Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcake

Bless you if you are still reading this blog! Life has nearly gotten away from me this year. But looky here!

I made these sweet potato casserole cupcakes and then people asked for the recipe. I have to remember to blog these things. Thanks, Facebook friends, for the reminders!

I actually am trying to consolidate my writing onto my main web site, so please go there for the recipe. And please let me know if you want to be a tester for this, because I want the recipe in the cookbook but I need verification of the frosting process. I'll send you a quick handy-dandy form to fill out while testing. Thanks! And enjoy!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pseudo Gazpacho

I know. It's ridiculous that I'm writing this gazpacho recipe in October. I made it a few weeks ago and today is so warm I thought, why not share it, calendar truths be damned? 

I call this pseudo gazpacho because it’s not a traditional gazpacho as you may understand it, which typically comes together in the food processor and it all gets pureed to smithereens and then stuck in the fridge. This one came about by accident. I had frozen about 8 cups worth of tomato puree leftover from my canning extravaganza a few weeks ago. Every time I went into the freezer, no matter how well I thought I secured the quart containers, one of them kept jumping out at me and landing on the floor. This happened two or three times, and after the plastic container cracked and broke and I found myself defrosting the contents in a larger bowl in the fridge, I thought, okay. I need to put an end to this.

So what you have here, on this October day, is a gazpacho that suffers not in taste but exhibits a different texture—you get a contrast of the larger pieces of tomato against the puree, which I really enjoyed. 

Pseudo Gazpacho
Serves 4-6

4 cups fresh tomato puree
2 large heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped (should yield at least 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 T. sherry vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro 

1.     In a medium bowl, preferably one you can put a lid on or easily cover, combine the garlic, cucumbers, and peppers.
2.     Add the puree to the veggie bowl. Stir to combine. Add several good turns of freshly ground black pepper and about 2 tsp. of coarse salt. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
3.     In a measuring cup, combine the oil and vinegar and whisky to emulsify. About 20 minutes before you are ready to serve the soup, put the chopped tomatoes in a separate medium bowl and add the vinaigrette, tossing gently to combine.
4.     Add the chopped tomatoes to the veggie puree and return to the fridge to chill for no more than ½ hour, only if it’s really hot out or the soup becomes significantly warmer when you add the tomatoes. Chopped tomatoes lose their texture and change once they are refrigerated. Pureed tomatoes don’t suffer this same fate. Garnish with the chopped cilantro before serving. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.

Serve with crusty bread, or add in some chunky homemade croutons to add in a panzanella (bread salad) element.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Corn and Roasted Tomato Soup: Late Summer Love

Last fall, I was asked to serve as a judge for Lehigh Valley Harvest, the lovely food festival brought to you by Buy Fresh Buy Local (FYI: the next one is October 27). When I was there, I tasted this amazing corn and tomato soup from Cafe Santosha. It was probably one of my favorite things I ate, and that's saying a lot. I then spied the recipe on the Morning Call site, and have talked with Cafe Santosha owner Sarah Collins about the recipe. I'm posting this adaptation with her permission. Originally written in much larger quantities, I've scaled this one back, and it still makes a generous amount. That's a good thing, because soup freezes well. I am imagining a cold, winter day when I will pull this out of the deep freeze. For a few moments, it will taste like sunny veggie-surplus summer, instead of cold, root-veggie winter.

A few words, before we start. It's great to have a variety of tomatoes. I used a mixed quart of heirlooms from Pheasant Hill Farms, a few baseball-sized heirloom Italian tomatoes from Scholl Orchards, a couple of big orange ones from Salvaterra's Gardens, and even a few from my own garden. As written by Sarah, the recipe calls for barley, but she offers suggestions for other grains. I used standard green lentils (red would be cool;  they'd cook faster than green ones and blend in), because I wanted some protein and something unobtrusive. Quinoa would work, too, and I suspect orzo, farro, and other cool grains would suffice.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for tomatoes
1 medium onion or one large bunch scallions
2-3 lbs. of fresh tomatoes, cut into quarter or large chunks, enough to fill two quarter sheet pans.
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (preferably homemade)
3/4 tsp. smoked (typically Spanish) paprika
3/4 tsp. sweet (typically Hungarian) paprika
2-3 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 quart (4 cups) vegetable broth (preferrably homemade)
1-2 cups water
6 ears of corn, shucked and kernels removed from the cob with a chef's knife (about 6 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
3/4 cups lentils

Garnish (optional but recommended)
Basil, cut into thin strips for garnish
Hot sauce or pepper relish
Hot or sweet peppers (I used Jimmy Nardellos), chopped finely
Scallion greens sliced thinly

1. Preheat oven to 450, Chop the tomatoes and scatter them on two quarter sheets (with rimmed sides; you'll want something to catch those juices). Drizzle it with olive oil and salt and pepper it generously. Toss the tomatoes together until they are evenly coated with the oil, and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes until they start to caramelize. Remove from the oven and set aside.
2. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in an 8-quart stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until it's translucent and begins to caramelize. Add salt, pepper and paprika. Saute for another minute, stirring frequently. Add the sherry vinegar to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom of it to release any flavorful burny bits.
3.  Add the roasted tomatoes, including their juices, broth, lentils and tomato sauce. You may need to add 1 cup of water, depending on how much liquid the tomatoes gave off. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down, and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. If the soup looks too thick you may add another cup of water, keeping in mind the lentils will absorb water as they cook.
4. Add corn and cream, and bring it back to a simmer for a minute or two. You want the corn to give a little; don't let it get mushy. Do not boil. Remove from heat and add basil, peppers and scallions for garnish, if using.

A few other bits of information. Like almost all soups, this one's great if you make it a day ahead and the flavors sit. If this is your plan, follow the recipe up until you add the garnishes. Let it come to room temperature before you put a lid on the pot and stick the whole business in the fridge.

This soup just begs to be eaten with thick crusty bread that you can dip into it. It's also possible to make this vegan and use coconut milk. If that's the case, because coconut milk is sweeter than cream, I'd take this soup in a more Southeast Asian direction, swapping out cilantro for basil and using cumin and coriander (or maybe even garam masala) for the paprika, but that's entirely your call.

One other thing: I wouldn't muck this up with cheese or anything like that on top. You really want to taste all those fresh summer flavors. But again, that's your call.

This easily fed four of us, with about 8 cups (two plastic quart containers) left over for the winter, which will give us two more meals. In the dead of winter. When tomatoes are pink. And fresh corn is a memory. You get the idea. Can't wait!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tomato Love!

It's late August. If you garden, I'm guessing your countertops swelling under the weight of tomatoes. Or, if you are crazy like me, you've bought a 25 pound box of plum tomatoes for sauce.  And then people keep giving you more. But good gravy, I hope you haven't refrigerated them. As my chef friend Jason Hook says, vegetables DIE in the refrigerator. I would add that some veg-deaths-by-fridge are slower than others. Tomatoes, though, get watery and gross in there, and right quick. But I digress.....

Here's something you can do with them. You can take them, no matter what their size, shape or taste, and roast them. Wash them, slice them in half, toss them in a big bowl with anywhere between 1/4 cup and 1/2 cup of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and you are good to go. You can then use them in myriad ways. Eat them smeared on toasted ciabatta, rubbed with garlic. Toss them with pasta and other fresh tomatoes for a multi-layered tomato experience. Puree them. Mix them with eggs. Eat them with a spoon off the roasting pan (that's partly what I did.). Toss them with other veggies and beans for a very impromptu one-pot veggie-laden meal (I did that, too). Freeze them in 2-cup increments so that you can pull them out, like a champ, in the middle of winter and add them to soups, stews, sauces, chilis, and so forth. (Also done). You don't even really have to defrost them, if you don't want to, but you could certainly do that in the fridge. But seriously. They're going to give off water anyway, and you'll need some for the cooking process, so don't fret. Food is more forgiving than perhaps we all realize.

Tomatoes! Any shape, size or color
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1-2 tsp. cane sugar or maple syrup (I have also used agave nectar)** This is optional
1/2 tsp to 1 tsp. salt and a few cracks of fresh ground black pepper

1. Set your oven to 350 Fahrenheit
2.  Slice those tomatoes in half and toss them in a big bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, salt, pepper and optional sugar. If you include sugar, it's just going to accentuate the sweetness, but it's not necessary. Pour over the tomatoes and toss gently to combine.
3. Roast the tomatoes in the oven on rimmed baking sheets for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the tomatoes. You'll see them start to get blistery, shrink a bit around the edges and get a little bit caramelized. Bingo!
4. Remove from the oven and let them cool to room temperature before putting them in the fridge for nearly immediate consumption or a zip top bag for freezer storage. Make sure you get in all those good, sweet olive oil juices--including some of the burny bits that develop as they roast. It's all flavor. Don't let it go to waste!

Roasting is especially attractive when you find you have a few that are starting to turn and you may not be able to eat all of them immediately. In less than an hour, you can make short work of those super ripe tomatoes and have the components of a dish for the middle of winter. (Or, as in the case of last night's dinner, three hours later.)  If you want to store them in the fridge, wait until they've cooled to room temperature and then transfer them to an airtight container. They'll keep for about a week, but you'll likely eat them up before then.

Monday, August 19, 2013

After Wednesday Market Dinner

This isn't so much a recipe, per se, as it is a list of ingredients, borne out of what I had on hand.

We try to go to the new Weyerbacher Wednesday market at the Easton Farmers' Market, which takes place from 4-8pm every, you guessed it, Wednesday. There are some great vendors there who sell good dinnertime fare, such as Switchback Pizza and V-Lish Vegan Soup Company. Purple Cow/aka Bank Street Creamery is also there with inspired ice cream flavors, too. Invariably we end up with a couple of the little pizzas from Switchback, but the kids (and us, too) typically need something else to eat when we get home. And that's what happened last week. I was still hungry, but it was almost 7pm and I was not interested in cooking because I had been doing that all day already. I wanted quick assembly but lots of taste.  I threw this together quickly. It started with an investigation into what was in the fridge. Here's a glimpse of my internal monologue......

Oh! There's a leftover cooked ear of corn on the cob.
(I scraped the kernels off.)

Well, if I have corn, what else is in here? Jimmy Nardello red peppers
(These are so sweet you can and should just eat them raw. Two of those, from Salvaterra's, washed, sliced thin, extra seeds removed, went in.)

Well, if you have peppers and corn, you need tomatoes, too.....
(In went a couple of roughly chopped heirlooms from Scholl's.)

Wait a minute. I think I still have a white cucumber!
(How overjoyed I was to find someone was growing these in the Lehigh Valley, because I didn't this year. Thanks, Firelight Farms! No need to peel locally and naturally grown cucumbers. Washed and sliced thin, and then cut in half. Done.)

From there, I went to the backyard, grabbed a half dozen leaves of basil from the garden, and added a little bit of feta cheese. Admittedly, the latter was not a market purchase but if you bought a tangy cheese from Klein Farms, BaD Farm or Cranberry Creek, you're one step ahead of me. Or you could leave it out. I just wanted a sharp counterpoint to the veggies. Add a good glug or two of your best extra virgin olive oil--you'll want something with a fruity or otherwise assertive taste--and you're good to go.

See what I mean? This is less a recipe than a list of ingredients. I could have kept going, and added zucchini, but I stopped there.

But here's a simple rule of thumb for cooking, and maybe even for life. Go with what you got. Go with what feels right. Go with what tastes good together. It's hard to mess up during the height of the season. We are supposed to be eating many of these veggies together. It just makes sense. I find I can't eat this stuff fast enough, to keep up with production, during August and into September. 

If you make this, or make a variation, please share details!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The ULTIMATE Veggie Burger

Black beans and beets and rice, oh my!

If you have ever tried to make a veggie burger from scratch, I trust you will understand my jubilation at finally hitting upon a nearly perfect veggie burger.

The only bummer? I cannot take credit for this--it comes from a site I like quite a bit, The Kitchn, so I'm passing it along in the interest of deliciousness and good health--with a few adaptations. First, for the history. This recipe was inspired by the veggie burgers at Northstar Cafe in Columbus, Ohio. Can't say I've ever eaten there, but my inspiration comes more locally, from the awesome black bean and lentil burger chef Jeremy Bialker makes at Two Rivers Brewing.

In any case, once it morphs into something that's really my own, after I've made more changes, I can use it in the cookbook. I suspect it will, because even though you can say that all veggie burgers are projects, I am convinced that this one has too many ingredients. I'm going to test and see if there are some we can all do away with, in the interest of preserving maximum flavor and creating a recipe that won't make you run screaming for the hills when you see how long the ingredient list is.  In terms of my changes I've adapted this recipe and amped up some of the seasonings so the taste is more prominent. I also added cilantro where there was none in the recipe because I had it and because I thought it would work well. And it does.

This recipe succeeds where many others fail because homemade veg burgers often fall apart when you try to flip them, no matter how hot you get that pan or grill. This one remains intact; I had not one casualty. They're also often leaden and leave you with an altogether too-full feeling. In an uncomfortable way. These simply are not.

The yield for this recipe, which makes six, feels off. It's written for regular burgers, but I made sliders, which are typically a little less than half the size of their standard counterparts. I used an overflowing 1/4 cup cookie scoop and got about three times more than the "about six" the recipe indicates. Suffice to say, it fed three adults and two four-year-olds, and I froze about a dozen for a future meal. That last part is a total bonus, because often you want the convenience of veggie burgers at a moment's notice but not all that work.

Important detail: you need to bring these together ahead of time: the mixture should sit in the fridge for a few hours or as long as overnight in order for the flavors to come together and firm up.

If you do make these, please let me know how many you get out of it, and how big you've made them. Feedback, please! I apologize for the lack of a photo of the finished product--we ate them too fast for me to photograph them.

1 lb. beets (3-4 medium-to-large ones)
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats (or oat flour)
2 (15.5-ounce) cans black beans
1/4 cup dates, chopped into small pieces
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. smoked paprika (Hungarian paprika is too sweet)
1 T. grainy mustard
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 large egg (optional; makes the burger vegan otherwise)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Set your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Scrub the beets, dry them thoroughly, and wrap them in aluminum foil. Roast them for about 45-50 minutes, until they are easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
2. Bring a 2-quart pot of water to boil for the rice. Salt the water and cook the rice according to package directions, with one caveat: you want it to be a little bit overcooked (not totally mushy), but still firm. Drain the rice and set aside to cool.
3. Heat a tsp of oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. This step is important: you cook them until they have started to caramelize. Don't undercook them because your burgers will lack flavor. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, and then pour in the cider. Scrape the bottom of the pan--you're basically deglazing it with vinegar--and simmer until the pan is almost dry. Remove from the heat; set it aside to cool.
4. In the meantime, process the oats until they look like a flour; alternately, if you have oat flour, you can use that instead. Transfer to a bowl.
5. Rinse and drain one of the cans of beans and add to the food processor bowl. Distribute the dates on top and pulse until everything is roughly chopped--somewhere between 8 and 10 pulses. You don't want smushed beans; you want some to retain their structure. Transfer this to a large mixing bowl. Drain and rinse the second can of beans, and add to the bowl with the beans and dates.
6. Peel the beets. If they have cooled sufficiently, you should be able to do this with your hands, the assistance of a paper towel or under cool running water, which helps the skins slip off.  Grate them and transfer the beets to a strainer set over a bowl in the sink. Using paper towels, press down into the beet shavings to squeeze out excess water.
7. Transfer the beets, rice, onions and garlic to the bowl with the beans. Add the olive oil through thyme and combine well with a wooden spoon. Add a good amount of salt and pepper, and add the oat flour, egg and cilantro. Mix it up until the egg and flour are thoroughly combined and invisible. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least two hours, or up to overnight. You can keep this in the fridge up to three days before you cook it.
8. Set a cast iron (or nonstick) skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few T. of vegetable oil and when you see the oil shimmer, it's ready. Form the burgers into the desired size: a cup or so would give you a traditional burger, and a 1/4 to 1/2 cup would give you a slider. Cook for 2-3 minutes, and then flip them. If anything breaks off when you flip them, just smush them back into the patty with the spatula. Cook for another two minutes, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes. At this point if you are adding cheese (cheddar works nicely), do it now: lay a slice over the top and add a lid to keep the heat in. Serve them on lightly toasted (always nice) burger buns of appropriate size.

Note: I made about a dozen, we ate dinner, and then after dinner I portioned out about another dozen and wrapped them in wax paper (you can also use plastic wrap). I laid them all out on a baking sheet to freeze, and then once they were frozen solid, transferred them to a zip top bag. And yes, I labeled the bag with its contents and the date. It helps when navigating your freezer.

I would love to hear your feedback about this! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Sorrel and Scape Pesto

I've been on a serious sorrel kick this farmers' market season. I first tasted it last year from Chuck Armitage of Lettuce Alone. Earlier in the spring, I started seeing it at the Easton Farmers' Market, from Pheasant Hill Farms, from the very skilled DeVaults. I also encountered it a couple weeks ago when I started to help Dave Joachim test recipes for Marc Vetri's Mastering Pasta.  Once you start paying attention to something new in your field of vision, you encounter it everywhere. But that's a different story, sort of....

If you have never sampled sorrel, I encourage you to grab it the next time you encounter it. Sorrel is redolent of lemon, and has a bring, sharp taste. You can add a handful to a salad as an accent green, with eggs along with some goat cheese. I've already eaten it raw in salad. When sauteed into a pasta dish, I learned that even medium-low heat makes it brown quickly (George DeVault confirmed this); it's mostly an aesthetic concern rather than an issue of taste. Next time, I'll turn off the heat altogether, which I typically do with other greens I add to dishes at the last minute. An oversight on a busy weeknight in the kitchen.

So what to do with a surplus of sorrel? Well, after Dave and I munched on the incredibly zesty stems, brainstorming fun uses for them, I decided it was time for pesto. So I took the stems from two big bunches of sorrel, about 3-4 cups worth of leaves, and a mess of other pesto fixings and got to work. And I had a rather large handful of garlic scapes in my fridge, so instead of the traditional garlic, I put those in, too.

Two bunches of sorrel, measuring about 3-4 cups altogether, with stems removed and reserved
4-6 garlic scapes, or more if you like a pungent pesto
2 pinches of kosher salt
1/3 cup sunflower seeds (or pine nuts or walnuts; the taste will change accordingly)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Juice and zest of one lemon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (you want something fruity and assertive here)
12-16 ounces penne or other pasta, if you're ready for dinner
1/2 to 1 cup pasta water, reserved

1. Bring a well-salted pot of water to boil over high heat. While that's happening....
2. Combine the sorrel through lemon juice and zest in the bowl of a food processor and turn it on. While that's working, slowly add the olive oil through the top chute. Stop the machine once you have reached your desired consistency. Pesto is really subjective. With pasta dishes, I like to leave mine a little chunky because you're going to add pasta water, which will thin it out a bit.
3. Just before the pasta's cooked, scoop out about a cup of the cooking water and set aside. Drain pasta. Add about 1/2 cup of pesto to the hot stockpot, and add back in the water and the pesto. Stir to combine. Add more freshly grated Parm if you want it. Don't forget lots of freshly ground salt and pepper, either.

I like to freeze any leftover pesto and play a trick on nature by pulling out frozen pesto in the middle of winter. You can use ice cube trays but I have been using the plastic trays that came with our baby food maker years ago. They're just like ice cube trays, except they come with lids, which helps reduce freezer burn and I believe they are BPA-free.

If you make this, let's hear about it. You may not be able to get sorrel again until the fall, but when you see it, grab it. You won't regret it.