Saturday, October 22, 2016

Fig, Goat Cheese and Honey Salad from Honey & Co.

Okay, people.  This salad hardly needs a recipe. The title of the salad pretty much says it all. But I am still handing this one over to you because of what Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich (chefs and cookbook writers extraordinaire) do to the goat cheese.

They mix it with heavy cream.  

Yes, more dairy.

And in doing so, they get to create these little clouds of cheesiness goodness that when added to the sweet figs, the acidic lemon, the crisp lettuce, the crunchy pistachios, and the thick honey--well, this salad becomes much, much more than the sum of its parts.  My mouth is watering now as I type this.

Perfect for a crisp autumn day, this salad makes a satisfying lunch or a sweet starter to a great meal.

These figs are part of the plethora of fruit that one of the parents at my school has been bringing to the faculty lounge. From pears to plums, from apples to figs, we are luxuriating in the plenty of the orchards in the East Bay. And I am happy to snap up these little taste bombs and plop them in a salad.

Especially if this salad comes from Packer and Srulovich, for they have not yet steered my wrong, especially in the good-for-you greens department.

So whisk together your cream or milk (which is what I used) with your goat cheese, toast up those pistachios, slice up those plump figs. People, I am telling you, this salad is just that good. 

I promise.

Fig, Goat Cheese and Honey Salad

3-4 as a light starter

2 heads of Little Gem lettuce
4 ounces goat cheese
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
8 large figs, quartered
2 sprigs fresh mint, picked
1/4 cup roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp honey

1. Separate and wash the lettuce leaves in cold water. Tear the lettuce leaves and then dry on a few sheets of paper towels or in a salad spinner.

2. Crumble the goat cheese into a bowl. Whisk with the lemon zest and milk or cream until completely smooth.

3. In a separate bowl or jar, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice.  

4. Arrange the lettuce leaves on a large serving platter or individual salad plates. Scatter with the fig wedges and the mint leaves. Top with copped pistachios and dollops of the creamy goat cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice. Finish by dribbling the honey over the salad.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema

Black bean soup doesn't get the accolades it deserves. This unassuming little soup does what it needs to do--warm the bones on a fall afternoon--and then you go about your business. Little fanfare. Lots of flavor.

Black bean soup can take as long as you would like: with dried black beans, this is a two-day affair. However, with canned black beans, you can have a quick cook. Further, black bean soup is naturally vegan (although, I wouldn't blame you if you threw some bacon in with the sofrito; truly I wouldn't!). Finally, you can spice it up any way you like it (did someone say fire-roasted tomatoes, ancho chile powder).

Yet, for this particular recipe, I went with simple, traditional, and Cuban. No chiles beyond the requisite jalapeno. No fire-roasted tomatoes. Just beans, sofrito, stock, oregano, and lime crema.

Recently, I received ¡Cuba!: Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen in the mail, and what a gorgeous little cookbook. Packed with inspirational photography, this book is the outcome of three people's love affair with Cuba. Photographer Dan Goldberg and Art Director Andrea Kuhn teamed up with Food Writer Jody Eddy to bring the flavors of the Cuban into your own.  With a caveat. Not all of these come from the Cuban kitchen. Our cookbook acknowledges that some of these recipes--such as the (ever famous) Cubano--are Cuban American creations and others--such as "Guarapo (Sort of...)"--are "takes" on Cuban food. 

This cookbook is packed with mouthwatering recipes, including Shrimp and Scallop Seviche with Shredded Plantain Chips, Ribs with Guava BBQ Sauce, Steamed Cuban Beef Buns, and Savory Goat Stew. The book boasts these lovely essays on "Organoponicas" (the organic farms that have been springing up all over Cuba), "Rations," and the "Barrio Chino de la Habana" (Havana's Chinatown). These essays are as engrossing as the photography and recipes. 

With the borders to Cuba a bit more relaxed, although not fully open to Americans, it's easier and easier to get to Cuba and to Cuban food. But for those of us who don't have a visit to Cuba planned, this cookbook is a plentiful attempt--from food to photography to essays--to recreate the tastes of the largest island in the Caribbean.

Now back to the beans. About two weeks ago, I began feeling under the weather. This is a common occurrence about six weeks into any school year. Just enough time to get settled and just enough time to get exhausted. Thus, this recipe for black bean soup came at the perfect time.

The perfect time to settle in with a homey, satisfying soup and to warm those chilled bones.

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

Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema

8-10 Servings

1 lb. dried black beans
1 yellow onion, peeled and halved
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, halved, and seeded
2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded, and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp fried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
freshly ground pepper 
1 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp lime zest

1. Put the beans, the halved onion, the halved pepper, and the bay leaves in a large bowl and cover with water by at least 3 inches. Place the pot in the refrigerator overnight.

2.  Pour the beans and their soaking liquid (including the onion and green pepper) into a large pot. Ensure that the water covers the beans by 1 inch, adding or removing water as necessary. Bring the water to a boil and then simmer until the beans are tender 50-60 minutes. Stir in the salt.

3.  As the bean simmer, make the sofrito. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onion, bell pepper, and jalapenos and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Stir the sofrito into the beans.

4.  Remove the now mushy halved onion and pepper and the bay leaves from the bean pot and discard the bay leaves. Place the vegetables in a blender and ladle in about 2 cups of the beans. Puree the beans and the vegetables. Stir the pureed back into the beans int he bot.

5.  Add the chicken stock. Bring the soup to a simmer and add the oregano, cumin, and vinegar. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, until beans are soft and falling apart. 

6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the crema, lime juice, and lime zest. Season with salt.

7. Serve the soup with a dollop of the lime crema.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Crème Fraîche Scones from Miette

As promised here are these sweet little scones from Miette.  I have written about my delight in Miette (see here), and so it was a no-brainer when I needed to whip up a vehicle for Strawberry Vanilla Jam. And these did not disappoint.

Shall we explore the history of the scone, you and I?

There's a lot of information out there about the scone. As in a lot, so let's see if I can round some of it up. The scone was originally a Scottish quick bread made with oats and then griddle-fried. The scone distinguishes itself as not utilizing yeast, as one might expect from other tea pastries, such as a tea cakes or sweet buns. Instead, this well-leavened pastry uses baking powder to achieve its heights. However, baking powder is a relatively recent invention, so scones probably soared using buttermilk as a boost.

Now don't get all confused about "high" and "low" or "afternoon" tea. Americans (and their representative tea rooms) like the sound of "high tea" because it sounds all fancy and lovely. However, high tea refers to a full (yet early evening) meal that includes meat and the like. Low or afternoon tea takes place around 4 or 5 p.m. and is generally the delicate sandwiches (with crusts requisitely cut off, right?), scones, and sweet desserts. 

Now, let's get particular.  Devonshire tea, also known as cream tea, is precisely where one should situate these scones from Miette. Served with clotted cream and strawberry preserves, scones absolutely must be cut in half. This is for full effect, people, and I don't dispute it. However, I am not even going to get embroiled in the which-comes-first debate: cream first then preserves (à la the Devon way) or preserves first then cream (à la the Cornwall method). I leave that to the experts. 

Now, let's talk about these little scones. The method is a little unusual. First you press the dough into a pan in order to get a uniform height. Then you cut them into 1-inch squares, pop them out of the pan, and then bake them in the oven. This produces a sheer abundance of delightful scones, that are as pretty to look at as they are delicious to pop in your mouth.

I did heed the warning that there was not enough liquid, so I made some pretty liberal changes below. With the extra liquid these turned out delightfully, and I did as instructed and froze then remaining scones (first I put them on a baking pan in the freezer until frozen; then I put them in a bag). Now I have the perfect scone for my afternoon tea. One with cream on top. The other with strawberry preserves on top. I am not choosing sides. 

Crème Fraîche Scones 

Adapted from Miette
4 Servings

1/3 cup crème fraîche*
1/3 cup heavy cream + extra for brushing
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk (Added)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, diced (added 1/4)
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp baking powder +1 tsp (added 1 tsp)
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp baking soda
1 1/8 tsp salt

1.   In a small bowl, stir together the crème fraîche, heavy cream, egg, and egg yolk. 

2.  In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, butter, lemon zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low-speed until the mixture resembles cornmeal. 

3.  Add the crème fraîche mixture and mix until the dough is just moistened. It will look under-mixed and crumbly at this point, but it is important to stop as you will finish the mixing when you press the dough into the pan. The less you handle the dough, the flakier your scones will be.

4. In an 8-in square baking pan, firmly press the dough as evenly as possible. Use a rolling-pin to level the top if possible. The dough should be about 1-in thick. Brush the top with cream and sprinkle lightly with sugar.

5. Mark and cut the dough into 1-in squares. Carefully separate the cubes and put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for at least 1 hr, or wrap tightly and freeze up to 1 month.

6. When you're ready to make the scones, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange the frozen dough squares 1 1/2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until the edges are toasted and golden brown, 10-12 min.

*You can purchase crème fraîche or make your own. To make your own, you'll need:

2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp buttermilk

Whisk together the cream and the buttermilk in a container. Cover and set the mixture aside at room temperature for 24 hours. It should become thick and tangy. You can refrigerate what you do not use for up to 2 weeks.

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

4 Servings

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

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

6 Servings

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
salad greens

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

3 (1/2-pint) jars

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

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.