Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blueberry Buckle

As with the rest of Good to the Grain, and I'm sure you're sick of hearing (reading?) me say this, I have wanted to try this recipe since my first flip through the book.  I finally had my chance when some friends joined us down the shore.  I do not make a habit of making delicious, carby, sugary breakfast cakes just for myself, so I was glad to have a bigger crowd (7 people) to serve this to.

I wanted to bake this down the shore, but knew I didn't have a stand mixer available there.  Luckily, I read the recipe notes, which suggested that you could make the batter the night before.  I mixed up the batter and tossed it in a cooler along with a pint of blueberries and a sandwich bag full of the dry ingredients for the streusel topping.  In the morning (after a 7am spinning class... fun!) I made the streusel, washed the berries and assembled the cake.

The only bad thing was that it took so long to bake.  I had hoped someone would wake up and get cracking on it before I got back from spinning, but no one was up when we got back.  We were very hungry and ready to go to the beach by the time the cake came out of the oven, but I made everyone wait - and for good reason - it was delicious!  The copious amounts of blueberries make it a bit sloppy, especially when warm, but it was soooo good.  I totally messed up the streusel topping - I overworked it and the warmth from my hands melted the butter, so it really just made a sweet, buttery layer on top, but this did not take away from the taste at all.

I have a bad habit of remembering things when I'm out shopping instead of making a list before I go.  I saw the blueberries and thought, oh right!  I wanted to make that buckle.  So I got two pints of blueberries.  Then when I looked at the recipe I saw it called for two cups (one pint) of blueberries.  I thought maybe I could add more, but that definitely would not have worked out.  So since I prefer cooked blueberries, I just left them in the fridge and waited for something to come to me.  Nothing did, and I decided to make the buckle again.  I had a few raspberries in the fridge as well - a little soft, but still in decent shape - so I added those in with the pint of blueberries.  I cut the butter into the streusel topping with a fork instead of my fingers, so it came out right this time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

King Arthur Flour 100% Whole Wheat Bread

I got this recipe from the bag of whole wheat King Arthur Flour.  I haven't made bread in a while, as the recipe for Oatmeal Sandwich Bread from Good to the Grain was too crumbly for us.  I wanted to try this one because there is a quote from a customer right on the bag saying how great this bread recipe is.

I was pleased with the texture of this bread.  It was softer and less dry than the other one, had a nice whole wheat flavor, and had soft crust.  The only thing I didn't like about this was the rise - I think it came out too flat and it makes very small sandwiches.  It used instant yeast, which I have not used before (it actually took me months to figure out the difference between instant and active dry yeast, and to locate instant at Shop Rite).  I am thinking about trying to use active dry yeast instead, and use the technique from Good to the Grain, but with the same ingredients as this recipe.  I am also interested in trying the bread with white whole wheat flour, or with different types of flours.  Bread is something you should make your own!  I want to keep experimenting until I find the method and ingredients that work for me.

As I searched online for a link to the recipe I used, I found another bread recipe I would like to try.  Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread - if this looks anything like the picture in real life, I want it!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pasta with Fresh Corn Pesto

As I write this, I have some bacon sizzling away on the stove, because I am making this for the second time this week.  Yes, it was THAT good.  What an awesome treatment for the amazing fresh corn we have here in NJ.  I normally pick up two ears from the market, or enough for the whole family if we want it down the shore, but I was happy to get the SIX ears needed for this Pasta with Fresh Corn Pesto almost as soon as I saw it.

And bacon!  Oh man, do I love bacon.  One of the few things I missed when I was a vegetarian several years ago was bacon.  YUM.  This recipe has you saute little pieces of bacon until crisp, then pour off most of the fat and use the rest to saute corn kernels cut fresh off the cob with garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.  You reserve some of the cooked kernels, using the rest in an amazing pesto with Parmesan.  We didn't thin the pesto at all when we put it on the pasta - we like our sauces thick and delicious.  We really couldn't imagine why anyone would want to water it down.

For anyone who loves the richness of cream-based sauces like alfredo, but wants to get in a serving of vegetables, this is a great recipe to try.  (Not that this could be considered healthy by any means...) The recipe notes actually state that even people who don't like corn (I didn't know anyone like that existed!) liked this dish.  The bacon is NOT optional by any means.  I feel that it is totally essential to the dish.  There is no way I would ever leave it out.  (I actually used twice the amount the second time around...) I feel the same about the crushed red pepper.  Yes, it was a little spicy, but in a flavorful and not overwhelming way.  You could cut it down, if you have to, but don't cut it out.

This is something I am going to make again and again and again.  I don't buy corn from the grocery store, only from the market, and sadly it will be winter sooner than you think and it won't be available anymore.  For now, I will be enjoying it as much as possible.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Peach and Blackberry Crisp

I had some peaches from the market sitting on my counter, begging to be used.  I didn't want to eat five peaches at that moment and I have been craving a baked fruity dessert for quite some time now.  I recently saw this peach and blackberry cobbler, which got me thinking that I should use the blackberries in my fridge in this baked dessert.  I didn't want to make a cobbler with a biscuit topping, though - I was looking for more of a crisp/strudel type topping.  I visited a few of my favorite recipe sources online and found this plum and peach crisp recipe, which I had wanted to try last year when I first started cooking.  I decided to use that recipe as a base.  I didn't measure the fruit at all, but stuck with the 1/4 cup of sugar.  I think the tartness of the blackberries definitely needed it.  The "crisp" topping was not exactly crisp - it was more like a chewy oatmeal cookie, which was absolutely delicious!  This was a fun, impromptu dessert (and breakfast!) which can definitely be made again and with other fruit as well.  I think some apples would be delicious in the fall/winter - maybe with some cinnamon - the oatmeal cookie-like topping would go great with apple and cinnamon, and maybe I'll add some walnuts too.  There are so many ideas and flavor profiles to play with here!  (I would be happy to take some suggestions, too.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cantaloupe Salsa

I have been getting cantaloupe from the market every Friday and when I saw this Cantaloupe Salsa recipe, I was so excited!  It was nice to finally have something to actually DO with cantaloupe besides just eating it by itself or with cottage cheese.

The recipe is simple: cantaloupe, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice.  I thought this might be kind of weird, but it was actually better than the tomato salsa with all the same ingredients!  It worked really well.  I thought it looked cool with the blue corn chips, too.  I will be making this again soon!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Oven Roasted Ratatouille

Browsing through one of the food blogs I read, I came across this recipe for Oven Roasted Ratatouille.  I wasn't previously very interested in ratatouille, but fortunately I clicked on the link and looked at the recipe.  The list of ingredients appealed to me: eggplant, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic, a little olive oil, rosemary and thyme.  The ingredients are sliced and roasted in the oven.  Simple, delicious and a great way to use up some CSA veggies - this recipe seems easily adaptable as well to your particular vegetable supply.

Andrea and I made this on the weekend to eat during the week - the recipe made a huge batch, so we split it.  (I made it in my Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker instead of covering the top with foil - the covered stoneware really roasts things beautifully!)  I made some Israeli couscous to go with mine - I put sprigs of rosemary and thyme in the pot to add the same flavor profile.

This was absolutely delicious!  An added bonus was that it only got better and better as it sat in the fridge for a few days - I always had a big, healthy pile of veggies to eat when I was hungry.  What a fabulously delicious way to get a huge serving of vegetables, with only a little oil and a lot of flavor!

The only thing I would do differently next time is cut things into smaller pieces, especially the eggplant.  The big slices were a little more difficult to eat.  But I will definitely make this again!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Carrot Muffins

As we are all well aware I love baking and I love baking whole grain muffins specifically.  These Carrot Muffins from Good to the Grain used spelt flour, which I haven't used until now.

I don't have too much to say about these, as I only ate one and the rest went in the freezer or were shared.

My carrots were too dry - the muffin was good, but a little on the dry side - my carrots must be pretty old.  I usually use a trick from Mark Bittman - cut them into carrot sticks, then fill the container with water.  This works pretty well, but when these were cut up, they went into two huge containers and I only remembered the next day to put water in, and only in one container.  Also, it was a pain to grate carrot sticks on a box grater.  Next time I will just go get more and use whole carrots - or the food processor!  What a fabulous invention.

The streusel topping on this was delicious - and although it's a LOT of extra calories I think it added a sweetness that the muffin itself was lacking.  I'd like to play around a little and find a way to add a little more sweetness to the muffin without using the streusel topping.

While I'm writing this I couldn't help but think of the Carrot Oatmeal Cookies I made for this past year's cookie exchange.  I would love to try the carrot/ginger/coconut flavor profile in a muffin form - this could be a great starting point for that recipe.  Maybe I can do a combination of this with the Ginger Peach Muffins to move toward that flavor profile.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

CSA: July 2010

Before I get to the point and list our CSA produce for the month, I think it's worth noting that I have a produce problem.  I am so excited by the CSA - I look forward to it every week.  I refresh the farm's blog showing what we might expect to see in the farm stand.  I plan recipes and mental lists of things to cook.  On Thursday we pick up our produce, and I'm still coming up with ideas.  Then Friday comes, and Friday means the farmers' markets.  My CSA doesn't have raspberries, cherries, tomatoes, corn, or peaches (at least not yet, for some of those things).  I see something at the market that I didn't get at the farm and I NEED it.  I end up dragging a cooler and several bags filled with food down the shore, and we never finish it all.  I come home and often find a bunch of basil on the counter, a bag of zucchini and corn in the fridge - later in the season there will be a cucumber, tomato and onion salad in there too.  (My Nonna feeds my cat on the weekends and, as can be expected of any Italian grandmother, insists on feeding us as well.)  I've been supplementing my CSA produce with these other sources a lot, and since I list the items we received specifically from the CSA, I'm going to go ahead and also bold any items I use that were from a local market or came from my grandma's (or someone else's) garden.

Week 8 (7/1/2010):
- 1 lb swiss chard
- 4 bulbs green garlic
- 2 bunches basil
- 1 bunch collards
- 1 bunch parsley
- 6 heads lettuce (3 green leaf, 1 small red leaf, 2 romaine)
- 1 bunch beets
- 2 heads green cabbage
- 2 cucumbers
- 1 bunch scallions
- 4 summer squash (zucchini)
- mint and chives (PYO)

This week, the chard went to my grandma.  She likes it, and we've barely used it this year.  I had basil from Nonna, so I let my mom take the CSA basil, which was used in Jamie Oliver pasta (now a household staple).  I used my basil, mint and zucchini for a delicious Zucchini Bread from Good to the Grain.  The cucumber and lettuce (including some from Nonna, for variety) was used in a salad along with some onions and cherry tomatoes from the market.  I made a delicious Chopped Miso Salad with the cabbage and chives, a new family favorite.

Week 9 (7/8/2010):
- 4 heads of lettuce
- 3 tomatoes
- 1 bunch beets
- 2 heads red cabbage
- 3 lbs red potatoes
- 1 lb white potatoes
- 1 bunch white onions
- 1 lb chard
- mint (PYO)
- chives (PYO)
- lemon basil (PYO)
- cinnamon basil (PYO)
- 16 stems flowers (PYO)

We put our chard in the donation box this week - we didn't want it to go to waste again.  The Chopped Miso Salad was made again with the both the green and red cabbage, as well as the onions and chives.  We also made the delicious Zucchini Gratin from 101 Cookbooks which we made last year as well, using some zucchini and potatoes.

Week 10 (7/15/2010):
- 6 lbs white potatoes
- 2 lbs tomatoes
- 1 lb chard (tried to donate, but they said they were no donations that day, so I just didn't take any)
- 10 ears sweet corn
- 4 heads lettuce (1 red, 3 green)
- 1 bunch red onions
- 1 bunch scallions
- 1 green cabbage
- 1 bunch basil
- 1 pint okra (PYO)
- 30 flower stems (PYO)
- 1 bunch chives (PYO)
- 1 small bunch cinnamon basil (PYO)

I made more zucchini bread with some zucchini from my Nonna - this time, in addition to the mint, I used cinnamon basil in place of regular basil.  It was absolutely delicious!  My mom used some lettuce along with the beets to make a roasted beet salad with blue cheese (or feta), at which time I discovered that I, unfortunately, do NOT like beets.  The cabbage, red onion, and chives of course went into our favorite Chopped Miso Salad.  We ate the corn with dinner when we had some relatives over - my sister had found a bad one full of worms, but whoever else peeled the rest only found a few icky ends which were just snapped off.  The corn was said to be the juiciest and most delicious ever had, but I just liked the uneven rows of kernels.  We had some potatoes with garlic and butter, just smooshed a tiny bit... yum!  And of course, where there are tomatoes, there must be basil and mozzarella, drizzled with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with flaky Anglesey sea salt.

Week 11 (7/22/2010):
- 1 pint blackberries (PYO)
- amethyst basil and cinnamon basil (PYO)
- 60 flower stems (PYO)
- 1 bunch chives (PYO)
- mint (PYO)
- 4 lbs potatoes
- 2 lbs shallots
- 2 lbs white onions
- 2 bunches beets
- 1 green cabbage
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 8 lbs tomatoes
- 1/2 lb cherry tomatoes

It's getting harder and harder to keep up with all this produce.  Acknowledging that I have an addiction to BUYING delicious locally grown fruits and vegetables, I often find myself cringing as I toss something that has shriveled up or started to get "sick" (my bff's hilarious way of saying "moldy"), or just staring into space trying to even imagine what to do with something (*cough* okra), when I have looked and looked but can't find a recipe that appeals to me at all.  So I re-bagged and labeled everything with where it came from and when I got it and made it a mission to use as much as possible over the weekend and the coming week.

I bought peaches at the market (as I have been every week) and made the Ginger Peach Muffins from Good to the Grain.  I made guacamole using tomato, onion, and cilantro from the CSA along with a jalapeno from the market.  Of course I just chomped on the blackberries by themselves, except for the few I ate with some cottage cheese.  (I prefer delicious fresh market cantaloupe with my cottage cheese anyway.)  I made the Chopped Miso Salad again - well, I cut some chives, carrots, and onion, made the dressing, and used some leftover shredded cabbage.  I chose not to assemble it so it wouldn't get soggy - now it should last me a few extra days.  As a side dish (first with leftover turkey meatloaf, then frozen tilapia) we made the Zucchini Gratin again using zucchini (and now I'm zucchini free! yay! well, for now at least) and potatoes.  The lemon pepper shrimp recipe was, of course, made with broccoli and kale from the market.  Dinner another night was a delicious Pampered Chef recipe (which I will one day post about), BLT Macaroni & Cheese, where the BLT stands for bacon, leeks and tomatoes.

Week 12 (7/29/2010):
- 10 lbs tomatoes
- 3 lbs cherry tomatoes
- 1 lb onions
- 4 zucchini
- 2 cucumbers
- 1 green cabbage
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 bunch basil
- 30 flower stems (PYO)
- summer savory (PYO - all below herbs)
- rosemary
- oregano
- thyme
- lemon balm
- mint
- chives (flat and regular)
- amethyst basil (PYO - all basil varieties except regular)
- lemon basil
- cinnamon basil
- 1 pint blackberries (PYO)

It's crunch time!  We are drowning in tomatoes, so it's time to put them to good use.  I tossed one chopped tomato into the next incarnation of our shrimp pasta dish with fresh corn, diced zucchini and onion, a little garlic, and some basil.  I made salsa with a few friends, using local tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapeno, and garlic, plus a squirt of lime juice.  We also grilled some corn and portobello mushrooms from the market, and made zucchini bread using zucchini, mint, and cinnamon and amethyst basil from the CSA.  I made the Chopped Miso Salad for a barbecue, using cabbage and onions from the CSA.  An impromptu all-day cooking session with my BFF resulted in several dishes: an oven roasted ratatouille using CSA zucchini, tomatoes, and onions; a cantaloupe salsa made with my weekly market cantaloupe and a jalapeno, plus some CSA cilantro; and the BLT Mac & Cheese with CSA tomato and leeks from the market.  (While we cooked we snacked on a delicious peach, plus my leftover salsa.)  Throughout the week we've been attacking our bowl of tomatoes by having "appetizers" of tomato, basil, and mozzarella, drizzled with olive oil and flaky sea salt.  Ken has been eating a lot of tomato sandwiches with mayo - not my idea of a delicious snack, but the tomatoes sure are juicy and delicious.

I think this was my favorite food week :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ginger Peach Muffins

I've been waiting to make the Ginger Peach Muffins from Good to the Grain since I first got the book back in March.  When delicious, ripe, juicy peaches started showing up at the markets, I broke out the recipe.

There was some hesitation from my primary taste tester, who doesn't like ginger (but will eat anything I make with it despite that preference).  The recipe includes both fresh ginger, used to saute the peaches, and crystallized ginger, which melts on the inside of the muffin.  The final product, perfectly moist when warm, tasted more like gingerbread than actual ginger - the whole was greater than the sum of the parts.

The peaches were delicious, of course - sliced, sauteed in honey, butter, and ginger, and stuck on top of the batter in the muffin cups.  After the first batch, though, we decided it would be an improvement to also dice some peaches up and mix them into the batter.  This was definitely an improvement upon an otherwise perfect recipe.  I thought it made a difference.

Another note - all of Kim's muffin recipes make weird numbers of muffins, usually 8-10 instead of the standard 12.  After the first batch, I decided I could easily stretch the batter to make 12 muffins, which is good for a number of reasons: 1, it makes more muffins; 2, each muffin is less calories; and 3, they are not ginormous and spilling all over the pan (like the first batch).  I found this to improve the quality of the final product as well and I will do it again next time.

Like every other recipe in Good to the Grain, I will be making this again.  YUM.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fig & Olive

On our trip to NYC a few weeks ago we had lunch at Fig & Olive in the meatpacking district.  I wrote about Centrico already, but Fig & Olive was really my favorite part of the day.  When my sister sent me several menus to choose from when we were planning our trip, this was first on the list.  I opened it and immediately knew I was going to choose this place.  I did look at the other menus, but I was right, and it was a perfect choice.

We started off with some bread and three different olive oils from different parts of the world.  We don't have distinguished enough palates to really comment on any of them.  The bread was pretty good, but after trying all three types we were really sick of olive oil and none of them tasted that good.  I wish I was enough of a foodie to enjoy it, but oh well!

Luckily, the following courses made me forget all about the bread.  As I did with Centrico, I'll copy the menu descriptions with a few photos.  Unfortunately, Deanna's phone has the remaining photos and we have no way to retrieve them, so you'll just have to picture them from the descriptions!


Mediterranean Cold Soup - Cucumber and Pink Peppercorn  (Deanna)

Steak Tartar - Ground filet mignon & NY steak, shallot, caper, parsley, mayonnaise served with olive oil toast  (Andrea)

Chicken Samosa - Free range chicken, cilantro, Greek yogurt, bell pepper, scallion, cumin, harissa oil  (me)

Main Course:

Shrimp & Scallop Paella - Grilled shrimp & scallops marinated with pimenton served on saffron rice, eggplant tapenade, bell pepper, tomato, garlic  (me & Andrea)

Provence Vegetables Chicken Salad - Free range rotisserie chicken marinated with Herbs de Provence, lemon & garlic grilled zucchini, eggplant, tomato, asparagus, red onions, avocado, arugula, parmesan, pine nuts, 18 year balsamic vinegar- Picholine Olive Oil  (Deanna)


Dessert "Crostini" - Local-farmed strawberries, mascarpone, 18 year aged balsamic on shortbread with micro-basil

The dessert was, without a doubt, the highlight of my day - probably my week, actually.  It was amazing.  And Andrea has superior portion control abilities and was able to eat two and leave the third - so naturally I snagged it.  Delicious.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Crisp French Toast

Here's another little nugget of inspiration: a baked cornflake-crusted french toast.  I like french toast, but with that, pancakes, waffles, whatever - I never eat syrup.  Ever!!!  Until this french toast.  Just the tiniest dip in the syrup elevated each bite to greatness.  And the crispy crust... I never would have thought of it, but what a stroke of genius.  Delicious.