Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wild Rice Flour Pancakes

When I made the Mixed Mushroom Soup the other day, I made wild rice to go in it instead of barley specifically so I could make this Wild Rice Flour Pancake recipe from Super Natural Cooking.  That's how I can tell I really want to make something - it lives in a dusty corner of my brain, waiting for something to remind me of it - I don't forget about it until I'm flipping through the book again.  The head notes of the mushroom recipe suggested wild rice as an alternative to barley (and I am kicking myself a little for not going with barley, after the lemon-barley stuffing from Thanksgiving, which was delicious).  So I cooked some up in my pressure cooker (by "I" of course I mean "Ken" because I am still a little bit scared of it exploding and I need supervision), and I portioned out amounts for the soup recipe and this pancake recipe.  Then I put the rest in freezer bags, 2 cups each, and popped them in the freezer for another time.  I turned the small bit of uncooked wild rice into flour to make these pancakes the next day.

These pancakes stayed with me for quite some time.  I cooked the wild rice and flour one day.  The next day I made the pancake batter and a few pancakes.  The next day Ken made the rest of the pancakes, and I ended up finishing the last ones maybe 5 days after they were cooked.  (And they were still good!  There's nothing wrong with leftovers!)  I don't typically add to things - I don't add salt, I don't add butter, etc. - but a tiny sliver of butter to melt on these was pretty crucial.

I'm not sure I'll be making these often since they turned out to be a bit of a hassle, but we'll see.  Now that I have wild rice flour already ground up and wild rice cooked in the freezer, they may make a repeat appearance in my kitchen.  If I remember, I'll probably make half a batch, because even if I had frozen a few (and my poor freezer is a bit overloaded at the moment) I think this recipe made a few too many for two people.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Butternut Squash Muffins

I wanted to make a particular Butternut Squash Muffin recipe last year, but never managed to carve out the time to do so.  This year I made it a priority.  I still have plenty of squash from the CSA, so I cut up the right amount of butternut squash and put the remaining cubes in the freezer for another use.

This recipe is complicated.  After making it, I think I can say it is unnecessarily so.  I boiled the spiced apple cider syrup down for HOURS and I'm not sure I can say that those spice flavors really came through.  Beating the eggs separately seemed like an unnecessary step as well.  My muffins came out looking much more dense than those in the original photo, and not so cake-like.  They tasted good, though.

The recipe yielded me 12 regular-size muffins plus 12 mini-muffins as well.  I baked the mini muffins for about 20 minutes and the full-size for about 25, but I think both could have used 2-3 minutes less in the oven.

I can't say I'll be making this again, as it was quite complicated and there are many other butternut squash muffin recipes out there, but I'm glad I finally gave it a shot.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 was cooked for only 7 people, so we didn't go too overboard.  It was a lot less stressful this way.  We had no appetizers to worry about, either.

Pumpkin and Feta Muffins
These are first because they are the coolest thing we made.  I got the recipe from 101 Cookbooks a few weeks ago and they were the first thing on my Thanksgiving recipe list.  I followed the directions exactly and got excellent results.  The only thing to note was that we ended up with 18 muffins instead of 12, but that's certainly nothing to complain about.

Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts
When my sister got wind of the menu (the day before Thanksgiving, of course) she greeted me with: "Can we PUHLEEEAAASE make a DIFFERENT VEGETABLE?!?!"  Right after these were cooked, I saw her stick her hand right in the skillet to try one - and of course she loved it.  Super simple, and the caramelized edges were the best part.  This is another recipe from 101 Cookbooks.

Lemon-Barley Stuffing
This recipe from the New York Times was kind of a wild card, but it worked out in the end.  The mushrooms shrunk into ribbons when roasted, and I thought there wouldn't be enough lemon, but it shined right through.  The chive butter was fun to make and pretty much made the dish.  This is where I gained a deeper knowledge of where the line lies between browned and burned.  Note to self: more liquid next time, trust your instincts.

Sandra Lee's Turkey
Well, of course there was a turkey.  This one had butter massaged into it.  I never liked turkey before, and I still only ate a very small bit of it, but it was very good.  This picture is gross.  (Thanks to Haley for the photo.)

Mashed Potatoes
Yuck.  That's all I have to say about that.  This is a picture of what later became mashed potatoes.  There's no finished picture because there's nothing pretty about mashed potatoes.  (Thanks to Haley for the photo.)

Garden Vegetable and Potato Lyonnaise
I've got these giant rutabagas sitting in my fridge, plus a few turnips, and I've never had these things before, of course, so I had no idea what we could do with them.  I found this recipe through the "look inside" feature of Amazon - it's in Homegrown Pure and Simple by Michael Nischan.  Naturally, Amazon wouldn't let me look at the second page, but I found an adapted version online and used it to sort of wing it, and it turned out alright.  The strong flavors weren't appreciated by all, but I finally got to try a bunch of things through this dish.

Pumpkin Cornbread
When we were little, my dad used to make us biscuits.  Of course, they came from a box, but I had to remind him to channel those times from the past when my mom asked him to help us by making the cornbread.  This alone was the most hectic time of the day, as he insisted on lining up each ingredient, did not know the difference between liquid and dry measures, and refused to stop whisking even when I said he was finished.  Then we ended up having to bake it in the microwave (it makes sense if you've seen my mom's space-age microwave) and since we're all too short to see the top it got a bit toasted.  Fortunately, it tasted fantastic.  This was another New York Times recipe.  (Thanks to Haley for these photos.)

Winter Green Salad with Sugared Walnuts, 
Crispy Pears and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
I made this last year, but did a different candied walnut.  Though we had to make some substitutions, these walnuts were delicious.  Everyone kept walking by them and snatching a few - we're lucky we had any left for the salad.  The vinaigrette was my favorite part.  This recipe is from Clean Food.

"Best-Ever" Apple Pie
Haley made her famous apple pie with lattice crust.  It's the best-ever apple pie!  This particular pie contained a variety of apples known as "whatever we had lying around."

Spice-Kissed Pumpkin Pie
This pumpkin pie recipe is from 101 Cookbooks.  It features a special spice blend and a hazelnut paste between the filling and the graham-cracker crust.  Delicious.

Pumpkin and Ginger Scones
These were not for Thanksgiving, in particular, but they were there when I arrived to cook on Thanksgiving, and they were delicious.  I liked them plain, but they were very good with Haley's cinnamon glaze.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mixed Mushroom Chowder

I'm waiting on a few pictures for my Thanksgiving post, so in the meantime, here's a recipe for mushroom soup.  I think many of the mushroom soup recipes I've seen are creamy.  This is a chunky recipe.  I used a mixed bag of local mushrooms from the market for this one, which I made last weekend.  The major departure I made from the recipe was to add 1 1/2 cups finely chopped spinach.  I added it in the last 5 minutes of (intended) cooking, but then I added another 3-5 minutes onto that time, so maybe I should have put it in a bit later.  The flavor wasn't too strong but it added a huge nutritional boost.  I liked the soy sauce and sesame oil flavor combinations.  This made maybe a bit less than 2 quarts.  I froze two 2-cup portions, I think, and had not quite a quart left to eat the next day.  I don't think I'll make this again, since it wasn't my favorite, but next time I'm craving mushrooms I will be glad to have some frozen on hand.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pasta with Cauliflower, Walnuts and Feta

I got two large heads of cauliflower from my final CSA pickup, but I didn't want to make another cauliflower soup.  I searched my favorite blogs and found a recipe for Pasta with Cauliflower, Walnuts, and Feta.  I've finally got my pasta stash under control, so I don't feel so obligated to use up the many cheap varieties and save the fancier ones.  This recipe called for a strong flavor from the pasta, so I reached for a spelt rotini, which stood up quite well to the cauliflower and feta.  The walnuts added a nutty crunch - I only wish there were more of them.  The salty feta went perfectly with the sauteed onions and cauliflower.  I was happy that the cauliflower had both flavor and crunch thanks to the sauteeing rather than boiling.  This was a nice change of pace for all that soup (don't worry, I still love soup) and it reheated nicely for a weekday lunch.

This was easy enough for a weeknight, though there is a bit of work breaking down the cauliflower and slicing the onion - that could be done in advance.  One recommendation I would make is to ignore the white wine vinegar in the ingredients - go with all lemon juice.  The white wine vinegar soaked in quickly and left almost a chemical-y taste, at least compared to the lemon juice.  I can certainly see this appearing on my table again in the near future.

UPDATE (11/26/2010): Here's a picture of this dish the second time I made it (earlier this week).  I used a small-batch artisanal local whole wheat pasta and purple cauliflower and skipped the vinegar in favor of more lemon juice.  Delicious.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


My soup making streak is far from over.  I can't get enough.  It also gives me a great deal of satisfaction to have so many soup options in my freezer, although every time I find a new favorite, like Ribollita, I know I would reach for that first.

This is my first chunky soup.  It's also my first soup with beans.  I found it while trying to figure out what to do with my lacinato kale.  And it's my new favorite.  The slightly spicy tomato flavor, creamy white beans (and here I thought that beans were always grainy - now I know you need to cook your own! forget cans!), and a great change in texture from the kale.  The torn up bread made little pockets of liquid that squish in your mouth.  The celery, carrots and onions were tiny nourishing bites.  I even liked the chopped oily black olives on top - I bought just a few at the olive bar, next time I need to see if they come already pitted, but they added a great saltiness and a contrasting flavor.  Are you hungry yet?

This recipe gave me 8 cups frozen, plus a full quart for the fridge, and that's not including the bowl I ate for dinner.  And I'm going to make it again.  :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Winter Pasta

I'm always happy to find an easy, healthy weeknight recipe.  When this Winter Pasta recipe was posted over on 101 Cookbooks, it reminded me of pesto and the pictures made me hungry!  In fact, I was so hungry that I couldn't even make this for myself.  :)

I love the flavor of kale.  I also love garlic.  And feta.  You can use any kind of cheese here - feta, Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, Asiago could be great, or even ricotta.  It's simple enough for a weeknight dinner, but fancier than tomato sauce from a jar, or pesto from a packet (ick).  You could probably even make the pesto the day before if you want.  And while I love the flavor of kale, this would be great with spinach or maybe another leafy green - or maybe a mix of greens.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Apple Pie Oatmeal

The first time I made this... well, it was gross.  There was way too much liquid, including 1.5 cups of apple juice, which was just not appetizing at all.  I should have listened to my instincts!  I tried it again with less liquid and used a small amount of apple cider.  It's still a little sweet for my liking, but would be the perfect sweetness for most people. 

Apple Pie Oatmeal adapted from Bob's Red Mill CookbookServes 4-6.

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1 apple (peeled, cored, sliced)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup apple cider
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

1. Combine butter and sugar over medium heat, stirring frequently until melted and blended together, about 2 minutes.
2. Add apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and stir until the apples release juice, about 4 minutes.
3. Add the oats, stirring to prevent sticking and help them absorb the juice, about 2 minutes.
4. Add the apple cider and water and bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
5. Let it rest with the top on for 2 minutes, then serve topped with the pecans.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Roasted Scallops with Breadcrumbs and Bacon

Roasted Scallops with Breadcrumbs and Bacon
Roasted Scallops with 
Breadcrumbs and Bacon

Full disclosure: I did not make this.  It was made for me, which I enjoyed very much.  I wanted to mention it anyway because it was delicious :)  We had it with spinach and pasta and it was great.  It's nice to have a glass of wine with a home cooked meal that you didn't have to make yourself.

This was simple and so, so delicious.  Some frozen scallops, slightly old parsley and panko breadcrumbs that have been in the pantry for at least a year came together to make something special.  The bacon really made the dish.
To make it more substantial, we sauteed spinach and garlic, and served it all on top of some whole grain spaghetti.

Easy enough for a weeknight, nice enough for casual company.  And extra delicious when it's made for you :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

CSA: Final week of 2010

Week 26 (11/4/2010):
- 2 lbs turnips
- 4 rutabagas
- 1 lb arugula
- 1 lb spinach
- 1 lb lettuce mix
- 1 lb braising mix (donated)
- 8 heads green lettuce
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 bunch red Russian kale
- 2 bunches lacinato kale
- 2 bunches carrots
- 2 heads cabbage
- 2 heads cauliflower

Well, this was our last pickup.  I went all by myself.  It was pouring, and freezing too!  I had a great time doing this... but I'm also glad it's over.  It's been a real challenge to cook all of this stuff, but I enjoyed that challenge.  It was fun to try new things, make new recipes, cook with my mom and with my friends, save a few things for the winter.

I'd like to do this again next year.  Now that I've seen how it works and what it's like, I feel more prepared.  I have learned a bit about how to preserve some of these things, in the freezer for example.  While my freezer couldn't contain all the things I wanted to fill it with, I still stocked away a few things.  Next year, I plan to be more prepared when spring comes.  I like the challenge of trying to eat as locally as possible, so I want to stuff my freezer with excess.  I want to try to waste less.  That was rough for me - sometimes there is just too much, and I was too ambitious with what I was able to do.  If I'm more organized and plan ahead a bit, I can do a lot better waste-wise AND be more creative.

I still have a lot of the above produce in the fridge, so I will be posting some recipes while using them in the next few weeks.  When they're all gone, I plan on doing some kind of "challenge" to myself to use up things from the freezer and my pantry.  Plus, with colder weather coming in, I look forward to a lot of baking, something I haven't done since I had more free time in the summer.  I also want to learn a little more about preserving and canning to get ready for next year.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Roasted Delicata Squash Salad

I waited forever to be able to make this Roasted Delicata Squash Salad.  Seriously!  I got the delicata squash from the CSA a few weeks ago and then I picked up the other ingredients - potatoes, radishes.  I had the miso already, I always have almonds on hand, and I totally forgot about the kale.  When I went to Whole Foods to pick up harissa, the missing link... they didn't have it.  After about half an hour of searching I asked customer service and they informed me that it was discontinued due to low sales, just like the muscovado sugar I was looking for a few weeks earlier.  People don't know what they're missing by not buying this stuff.  Unbelievable!

So anyway, I had to turn to Amazon for my harissa, which cost me more to ship than the actual tube.  Luckily, it's a condiment you don't need to use much of, and the handy tube means you don't have to use it all right away.  (I buy tomato paste in a tube too - unless you have a recipe that actually calls for a whole can, it's much more cost-efficient and convenient.)

Since I got some kale in my CSA share this week and picked up some more radishes at the market, I decided today would be the day.  It turned out great!  I should have cut the potatoes smaller, but otherwise I thought it was delicious.  The one change I made was to roast the radishes instead of slicing them and adding them raw to the salad.  The potatoes were my favorite part, but Ken liked the squash and radishes better.  It would be a great side for a harissa-marinated chicken!  The marinade could be used for a variety of vegetables, too.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Hazelnuts and Brown Butter

Since I have been on this soup kick lately, I've been trying to use it to my advantage by using up things that are already in my fridge.  This soup used up two heads of cauliflower approaching their last days as well as some leeks I've had for almost a month.  And, it was tasty too!

Ever since the Hazelnut Muffins (<3) I've been especially attracted to hazelnuts and brown butter.  They added a nice change of pace to this soup - I like to have a little crunch in there.

So when I came across the recipe for this Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Hazelnuts and Brown Butter, I was excited to try it.  A few notes: it would still be great with a lot less butter, or even none, and the excessive salt added when you boil the cauliflower pretty much eliminates the need for salt at the end.  White pepper adds an interesting flavor.  I followed the recipe exactly, and the resulting soup was a bit indulgent - a great addition to a holiday menu or for guests.  You don't need much to feel full.

This soup got me thinking - how many servings of vegetables are in a cup of soup?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Roasted Tomato Marinara

I first used this Roasted Tomato Marinara recipe at my mom's from her copy of the November 2010 issue of Cooking Light.  We loved it and were sad to have just now found it.  When I went to go find it on the website to make it myself at home, I found that the ingredient list was the same, but the directions seemed slightly different somehow.  None of the helpful tips were included.  As I looked at the page I noticed that the recipe had a horribly low rating, 2 or 2.5 stars, and when I checked the reviews, I saw that no one was having success with this recipe.

I feel bad saying this, but those people are dumb.  Really, they are.  Now, mostly I feel bad because I was that dumb once.  But I've since learned that YOU CAN CHANGE A RECIPE!  You don't have to follow it to the letter.  I've kept all the same ingredients and their proportions, with the exception of less water added, and I prefer to salt and pepper to taste.  What I'm doing differently that makes this, to me, a 5-star recipe, is all about the method.

Let's keep the ingredient list the same.  Now, the new steps:
1. Blanch and peel the tomatoes.  Then halve them and squeeze some of the seeds out and put them in a bowl.  Toss with the basil, oregano, sugar and olive oil as in the original directions.
2. Roast them at 450* until some of the edges start to darken.  You can take them out after 20 minutes, minimum, but longer is better (if you're able to watch them closely).
3. Smash them up if you like a chunky sauce, or puree them in the food processor for a smoother sauce.  I was doing double and triple batches, so I was able to use an immersion blender.
4. Follow the instructions for cooking the onions and reducing the wine as written in the original directions.
5. When you add the tomatoes, add half the recommended amount of water (about 1/3 cup for each batch).  Simmer for 15 minutes or longer until the sauce is a consistency you like.  Salt and pepper to taste instead of using the amounts provided.
6. Let the sauce cool - you can refrigerate it overnight if you want - and ladle 2-cup portions into labeled freezer bags.  We found it easiest to line a tall measuring cup with a bag and add a little extra, above the 2-cup mark, to compensate for the space taken up by the bag.

I made six times the recipe this way, yielding about 27 cups of sauce.  Sure, it took me three agonizing days - that's what 24 pounds of tomatoes will do to you - but it results in something delicious.  Those reviewers need to loosen up, take a step back, and adjust based on their needs.  I'm surprised I'm able to do this - I wasn't always - but it makes cooking infinitely easier on a person.

Marinara is a great staple to have on hand.  The first time we made it, we used some as a diavolo sauce, adding shrimp and crushed red pepper flakes.  You can use it in lasagna, eggplant rollatini, etc.  You can use it with spaghetti and meatballs.  There's a lot you can do with it, and as I use up my 27 cups this winter, I'll try to add some more ideas.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

CSA: October 2010

Week 22 (10/7/2010):
- 3 lbs heirloom tomatoes
- 8 winter squash (2 acorn, 2 delicata, 1 butternut, 1 buttercup, 2 ambercup??)
- 1 pumpkin
- 1 lb chard
- 1 lb baby bok choy
- 1 lb arugula
- 4 eggplants
- 4 peppers (did not take)
- 2 heads broccoli
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 2 bunches kale
- 1 bunch scallions
- 3 bunches carrots
- 2 quarts cherry tomatoes (took 1)
- 2 quarts snap beans
- 4 quarts sauce tomatoes
- sage, marjoram, lemongrass

Friday: I froze 4 eggplants (last week's).  (See this post on localkitchen if you're interested in freezing anything.)  My mom came back from Florida, so I made my family dinner - sweet dumpling squash with orange-scented quinoa stuffing.  I only had 2 dumpling squash so I used a kabocha as well.  The stuffing had cremini mushrooms in it, which I got from the market (and had been meaning to buy all summer, since the market ends in October).  I also made some basil pesto and froze it - my Nonna brought me a ton of basil from her sister's backyard.
Saturday: I made and froze even more basil pesto, ending up with a total of five 4-oz containers. (Note to self: I used pine nuts.)
Monday: I made myself a bowl of sauteed baby bok choy with rice for lunch.
Wednesday: I made a baked pasta dish with cubed kabocha squash, torn pieces of kale, and some broccoli florets.

Winter Squash including Delicata, Butternut, Acorn, and Buttercup

Week 23 (10/14/2010):
- 2 or 3 lbs tomatoes
- 1 lb arugula
- 1 lb chard
- 2 lbs baby bok choy
- 1 lb spicy mix
- 2 heads lettuce
- 4 peppers (to turn red)
- 1 head cauliflower
- 4 heads broccoli
- 3 bunches kale (Red Russian)
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 cabbage
- 1 bunch scallions
- 1 bunch radishes
- 1 bunch kohlrabi
- 4 winter squash (2 butternut, 2 sweet dumpling)
- 1 quart cherry tomatoes (did not take)
- 4 quarts sauce tomatoes
- lemongrass, chives
- 6 hot peppers
- 2 quarts snap beans
Thursday: I used an acorn squash, scallions and corn to make Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash.
Friday: I had lunch at my mom's - a salad with lettuce, carrots, heirloom tomato, red wine vinegar and olive oil.  We also broiled some slices of a delicious parmesan provolone cheesy bread I got at the market.  My mom and I made a new sauce recipe with our sauce tomatoes: Slow-Roasted Tomato Marinara from Nov. 2010 Cooking Light.  I later used it with some spaghetti, shrimp and crushed red pepper flakes for a diavolo-style pasta dish.
Saturday: For lunch I made Cashew Curry with green beans, cauliflower, and red onion.  For dinner I made Mushroom Bourguignon using cremini mushrooms I got at the Rutgers Gardens market (plus an onion) - it was delicious.
Tuesday: I made the curry again, using more cauliflower, green beans, red onion, and this time some carrot shreds as well.

Week 24 (10/21/2010):
- unlimited sauce tomatoes - we ended up with over 24 pounds (PYO)
- herbs & hot peppers & 1 quart cherry tomatoes (PYO - did not take)
- 2 lbs tomatoes
- 1 1/2 lbs arugula
- 1 lb baby bok choy
- 1 lb spicy mix
- 4 peppers (3 purple, 1 that might turn red!)
- 2 heads cauliflower
- 2 heads red lettuce
- 1 bunch scallions
- 2 bunches radishes
- 2 bunches turnips
- 1 green cabbage
- 2 bunches cilantro
Thursday: I roasted some old eggplants, tomatoes, and an onion for roasted eggplant soup.
Friday: I finished making the roasted eggplant soup.  (It was delicious!)
Saturday: I made a delicious winter squash soup (butternut and acorn squash, plus onion and sage) and some Gruyere croutons topped with some chopped sage and thyme with my friend Hilary!
Sunday: For breakfast I made apple pie oatmeal with a pink lady apple.  My mom and I made a lasagna with the Red Russian kale for dinner.  We also used the ripe sauce tomatoes to make more of the marinara sauce.
Monday: I used a butternut squash, a head of orange cauliflower, a leek and three carrots for a delicious soup.
Tuesday: I was feeling too lazy to cook, so I cut some broccoli for use (probably) tomorrow and I made croutons out of the rest of the whole-grain bread I bought last week at the market.

I made this teryaki stir fry with salmon, 
baby bok choy, purple peppers, onions, and 
carrots... but I can't remember when I did it!

Week 25 (10/28/2010):
- PYO herbs- lemongrass, sage, thyme
- 6 peppers (took 4 orange, donated 2 green)
- 1 lb arugula
- 2 heads broccoli
- 2 lbs spicy mix (donated)
- 8 heads lettuce
- 2 bunches collards
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 bunch scallions
- 2 bunches carrots
- 1 rutabaga
- 1 head cabbage
- 1 bunch turnips
- 1 fennel bulb
- 2 bunches celery 
Friday: I had a great salad for lunch with lettuce and tomato from our CSA, plus some of those croutons I made (I rubbed two sides of each with a cut garlic clove which made delicious garlic croutons).
Sunday: We finally got to do our Smoked Tomato Bisque project :) (and so used some of our unlimited sauce tomatoes and onions).  Later on, in a 5+ hour period of misery, we slaved away to turn almost all the rest of those tomatoes and the last of my local onions into Roasted Tomato Marinara (though we only made it to the end of the roasting part).
Monday: Made the roasted tomatoes into sauce!  I also had some lettuce on a sandwich.
Tuesday: Froze all the tomato sauce (about 27 cups - so glad to be done!) and had another sandwich with lettuce.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Smoked Tomato Bisque

It makes me very sad to say that many people will never try the Smoked Tomato Bisque from The Soup Peddler's Slow and Difficult Soups.  Either they don't know about it, or they just turn the page when they see the use of a smoker in the directions.  I, however, was determined.  First, I tried to find a way around the smoking part.  I thought I could broil the tomatoes instead - blacken them on the outside and blister the tomato paste as the recipe suggests.  But one day, I mentioned my plan to some friends.  "Oh, we have a smoker."  What?  Who seriously has a smoker?  Well, my friends live in a little cottage on a horse farm, and the guy who lived there before them left a whole bunch of odd stuff behind - including a smoker.  After several scheduling conflicts, Halloween turned out to be the perfect day to use some of the very last tomatoes for Smoked Tomato Bisque and to make some delicious grilled cheese sandwiches.

I should note that this recipe should not take you 4+ hours like it did for us.  Figure out what you're doing ahead of time.  Figure out what a smoker is, that you need charcoal AND wood chips.  Figure out where you can buy those things before driving around to several different stores.  Figure out whether you need newspaper to light it up and why you don't have any in the house.  Once you've done those things, the rest is easy.  Put the tomatoes in the smoker, then chop up the onions and celery.  Start caramelizing the onions when you think the skins of the tomatoes might start to split soon.  (You can just turn off the heat if you're done too early.)  When they're done, make soup.  You could be done in much less time than we were.

The consensus at the table was that the recipe was worth the time we spent on it.  Time goes by quicker when you're with friends anyway.  The smoky flavor of the soup was amazing - it tasted like fall to me.  It was pretty strong, though, so I couldn't eat too much of it.  The recipe says it serves 6, but we ate some and each kept at least a quart - I don't know how six people could eat all of that.

The soup was great, and I hope we can make it again next year when the tomatoes come back.  Seeing how easy to use the smoker was also inspired some more smoking project ideas - including some with meat.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Orange Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Soup

One of my most favorite blogs to read is Cannelle et Vanille.  The pictures are so inspiring and so are the unusual flavor combinations.  As someone who can eat wheat products, I don't make a lot of the gluten-free recipes on the site even though they sound amazing.  I did come across this Orange Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Soup recipe, posted on another site where she did an interview, and I was intrigued.  I didn't think I would ever see orange cauliflower, but one appeared to me at the market in a bin full of its white friends.  (Later, at the other market I go to, I saw a giant bright purple one too!  What a day.)  So I got it and made this soup a few days later.

Some things about the recipe are a little odd, so you kind of have to go with your instincts.  There are no measurements given for the cauliflower or butternut squash besides "one" and maybe a loose descriptor like "small" or "large," yet the recipe calls for 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of black pepper.  As I put the pepper in the pot I thought to myself, hmm, this seems like a lot of pepper.  Then I dumped it in.  Then I thought, "maybe I'll use a little less salt and add more later on."  So I used 1 tsp of salt.  I did add more later, but I strongly doubt it came out to a full teaspoon.  The black pepper ended up providing a noticeable kick, in a very good way.  The soup seemed fairly basic from the recipe, so I used a bouillon cube with herbs instead of just a regular one.

The recipe made about 2.5 quarts, a little more than the other soup recipes I have been making.  I suspect this may have been in part because of the giant head of cauliflower I used.  You could definitely make this with white cauliflower, but the orange complements the color of the butternut squash, so you won't get quite as orange a soup.  We ate these with Panetini crackers/toasts left over from the summer bruschetta, but the recipe recommends parmesan and herb crackers which sound delicious as well.  This was Ken's favorite soup so far, so I suspect I will be making more of it later this winter.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Apple Butter Muscovado Cake

I've been trying to use up things in my pantry.  This is going well, but also not.  I tend to replace at a faster rate than I use (unintentionally).  I finished off two different size containers of chicken broth and a jar of apple butter, but I also bought chickpeas, red lentils, yellow split peas, popcorn kernels, french lentils, and pearl couscous.  So space-wise, I'm not doing too well.  But hey, I'm trying.

I was flipping through Super Natural Cooking and I saw a recipe for Raspberry Curd Swirl Cake.  I glanced at a little box off to the side where Heidi suggested using other curd flavors (curd is also known as fruit butter) for different seasons and I immediately remembered that I had a small jar of apple butter from last summer that needed to be used.  Of course, I didn't need to bring a cake anywhere... but I decided to make it anyway.

This is a HEAVY cake.  It's full of butter and sugar.  Personally, I think the butter could be cut down with little consequence, but I'd have to try it out.  The top was nice and crusty the first day but softened up in the refrigerator.  I replaced half the sugar with muscovado sugar, partly because I just got 10 pounds of it in the mail, but mostly because I love the flavor and thought it would do well in a cake like this.  As I also mentioned, you could do any different type of fruit butter and it would be delicious.

One major problem I had was with the technique.  You're supposed to spread the apple butter in the middle of the cake, putting the second half of the batter on top.  This pretty much ruined my cake structurally - the top part came out of the pan while the bottom part did not.  (Fortunately, I was going for taste over presentation.)  You also swirl some on top of the cake.  What I would recommend in the future is putting ALL the apple butter on top of the cake, a bit at a time, and pushing it downward with a butter knife.  I would drag the knife longways, since you will cut slices crossways.  The bit of apple butter I swirled on top of the cake was enveloped by the batter anyway, so I wouldn't worry too much about hiding the fruit butter.

I may try to make this again, but I want to try cutting down the butter!  A version with citrus curd might be next on the list.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Toasts

My friend Hilary came over last Saturday afternoon to make Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Toasts.  We love winter squash and a discussion with her is what somehow made me start making soup all of a sudden.  The Gruyere "croutons" (we decided that they are really toasts) made this soup extra special.

This soup stood out to me a bit over some of the others I've been making.  One reason was the use of both butternut AND acorn squash - the acorn seemed to mute the excessive sweetness that butternut can have.  I thought the combination created an outstanding flavor.  This soup was also a bit thinner than the other soups I've made with squash - just a tiny bit thinner, but noticeably so, and somehow this made a big textural difference to me.  I finished the bowl pretty easily (with thicker soups I sometimes have to force myself through the texture, even if I'm still hungry).  The sage and thyme were perfect flavors for the soup and for the season, and carrying them over into the amazing little toasts tied it all together.  I LOVE Gruyere, so this might have been my favorite part, even more than the soup, but just a little.

This is a soup that I hope to come back to again!  Luckily I was able to stash a bit in the freezer, labeled with specific instructions to serve with Gruyere toasts.