when someone sends me a recipe and tells me they think it's something I'd like. Generally they're right (read: keep the suggestions coming!) Last Friday, my sister sent me a link to this recipe, and for some reason, it became exactly what I was craving. Since I make my menu Friday and shop Saturday, it was perfect timing. I made the meal for lunch the following day, and it was so fulfilling. Nothing is worse than feeling a void or regret after a meal, right? 

The original recipe is simply for grilled leeks with romesco sauce, but I wanted to make it a complete meal. After making the tandoori grilled vegetable skewers a few weeks ago, I've been obsessed with grilled cauliflower. I decided that since I was already grilling the leeks, I might as well grill some cauliflower to smother in the delicious sauce! The addition of chick peas was because they were the only beans I had on hand, but they ended up pairing really well with the sauce. 

Tips and Trades:
-Leeks tend to be really sandy and gritty, be sure to wash them really well and make sure you get the sand out! I had to peel back 3 layers to get it all.
-Try this sauce over any grilled vegetable if leeks aren't your favorite! Grilled summer squash or zucchini would be perfect this time of year.
-Red peppers should be plentiful this time of year, so try roasting your own rather than buying jarred. They will taste so fresh and sweet. 

Grilled Leeks with Romesco Sauce
adapted from the New York Times

For the sauce:
1 red bell pepper
2 roma tomatoes
1 1" slice baguette, about 1 oz.
1 garlic clove
1/4 c. toasted almonds
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 c. herbs of choice (original calls for parsley, I used basil and cilantro, random, but great!) 
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
2 tbsp. EVOO

For the leeks:
6 fat leeks or 12 small
2 tbsp. EVOO

Prepare leeks by trimming and rinsing very well to remove sand and grit.
Place a steamer basket over water, place leeks in basket, turn water on high and steam leeks for 5-10 minutes, depending on thickness. 
Heat grill over high.
Rub tomatoes and pepper with EVOO, place on the grill and char on all sides, turning occasionally.
Remove from the grill, place in an airtight container and let them sit for 5 minutes.
Turn grill to medium heat.
Rub leeks with EVOO, place on the grill, turning every few minutes to char.
Add garlic clove to a food processor and process until pureed.
Add the bread, nuts, red pepper flakes, basil, paprika, red pepper flakes, and vinegar and process, scraping down sides as necessary. 
Peel tomatoes and red pepper, add to food processor, pulse and run to mix.
While food processor is running, add EVOO to create desired consistency.
Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Plate leeks, spoon sauce over and serve.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Honey Oat Wheat Sandwich Bread


Over the past few months, I have been working to phase out almost all prepared items from the grocery store. While making basic sandwich bread isn't hard to do, it does take some planning and preparation. However, it ends up costing pennies, is all natural with no HFCS and preservatives. Because I pack a PB&J sandwich for my husband almost daily, bread is always on the shopping list. While working with yeasted doughs can be a challenge, I believe I have somewhat mastered remedial bread baking. 

I love when cooking, baking, and eating brings back memories of people or times in life. My Grandfather, who passed away two years ago today, was a baker his whole life. I can remember going over to Nanny and Grandpa's house and finding cookies, coffee cakes, breads, and many other goodies on the kitchen counter, my favorite was the chocolate coffee cake. Though Grandpa never worked on yeasted breads with me (only cakes and buttercreams), whenever I smell the blooming yeast, feel the smushy dough give way under my palms, or pull a loaf of bread out of the oven, I think of Grandpa. 


It's all actually a little ironic, I have to say. My mom said Grandpa told her that it made him mad when grocery stores started opening bakeries, and when boxed mixes came out so the general population could begin baking at home. He believed you should leave it to the experts, and support local, small bakeries. I do agree with his philosophy to a point (support local businesses), but I also feel such satisfaction when I slice up my own baked from scratch bread. And because he loved his granddaughters so much, I can't help but think he'd be more than happy to have a sandwich on my made-from-scratch bread.


While this bread was quite tasty, it wasn't exactly as light and airy as store-bought wonder bread type loaves. I think part of that is because the loaf is all wheat flour, which has a tendency to make a dense loaf. Also, I think a longer bread pan would have let the loaf rise a bit more in the last proof. However, I was able to get a week's worth of sandwiches, and they were quite tasty! 

While I don't think I'll be grinding nuts to make nut butters from scratch, maybe jam should be my next foray into operation: everything from scratch. My father in law is a canning expert... 

Tips and Trades:
-I printed this recipe off and then realized it was meant for a bread machine, so I adapted it a bit to be made without one. If you have a bread maker, by all means use it! 
-I didn't use my kitchen scale because the recipe was written using cups not weight, so when measuring, fluff up your flour, then fill the cup without packing it, level it off with a knife.
-I used a mixture of whole wheat pastry flour and unbleached white whole wheat flour, you can use any combination of flours to suit your taste (preferred brand is King Arthur).

Honey Oat Wheat Sandwich Bread
adapted from allrecipes.com

1 c. warm water (about 110*)
1/4 c. honey
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. salt
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/2 c. rolled oats
1 c. unbleached white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
Quick oats for dusting, if desired

Add water, honey, oil, salt and yeast to a mixing bowl, stir to combine, set aside for 10 minutes while yeast blooms.
Add flours and oats to the yeast mixture, use the paddle attachment of a mixer, turn speed to low to combine.
When flour is absorbed, take the paddle off and attach the dough hook.
Turn speed back on low, knead for 5 minutes.
If dough is too sticky, add flour 1 tbsp. at a time until it all comes together. 
Alternately, if dough is too dry, add 1 tbsp. of warm water until dough comes together.
(This will depend on the heat and humidity in your kitchen)
Form dough into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, cover lightly with a damp kitchen towel and place in a non drafty, warm place for an hour.
Line a bread loaf pan with parchment or oil well. 
Once dough has doubled in size, punch down, form into a log, pinching the sides down to the bottom. 
Place in the loaf pan, cover with the damp towel and allow it to rise again for an hour.
Preheat oven to 400*
Dust the top of the loaf with quick oats or oat bran.
Place loaf pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 325* and bake for an additional 35-40 minutes, until golden brown. 
Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack until bread is at room temperature.
Store in an air tight bag or container for up to 5 days.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One-Skillet Eggplant, Tomato and Cannelini Pasta Toss



Every now and then my weekly meal planning doesn't quite pan out. I try to plan for dinner 6 nights per week and then leave one day available for going out or any other random event that might come up and change things around. Last week was a rare occurrence where every single meal stayed as planned, and I was home on a Friday night with no plans, no husband, and an empty refrigerator.

When I plan my meals, I try to stick with a basic plan of 1 starch, 1 protein and 2 vegetables with random cheeses, spices, herbs, and other add-ins. I was finally able to experience the exact reason I planted my garden so many months ago: to be able to walk outside, pick fresh produce, bring it in the house, mix it with some pantry staples, and create a healthy dinner for zero dollars. Of course it's not completely free, but by having items in the pantry that I stock up on when they're on sale means this dinner added nothing to my weekly grocery shopping bill.

I've got about 30 eggplant growing right now on my 4 plants, and they're all pretty well spaced out so I won't have 30 ready for picking at once. One of my favorite, and most common eggplant recipes, is Eggplant Parmesan. While it's delicious, it's also a little high in calories, fat, and takes quite a while to make if you press the eggplant, bread, fry, and bake. I wanted something lighter, easier, and faster for my dinner.

Though I'm not Italian, I grew up in New York where we ate at Italian restaurants often, and my mom cooks wonderful real Italian food. My mind immediately went to Italian flavors when I found a can of cannelini beans, diced tomatoes and a box of pasta in the pantry. I also have some gorgeous basil growing outside, and thought it would be the perfect finishing touch on the dish. At times, I think I could be vegan... but when I'm always reaching for a sprinkle of cheese or dollop of yogurt on most dinners, I realize that it just isn't going to happen. However, as long as my cheeses are organic, I can feel good about eating it and supporting the businesses. The only cheese I had on hand was goat cheese, and it was fantastic!

Tips and Trades:
-Substitute any cheese you have on hand, such as ricotta salata, mozzarella, or Parmesan.
-Don't have eggplant growing in your yard? Try using zucchini, summer squash, broccoli, or any vegetable

One-Skillet Eggplant, Tomato and Cannelini Pasta Toss

1 tbsp. EVOO
1 medium eggplant, peeled (if desired) and diced in 1" cubes (about 2 c.)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (mine were with basil and oregano)
2 c. vegetable stock
1 c. whole wheat pasta, any short cut
Salt and pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes
2 c. or 1 15 oz. can cannelini beans, drained
10 basil leaves
1/4 c. crumbled goat cheese

Heat a deep skillet over medium heat. 
Add EVOO, eggplant, garlic and onion, season with salt and pepper. 
Sauté for 5 minutes, until vegetables caramelize on the edges and begin to soften.
Turn heat to high, add diced tomatoes and stock, stir well and bring to a simmer.
Add pasta, turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 12 minutes.
Uncover, add beans, stir and heat through.
Check for pasta's doneness, cook longer if necessary, and add stock or water if necessary.
Spoon into dishes, top with basil chiffonade and crumbled cheese.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fettuccine with Heirloom Tomatoes and Capers



I've become the master of cooking for one. I understand the lack of motivation to cook a meal from scratch when you're single, but since I so frequently am faced with this scenario, I've grown to realize that there is no reason to not make a great meal for myself. In fact, I take the opportunity make the meals I know my husband won't be crazy about when he's gone, in this situation it's anything pickled! 

When I looked over this recipe, I knew the only change I would have to make was eliminate the anchovies. Because their salty bite was out, I doubled the capers and added another garlic clove. What made me most excited for this recipe was the thin slices of garlic cloves. I'm the girl who seeks out chunks of sautéed, roasted, or even raw garlic when I'm eating! 

I love making fresh pasta, mixing the egg in with my fingers, kneading the dough, running it through the roller and then cutter, it's so relaxing to see a few simple ingredients come together as perfect pasta strands. I have a basic $20 pasta roller with two cutting options, fettuccine or spaghetti. Because the capers, tomato and garlic had some chunk to them, I chose to make fettuccine because it's thicker and holds up to chunky sauces better. 

This pasta bowl was so delicious: well balanced in flavors, light but still hearty and filling, fresh and summery. Thanks to Joanne for this selection from Live to Cook for our Symon Sundays group.

Tips and Trades:
-Because this dish has so few ingredients, use the best quality available, such as fresh organic, free range eggs and plump, juicy, vine-grown tomatoes, it will make a big difference in flavor. 
-If you're not opposed to using anchovies, but don't want to use whole fish, try using anchovy paste, available on the Italian foods aisle of the grocery store.

Fettuccine with Heirloom Tomatoes and Capers
adapted from Chef Symon's Live to Cook
Serves 1

pasta:
1/2 c. unbleached all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
1-3 tbsp. water, as needed

1 tbsp. EVOO
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced very thin
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 large Heirloom tomato, diced
2 tbsp. capers
5 basil leaves, torn
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp. coarse breadcrumbs (I smashed up a crouton!)

Place flour on a clean counter top, make a well in the center.
Add egg yolk and salt, whisk with fingers and incorporate flour into egg.
Add water as needed to make dough come together, it should be slightly sticky.
Knead for 5 minutes, set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
Using a pasta roller, roll into a flat sheet (I rolled on setting 3).
Use semolina flour, for dusting, if sticky.
Rest dough sheet for 5 minutes.
Run through the fettuccine cutter, set pasta aside.


Bring a pot of water to a boil.
Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat.
Add EVOO, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.
Sauté for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
Add tomatoes and capers, season with salt and pepper.
Drop pasta in salted, boiling water.
Cook pasta for 3-5 minutes, use tongs or a pasta spoon to transfer directly to skillet with sauce.
Add basil and toss pasta and sauce.
Plate, top with breadcrumbs.



Thank you to Joanne for selecting this week's recipe. You can see all of the Symon Sundays participant's pasta at their blogs.
Joanne: Eats Well with Others
Natashya: Living in the Kitchen with Puppies
Kim: Stirring the Pot