Saturday, December 31, 2011

Filo Rolls of Winter Greens

Filo dough tends to make me crazy; it's a bit tedious to work with but once in a while I'll break it out for special occassions. People's Co-op carries an organic filo, which is nice because I don't have the talent to make such thin sheets of dough from scratch.

1 cup or so of extra virgin olive oil
1-3 fennel bulbs - Suzie's has them but they are small (leaves and stalks removed), diced
3 medium leeks, julienned
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 medium bunch kale, sliced
1 medium bunch mustard greens, sliced
1 medium bunch chard, sliced
1 tsp fennel seed, toasted, freshly ground
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
½ package filo dough

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add fennel and fennel seed; cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add green onion/leeks and garlic; cook for 2 more minutes. Add greens; cook until wilted, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat; season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in mint and pine nuts.

Lay 1 sheet of filo dough on flat work surface. Brush half with oil (the long half), fold in half (the long way) and brush top with oil. Place ¼ cup of green filling at one end of phyllo and roll up into a cigar shape. Place roll on parchement-lined baking sheet. Repeat ad nauseum (just kidding).

Brush rolls with oil. Bake at 375º until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Oh-so-pretty.

Stuffed Mushrooms

A bit old-school but so delicious...

1 pound whole mushrooms (prefer cremini but white also work), destemmed (save stems form your stock)
1 tablespoon olive oil + more for drizzling
1 tablespoon butter (or more olive oil)
3 shallots, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
sea salt
fresh thyme, destemmed, minced
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, destemmed, chopped
Parmesano reggiano, optional

In a large bowl, drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper over mushroom caps; toss to coat. Place on a baking sheet (hole side up). In a large skillet, melt butter and/or oil over medium-high heat and cook shallots until soft. Add garlic, thyme and a few pinches of salt and cook, stirring constantly until just soft. Remove from heat. Toss in remaining ingredients (except parm) until combined, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Stuff mushroom caps with mixture. Grate parm on top if desired. Bake at 350º for about 15-20 minutes, until caps look well-cooked. Let cool slightly before serving so folks don't burn their mouths.

Smashed Cannelini Bean Spread

4 cloves garlic from the Schaners, peeled, pressed
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves from Suzie's or the Schaners, minced
sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup cooked cannellini beans (Suzie's Farm recently had them fresh in the pod!), saving the cooking liquid
juice of a lemon from the Schaners or your tree

Over medium heat, sweat the garlic in 1 tablespoon of oil with the sage and a few pinches of sea salt until tender. In a food processor, add the beans, another tablespoon of oil, lemon juice, 1/4 - 1/3 cup bean broth, red pepper flakes to taste and the garlic mixture.  Blend until smooth, salt to taste, maybe add more bean broth if it's too thick.

Makes about 1&1/2 cups.

Top with a drizzle of your favorite olive oil, fresh chopped parsley, caramelized onions, and/or some nice olives.  Serve with toasted ciabatta.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Build Your Own Cheese Platter

Easy, fast, delicious and beautiful! Choose your favorite combinations from any of the following catagories:

Go with what you love, or ask your local cheese monger (Mary from Taste) to help you with your selections (which is always fun and you get to taste a bunch of lovely cheese). I like to choose 3 that go together somehow (maybe all from the same region) or I choose 3 that are completely different. My favorite is to have one soft, one hard, and one blue.

Breads & Crackers
Bake your own or buy local. Choose an assortment or just one type. I almost always choose a fresh crusty baguette to slice up, maybe a seeded baguette to pair with a mild cheese. 

Fresh, dried, jammed or compoted, pick fruit that pairs well.  I tend toward fresh, so right now that's dates, apples and persimmons.  I would avoid citrus, but maybe that's just me.

My favorites are walnuts from Terra Bella Farm or almonds from Smit Orchards.

If you like, drizzle over cheeses, nuts, or fruit. Or put it in a little bowl for dipping. I love local honey and there is a lot to choose from.  Right now, I'm loving the buckwheat honey in People's Co-op bulk section.

Roasted Garlic
Lovely to include if it goes with the cheeses.  Lately, I get my garlic from Schaner Farm.  I especially love roasted garlic with soft cheese such as brie or Nicolau goat cheese (a recent favorite).

A Few Examples
  • triple cream brie & cranberry compote wrapped and baked in a pie crust
  • goat chevre rolled in chopped parsley and chives with roasted garlic
  • english stilton, cotswold & derby cheeses, with toasted walnuts, fresh figs (quartered) and local wildflower honey
  • saint-andré, winchester gouda & point reyes blue cheeses with pear, raspberries, cashews and local orange blossom honey
Arrange your selections on a pretty platter or a wood or stone serving board. I start with the cheeses arranged toward the middle, I slice thin and fan out hard fruit or pile berries in between the cheese, place the nuts so they might cascade down the cheese or fruit, then lightly drizzle honey over a bit of the fruit and nuts. Finally, I fan out sliced baguette or crackers in a circle around or alternatively, serve in a basket lined with a cloth napkin. Don’t forget to include a cheese knife, preferably one for each cheese.

Artichoke Boursin Dip

This a take on a traditional boursin spread that my friend, Rae, would bring to parties when we lived in Pennsylvania. Rich and creamy, the red pepper kick helps slow down how fast this dip disappears.  Miss you, Rae!

4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, destemmed
a pinch of crushed red pepper
8 ounces neufchatel cheese, room temp
1½ tablespoons butter, room temp
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
about 2 cups cooked or canned artichoke hearts, drained, more or less to taste
1 cup shredded parmigiano reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons chives, finely snipped

Buzz garlic, thyme, and red pepper in food processor until fine. Add neufchatel, butter, salt and pepper and buzz until smooth. Scrape into a bowl.

Briefly buzz artichokes in food processor until chopped (this also helps clean the food processor). Stir to combine artichokes, parm, and chives into the creamy goodness. Let refrigerate for a thick consistency.

Serve with crackers, bread, blue corn chips or crudité

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Years Eve Party Foods

This is the first year in quite a while that I will not be cooking for a New Year's party.  My spouse and I usually head up to the Bay Area to hang out with my spouse's family.  And for New Year's we come up with a menu of small plates or finger foods, usually around some theme or another.  But here's some party food menu ideas...

Easy Nibbles
cheese plate with seasonal fruit & nuts
bowl of lovely olives
homemade pickled vegetables

Dips & Spreads
artichoke boursin dip & pita crisps
crudités & hummus
blue corn chips with assorted salsas & guacamole
smashed cannellini bean spread with caramelized onions & toasted sliced ciabatta

Finger Foods
stuffed mushrooms
soup shots
filo rolls of winter greens

Something Sweet
open-faced cookie sandwiches of ginger molasses crisps with vanilla bean neufchatel frosting & persimmon slices
mini hippie bars
mini mexican mocha brownies

Monday, December 26, 2011

Not my Grandmother's Trifle

My take on trifle this winter is not so traditional but it was delicious.  I spooned persimmon pudding into the bottom, added a few chunks of ginger spice cake, topped with a few spoonfuls of honey vanilla apple compote, then whipped up some Strauss heavy cream sweetened with maple syrup, and topped with a few pieces of toasted pecans.  It was well received and can be made well in advance of serving.  The cake and compote can be made a few days ahead of time, the pudding, whip cream and assembly up to 24 hours before serving.  You can assemble it in a large container for multiple servings, but a big spoonful of glop isn't very pretty on the plate, so I choose to layer mine in small clear glass cups or jars for individual servings.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Winter Fruit Salad

I'll be having brunch tomorrow with my mom, siblings, and extended family.  After wishing a happy holidays to my farmers today, here's what I'll bring to share:

a few tangerines from the Schaners, peeled and segments pulled apart
a few fuyu persimmons from Heritage Farm, cut in half and sliced thin
a fuji apple, a pink lady apple, a century apple pear, all from Smit Orchards, all cored and sliced thin
1/2 pound of medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
seeds of a pomegranate from the Schaners (here's a kitchen tip on removing the seeds)
local honey, optional

Toss the fruit pieces together and serve drizzled lightly with local honey.

Persimmon Pudding

A highly experimental recipe but it worked!  This was part of my take on trifle for my winter solstice menu, which turned out beautifully (I need to get better about taking pictures). You generally find 2 varieties of persimmon at the markets: fuyu (short, squatty shape) and hachiya (more oblong, teardropish shape). 
The fuyu you can eat firm and are a bit sweeter when they are just a bit soft).  I do not recommend eating hachiya unless it is very, very ripe, super soft, and jelly-like, almost translucent.  If it's not, the hachiya is very astringent, which I find extremely unpleasant (but if you don't know what I'm talking about you may want to try it just for the experience). 

3 hachiya persimmons
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups half & half (or milk and cream)
1/3 cup evaporated cane sugar

Scrape the soft flesh out of the persimmons and puree until smooth, yielding about 1 1/2 cups, and set aside.

In a sauce pan, heat milk/cream/half & half and sugar on low heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved and milk is steaming (do not boil).

While the milk is heating, in a separate boil, briefly beat the egg yolks with a whisk.  After the milk is steaming, very slowly whisk half of the milk into the yolks, then whisk the mixture all together in the saucepan.  Add the persimmon puree and cook, stirring occasionally for another 10 minutes to thicken.  If you like a very smooth texture, pour through a fine strainer.

Serve warm or cool with ginger spice cake, maybe with some whipped cream sweetened with maple syrup and toasted pecans.

Add 1/2 a vanilla bean to the milk or cream while heating, then remove pod and scrape seeds into the milk.
Add a pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, or nutmeg with the persimmon.
Use honey or maple syrup instead of sugar.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Honey Vanilla Apple Compote

I was planning a pear compote but none were to be had at the farmers market, but that's why seasonal cooking is so fun; it's like your own personal iron chef ("and the secret ingredient is...")

4 apples (a variety that bakes well, such as granny smith), peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4" thick
juice of 1/2 meyer lemon from the Schaners
1 tablespoon Spring Hill butter
1/2 vanilla bean, cut length-wise in half
1/2-2/3 cup local honey

In a bowl, toss the apple slices with the lemon juice and set aside.  In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter on medium-high heat.  Scape the vanilla seeds into the butter and add the pod, too.  Add the lemoned apples and stir to coat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples have softened but still keep their shape, about 10 minutes.  Add the honey and cook a few more minutes.  Remove the vanilla bean (give it a gentle rinse, allow it to dry, and add to your vanilla). Voila!

Serve warm over ginger spice cake with whipped cream or creme fraiche.  Have any left over?  Save it for the morning and stir it into oatmeal.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Seasonal Fruit Crisp

One of my very favorite desserts.  Easy enough for any day, delicious enough for fancy events.  Or maybe even a special breakfast.

Crisp Topping
6 tablespoons butter or nut oil (or a mix of the 2)
¾ cup rapadura sugar
2/3 cup flour
½ cup rolled oats and/or chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans...)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Fruit Filling
5 cups of seasonal fruit (today I'm using granny smith apples from Smit Orchards, halved, cored, and sliced)
½ tablespoon rapadura or evaporated cane sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, lemon zest, other other citrus or spices of your choice

Mix crisp topping ingredients together until crumbly and set aside.  Cut fruit (if needed) about ¼ inch thick.  Toss with sugar and spices of your choice.  Arrange in a buttered or oiled loaf pan and cover with topping.  Bake at 375º until golden and bubbly about 60 minutes.

Serve warm with ice cream! Can be baked in small ramekins for individual servings.

Awesome with stone fruit, berries, rhubarb...
Toss fruit with a squeeze of lemon or a splash of juice

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tomato Soup

Based on a recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (which is like my bible)...

2 tablespoons Spring Hill butter or olive oil
3/4 cup onion from Schaner Farm, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, celery, or fennel chopped
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
pinch of ground clove
a 28 ounce glass jar of tomatoes (strained, crushed, diced, whole or stew your own!)
3 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 cup of milk of your choice, optional (cream, goat, soy, nut...)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat and saute onion, celery, basil and clove until the vegetables are soft and start to brown.  Add the tomato and stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes with lid askew.  Puree until smooth, stir in milk and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches, or garnish with your favorite crackers and/or grated cheese (mozzarella, jack, smoked cheddar from Spring Hill...)

4-6 servings (yields 7 cups of soup)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sugarsnap Pea Soup

This was a what-do-I-have-to-make-soup-right-now recipe and it turned out awesome...

1&1/2 tablespoons Spring Hill butter or oil
1/4 of an onion from Schaner Farm
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon rosemary from Suzie's (dried up from Thanksgiving)
1 potato from Sage Mountain Farm, quartered and sliced thin
1/2 cup white wine leftover from Thanksgiving
5 cups fresh sugarsnap peas from Suzie's, tough ends removed, chopped
sea salt
4 cups vegetable stock
freshly ground pepper

In a large pot, melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter on medium high heat and saute 1 cup of chopped pea pods, just for just a couple minutes and set aside.  Melt the rest of the butter in the pot and saute the onion and herbs until soft.  Add the potatoes and wine, bring to a boil and simmer until most of the liquid have evaporated.  Add 4 cups of peas, hot stock and a bit of sea salt, bring to a boil, cover and reduce to simmer for 15 minutes.  Puree until smooth, season to taste, add that 1st cup of sauteed peas and garnish with buttered croutons.

Serves 4

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tuscan Winter Vegetable Soup

This recipe is based on my take on minestrone, winterized (by what is available at the farmers market in general and Suzie's farm stand particularly) for these chilly days. Leave the skin on if you use kabocha or delicata squash. 

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
½ cup diced fennel
½ cup diced carrot, beet, or turnip
1 cup winter squash, chopped into ½" cubes
¾ cup (cooked, canned or fresh) cannellini beans
¾ cup any type of bush beans with an edible pod (green bean, yellow wax, dragon's tongue...), remove tough end, chopped on a diagonal in 1" pieces
6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup kale, dandelion or mustard greens, chopped
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
red pepper flakes

Sauté the onion, fennel, garlic, herbs and in oil in a large pot on medium heat until they start to soften. Add carrots, squash and bit of salt and cook until they start to soften. Add beans, greens, and stock, bring to a boil, and simmer with lid askew until the squash is soft, about 10 minutes. Season to taste.

Garnish with fresh parsley and/or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Yorkshire Pudding

This is an English classic also known as popovers and usually cooked around a roast or in beef fat.  But after I became a vegetarian at 12 years old, my English grandmother, while she was concerned I wouldn't get enough protein, would always cook a few in muffin tins in oil for me.

3 tablespoon butter or oil
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon flour
½ tsp sea salt

Cut each tablespoon of butter into 4 equal pieces. Place each piece of butter in the 12 cups of a muffin tin. Place the muffin tin in a 450º preheating oven to melt butter (do not brown or burn!).

Whisk together eggs and milk. Whisk in flour and salt until well combined. Pour batter evenly into the hot muffin tin, each cup about half full.

Bake for 15 minutes (10 with convection). Lower heat to 350º and bake another 5-10 minutes until golden brown.

Makes 12 popovers

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ginger Spice Cake

This wonderfully moist cake happens to be low-fat.  Applesauce makes a great fat replacer in many cakes or quick breads (such as carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin cake). Try making your own applesauce; I see local apple trees ripe for harvest.

1 cup applesauce
½ cup molasses
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs from your backyard or favorite farmer
2/3 cup rapadura sugar
1/3 cup oil
1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon sea salt

Mix together applesauce, molasses and baking powder. Add eggs and sugar and beat 3-4 minutes. Gradually beat in oil. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix just until combined.

Bake in greased and floured 9x9 pan at 325º for 40-45 minutes until it starts to pull away from the sides and a knife comes out clean. Cool on rack for 10 minutes. Serve warm with fresh seasonal fruit (I like persimmons or blackberries) or cranberry compote and whipped creme fraiche sweetened to taste with maple syrup.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Honey-Glazed Carrots with Thyme

I saw some beautiful carrots this week from Suzie's Farm and J.R. Organics Farm.  In general, the orange ones are a bit sweeter but the purple and red ones are just so beautiful.  I love purple vegetables but the color usually fades when cooking or pickling.  And the honey-glaze will make the orange color a little more brilliant (plus they taste really good!).

1½ pounds carrots, scrubbed well
1 tablespoon Spring Hill butter
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, destemmed, minced from Suzie's or the Schaners
2 tablespoons local honey (try a citrus variety)
sea salt from Salt Farm

Remove carrot tops and any scraggly tips. Cut on a diagonal about ½ inch thick (or leave tiny carrots whole). In a large skillet on high heat, boil a thin layer (about 1/8 inch) of water and add carrots. Cook until water has evaporated and carrots are slightly soft, about 5 minutes.

Add butter and melt; toss to combine. Add thyme and toss to combine. Add honey and toss to combine; cook until lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Season with salt.

Makes about 8 servings

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Winter Solstice Menu

trees release their leaves to prepare for new growth

The Winter Solstice is December 22nd this year.  I don't celebrate Christmas (way too commercial and material for me) but I'm happy for the opportunities to spend time with my family and friends.  Growing up, the English side of my family always had a large Christmas Eve celebration, which is the inspiration for much of this menu.
X-mas Eve when I was very young
The spread back then

Honey Thyme Carrots
Sugarsnap Peas sauteed in Butter with Fresh Mint
Roasted Winter Vegetables
Yorkshire Pudding with Onion Sauce
Sauteed Mushrooms with garlic
Trifle of Ginger Spice Cake, Honey Vanilla Apple Compote, Persimmon Pudding & Maple Whipped Creme Fraiche topped with toasted pecans

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Muffins for Breakfast

This morning we're making blueberry muffins with lemon zest (we like it real lemony so we use the zest of 2 good-sized lemons, which we have a ton of from my mom's friend).  Served with Schaner Farm pomegranate orange juice and scrambled eggs with chives from Suzie's Farm and a beautiful, flaky Murray River salt from Salt Farm that we picked up at the Little Italy farmers market yesterday.

Here's a basic muffin recipe (based on a Joy of Cooking recipe) that you can change seasonally...

1 cup buttermilk (or other dairy - see variations)
2 eggs
2/3 cup rapadura sugar
3 oz melted butter or oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (we make our own)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
1¾ cup fruit (we like to go pretty heavy on the fruit - fresh, frozen, or dried fruit of your choice)

Whisk wet ingredients (buttermilk, eggs, sugar, butter & vanilla) together.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flours, baking powder & soda, salt).  Mix wet and dry ingredients together until just combined, then briefly stir in fruit or any other ingredients that suit your fancy.  Spoon batter into greased muffin tins and bake at 400 for about 20 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before popping them out of the pan.  Best when served warm!

Makes 12 standard-sized muffins.

  • Instead of buttermilk, use yogurt or sour cream (or use milk or cream and eliminate the baking soda)
  • Try fresh shredded zucchini, carrot, or winter squash such as pumpkin; fresh chopped apple or persimmon; dried fruit, such as coconut, cherries, figs; or frozen berries.
  • Decrease butter or oil to 1/4 cup and add 1/4 cup of apple sauce or pumpkin puree
  • Add a handful or 2 of chopped nuts (almonds, Chandler or red walnuts from Terra Bella Farm, pecans, macadamia - they grow locally)
  • Add 1-4 teaspoons of zest (of lemon, lime, Buddha hand, orange, tangerine...) with the wet ingredients
  • Add a teaspoon or so of your favorite spice with the dry ingredients (cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg...)
  • Substitute some of another grain, such as cornmeal
  • Add a handful of oats, hemp seed, ground flax seed, or toasted wheat bran with the dry ingredients

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mushroom Soup

¼ cup olive oil or butter
½ ounce dried wild mushrooms, rehydrated in 2 cups hot water (save the mushroom liquid)
1 pound fresh white, cremini, or portobello mushrooms, chopped (save stems for stock)
2 medium onions or leeks, white & pale green parts, chopped (save dark green parts for stock)
1 large bulb fennel, chopped (leaves and stalks reserved for stock)
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, destemmed, chopped (save stems for stock)
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped (save stems for stock)
6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup almond milk
freshly ground black pepper
fresh parsley, chopped (save stems for stock)

Prep all your ingredients and then use scraps to make your own stock.

Sauté 2 tablespoons butter or oil & mushrooms in a wide pot on medium-high heat until the mushrooms releash their liquid and then start to brown, sticking to the pot.  Add the onion, fennel, 2 tablespoons of oil and cook, stirring until lightly caramelized. Add garlic, thyme & sage and cook a few more minutes. Add the mushroom liquid and stock; bring to a boil and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Add the almond milk; puree (if you want it to be smooth) and season to taste. Garnish each serving with parsley.

Makes about 4 quart

Use celery instead of fennel.
Use cream or milk instead of almond milk.
Add 2 more cups of stock and 1 cup of wild rice, barley, or wheat berries while simmering.
Add a cup of wine after cooking garlic & herbs; simmer until most of the liquid evaporates before adding the rest of the ingredients.