Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

This is the first year I grew tomatillos.   I didn’t know what to expect, and just one plant went really wild, filling a quarter of my raised bed by the time it reached its peak.  It seemed as though they were never going to get large enough to harvest, but in the end, we picked all of them and ended up with about 3 1/2 lbs tomatillos.

This recipe is adapted from Gourmet Magazine’s November 1999 issue.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

3 pounds fresh tomatillos

3 fresh jalapenos (If you don’t like it hot remove the seeds and inner white part)

3-4 large cloves garlic, unpeeled

1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped (more if you like onion)

2-3 tsp coarse salt

1/2 cup fresh cilantro  *OPTIONAL* I have an aversion to cilantro and never add it in a recipe, but if you like cilantro, go for it!

Preheat broiler.

Remove tomatillo husks and rinse under warm water to remove the stickiness.

Broil chiles, garlic, and fresh tomatillos on top rack of oven on baking sheet or on broiler pan on rack.

Turn once until slightly charred about 7 or more minutes. Watch closely.

Peel garlic, pull off tops of chiles.  Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor.

Salsa can be made one day ahead and chilled, covered.

You may cut the recipe in half, use serrano chilis, or more jalapenos of you’d like.  I froze most of ours and I’m hoping it will keep well.  If you like green sauce, you will love this.  We really love it on chcken enchiladas or just as a salsa with corn chips.

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Giovanni Gets a HairCut

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Honestly, I think the little guy was overwhelmed by the whole ordeal.  It took a long time.  He had a ton of hair, and he wasn’t happy about the entire process.  I felt like I worked out with weights afterward.  He may weigh a mere 5 pounds, but the lightweight can put up a good fight.

Oh well, I saved some money, and even though he looks a little rough around the edges, he still seems to think pretty highly of himself.

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Still Canning (Canning Tomatoes)

I have about one more batch to can, and then I can focus on the winter gardens. 

I am planting fava beans,shallots, and garlic.  I’ll also put a cloche over the cold weather veggies and see how long I can keep them going.  So far, so good.

I have never canned tomatoes before.  I have to admit, I’m one of those people who has a bit of botulism fear.   I have always canned jams and fruits, but I steered clear of the dreaded canned garden tomato.  After a bit of research, I’ve found that as long as you add “bottled” lemon juice, all is well.  I’ve read a few blogs by people who do not add the bottled lemon juice, but I’m not willing to take the risk.

Mark decided to snap photos while I attempted my first batch.  It was late, I was tired, and I realized upon uploading that I had already released the “girls” for the evening.   I guess Mark is so used to watching me walk around with my bra straps hanging out that he failed to notice.  Oh well, the show must go on.

 

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Pear Upside Down Cake

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I’ve made this time several times over the years, and I think it is one of my top ten favorite cakes.  It has almond paste, pears, and dried cranberries.   I think this cake screams “Fall”, and I chose to bake it for my mother’s 65th birthday this year.

The almond paste is key. 

Recipe: Pear Upside-Down Cake

8 servings

Caramel fruit topping: 

– 3- tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
– ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
– ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
– 2 large, firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch slices
– Optional: ½ cup dried cranberries (I used dried orange flavored cranberries)

Almond cake:

 – 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking powder
– ¼ teaspoon salt
– ½ teaspoon ground ginger
– ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 1 can (8 ounces) almond paste
– ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
– ½ cup granulated sugar
– 2 large eggs, room temperature
– ¼ teaspoon almond extract
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– ¼ cup milk
– Sweetened whipped cream

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. To prepare the topping:  In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in brown sugar and ginger. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Pour caramel into a 9-inch ungreased cake pan, spreading with a spatula.

3.  Arrange the pears in concentric circles on top of caramel. Sprinkle with cranberries and set aside.

4. To prepare the cake:  Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream almond paste, butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 to 5 minutes. (A well-beaten mixture will help make the cake lighter.) Add eggs, one at a time, beating a minute after each addition. Beat in almond and vanilla extracts. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

5.  On low speed, add dry ingredients alternately with the milk just until incorporated. Don’t overmix at this stage. Spread batter evenly over topping.

6.  Bake on center oven rack 45 to 50 minutes, or until top springs back when lightly touched. (If top of the cake becomes too brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil.) Let cool on a rack 5 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the cake to release it. Place a round, flat serving plate over the pan and invert it. Slowly lift off cake pan. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving with whipped cream.

From “Caramel: Recipes for Deliciously Gooey Desserts” by Peggy Cullen. 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY MA!

Intimate Harvest Dinner (4 course menu)

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Every so often, I like to try out a new menu.   I decided since fall was upon us, I’d try a menu from my new cookbook.  I revised many of the recipes, and recorded them below.

Sean and Olivia joined Mark and I for a quiet evening and four course dinner for four.  

MENU

Butternut Squash Soup w/ Maple Corn Drop Biscuits

Crab Cakes with Plum “Vinaigrette”

Raspberry Walnut Salad with Oregonzola

Coconut tart

 
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Butternut Squash Soup

2 Tbsp butter

small onion, chopped

1/4 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp curry powder

2 Tbsp flour

1 c quality chicken stock

1 cup apple juice (I use cider)

1/2 lb butternut squash, peeled seeded and cut in 1 in.pieces

1/2 c heavy cream

salt and white pepper, to taste

1 Tbsp Apple Jack Brandy

 for garnish:

8 thin wedges of Golden Ddelicious apple

1 Tbsp walnut oil

1 Tbsp finely chopped walnuts

In lg. saucepan, melt butter on med heat.  Add onion and pinch of Kosher salt, cook until translucent–not brown.  Add thyme and curry, cook one minute longer.  Sprinkle flour over onion mixture, whisk till smooth.  Cook 3 minutes. Slowly, add stock and apple juice, then squash.  Raise heat to high and bring to boil.   Cook until squash is very tender, 20-30 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool briefly.

Transfer mixture to blender ( i use a stick blender) in small batches–no more than half full.  YOUR   MIXTURE CAN BLOW UP IF YOU FILL TOO HIGH AND START ON HIGH SPPED!  I take out the little plastic/glass round on top of the lid and cover with towels for better prevention of splattering hot liquid all over myself.  Hold your lid on tightly with your towel or pot holder, then turn blender on LOW and start blending, increase speed bit by pit until pureed. Strain soup through a sieve.

Return soup to heat.  Add cream and taste to correct the seasonings.   Just before serving, whisk in apple brandy.  To serve, ladle into bowls, place two thin apple slices on top of each serving, cover with chopped walnuts and swirl a bit of the walnut oil over top.

Makes about 4 cups.

REVIEWS ON SOUP:

I’m not a huge fan of butternut squash soup, but I liked this one.  It was rich, warm, and creamy.

I think Sean had seconds.  Olivia, Mark, and Sean all enjoyed the soup. 

 
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MAPLE CORN DROP BISCUITS

Ingredients:
1 cup ground yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup maple syrup (use grade B if you can)
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut up

Directions:
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Put cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Stir to mix well.

Measure maple syrup in a glass cup measure. Add milk to the 2/3 cup mark.

Add butter to the flour mixture and cut in with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingers, until mixture looks like fine granules.

Add the milk mixture and stir with a fork until a very soft dough forms.

Drop 1/4 cupfuls of dough 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 12 to 14 minutes, until pale golden brown. Cool, loosely covered with a dish towel, on a wire rack.

 NOTE: Biscuits are best served hot out of the oven with fresh butter!  Mmmm.  We all enjoyed these.

They are biscuits, so they are a crumbly.  Just looking at the photo makes me want to bake another batch today!

 
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CRAB CAKES w/ PLUM VINAIGRETTE

2 cups fine dry white bread crumbs (fresh made preferred)

1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning, divided

1 lb crab meat (Dungeness if you can get it)

6 Tbsp red bell pepper,finely chopped

6 Tbsp yellow bell pepper, finely chopped

1/2 small onion, finely minced

2 Tbsp freshly minced parsley

2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

1-2 dashes tobasco sauce

1/2 c mayonnaise

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

 

Vinaigrette:

1cup plum sauce (Asian section of market)

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

1-2 dash Tobasco sauce

 

2-4 Tbsp butter to fry crab cakes (I worked in two batches with 2 Tbso each)

2 scallions thinly sliced, on diagonal for garnish

Combine bread crumbs and 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning in wide shallow bowl. Set aside.

Flake crab into a lg bowl.  Measure 2 Tbsp each of red and yellow bell peppers, set aside.  Add the remaining peppers to the crab with the onion, parsley, lemon juice, tobasco, mayonnaise, salt, and the remaining 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning: Stir to combine.

Divide crab mixture into 8 equal portions.  Roll each portion into a ball.  Roll balls in seasoned bread crumbs, then flatten into 1/2″ thick disks.  Cover with plastic wrap and Chill well.  Best to refrigerate these now for several hours.  I made them up the night before. 

For vinaigrette, stir together the plum sauce, rice vinegar, and tobasco.  Set aside.

Just before serving, lin lg skillet over medium heat, melt butter until it sizzles.  Gently add crab cakes.  Saute until golden on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side.  Serve hot in a bit of plum vinaigrette (I recommend you allow your guests to spoon out their own–some people prefer their crab cakes without a sauce.)  Sprinkle with the reserved red and yellow bell peppers and the sliced scallions.

Serves 4

REVIEWS: I liked a bit of the plum vinaigrette, but it is overwhelming, so a little goes a long way.  Olivia and Sean said it wasn’t necessary.  Mark ate his crab cakes so fast, I don’t know if he noticed 🙂  I’ll make these again.

 

I served a mixed lettuce salad with a walnut oil and raspberry vinaigrette and red grapes. I garnished with carmelized walnuts. I served crumbled  Oregonzola on the side–Mark and Olivia didn’t care for the “stinky” cheese.  Sean ate it, and I still have the leftovers in my fridge, and will snack on it with Italian bread and mosto cotto.

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COCONUT TART

The consensus on this tart–VERY SWEET!  That said, if you are having more guests, and you cut this into slivers, it tastes great!  Olivia compared it to a Mounds candy bar.  I agree.  Mark and Olivia ate theirs up, I ate half of mine (I would have preferred a sliver), and Sean took a bite or two and said, “Sorry, mom, too sweet”.  

The rich dark chocolate pastry is very good.  Sean and I think I could have left out the strawberry preserves–Mark and Olivia liked it. 

Pastry:

1 cup flour

1/3 c cocoa powder

pinch of salt

9 Tbsp butter, softened

3 Tbsp sugar

1 egg, beaten

Sift together, cocoa powder and salt.  Set aside.  Using a mixer, or by hand, cream butter and sugar until lightly fluffy–about 3 minutes.

Add flour mixture, stir until combined.  Add half of egg, stir until incorporated into chocolate mixture.  Then, add remaining half, stir until incorporated.  Roll into a ball, and flatten into a disk.  wrap tightly and refirgerate at least 30 minutes or overnight (I left mine overnight with the crab cakes).

allow pastry disk to stand at room temperature for a t least 5 minutes before working.  On lightly floured surface (I would say moderate amount not light), knead to softenn slightly. Dough will be sticky.  Roll between two sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap to a diamter of about 10″.  remove top sheet of wrap.  Using bottom sheet, invert onto tart pan and gently peel away plstic wrap.  gently press pastry into corners and sides of pan (If not using a glass tart, use a removable bottom tart pan). Trim top edge with rolling pin.  Place pastry pan on a larger tray and chill 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line pastry shell with parchment cartouche and weight down with dried beans or pie weights.  Press weights or beans out to edge to hold sides up.   Bake about 10 minutes, remove pie weights or beans and parchment, then bake about 4-5 minutes more until bottom of pastry looks dry. Cool on a rack.

FOR FILLING:

6 Tbsp strawberry jam (or seedless raspberry)

14 oz shredded coconut

1 (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp coconut extract (if you don’t have coconut extract try adding an extra 1/2 tsp vanilla instead)

Spread jam evenly over the bottom of pastry shell.  Stir together the coconut, condensed milk, and extracts.  Spread evenly over jam.  Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on rack (If you want it more golden go a few more minutes.

Cut into small wedges and serve with fanned strawberries.

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As sweet as the tart is, I still think it would work well as a side dessert on a Thanksgiving or Christmas buffet.  Slice super thin 🙂

Basic Marinara Sauce (Made with Fresh Garden Tomatoes)

Over the past few months,I have filled my wheel barrel with vegetables more times than I can count.

My patience with the tomatoes proved fruitful.  I still have boxes of tomatoes in the garage waiting to be canned, frozen, or cooked down into more marinara sauce.

You’ve probably noticed I’ve been absent from my blog.  I didn’t want to waste a thing from the gardens.  I’ve been freezing, canning, dehydrating, cooking, and baking.

I started with a small batch of tomatoes, and I made some marinara to freeze.

First I rinse the tomatoes.  I never use chemicals in the garden, so the rinsing is simply to remove loose dust.

I then cut a small x-slit in the bottom of the tomatoes.

Next, I drop them–approx. 6-8 at a time— into boiling water.  I replace the lid and leave in for about 2-3 minutes.  I work in batches.

I quickly remove the tomatoes and drop them into a large bowl filled with water and ice cubes.  The skins will slip right off with a bit of a rubbing, and then I plop the peeled tomatoes into the food processor.  You may chop them if you do not have a food processor.  Some people simply throw them in the pan and allow to cook down and break up with a wooden spoon–this will give you a chunky sauce.

Now I have my smoothly chopped tomatoes ready to cook down.  Some people choose to remove the seeds with a seive, but Mark and I don’t mind them.  I have tried it both ways, and really don’t notice the bitterness some people do.

I toss a few minced cloves of garlic and some crushed red pepper flakes (opt) into about 1/4 cup heated of olive oil. 

Add the tomatoes and bring to a gentle boil.  Simmer for about 45 minutes.  Toss in some fresh chopped basil and any other seasonings.  You may also add salt and a little sugar if you like.  I keep it simple in order to make it work later in a variety of dishes.

Freeze in 2 cup containers.

This batch made about 8 cups of marinara sauce. 

I serve it re-heated over cooked pasta and top with fresh grated parmesan reggiano, over chicken parmesan, use it as a soup base for minestrone or other soups, you can add cream for creamy tomato soup, add oregano and a bit of sugar for pizza sauce, and a variety of  other recipes–be creative.  Don’t forget a glass of vino!

NOTE: Italian plum tomatoes are best for sauces, but I use plum mixed with my Early Girls.  My plum varieties include: Juliet and Mama Mia’s.

 

Apple Cider Glazed Pork Chops

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 Alrighty then, I’m just going to say it outright from the get -go…I was never a lover of the pork chop.

Why?  Because unless they’re breaded and southern fried in loads of butter and oil, they’re just too darn dry for my taste.

Needless to say, it was with a bit of trepidation that I decided to cook the following recipe.  Sure, I’ve tried the brining and rubs and so on, but I still wasn’t convinced I could create a tasty pork chop.  I’ve been to some perty fancy restaurants in my life, and my partner loves him a good pork chop.  Every time he orders a pork chop he assumes this is the one recipe I’ll fall in love with,

“Come on, just try a bite!”,

and then I’ll make pork chops for dinner every night and he’ll live happily ever after.  

I’ve never tasted a pork chop–not even the $50 pork chop Mark ordered at a 4 star restaurant in Lake Louise— that didn’t leave me chewing a bit longer than I cared to.

Throwing caution to the wind, I opened up my new cookbook, and got started.

I will admit—and y’all know I’ve admitted I’m a picky pork chop eatin’ kinda gal— that although this wasn’t a melt in your mouth southern fried pork chop, it was pretty darn close! I was surprised.

It does require a bit more time than dusting in flour, soaking in melted butter, and frying in oil.

Okay, it requires a lot more time. But, if you’re a pork chop lover, this is your pork chop dinner.

You really must serve this with garlic mashed potatoes, and why not bake a few apples with real maple syrup and pecans for dessert?  Better yet?  Apple Cider Ice Cream–which is recommended in this wonderful cookbook,

“Cooking Class”, by Carol Dearth.  Check out the excellent reviews on Amazon.

 Click below for the recipe and more photos…

 

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A Few of My Favorite Things

I’m starting with products I believe will last a long time (or they should!).

They are not a chef’s “top of the line”–but they are my top of the line.

Cooking is a hobby and a passion for me.  I don’t spend money on designer clothes, concerts, theaters, gyms, etc.  I spend it on kitchen items and food.

ABOVE: Cuisinart $149 at Costco

I bought a KitchenAid Food Processor ($279) a year and a half ago, but the the multipurpose blade separated from the white stem during use.  Replacement blade?  $40. Also, the bowl tends to crack easily from regular use–another $40.  I wrote the company and never heard back.  I guess I should have bought the Cuisinart to begin with.  Lesson learned.

I use my food processor almost everyday.  As a matter of fact, this came with an order slip to pick up another bowl for $16.  I believe I will, as often I’m washing to re-use.  Food processors make my cooking life easier.  If I’m chopping veggies by hand, I can be mixing pastry or pureeing in the processor.  It’s a life saver for people who have vegetable gardens.   Fast marinara and pesto too!

ABOVE: KitchenAid Mixer

I may not care for their food processors, but KitchenAid makes a great mixer!  Again, I bought this at Costco.  I can’t remember the exact cost, but I believe it was around $249.  One of my very favorite Christmas presents.  I use it all of the time!  No more little beaters to deal with.  I always burned those little motors out anyway.  Once I got used to adjusting the settings on a professional mixer (“mix on medium” in a regular recipe–does not equal medium on this appliance), it was a breeze to use.

Oh, and a note on the professional mixer:  My mother bought one too, and she called one day to say she was mixing a gluten free bread mix and beating at high (per the directions).  She said it was super loud and beating the dough to death.   Needless to say, her bread died, and she learned the hard way that “High” on the professional is actually more like Medium (4) on this mixer.

ABOVE: Zyliss Can Opener

I love this gadget!  I paid $14.99 at Macy’s.  I can’t stand electric openers, and I prefer the hand crank because certain brands hurt my hand or don’t cut the lid evenly without repeated tries.  This one does an excellent job and it has a little magnet attachment to help pull up the lid–just like the electric openers.

ABOVE:  Le Creuset Oval 8 qt French Oven

I love my Le Creuset.  I’ve collected used pieces from thrift stores and one time I even raced to the city when I was the first person to email a guy and be added to his list for a set of Le Creuset on Craig’s List.   Yes, I entered a strange man’s home alone to pick up a set of black enamel on cast iron Le Creuset.  I’m sick, I know.

Imagine my surprise (and Mark’s jaw dropping as I screamed in public!) when I saw this at Costco.  I don’t know if they have a  deal with Costco or what, but you cannot find 8 qt Le Creuset at the Le Ceuset shop.  Maybe they make them for Costco.  I paid $199–a steal when you compare the cost to a 7.5 qt for $270 and a 9 qt for $300.  These pans will last my life time, and probably be in good enough condition to pass down to my son.   They are high quality enamel cast iron.

E. Guittard Chocolate – Semisweet Dark Chocolate Wafers for Baking and Eating, 61% Cocoa

These make a great flourless chocolate torte!  I buy them at World Market Cost Plus  or PCC. for around $9-13 a box.  I only use them in the good stuff, and it’s all good 🙂

 

ZEVIA!

I am not a soda pop person.  Pop has always made me feel kind of tired and out of sorts.  I avoided drinking it for years.  When my friend (Thanks Deb!) shared this with us at a party this summer, Mark really loved it, so he gave me a sip.  Mmmm!  I like to have a little of the Natural Twist  flavor with my popcorn.  I tried the cola, but the caffiene is a bit too much for me (I’m a caffiene light weight).   Mark likes every flavor.  I still rarely drink it, but for folks who have a hard time giving up the unhealthy soder pops, I think this is worth a try.  Why is it on my list of favorites?  I nag and whine about soda pop to my loved ones, and I finally found one that doesn’t scare the ba-jeebers out of me when they drink it.

The great thing about Zevia is that it doesn’t mess with my sugar levels.  The company claims it has no effect on blood sugar levels–ranks zero on the glycemic index.  It is also gluten and dairy free.  Approx. $5.99 six-pack (get it on sale!)

PS I use stevia sweetener in my tea!

One more for now:

I love these Mario Batali 5-Piece Measuring Prep Bowl Sets!  I have two sets –the one in Persimmon orange (above) and a set in Pesto green.  The first set was a gift from my friend Liz (Thanks Liz!), and the second was a find at GoodWill.  They are perfect for prepping and measuring foods for cooking and baking.

You can get them here at Amazon.com for about $9.99 set.

I have lots of favorite things, and I’m always hunting around online for other people’s ‘favorite” things lists.  if you have any favorites, please let me know!