Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lamb Meatballs with Rhubarb Sauce


Here we are, about to hurl ourselves into fall tomorrow, and I am giving you a recipe for a spring dish. What?!

Can I tell you a secret?  I made this recipe about two months ago, and I am just getting around to posting it. This is what happens when you spend August traveling and getting ready for the start of school. And then you spend the opening of September launching that school year. No matter how prepared you think you are, you're not prepared. 


September. Post Labor Day. Full on ready for pumpkin lattes and wool sweaters and tart apples. And it appears I was cooking with rhubarb. I was not. (But I was. Back in July (which for many places might feel a bit late, but in California, rhubarb does seem to have a long season)).


I liked these little meat balls. There's not an ounce of bread in them, so if you're all up in the Paleo diet, these will do you just fine. If you're like me, however, and all up into the feeling of laziness and don't want to go out and buy bread, you're golden. 

And this sauce was spectacular. Tess Ward in her book, The Naked Cookbook, encourages a sweet sauce. However, I halved the amount of date syrup (the recipe calls for 1/4 cup. I used 1/8). I'll admit, 1/8 of a cup did the trick for me because all that sour, distinctively tangy taste of rhubarb came through. Start with 1/8 of a cup. Add more if you need it.


Alright, friends, I cannot promise upcoming autumnal recipes (I still have a one or two left in my hopper filled with summer food), but I can promise you that I will be indulging in my own pumpkin lattes and watching October baseball and wearing boots soon enough. 

Cannot wait.



Lamb Meatballs with Rhubarb Sauce


Yield:
4 Servings

Ingredients:
For the Meatballs
1 lb ounces (16 ounces) lean ground lamb
1 onion, very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 small egg, beaten
1 Tbsp coconut oil (or oil of your choice)

For the Rhubarb Sauce

1 cup chicken stock, divided
10 ounces rhubarb, cut into 3-inch lengths
4 cardamom pods, crushed
1/8 cup date syrup
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Sea salt
1 cup water

For serving
Steamed rice (of your choice)
1/3 cup pistachios, toasted and chopped
Handful of cilantro leaves
1 lemon

Instructions:
1. To make the meatballs: Mix the lamb, onion, garlic, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin, salt and pepper in a bowl. Then mix in the egg. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Then shape the mixture into about 20 meatballs.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Fry the meatballs in batches, about 5 at a time, until browned on all sides and cooked almost through to the middle. Set aside and keep warm. Drain the fat into a bowl.


3.  To make the sauce: Return the pan to the heat and deglaze with 1/2 of the stock. Add the rhubarb, cardamom, date syrup, cumin, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Stir in the remaining stock and the water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes until the rhubarb has broken down fully. Then remove the lid and reduce the sauce until it thickens, about 5-10 minutes.


4. Serve the meatballs with the sauce and some steamed rice. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and cilantro leaves. (I actually stirred the pistachios and cilantro into the rice for a little pilaf effect). Squeeze a little lemon on top. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Crispy Chickpea and Harissa Burger


On my Foodie bucket list is the ability to make an amazing veggie burger. 

As I have mentioned ad nauseam, I used to be a vegetarian. For a decade, people. And it was roasted Thanksgiving turkey that pushed me over the edge. And since then, I have been in free fall. That said, I do still love a great veggie burger. 

Yet, I cannot seem to make them on my own properly.


Enter in Anna Jones's A Modern Way to Cook, a vegetarian cookbook I have been looking forward to obtaining, as I love her other cookbook, A Modern Way to Eat, so very much.  This latest output from Jones begins with the premise that we can all eat healthier no matter the time limitation we may find in the kitchen. From mere minutes to what she calls "investment cooking," this cookbook is delightfully arranged by the amount of time it takes to cook a meal. You might have only 20 minutes or a splurge-worthy 45 minutes, but no matter the time, you can get a salad or a grain bowl or even some moussaka on the table. 


The photographs by Matt Russell are spare meditations on Jones's cooking, and her recipes are inviting, chatty, and gentle. She's like a friend in the kitchen, nudging you to try something new, even if you're not very familiar with an ingredient or a cooking method.

This cookbook lured me in with its satisfying layout and lovely photographs; however, it's not the cookbook for everyone. Jones has embraced zucchini slivers as "noodles" or cauliflower as "rice"--both of which are quite trendy in healthy cooking right now.  And she presents such beautiful recipes as "Zucchini Noodles with Pistachio, Green Herbs, and Ricotta" and "Celery Root, Bay Leaf, and Mushroom Ragu" and "Blood Orange and Double Chocolate Rye Muffins." 

Okay, those sound good. Are you on board?


But here's my most mighty of struggles: Jones's crispy chickpea burgers did not hit the spot. 

I found this recipe to be too, well, much. The burgers were too sweet; the texture too mushy; the number of required dishes, pots and pans too many (I know, Jones calls for an immersion blender, but I do not have one, and that meant an extra dish of the food processor). While the recipe produced a pretty patty, I was disappointed. 

Now, don't get me wrong, this disappointment may fall entirely on my head. Perhaps I did not drain enough water off of the peas or I could have cooked the quinoa more. And I know my palate: I didn't really need the dates in the veggie burger. (I am full well aware that the dates were to offset the heat of the harissa, but I like me some heat, so I could have left them aside.) And I did leave out the pomegranate molasses, because that's too sweet for me. 

That said, I did love the harissa, and I loved the tomato relish. So simple, and certainly a condiment worth making for any burger--veggie or otherwise--that you might make.

However, my quest for the perfect veggie burger continues. 





Despite my continued quest, don't let it stop you from nabbing this lovely cookbook. If you are interested in vegetarian, healthy eating, this is the cookbook for you. Now I just need to go make those rye muffins.




I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Crispy Chickpea and Harissa Burger


Yield:
6 Servings

Ingredients:
For the burgers:
7 ounces cooked quinoa (3.5 ounces uncooked)
7 ounces frozen peas
1 (15 ounce) can of chickpeas
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
4 medjool dates (optional)
a large bunch of parsley
1 Tbsp harissa
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
olive or coconut oil
1 3/4 ounce sesame seeds

For the relish:
1 red onion 
7 ounces cherry tomatoes
a good drizzle of pomegranate molasses (optional)
a bunch of cilantro

To serve:
6 burger buns
hummus
salad greens

Instructions:
1. Boil some water. 

2.  If you need to cook your quinoa, start by toasting it in a pan until you can hear it pop, as this gives it more flavor. Add the quinoa to a large pan, and then add twice the amount of boiling water to the pan. Cook until all of the water has been absorbed.

3.  Put the frozen peas in a heatproof bowl, cover them with boiling water, and leave for 10 minutes.

4. Put the drained chickpeas into a frying pan with cumin, coriander, and smoke paprika, and toast until all of the moisture is gone, and the chickpeas are starting to pop.

5. Drain the peas very well and put them into a food processor. Add half of the chickpeas and half the cooked quinoa, then add the dates (optional), parsley, harissa, and mustard.  Blend until everything is combined, and then add to a clean bowl. Stir in the rest of the chickpeas and quinoa and mix well.

6. Divide the mixture into six equal portions, and shape each into a thin burger. Refrigerate them for 15-20 minutes. 

7.  To make the relish, finely slice the onion and fry in oil over very high heat for 8-10 minutes, until soft and sweet. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes, until they have broken down, then add the pomegranate molasses. Take off the heat and transfer to a bowl, then coarsely chop the cilantro and mix in.

8.  While the relish is cooking, cook the burgers. Heat a frying pan over medium heat (you can cook them in batches or have two pans going at once). Add a little olive oil or coconut oil and fry the burgers on each side for 5 minutes, until crisp and warmed through. Once they are done, sprinkle both sides with sesame seeds and cook for another minute on each side to toast. 

9.  Toast the buns in a dry pan on the oven, or toss them in the oven for a minute or two (or do what I did: throw them in the toaster); then layer the burgers with hummus, some tomato relish, and the salad greens.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Peach Butter


People, we're at the tail end of a fabulous peach season, so if you have oodles of peaches left over and you're watching them rot, it's time to get canning. Let's preserve those peaches.


In what might be the simplest recipe known to the world, with the shortest list of ingredients, I give you Marisa McClellan's peach butter from her book, Food in Jars.  What might surprise you is the sheer amount of peaches you need for three little jars of sugary, concentrated peach goodness. 

Behold: It's a pound of peaches in each jar! 

However, a little bit of this peach butter goes a long way.


Do you know this book, Epitaph for a Peachby David Mas Masumoto? If you don't, go gander at it right now (or gander at the article in the LA Times from the 80s that started it all). Both article and book are lovely meditations on organic fruit farming in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Valuing flavor over shelf life, Masumoto found himself with a peach varietal (Suncrest) that was not always be able to stand up to market pressures. 


So he started meditating on two important questions:
  • What do we lose if all we look for in a peach is whether or not it can get to market across the country? 
  • But what happens if we cannot get our beautiful, flavorful peaches into the hands of a consumer--if no body's buying them, and we cannot make a living? 
Luckily for Masumoto, his peaches were snatched up by Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, but these two questions seem central to small farmers everywhere, even now.


Flash forward three decades, and both PBS and NPR did lovely pieces on how Masumoto is handing off the farm to his daughter, who recognized the power of place, of staking one's claim where one has been historically denied, of claiming what is one's own. These are the success stories, the celebrations of small farming. Yet for all the farm-to-table, slow food, small farming movements, this is still hard, often unrecognized, unrewarded work.


Let's come back to the recipe, where you can truly embrace the taste of the peach.

This butter is simple. Which is what it should be to celebrate great peaches. So go ahead, spend a little more, buy the best (preferably organic) peaches that you can. And you will need a lot of them. But this will be worth it, I promise.


Serious business. This butter is something worth savoring as part of a cheese plate, spread over whole-wheat biscuits, swirled in oatmeal, or (let's admit it) on its own with a spoon. Because this can easily be made into large batches (try doubling or tripling the quantities), you just might want to do so. 

Before this summer's peaches are gone.





Peach Butter

Adapted from Marisa McClellan's Food in Jars


Yield:
3 (1/2-pint) jars

Ingredients:
3 pounds yellow, freestone (or non-cling) peaches (about 9-10 peaches)
2/3 cup to 2 cups granulated sugar, as needed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Instructions:
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits. Arrange them cut side down in a single layer in a non-reactive baking dish (glass or ceramic is best). Roast for 30 minutes, until the skins are loose.

2. Remove the baking dish from the oven and remove the skins from the peach halves and discard. Using a fork or a pastry cutter, mash the softened peaches in the baking dish. Reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees. Return the mashed peaches to the oven and bake for another 2-3 hours, checking often to stir and to prevent burning, until all the wateriness is gone and they are dark in color.

3. When the peaches have broken down sufficiently, taste the fruit and stir in 2/3 cup sugar. Taste and add more sugar to your preference. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.

4.  McClellan says that because this makes such a small amount, she often skips canning it fully and chooses to eat is right away, storing the jars in the refrigerator; however, if you're ready to can prepare the boiling water and 3 half-pint jars and lids (See below: To Sterilize the Jars).

5. Ladle the jam into the prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling bath for 10 minutes (See below: To Seal the Jars). This butter is fantastic with whole-wheat biscuits, swirled in oatmeal, or (let's admit it) on its own with a spoon.



To Sterilize the Jars:
1.  If you're starting with brand new jars, remove the lids and rings; if you're using older jars, check the rims to ensure there are no chips or cracks.

2.  Put the lids in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring them to a simmer on the back of the stove.

3.  Using a canning rack, lower the jars into a large pot filled with enough water to cover the jars generously. Bring the water to a boil.

4.  While the water in the canning pot comes to a boil, prepare the peach butter (or whatever product you are making).

5.  When the recipe is complete, remove the jars from the canning pot (pouring the water back into the pot as you remove the jars).  Set them on a clean towel on the counter.  Remove the lids and set them on the clean towel.

To Seal the Jars:
1.  Carefully fill the jars with the butter (or any other product). Leave about 1/2 inch headspace (the room between the surface of the product and the top of the jar).

2.  Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel.

3.  Apply the lids and screw the bands on the jars to hold the lids down during processing. Tighten the bands with the tips of  your fingers so that they are not overly tight.

4.  Carefully lower the filled jars into the canning pot and return the water to a boil.

5.  Once the water is at a rolling boil, start your timer. The length of processing time varies for each recipe; for the butter, cook for 10 minutes at a rolling boil.

6.  When the timer goes off, remove the jars from the water. Place them back on the towel-lined counter top, and allow them to cool. The jar lids should "ping" soon after they've been removed from the pot (the pinging is the sound of the vacuum seals forming by sucking the lid down).

7.  After the jars have cooled for 24 hours, you can remove the bands and check the seals by grasping the edges of the jar and lifting the jar about an inch or two off the countertop. The lid should hold in place.


8. Store the jars with good seals in a cool, dark place. And jars with bad seals can still be used, just do so within two weeks and with refrigeration.



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Strawberry Vanilla Jam


Quick.  Before strawberry season is officially over--and let's not kid ourselves, we're getting close-- make oodles of this jam.


I have spoken before about the importance of canning in my family and about my own initial forays into this world of setting aside food for later months. For me, canning and jam making and food preserving are connections back to my own grandmother and aunts.

I know I am neither alone nor original in this connection, and these days it's quite trendy to preserve, ferment, and cure one's food. And while I am fully ensconced in this trend, I hope and want for this to be much more lasting than skinny jeans, bubble necklaces, and jeans tucked into knee high boots. (Although I admit that one of these trends is one I am hoping will come back.  I'll let you try to determine which one.)


Canning takes commitment, or at least a full afternoon. But this particular jam really is worth it. And while I cannot necessarily say that I have any of this left for the winter months (it's true, I have either eaten or given away the full batch), I do think this is one recipe worth making again. And again. And, why not? Again.


A few notes:
  • I got really busy, and I accidentally let the strawberries sit in the fridge for three days with the vanilla. This is no longer accidental in the recipe. It is now mandatory, because the extra vanilla-y flavor is transcendent.
  • I had rhubarb (I know, it's no longer rhubarb season, but I had some leftover and, believe it or not, I saw some in the supermarket yesterday long after I had added it to this jam (not necessarily a vote in its favor)). So I threw some in. Take it or leave it--it doesn't matter. 

  • My recipe did not make as much as Marissa McClellan promised. I would like to hold this against her, because I would have liked 7,642 jars of this. Instead, I got three jars. Three. That's it. And I guess I have to hold the strawberries responsible. Not Marissa. (By the way, she only promises four jars.)
  • Sweet lord. Sweet, sweet lord. She suggests that this is "toe-curlingly good." She does not lie.


Okay, people. That's all I've got. Go curl your toes. Just one last time before the strawberries are all gone.


(Oh, P.S. The recipe for these miniature scones is forthcoming. Stay tuned...)



Strawberry Vanilla Jam


Yield:
4 (1-pint) jars

Ingredients:
8 cups hulled and chopped ripe strawberries (about 2 dry quarts) (I used a combination of strawberries and rhubarb)
5 cups granulated sugar, divided
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 (3-ounce) packets of liquid pectin

Instructions:
1.  In a nonreactive bowl, combine the strawberries with 1 cup of the sugar and the vanilla bean seeds and pods. Let the mixture sit at room temperature until the sugar begins to pull the liquid out of the berries, about 15-30 minutes. Then cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, but ideally overnight, or even for three days (which is what I did, and I stand by it). 

2.  When you are ready to make the jam, prepare the boiling water and 4 pint jars and lids (See below: To Sterilize the Jars).

3.  Remove the macerated strawberries from the refrigerator and pour everything into a large, nonreactive pot. Add the remaining 4 cups of sugar and lemon zest and juice. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat, and cook on high heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly until it takes on a thick, syrupy consistency. 

4.  Remove the vanilla bean pods from the mixture. Transfer about 1/3 of the mixture to a blender and puree. Return the pureed fruit to the pot.

5.  Add the pectin to the fruit mixture and bring to a rolling boil. (Strawberries don't have a lot of pectin, so you need to add a substantial amount of pectin.) Let the jam boil vigorously until it reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit (105 degrees Celsius) on a candy thermometer and remains at that temperature for 2 minutes.

6.  Remove the pot from the heat and ladle the jam into the prepared jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling bath for 10 minutes (See below: To Seal the Jars).   This jam is fantastic with scones, atop oatmeal, and tucked into strawberry shortcake. But one might even consider using it in cocktails. I don't judge.


To Sterilize the Jars:
1.  If you're starting with brand new jars, remove the lids and rings; if you're using older jars, check the rims to ensure there are no chips or cracks.

2.  Put the lids in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring them to a simmer on the back of the stove.

3.  Using a canning rack, lower the jars into a large pot filled with enough water to cover the jars generously. Bring the water to a boil.

4.  While the water in the canning pot comes to a boil, prepare the strawberry jam (or whatever product you are making).

5.  When the recipe is complete, remove the jars from the canning pot (pouring the water back into the pot as you remove the jars).  Set them on a clean towel on the counter.  Remove the lids and set them on the clean towel.

To Seal the Jars:
1.  Carefully fill the jars with the jam (or any other product). Leave about 1/2 inch headspace (the room between the surface of the product and the top of the jar).

2.  Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel.

3.  Apply the lids and screw the bands on the jars to hold the lids down during processing. Tighten the bands with the tips of  your fingers so that they are not overly tight.

4.  Carefully lower the filled jars into the canning pot and return the water to a boil.

5.  Once the water is at a rolling boil, start your timer. The length of processing time varies for each recipe; for the jam, cook for 10 minutes at a rolling boil.

6.  When the timer goes off, remove the jars from the water. Place them back on the towel-lined counter top, and allow them to cool. The jar lids should "ping" soon after they've been removed from the pot (the pinging is the sound of the vacuum seals forming by sucking the lid down).

7.  After the jars have cooled for 24 hours, you can remove the bands and check the seals by grasping the edges of the jar and lifting the jar about an inch or two off the countertop. The lid should hold in place.


8. Store the jars with good seals in a cool, dark place. And jars with bad seals can still be used, just do so within two weeks and with refrigeration.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Deviled Eggs Two Ways: Mustard-Cornichon and Smoky-Toasted-Rosemary


You know, I would like to say that I am a sophisticated urbanite who does not hanker for the staples of her childhood potlucks. However, I would be lying.

Yet such hankerings do not include Jell-o molds. Nope. (To be clear, I have nothing against the Jell-o set. I love my aunts dearly.)


Kristin Donnelly of Eat Better, Drink Better has recently launched a new cookbook that drags the potlucks of yore into the modern age. Gone are the green bean and condensed (of course) cream-of-mushroom soup casseroles, the pigs in a blanket, and the cheese balls rolled in mixed nuts. Instead, Donnelly sets new rules for potluck fare that include
  1. Staying power (it's gotta withstand its tenure on the buffet table)
  2. Simplicity (too many components equals prime fussiness; potlucks do not equal fussiness)
  3. Crowd pleaser with a bit of a surprise (it's a potluck, but it's not the 1970s)
These are all rules that I can get behind. Her modern recipes include Apple-Ginger-Bourbon Cocktails, Indian-Spiced Spinach-Yogurt Dip, Ribollita with Lemon-Chile Relish, and Peach-Blueberry Slab Pie. Yes, please.


However, one does not simply have a potluck, a true potluck, without deviled eggs.

Donnelly updates the deviled egg to have a little more punch and pizazz than your standard mustardy, mayonnaisey, gloppy affair.  Instead, she gives us toasted rosemary and smoky paprika or whole-grain mustard and tangy cornichon. Neither really whips the deviled egg into unfamiliar territory. Instead, they nudge you from the familiar to the delightful, and Aunt Jenny won't be taken too far off guard.

These potlucks retain all the familiarity and coziness of a family affair and combine them with the edge of the unexpected.



On a personal (and side) note, I served these deviled eggs as an appetizer before a birthday (potluck) dinner held in our backyard for one of our friends. Said friend is French, and she and her husband (also French) had never had deviled eggs before. We had to explain that these little bites were totally retro, absolutely nostalgic, and still a little special.

I felt like an ambassador of the American potluck.

(Let me just point out: there were none left. American and French diplomatic relationship remains intact.)


All in all, I am enjoying cooking my way through this fun little book. The recipes are pleasing, the layout easy to follow, and the design satisfying (if the cover is a little reminiscent of one of my favorite David Tanis cookbooks, One Good Dish from 2013).

Plus, Donnelly is urging us to use the "power of the potluck" to come together, truly see each other for the complicated and baggy and frail humans that we are rather than the projections we present behind the veil of the internet, share in the labor (of love) of cooking for one another especially in an age of costly ingredients, and settle our real and imagined differences over a meal.

Including ones with deviled eggs.

Now, that's something I--and all of my aunts--can get behind.



Smoky Deviled Eggs with Toasted Rosemary


Yield:
2 dozen deviled eggs

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
48-64 fresh rosemary leaves (pulled from the stems) (just eyeball it)
12 peeled hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp smoked paprika (she calls for 1/2 tsp, but I found it was not enough)

Instructions:
1. Set a paper towel next to the stove. In a small skillet, heat the olive oil. Quickly fry the rosemary in the heated olive oil, for about 30 seconds. Stir frequently while frying. Remove the rosemary with a slotted spoon, spread it on the paper towels in a single layer to drain the oil. 

2.  Halve the boiled eggs, and use your fingers or a small spoon to remove the yolk, being careful not to tear the egg whites. Put the yolks in a mini food processor and blend until smooth. If not using a processor, either mash with a fork or press them through a sieve. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and smoked paprika and mix. Season generously with salt and pepper.

3. Arrange the egg whites on a platter, and then spoon or pipe the filling into the cavities in the egg whites. Garnish with the fried rosemary.

(Donnelly even has the solution for transporting deviled eggs!) 



Mustard-Cornichon Deviled Eggs



Yield:

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp whole grain mustard
6 cornichon pickles, finely chopped, plus 1 thinly sliced for garnish
Salt and pepper

Instructions:

1.  Halve the boiled eggs, and use your fingers or a small spoon to remove the yolk, being careful not to tear the egg whites. Put the yolks in a mini food processor and blend until smooth. If not using a processor, either mash with a fork or press them through a sieve. 

2. Mix in the mayonnaise, mustard, and chopped cornichon. Season generously with salt and pepper.


3. Arrange the egg whites on a platter, and then spoon or pipe the filling into the cavities in the egg whites. Garnish with the sliced cornichon.


(Donnelly even has the solution for transporting deviled eggs!)