Archive for Seasonal

Cherry Shortcake (plus Cheddar and Green Onion Biscuits)

Sometimes in life, you should splurge a little bit. I decided one of those times is while I’m here in London, I should definitely buy the full fat creme fraiche. Why? Because it’s delicious, creamy, and I can’t get it easily back home. Here I can even get a store brand, and it’s fantastic.

But then I had to come up with something to eat it with.

Sure, there’s the usual “with fruit” option, and that’s wonderful and I have used part of my tub for that. But I wanted something that would be a little different. And I also felt like baking. However, I’m cooking for just one person here, so it doesn’t make much sense for me to make a whole pie.

I decided to make some biscuits. Originally, I was heading this direction because a) of this recipe and b) I knew I could freeze some of them and bake them next week when I’m ready for more biscuits. So I decided to divide the biscuit recipe in two and make half savory and half slightly sweet. Savory for eggs in the morning (ok, I’ll admit, I topped the eggs with creme fraiche too!), and the sweeter ones for shortcakes. I should say I’m usually more of a flaky biscuit gal, but these were pretty tasty. I decided since I was already baking in a kitchen other than my own, I didn’t need bust out a rolling pin.

And the cherries my produce man had looked delicious, so I bought “two handfuls” instead of one. Also, someone important to me doesn’t care for berries, so I considered this a test run of a recipe for us to eat this summer.

So first the the cherries, and then the recipe(s) for the biscuits. Please note the cherry recipe makes a terribly small amount since it’s just for me, but it’s easily doubled or tripled.

Mmm, cherry shortcake.

Cherries for Shortcakes

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • about 1 c. whole, fresh cherries (or maybe 1 1/2 so you can eat some of them as you go)
  • 1/2-1 tsp sugar (depending on how sweet your cherries are)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp water–the cherries don’t release that much juice, so I added a touch of water to get everything evenly coated and to have some juice to pour on the biscuits.
  1. Wash and de-stem the cherries. Cut them in half and remove the pits. Put them in a small bowl and combine with the other ingredients, adjusting the amount of sugar based on the sweetness of the cherries. (I used just a touch over 1/2 tsp.)
  2. Refrigerate for 30 min to a day before using.
  3. To make the shortcakes, split open a biscuit such as the sweet ones below or your own favorite recipe, top with half the cherry mixture and a generous dollop of creme fraiche or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Cheddar & Green Onion and Sweet Drop Biscuits

Servings: 6 savory and 6 sweet

Prep/Baking Time: 15-20 min prep, 15-18 min baking

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • scant 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp (1 tbsp) sugar, divided
  • 3 oz/6 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
  • 3 oz sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (or vinegar)*
  • enough milk to make 1 c when added to the lime juice (or use buttermilk and omit the lime juice)
  1. Stir together the lime juice and milk. You can grate the cheese if you want, but I diced mine into small pieces. I think it was easier to mix that way. Whichever, prep your cheese and thinly slice the green onion, separating the rings of the white part. Cut the butter into 6-8 pieces.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 1/2 tsp sugar. Add the butter pieces, and cut in with your fingers until you have small pieces throughout (slightly smaller than peas).
  3. Separate half of the flour mixture into another bowl. This will be just over 1 1/2 c of flour mixture. We’ll call this new bowl “bowl B.”
  4. To bowl A (the original one), add 1 tsp of sugar and mix thoroughly. Add half the soured milk. Blend quickly (dough should still be rough, not smooth). Dollop onto a greased baking sheet, about 1/3 c per biscuit. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 tsp of sugar.**
  5. To bowl B, add the cheese and onions and mix thoroughly. Add the other half of the soured milk and blend quickly, noting the same as above for mixing. Divide dough onto a greased sheet in the same manner.
  6. Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown and smelling delicious.

*I happened to have purchased a lime earlier in the day, which was fortunate ’cause I couldn’t find an vinegar in the flat where I’m staying. The lime juice worked just as well as vinegar, and I didn’t notice any lime flavor (though I think that might have been tasty).

**You can also dollop the dough onto a cookie sheet and then freeze the sheet until the biscuits are set. Then move them to an airtight container and bake them when you want to, adding a couple minutes to the time. I baked three sweet and three savory and froze the other three of each. I even baked on the same pan and didn’t notice any flavor transfer.

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Pasta alla Norma (review)

A little ways east of town, there’s a “dented can” grocery called Central Discount. It’s always an adventure going there because it involves getting up really early to fight the crowds, and because you never know what sorts of things you’ll find. Last time I was there, I bought a can of anchovies packed in olive oil for 25 cents. At that price, I told myself I could work up the courage to use them in something. And then I got my summer issue of Cooks Illustrated.

I should pause here to say that while I grew up by the gulf coast, I’m not much of a fish fan. I had an allergic reaction to some sort of large fish, probably shark or swordfish, when I was a little girl, and had a great excuse not to eat it thereafter. There were some kinds of fish I’d eat. Tuna (mostly in salad form), salmon (mostly in croquette form), and fish sticks (with mac and cheese on the side). It really wasn’t until I got into college around the time the sushi craze was sweeping the country that I decided I’d try tasting a little more fish. I’m still not a huge fan, but there are some types I’ll eat (and watch out if there’s unagi around–I know, it’s not a fish, but still, it’s adventurous). but anchovies. Those have a certain reputation in the general public which makes them sound repulsive, but a general cache amongst foodies as a worthwhile canned food.

One of the recipes in my CI was for an eggplant and tomato pasta sauce known as Pasta alla Norma, a traditional Sicilian dish. I love eggplant and I enjoy looking for new ways to eat it. But as I read the recipe’s creation and looked over the ingredients, there it was. Anchovies. I decided to go for it–and I was rewarded.

The recipe only calls for a tablespoon worth, finely minced, which when cooked into a sauce of at least five servings is barely noticable amongst the other rich flavors. In fact, even upon opening the can, the anchovies has very little fishy smell. The recipe creation says they were added to give the recipe some “backbone.” Well it worked. This dish was amazing and I’m really looking forward to eating the leftovers.

One of the great things about this dish was how easily it went together. The only prep I had to do before I started cooking was to chop the eggplant. I was able to mince and measure everything else while the eggplant was in various stages of cooking. I even had time to go out to my porch to pick herbs without a delay in the cooking process.

A couple other notes: I didn’t have 6 tablespoons worth of basil on my plant, so I substituted with some fresh oregano and a little dried basil. I thought it was great. The only thing I didn’t really like about this dish was the kind of cheese it called for, ricotta salata. Unlike ricotta, ricotta salata holds it shape so that it can be grated on top. I splurged an bought a small chunk at my local co-op. The cheese has a slightly ammonia undertone that I don’t care for, especially with this dish. There are already so many other flavors, it doesn’t really fit in. This is coming from a person who loves brie, so it’s not that ammonia note itself that I dislike. In the future, I think I’ll try one of CI’s other recommendations for this recipe, pecorino romano or cotija, both cheeses I already know I like.

Overall, I think this recipe is definitely worth picking up a copy of the July/August CI on your local newstand. I still haven’t figured out if it’s a copyright infringement to post the recipe up here.

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Spicy Tomato-Basil-Oregano Pesto

A week or so ago, I shared a delicious pizza with someone special. It was topped with with tomato-basil pesto and mushrooms. Mmm, I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it. I’ve been wanting to make a homemade pizza with some of the produce coming into the garden now, and I decided it would go well with some of this pesto. Fortunately, Cooks Illustrated provided me with a road map for what I wanted.

My basil plant is doing pretty well, but it’s my oregano that’s just exploding. And really, no good pizza is without oregano. I decided to throw it in the pesto instead of sprinkling it on it’s own.

This lovely pink pesto was great on my pizza (topped with zucchini and cheese), and it would also be great over pasta, which I’ll be trying soon. Like a basil pesto, this one will freeze well. I recommend freezing it in ice cube trays, and then popping out the pesto cubes into a freezer bag. That way, you can take out however much pesto you need without defrosting all of it.

Servings: Makes about 2 1/2 cups pesto

Cooking time: less than 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 12 oz cherry tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • enough fresh oregano leaves to equal 1/2 cup when combined with the basil (scant 1/4 cup)
  • 1 medium-large garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp wine vinegar (red or white)
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and toast for a few minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent scorching. Set the pan aside to cool.
  2. Roughly dice the garlic clove. Add the garlic, tomatoes, herbs, pepper vinegar and salt to a food processor. Add the nuts when cool. Process until smooth, less than 1 minute. Scrap down the sides. Add the olive oil and continue to process for another minute, or if you have a feeder shoot on your processor (I do not), add the olive oil while its running.
  3. Use on anything you like: pasta, pizza, bruschetta…

Note: I only have a 2 cup food processor, so I had to do this in two batches. I just mixed the batches together in a bowl afterwards to make sure it was evenly distributed. For a less spicy pesto, use fewer pepper flakes.

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Kohlrabi Coleslaw

A month or so ago, my favorite apple farmer at the farmer’s market, Al, started to get in his apple crop. The early varieties are all tart and best for cooking in some way. But in the middle of summer, I like to keep my baking to a minimum so pies and tarts were right out. That’s when I hatched the idea for this ‘slaw.

This is a coleslaw in a minimal sense. There’s no thick dressing weighing it down. However, it’s very refreshing to have at an end-of-summer picnic. It’s nice and crisp, which is the point of coleslaw in my mind. It’s there to balance out the chewy hotdogs, tender baked beans and juicy fruit cobblers. And this one does just that.

Servings: 8-10 side dish servings

Cooking time: 20 minutes prep, 1 hour+ chilling

Ingredients:

  • 1 kohlrabi bulb (enough for 1 1/2 cups when chopped)
  • 2 small, tart apples (enough for 1 cup when chopped)
  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp+ ground pepper (or white pepper if you have it)
  • dash of salt (less than 1/8 tsp)
  1. Peel off the outer layer of the kohlrabi. Chop into thin, matchstick-like pieces (julienne). Place in a medium bowl. Peel the apples and remove their seeds. Julienne them and add them to the bowl. Squeeze the juice of half the lime over the mixture (you may want to squeeze a little bit onto the apple immediately after you cut the first one to prevent it from turning brown). Finely chop the mint and add to the bowl. Add the spices and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. Taste and adjust seasonings with additional lime juice and pepper if necessary. Serve with sunshine.

Note: this would be good with a 1/2 tsp of celery seeds mixed in.

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Vegetable Chili

I probably should not call this chili. I have a “vegetarian chili” recipe, and this is not it, though it does happen to be vegan. This is more of vegetable stew that happens to use chili powder. I created it to make use of all my wonderful farmer’s market vegetables, and it turned out quite well. The only things in it that didn’t come from the market were the spices, onion, beans, mustard and beer.

You can substitute anything you like in this recipe. It is mostly an exercise in timing. Things like sugar snap peas hardly need any time, while my farm-fresh carrots needed a while. One of the best things in this stew was the earthy, floral quality of the fresh oregano. Fresh herbs need very little heat to release their essence.

Vegetable Chili

Vegetable Chili

Servings: 4 large

Cooking time: 40 minutes or so

Ingredients:

  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion (white or yellow)
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp+ chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-3 tomatoes (I used yellow)
  • 1 large or 2 small heads of broccoli
  • 1 15 oz can of beans (I used kidney)
  • 3-4 oz good beer
  • 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 ear of fresh corn
  • 1/2 cup+ sugar snap peas
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • cheddar cheese (optional)
  1. Mince the garlic and chop the onion and carrots (if the carrots are fresh, they only need to be scrubbed well, not peeled). Begin heating the oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Chop the broccoli, keeping the stems separate from the florets. Try to make the pieces as evenly sized as possible.
  2. When the oil sizzles when you put a drop of water in it, add the onions. Saute for 5 minutes or so, until almost clear. Add the carrots and garlic. Saute 4 minutes or so, until the carrots begin to soften. Add the cumin and chili powder and saute one minute. Add the water.
  3. Meanwhile, use a sharp knife to cut the kernels off of the corn. Snap the peas and cut them in half if they’re longer than 2 inches. Rinse the beans. Dice the tomatoes (do not seed them).
  4. When the water begins to simmer, add the beans and dried oregano. When the water returns to a simmer, add the tomatoes with juices, broccoli stems, mustard and the beer. Simmer about three minutes. Add the broccoli florets and corn. Simmer two minutes. Stir in half of the fresh oregano leaves and the sugar snap peas. Simmer one minute. Serve immediately, topped with grated cheese and the rest of the fresh oregano.

Note: When reheating leftovers, do so on medium heat, or you’ll overcook the vegetables.

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Mint Iced Tea

There’s nothing like a cold beverage to refresh you on a hot summer day. One of my favorite is mint iced tea. I recently found mint leaf in bulk for about a dollar for two dry cups. I find the mint leaf by itself doesn’t have quite enough body for my liking, so I add in a little loose black tea. Sometimes I also use a little honey if I’m in the mood for something sweet. Iced tea is easy to make ahead of time, particularly for picnics. In fact, I think I’ll make some more for my July 4th festivities.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp mint leaf
  • 1 tbsp loose black tea
  • 32 oz water
  • 1-2 tsp honey (optional)
  • ice

Tools:

  • kettle for boiling water
  • tea pot
  • enough jars for 1 quart of water
  • a fine mesh strainer or other sieve
  1. Boil the water. While the water is boiling, put the mint leaf and black tea in the tea pot.
  2. Pour the water over the tea and cover. Let it steep for at least ten minutes. You want strong tea since it will be diluted with water.
  3. If you want sweet tea, put about a teaspoon or so of honey in the bottom of your jar(s). The hot water will make it easier to dissolve the honey. When the tea has steeped, pour the tea slowly through the strainer and into the jar(s). If you added honey, be sure to give the tea a stir.
  4. Put the lid on the jar(s) and stick it in the fridge for later. Serve over ice. If you want to drink it immediately, I recommend putting it in the fridge for a least a few minutes with the lid off the jar to let out some of the heat.

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Spring Stir-fry

It’s farmer’s market season!! I love this time of year because I get to eat really healthy food for very reasonable prices. I can buy almost all my groceries there, except milk (and I usually don’t buy cheese there just cause it’s so expensive), including bread and pasta and eggs, even hummus! This week I bought asparagus, four bunches of baby bok choy, spring garlic, red and yellow tomatoes, hummus and a cinnamon roll, all for $14.50. (I have to admit that while I could by all my groceries there, I inevitably supplement with other items, such as the red pepper in the following recipe. It is definitely not bell pepper season yet.) I will buy asparagus almost every Saturday and Wednesday until the season ends. Mmmm…asparagus…

To use my delectable produce, I decided to make a light stir-fry so I could still taste the freshness of everything in it. Spring garlic is like a green onion with mild garlic taste (so mild, in fact, that a friend who planted some couldn’t really tell the difference between it and green onions, which he had also planted). You can definitely smell the garlic in the aroma, but it is not a strong flavor. Which is just fine for this dish where the mild bok choy and asparagus are really the stand-outs.

The key to stir-fries is to have everything chopped in advance and arranged into groups depending on how long it takes things to cook. The actual time in the wok for this dish is only 5-7 minutes.

Spring Stir-fry

Servings: 2 main course servings, 3-4 side dish

Cooking time: half an hour or less

Ingredients:

  • 2 stalks/heads baby bok choy (large is fine, but you’ll have to chop it up more)
  • 1/2 a bunch asparagus-should make about 1 1/2 cups once chopped
  • 1 med. red bell pepper
  • 4 stalks spring garlic
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1-2 tbsp lime juice (sorry, I didn’t measure)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • two servings of cooked rice if serving as a main course
  1. Chop the bell pepper into 1 inch pieces. Break off the asparagus at the root end (it will snap naturally-discard the root end or save it for asparagus soup). Break or cut off the tip of the asparagus, about 2-3 inches depending on the size of the asparagus. Cut the remaining asparagus stalks into 1 inch pieces. Cut off the root end of the spring garlic and discard. Like you would a green onion, chop the white part of the garlic, then make a separate pile of the thinner, greener parts. You can add the white parts into your red pepper pile and the green parts into your pile of asparagus tops. Chop off the root end of the bok choy (look for sand on the leaves you’re keeping-you may need to rinse again). For any large leaves, chop the white ends into 1 inch pieces and add to the pile with the asparagus stalks (not tops). Depending on the size of the leaves, you may want to chop them once or twice.
  2. Heat a wok or other skillet over medium high heat. When it is hot add the oil and give it a swirl. Throw in the red bell pepper and garlic ends. Cook for about a minute before adding the asparagus stalks, white parts of the bok choy, and red pepper flakes if using. While that cooks for about three minutes, mix together the remaining ingredients in a small dish. Toss or stir the stir-fry every minute or so. When the asparagus is starting to brighten (about 3 min.), add the asparagus tops and the bok choy leaves. Toss. Add the garlic greens. Toss. Cook about two more minutes, until the asparagus is tender and the bok choy wilted.
  3. Give the sauce a quick stir, then pour it over the stir-fry. Turn off heat. Toss the stir-fry to coat everything with sauce. Serve over rice if it’s a main course, or on the side of a meal.

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