Thursday, November 18, 2010

Oh Pumpkin, my pumpkin…

‘Tis the season (and has been for the past month and a half now) for PUMPKINS! Pumpkin things have been really high profile these days. Or maybe just haven’t noticed in previous years because I spent a good 3 years living in the southwest to which pumpkins are not native.




But I’ve noticed over the past 3 years since moving back that in autumn, in the east, there are pumpkin things, LOTS of pumpkin things, everywhere you look! And this does not mean just pumpkin pie… there are loads of other things out there just waiting to make your taste buds tingle.


Over the past month I took a mini-tour of pumpkin land. I gave myself a challenge: if there was a pumpkin thing available I would eat it and if there was a pumpkin drink available I would drink it. So I devoured and I chugged my way though the past month. Some good, some bad.


Here’s a little round-up of what I call PUMPKIN PARADISE:


Mini Pumpkin & Walnut Scones
Where I got it: Wegmans! Oh Wegmans, how I miss thee. I was able to snag these tasty treats while I was visiting Rochester.
Assessment: Ate them for breakfast for a week straight. Delish.



Pumpkin Cupcake
Where I got it: Sweet on Boylston St.
Assessment: MORE PLEASE! I don’t know what the deal is with this new cupcake craze, but I like it. Om nom nom.



Pumpkin Latte
Where I got it: Starbucks
Assessment: Starbucks pumpkin latte you taste so good, why do you have to be $5? Autumn always rekindles my ‘bucks addition… it probably didn’t help that I was lazy and it took me more than 2 weeks to buy coffee filters when I ran out. Hello autumn (and winter!) ‘bucks flavored lattes, goodbye paycheck.


Pumpkin Latte
Where I got it: Dunkin Donuts
Assessment: Not as pricey as ‘bucks, but also not as good. Le sigh. It was still worth drinking though.


Pumpkin Donut
Where I got it: Dunkin Donuts
Assessment: I love donuts, especially the cider ones that become popular in fall (even though I really don't eat them very often). This pumpkin donut didn’t let me down. Yum, you made my drive back to Rochester less boring.


Pumpkin Soup
Where I got it: Sunset (Boston)
Assessment: This was even more delish than I was expecting. Part chicken soup, part stew, this soup was everything – and more! I really enjoyed it, as you can tell.


Pumpkin Ice Cream
Where I got it: Sunset (Boston)
Assessment: I was already two pumpkin beers deep so maybe that’s why I thought this pumpkin ice cream was PHENOMINAL. It was served with pecan pie and whipped cream. So good.


Pumpkin Beer
Where I got it: Varieties!
Assessment: I love pumpkin beers. Each year it seems like there are more and more available at the stores. Pumpkin beers are delicious, spicy (with hints of cinnamon & nutmeg), sweet, flavorful. The best is when you get a pumpkin beer at a bar and they dust the rim with sugar or cinnamon… oh yum. This year I tried to taste as many pumpkin beers as I possibly could. Unfortunately beer goes to my brain and I forgot to write down every single one of the pumpkin beers I tried… sorry. BUT I will give you a peek at breweries whose pumpkin beers I definitely drank: Dogfish Head, Southern Tier, Wild Onion, Shipyard, Cambridge Brewing, Buffalo Bill’s, Saranac, Post Road, Cape Anne Brewing. Some of my favorites: Southern Tier & Shipyard are definitely my favorites – highly recommend! Looking for more info about pumpkin beers? I found this taste-off online HERE




Pumpkin Cocktail
Where I got it: Haru (sushi restaurant in the Back Bay)
Assessment: I was lured by the $5 special on this drink when all other cocktails at this restaurant were $12+. My first mistake was right there. My second was drinking the whole thing. Oh, and my third was accepting a pumpkin cocktail at a sushi restaurant. Ok, it wasn’t THAT bad, but random cocktails are not exactly my thing. I’ll take a pumpkin beer please.


Do you have a favorite pumpkin food or drink you would like to share? Or perhaps a pumpkin recipe? Go ahead, don’t be shy!


PS: While I love pumpkin and all that it stands for (autumn, leaves, cool weather but not COLD weather) a part of me is looking forward to the flavors of winter – Crème Brule and eggnog. I’ll have to set myself a challenge for those too… mmmm.


Cheers!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Glorious Granola

I’m a total breakfast girl -- give me eggs, bacon, toast slathered in butter any time of the day. Bagels with cream cheese and lox… bagel sandwiches… fresh-baked muffins… om nom nonm. But all that stuff takes a lot of work in the morning, so I usually reserve it for weekends or brunch at a restaurant. What I’m always looking for is a quickie breakfast that can accompany my 3 cups of coffee while I open up my laptop and prepare for work or writing. Oh, and I don’t like oatmeal, bleh! So what’s a girl to do?
Here's a "weekend breakfast" : On Sunday made scrambled
eggs with onions and peppers and served
with baked potatoes and onions.

Call me a tree-hugging hippie if you’d like, but I love granola. Crunchy, crunchy, crunchy granola. Though I love granola, I almost never buy it in the stores. Mostly that’s because it’s expensive (or more expensive than I feel like it should be -- it’s just oats and nuts for Pete’s sake!) But it’s also in part because I don’t like raisins -- or any other fruit for that matter -- in my granola, and you wouldn’t believe how few granolas are available sans fruit.



That’s where making homemade granola comes in. I’ve made it once before… the recipe I made was gloriously delicious and I ate it as a snack at work for nearly a whole month. Let me tell you a little about the last version: it was made with peanut butter which created those wonderful big granola clumps which were perfect for snacking! OH YUM! But, while the last version was good I wanted to try something new this time.

The dry stuff: oats, almonds, coconut, and sunflower seeds

I searched around the internet for some recipes, and cobbled one together on my own based on suggestions from various sites and bloggers. (As I’ve mentioned before, I love the DIY sort of recipes where it’s easy to adapt things to your own specifications.)

The wet batter all whipped up and ready to pour on the dry stuff.

What I came up with was a deliciously sweet and spicy, kind of salty, cinnamon-y granola. It had the kind of flavor that actually bursts in your mouth. Perhaps the granola was a bit overdone… I suggest limiting your salt content if your seeds/nuts are already salted -- whoops… but all that flavor works well when the granola is tossed into a bowl with milk, and I bet it will be delish when I stir it up with some yogurt and berries which will probably help to mellow out the saltiness. (Yes, I do like berries WITH my granola.)



30 second granola making lesson:

  • Pick your dry stuff -- rolled oats (not the instant kind!), seeds, nuts, spices, sugar, salt, coconut, brown sugar, maple sugar
  • Pick your wet stuff -- honey, oil, peanut butter, vanilla extract, maple syrup
  • Mix your oats and nuts and seeds in a bowl. In another bowl whisk together your wet stuff, sugar and spices. I found this tip from a fellow blogger and it’s definitely key to making well-mixed granola. When your wet stuff has a nice well-mixed consistency pour it over your dry stuff and stir together so the dry stuff is coated well with the mixture. My wet mixture looked a lot like brownie batter, and it smelled OH SO GOOD.
  • Place the wet granola on a greased baking sheet, or a silpat like I used, and bake for an hour at 300 stirring the granola around every 15 minutes. While I mentioned that the wet mixture smelled good, the granola smelled EVEN BETTER while baking in the oven… it made my whole kitchen smell delicious and like autumn!

Ready for the oven!

WARNING:
When you have only one silpat you will have to bake the granola in 3 different batches. When you get antsy near the end of batch two and decide it might be a good idea to let the whole thing cook for a few minutes under the broiler to speed up the baking process, be ready with a towel because your granola may start to smoke and you may set off every smoke alarm in your apartment and then you may have to run around like a madwoman opening windows and frantically fanning away at your smoke detectors. And then you may be embarrassed because you know that your neighbors upstairs can totally hear what’s going on and assume you are an awful cook. Not like I know from personal experience or anything…



When all batches are done let the granola cool and then store in containers. Enjoy alone or with milk or yogurt!


While there were some errors with my granola, it’s certainly still edible and generally tasty. Finding the right mix of spices/sugar/nuts/seeds might take some time, but once you perfect it you can say goodbye to the small $7 bags of granola at Whole Foods.

Look! Enough granola to last me through the rest of 2010!
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Jillian's Glorious Granola:
If you’re looking to replicate my exact granola recipe, here’s what I used. I chose to make a really large batch both because I wanted enough to enjoy the granola for a few weeks but also because then I could use the whole bag/containers of the nuts and coconut I purchased. It’s easy to slim this recipe down to a 1/3 the size of what I made:

  • 12 cups oats (I bought mine from the bulk container at Whole Foods – it’s cheaper and you can pick out just how much you want)
  • 3 cups sliced raw almonds (one bag from Trader Joe’s)
  • 3 cups sunflower seeds (one bag from Trader Joe’s)
  • 3 cups coconut shredded coconut flakes (one container from Whole Foods)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup (use the good stuff!)
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons salt (I recommend not using any salt if your nuts/seeds are pre-salted)
  • 3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Saigon cinnamon (which the package tells me is fancy stuff)

Happy Breakfasting!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn Squash Soup

Have I already told you that the immersion blender is one of the greatest kitchen gadgets invented? Oh, I haven’t? Well, let me tell you… It. Is. AMAZING.


The air is chilly, everything smells like leaves, apples are fresh for the picking -- it’s officially soup season. As you know, I love a good soup. When I received a few butternut squashes in my weekly farm share I knew that there was no better way to cook than up to turn them into soup. Mmmmm.


Chopped up squash and potatoes ready for cookin'


I used to shy away from blended soups. I hated having to spoon hot chunks of squash (or whatever veggie) and broth into my blender for pureeing, all the while crossing my fingers and hoping to not have a disastrous mess. Not to mention when I made more soup than the blender can hold I would have to blend in batches – bleh! Enter immersion blender, which lets me blend everything right in the same pot I just cooked with. THE SAME POT!


The soup before blending


I was eager to put my new gadget to use for this autumn-inspired butternut squash bisque. I used my farm share goodies, as well as some potatoes that were grown by Byron’s mother in her garden.


Final product: creamy and smooth!


Overall, the recipe was pretty good. It was nice and creamy but I could have gone for a bit more flavor. It’s worth making, especially as an accompaniment to something like baked chicken, but next time I might find a way to spice it up a bit more.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Butternut Squash Bisque (recipe adapted from The Soup Bible)
Serves 4
Ingredients --

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 small onions, minced (I also threw in a bit of leeks because, you know, I had them on hand)
  • 3 cups peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash
  • 1 ¼ quarts chicken stock
  • 1 ½ cups cubed potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ cup whipping cream (I used a few dashes of milk instead of cream)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons snipped chives, plus a few whole strands for garnish
  • salt and pepper

Directions –-

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onions and cook until soft (5 mins).
  2. Add the squash, stock, potatoes, and paprika and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 35 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Pour the soup into a blender (or use an immersion blender!) and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and add milk/cream.
  4. Stir in chopped chives and garnish with slices.
  5. Serve with toasty bread! (My own addition, I love toasty bread with soup!)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tear-Jerker Chili

I have FINALLY located the little contraption that takes the photos on camera’s photo card and imports them into my computer! HORRAY! While means I can finally be back up and posting some of the yummy things I’ve made since moving… and share new things, of course, too! HERE WE GO:

As Natalie Portman’s character says in Garden State: “I look forward to a good cry. It feels pretty good.” Well, if you’re in one of those moods, I have the meal for you. Voila! Tear-jerker chili!
Peppers and tomatoes
WHAT YOU NEED:

  • A variety of chili ingredients – most importantly, onions and spicy peppers
  • A sappy movie or two – may I recommend, Rudy, My Girl, Scruffy, Titanic, or Up.

HOW TO:
Step 1: Pop in your sad movie to watch in the background as you cook. (Or if it’s Sunday turn on the TV to watch the Bills.)


Step 2: Brown your meat. I used a 2/3 lb of hamburger meat from Whole Foods coupled with 2/3 lb of hamburger meat purchased at the Brookline Farmers Market from River Rock Farm.


Step 3: Slice the rest of your veggies. For me that included tomatoes that came from Byron’s mother’s garden and mixing those with 2 cans of beans: one kidney, one black.


Step 4: Slice your onions. I used 3 onions from my Enterprise farm share. As you slice the onions feel free to let those tears flow, just remember to have a hankie on hand to wipe away any mascara smudges.


Step 5: Slice up your peppers. I used:

  • 1 LARGE jalapeno grown in Byron’s mother’s garden
  • 1 small jalapeno grown in Byron’s mother’s garden
  • 1 red chili pepper purchased for 40 cent at the Brookline Farmer’s Market
  • 1 bell pepper from my Enterprise farm share
  • 1 sweet red pepper that I bought at the Brookline Farmer’s Market
  • 1 habenero pepper purchased at the Brookline Farmer’s Market
  • (Note: Farmers markets are CHEAP for peppers! Stock up when you go. A single pepper will cost anywhere from 25 cents to a dollar – a total steal compared to the supermarket.)

Sliced up spicy peppers... mmmm


Step 6: Cry when juices from the hot peppers get into the little cut you have on your finger. If you don’t have a cut on your finger, fake it, then you don’t have to feel like a schmuck when you start to cry when Rudy finally gets called onto the field and everyone chants RUDY RUDY RUDY!


Step 7: Throw everything into the slow cooker. You can use a can of tomato paste, I used a Campbell’s tomato Soup at Hand because I didn’t have any tomato paste in my pantry. It seemed to have done the trick. Add some spices. I used a tablespoon of garlic powder and a few large shakes of chili powder. Plus some salt and pepper. Cook on high for as long as it takes for the veggies to get tender (a couple of hours.)


Step 8: While the chili cooking, watch another sappy movie. Or, if you are a writer like me, write the first draft of a chapter where you kill of a loveable/sympathetic grandmother, or stab an unsuspecting, friendly grandmother in the back.


Step 9: Spoon chili from the slow cooker. Sprinkle cheese on top. Eat your first bite. Yell out in pain when you realize how spicy the chili is, and then start to cry again.
Delicious!


Step 10: Crack open a beer (or five) so you can blame your crying on Beer Tears. As if that’s a better excuse…


If you follow these easy steps, you, too, can have a day full of tears. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Watermelon Muffins From Hell

I’ve been getting cocky lately. I’ve had so few kitchen mishaps that I’ve been darn near considering myself an expert cook/baker. Things have been turning out so well: I haven’t set anything on fire, I’ve only set off the smoke detector a few times (and really it’s not my fault, the stupid thing is quite finicky), and all meals have been more than just edible they’ve actually been good. I guess I needed a good dose of reality to bring me back down to earth. Enter in Watermelon Muffins from Hell.


Don't be fooled by that cute little heart shaped muffin on the left, 
he's just as evil tasting as the others.

If I was being graded on my cooking/baking skills, today’s report card would look like this: FAILS TO FOLLOW DIRECTIONS!!! F- 
Oh I was so excited to make these muffins. I had my farm share watermelon sitting in the fridge eager and waiting. I bough all the necessary ingredients – even if it meant going down to the corner store when at the last minute I realized I didn’t have baking powder. I didn’t even try to fudge it and just go without like I might have in the past! I really tried! I popped them into the oven and I watched as they rose, and then to my horror they sunk in the middle like there was a black hole sucking the tops down towards the bottom of the pan. What’s happening? I wondered. Perhaps it was a side effect of the watermelon? No worries, I thought, I bet they will turn out ok in the end.


Then came the taste test. They smelled good. But boy were they were ugly. It’s inner beauty that counts though, right? And then I got cocky again. I mentally prepared to title this blog post “Inner Beauty” and wax on about how these muffins ‘aint winning any beauty pageants but how wonderfully delicious they are. I had all my metaphors about muffins and life lined up. But let me tell you something, when a muffin is ugly on the outside sometimes it’s ugly on the inside too. These muffins tasted like sin. Well, I guess that’s a big over dramatic. They didn’t taste like muffins, I can tell you that. They tasted disgusting. Bitter, strange, and like chemicals. Like nothing I’ve ever tasted before.


So what went wrong? What I have since pieced together is that it all came down to one simple little letter: a B. I was so excited to make these muffins, and I was in a rush because I needed to get back to work, and I just didn’t pay attention. Listen kids, tbs does not a tsp equal.


I deduced that the disgusting flavor that I tasted was the near doubled amount of both baking soda and baking powder. While the recipe called for a TEA SPOON of baking powder and two TEA SPOONS of baking soda, in my stupidity I used TABLE SPOONS. Gah! Well at least I learned something today, following directions is important. I’ve been considering taking some cooking classes at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, if this doesn’t confirm my belief that I am in dire need of them than I don’t know what does.


These muffins aren’t even remotely salvageable. To the trash with thee! Muffin fail.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you would like to try your hand at the recipe here it is, compliments of Healthy Home Recipes:


Ingredients -- 

  • 1/2 cup Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking soda
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 1/8 tsp Cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp Butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1/2 cup Watermelon juice
  • 1/2 cup Watermelon pulp
  • 1/2 cup Raisins



Instructions --

  • Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in large bowl.
  • Cream butter and sugar; add eggs.
  • Whip in milk, juice, pulp and raisins.
  • Add wet mixture to dry ingredients; blend just to incorporate.
  • Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full.
  • Bake 25 minutes.

Transfer to wire rack; cool.
Note: a few drops of red food color can be added for a watermelon color.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Toasted Watermelon Seeds

All week I've been posting for the blogathon to celebrate Farmers Market Week here in Massachusetts... for more info about the blogathon see my previous posts this week. Unfortunately due to packing I couldn't post every day like I had hoped, but there are some good ones from earlier this week, check 'em out! There comes a time in every young amateur chef’s life when she asks: “Am I doing this right?” For me that moment came today when a watermelon seed exploded, startled me and sent me jumping backwards stepping into my cat’s water dish. “WHAT?!” you are probably saying. I guess I should backtrack and start at the beginning….


I received a watermelon in this week’s Enterprise Farm farm share. I immediately ate half of it for lunch. I like watermelons. It runs in my family. When I was younger my sister and dad used to have “Watermelon Club” after dinner where they would each indulge in many slices each. Sometimes I participated but I was much more of an ice cream girl.


Watermelon seeds drying on the window sill
While eating my watermelon lunch I wondered to myself: Are watermelon seeds good for anything other than spitting at your little sister when she’s not looking? Can you eat them? This led me to Ye Olde Trusty Google. You can eat the seeds! In fact, it’s part of Egyptian culture to roast the seeds and eat them. Watermelons are native to Egypt? Who knew.


I saved the seeds from my half of already eaten watermelon and decide to chop up the remaining half and remove the seeds from there as well. This left me with a little handful seeds. The whole process seemed relatively easy. Step 1: Wash. Step 2: Dry. I patted them with a paper towel (which they stuck to) and then decided to spread them out on a plate and sit them on my windowsill in the sun. Success.


Step 3: This is where things got tricky. Heat a pan and place the seeds in the pan. Stir them around until their roasted. How was I supposed to know when they were thoroughly roasted? I figured I would give it the old eyeball test. After a few minutes they looked pretty good. Then POP! One of the seeds shot off of the pan and directly at my face! POP POP! Two more seeds! It was sort of like popcorn. I took that as a sign to mean they were done roasting.


Step 4: Pour a cup of salty water into the pan and boil and stir around until it all evaporates. I made a bit of a mess here, there was no indication for how much salt and I figured the more salt the better… they’re supposed to be salty, right? Fail. I ended up with some seeds and salty sludge. So I tried again by removing some of the salt and adding more water and trying all over again. Success. No gross clumps of burnt salt this time.


Step 5: Cool and dry. Then enjoy!


I ate one of the seeds fresh out of the watermelon and I’ll say it wasn’t bad. Though roasted salty watermelon seeds were pretty good they really just tasted like a salty, toasty, drier version of the former. But isn’t that what all seeds taste like anyway? They tasted a bit like if pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds merged. One website told me you’re supposed to bite off the exterior in your mouth to get to the inside meat but that was just way too much work for me so I ate the whole thing as is which was pretty good without all that effort. I suppose I might try this again, but more likely I’ll make “seed adventure number 2” happen when I receive a pumpkin later in the season -- even though I find the insides of a pumpkin kind of icky.


Word of advice: Go easy on the salt, you don't need much. I wish I had something fun to eat these with like baking them into muffins or a salad on the horizons to toss these into. I guess i'll just eat them on their own, still good! :)


Cheers!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hodgepodge Couscous Salad

Continuing the celebration of Farmers Market Week and the blogathon to raise money for Mass Farmers' Markets put on by Loving Local and In Our Grandmothers' Kitchens here's a tasty treat for this Tuesday:

I don’t know exactly when the whole D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) trend came about, but I must confess that I like it. Love it, actually. I love watching cooking shows, reading cooking magazines, home decorating magazine, and craft magazines. I think it’s because I really like to make things my own. What fun is the world if everything is cookie cutter similar?


Chopped up fresh cucumber was a tasty and refreshing addition
I carry my love of DIY into the kitchen, which as I’ve mentioned before, means that I like to make recipes my own and change them somehow from the pre-set directions. Usually this means adding in a thing or two. Sometimes it means taking out an ingredient I don’t like (or more often it’s removing an ingredient I just don’t have on hand and I don’t feel like buying. Rant alert: I find it incredibly annoying to have a recipe where they tell you to add in a tablespoon of vinegar or a half cup of chicken stock or a quarter of a bell pepper and then I’m left with the rest of that product wondering just how I’ll get through it before it goes bad. Someone should really make a cookbook that incorporates only whole products –- a whole jar, can, veggie, bottle, etc. If one of these cookbooks exists somebody do me a favor and let me know, I would be forever grateful!)


Anywho… where was I? Oh yes, DIY. Aside from salads, I have found my favorite sort of thing to cook up DIY style: couscous salad. And thanks to my farm share, I usually have lots of odds and ends that I never know quite what to do with. I’ve posted earlier about tabbouleh, and this recipe is very similar but I’ve adapted it so that it’s just called “hodgepodge couscous” and is a recipe that is truly all inclusive. Really kids, feel free to get wild.


My favorite things about this recipe:

  • It uses up left veggies from previous recipes
  • It’s a great way to use my share because sometimes I get a solo tomato or just two cucumbers
  • It’s healthy
  • It’s easy to make
  • It tastes good
  • No “cooking” involved, it’s just chop and mix



This is how I usually build my DIY hodgepodge couscous salad:


Step 1: Pick a grain. A box of couscous works, they are about a dollar to two dollars for a box and it’s usually a nice portion size. For my most recent variation I used a bag of Harvest Grains Blend which was a variety of grains including Israeli couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans, and red quinoa. I got it from Trader Joe’s, also inexpensive.


Step 2: Pick some veggies. Tomatoes work well. So do peppers of all varieties. I’ve never tried with an onion, but I bet a sweet one would be good. This time I had some celery and cucumbers grown by Enterprise Farms so I use those, it gave the couscous salad a nice crunch. Chop the veggies up into nice little bits.


Step 3: Pick some herbs. My most recent variation included both flat leaf parsley and a bunch of basil. You could probably use some actual lettuce in here too. If you want to make this more of a Mexican fare I bet that cilantro would work well. I didn’t have scallions on hand this time, but sometime I use those or chives. Chop this up nice fine.


Step 4: Pick some spices/flavorings. Sea salt, pepper, anything you like. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil – it helps break apart the grains but also gives it a nice flavor. If you have fresh lemons on hand lemon juice is a nice accompaniment.


Step 5: Clear out your fridge. Add whatever you want. This time I used a can of garbanzo beans and it worked out great. If you want to get experimental you can divide the whole thing into two batches and try out different ingredients with each.


Step 6: Mix it all together and enjoy! Cheers!


Monday, August 23, 2010

German Red Cabbage

Welcome blogathon! As I mentioned, this week I’m participating in the Loving Local blogathon to celebrate Farmers Market Week and raise money for the Mass Farmer’s Markets. If you love my blog, and love local food, go ahead and donate a bit of green to that wonderful cause. Visit HERE and click “donate”  I also encourage you to visit Loving Local HERE to find some other area bloggers who are writing about local food, cooking, farms, and much more. As part of the blogathon I’ll be posting (or attempting to anyway!) a new post every day this week, so be on the lookout for some great new content from me daily! 
Now let me tell you about cabbage...
A wonderful mix of colors on this plate!


My ancestors would be proud. Why? I succeeded in cooking cabbage. *Polish/Ukrainian/German ancestors applaud* Really, I’m proud of myself. As a previously self-professed Cabbage Hater, I’ll say that I’m officially a convert. It really happened approximately three years ago when I went to Germany. I always turned up my nose at the idea of sauerkraut, but once I had some real, authentic German sauerkraut (you know the kind… it’s tangy and warm and oh so delicious) I fell in love. Maybe cabbage wasn’t so bad after all.


Flash forward to today and welcome in the good old Enterprise Farm Share which supplied me with a head of red cabbage. My cabbage cooking history includes no previous usage of cabbage. Not a one recipe ever cooked with cabbage before. Nada. But this was the time. 
I found a wonderful recipe at www.allrecipes.com and it’s everything that the reviewers said it would be. 


My bouquet garni looks a bit like a mummy.
Is it supposed to look like this?
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS RECIPE:
  • It was warm, tangy, sweet, and a superb accompaniment to any meat dish. Oh, and easy too! (I served it with baked chicken drumsticks and sautéed Swiss chard, though in retrospect I should have made some sausage or something… maybe next time.)
  • The color! After cooking lots of greens for the past few months it was nice to have this wonderful pinkish-red accompaniment to my meal!
  • Because of the apples, allspice, and cloves (and my own addition of a pinch of cinnamon) this recipe really reminded me of the of fall and the holidays so maybe I’ll make some for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year.
  • Oh yeah, I also made my first every bouquet garni (with the peppercorns, allspice, cloves) for this recipe. I’m starting to feel pretty professional!
--------------------------------------------------------------------
German Red Cabbage as found on Allrecipes


Ingredients --
  • 1 medium head red cabbage, cored and sliced
  • 2 large tart apples, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, sliced and separated into rings
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 2 whole allspice
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons cold water

Directions --

  1. In a Dutch oven, toss cabbage, apples and onion. Add water, vinegar, sugar, butter and salt. Place the peppercorns, allspice, cloves and bay leaf on a double thickness of cheesecloth; bring up corners of cloth and stir with kitchen string to form a bag. Add to Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1-1/4 hours.
  2. Discard spice bag. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and cold water until smooth; stir in cabbage mixture. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bring on the Blogathon!

I'm excited to announce that I'll be participating in Loving Local's Blogathon to celebrate the wonderful flavors of Massachusetts during Farmers Market Week August 22-28.


What's the Blogathon? Loving Local says : 
"Hosted by In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens with help from Massachusetts Farmers Markets and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, LOVING LOCAL will gather bloggers across the Bay State and beyond into a giant smorgasbord of good, local food."
Funds raised during the blogathon will go to Mass Farmers Markets, a non-profit charitable organization that helps farmers markets throughout the Commonwealth. So look for some extra fun content coming from me next week and be ready to pledge some money to go to a great cause. Yippie, I'm excited!  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Call Me a Hater

Dear beet, I think you taste like a dirty potato. Sorry.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
So when this article was called to my attention (Beet Recipes Even a Beet Hater Can Love by the New York Times) I was intrigued. Albeit, still skeptical. I have yet to make one of these "tasty delights" which include:
  • Beets & Beet Green Gratin
  • Beet, Citrus and Avocado Salad
  • Mixed Spring Green Salad with Roasted Beets
  • Grated Raw Beet Salad
  • Roasted Spring Onion and Beet Salad

Perhaps I will dive in and attempt one of these and *gasp* maybe I will like one of them. Though, dear beet, don't hold your breath.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte

Not so beautiful, but it was yummy and filling!


My farm share really likes loading me up with summer squash so instead of the normal old bake or sauté way of cooking it (bleh, borrrring!) I decided to hunt around for something more fun. Alas! A torte! I found a great recipe from fellow food bogger Deb at Smitten Kitchen. While she said her torte wasn’t winning any beauty contests I disagree, the picture looked scrumptious and I just had to try it. Note: If she thinks her torte “isn’t winning beauty contests” mine looks like roadkill. *sigh* But anywho, it’s not about the beauty of the thing, it’s the taste.


Layered summer squash in the pan
And oh boy was it tasty! I didn’t have two round dishes to make the torte so I just layered everything in a big glass casserole dish and it still came out wonderfully. No, it wasn’t beautiful, BUT it was delish. My torte was probably thicker than normal, especially because of my lack of mandoline (see below) and it didn’t really stick together well when it came out of the pan -– but I’ll overlook that because it was so tasty. It was also amazing to heat up and eat the next day, and the day after that since this recipe was huge -- you might be interested in cutting the recipe in half if you don’t want to be eating torte for a week. While the recipe didn’t call for it, I served my torte with a big dollop of sour cream. YUM!


Now that we have the actual "cooking/recipe/eating" portion of this post out of the way, let me tell you about the mandoline: As I mentioned, my kitchen is a little sparse when it comes to gadgets and cooking utensils. I pretty much use just one knife for every kind of cutting and chopping (*gasp*!) and occasionally my little food processor for meal prep. My trusty old knife made the task of thinly slicing 5 potatoes and 3 summer squashes pretty tedious.


After the torte was in the oven baking I decided to read some of the reviews. Silly, I know, I should have read them BEFORE cooking. But, I’m a fool. Someone asked “What’s the best way to slice the potatoes and squash if I don’t have a mandoline?”


“A mandoline?” I asked myself. “Surely this person is bonkers. I know what a mandoline is, it’s the funny little string instrument my boyfriend owns.” Yes, that is indeed a mandolin, but add an “e” and it becomes a marvelous kitchen gadget that I didn’t know about but MUST. HAVE. IMMEDIATELY! Check out this wonderful one from William Sonoma – even comes complete with a tutorial video you can watch! http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/oxo-v-blade-mandoline/


While I enjoy slicing veggies I’m not very good at it, maybe because I fear slicing the top of my finger off and turning my meal preparations into a trip to the emergency room. I tried so very hard to slice my potatoes and squash thin like the recipe suggested – and really, for the most part I was very successful, though it took me about a half hour of slicing patience. Had I had this wonderful mandoline gadget I bet the torte would have come out even better. I am definitely putting mandoline at the top of “cooking gadgets to buy” list for when I move to a bigger apartment in 3 weeks.


PS: I am getting REALLY far behind on posts, yikes! Be on the lookout for some great recipe posts coming next week! Cheers!


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Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Tort (adapted from Smitten Kitchen (adapted from Bon Apetit))

Makes 8 servings


Ingredients --

  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
  • 12 ounces yellow crookneck squash or regular yellow summer squash, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
  • 6 teaspoons olive oil
  • (Jill's note: I also threw some parsley in here because, you know, I had it on hand)
Directions -- 


  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter two 8-inch-diameter cake pans. (Jill's note: I had only a large casserole dish, so what you see in my pictures is much thicker than probably intended.) Set aside 1/4 cup sliced green onions. Toss remaining green onions, cheese, flour, thyme, salt and pepper in medium bowl to blend.
  • Layer 1/6 of potatoes in concentric circles in bottom of 1 prepared pan, overlapping slightly. Layer 1/4 of squash in concentric circles atop potatoes. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle with 1/6 of cheese mixture. Repeat with 1/6 of potatoes, then 1/4 of squash and 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle with 1/6 of cheese mixture. Top with 1/6 of potatoes. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle with 1/6 of cheese mixture and press gently to flatten. Repeat procedure with second cake pan and remaining potatoes, squash, oil, and cheese mixture. (Jill's note: If you find it confusing it might be easier to think of it like this if you're making just one pan of it. Layer like this: potatoes, squash, oil, cheese mix, potatoes, squash, oil, cheese mix, potatoes, oil, cheese mix.)
  • Cover pans with foil. Bake until potatoes are almost tender, about 40 minutes. Remove foil; bake uncovered until tortes begin to brown and potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes longer. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cool. Cover with foil and chill. Rewarm, covered with foil, in 350°F oven until heated through, about 30 minutes.)
  • Cut each torte into wedges. Sprinkle wedges with 1/4 cup green onions; serve. (Jill's note: Serve with a dollop of sour cream, too, if you wish!)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Polish Pickles

How beautiful my pickles!
(I JUST learned how to caption pics in blogger)
My fridge has been taken over by cucumbers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing, I enjoy a cuke now and then. And I’ve been finding some creative ways to cook with them (see fried cucumbers). The point of this blog and joining my farm share was for a culinary adventure -- try something new, be inspired by new things, and experiment. So with the idea of experimentation in mind, I decided to attempt to make pickles.


A personal note about pickles: I’m a very picky pickle eater. I like them crunchy and I like them flavorful. I detest those thin little pickles you get in a jar that taste like mush. Bleh! I rarely eat the pickles that come alongside a sandwich in a restaurant because I am skeptical about them. I like a nice crisp, garlicky, dill pickle that has a kick. I suppose I am certifiably a pickle snob. My dad used to make pickles when I was younger, using the whole cucumber and jarring them in our basement for months in a brine of salt, whole garlic, and onions. Now THOSE were pickles. The recipe he used was an old Ukrainian recipe that I can only assume was passed down from my grandmother. Though I thought about trying that old time recipe, I really have no place to put 20 jars of pickles.


I used 4 pretty big cucumbers
Alas, I was looking for something a little…. Easier. I searched the web and came up with a huge variety of pickle recipes, really, it was a number that blew my mind. Who knew there were so many ways of creating pickles? Jarring them, letting them sit from anywhere to a day to weeks, different flavors, styles, my oh my. I was really beginning to get overwhelmed.


I sliced them into rounds
Then destiny struck. My weekly farm share newsletter came with a pickle recipe! An OVERNIGHT pickle recipe! Not to mention the recipe originated with a Polish guy named Joe who used to make the pickles and bring them into the American Legion. Now I know Polish people, (I mean I am half Polish after all), and we are picky about our pickles (see above). Knowing this recipe came from Joe made me confident in their greatness. And oh gosh, they just seemed so easy!


The hardest part about this recipe? Waiting overnight to try a pickle! I know, patience is not my strong suit…. Just think how bad it would have been waiting for a few weeks. Yikes.

The large jar before pouring in the liquid
I followed all directions carefully (though I ended up using 4 cucumbers, not the amount they suggested… maybe my cukes were much bigger than what they recipe had intended). I sliced some of the cucumbers I got pickle rounds and then I also made some spears for variety. The liquid mixture was perfect to fill a tall canister and a shorter canister that I had on hand.

Tick, tick, tick, 24 hours went by… then I popped open one of my jars of pickles from the fridge. I was nervous. I really wanted them to be good. And they were! They were wonderfully crispy and had an impressive garlicy, dill, seasoning kick that is just delicious! I have been snacking on them ever since! I suggest you make some, maybe for a party or picnic or just for fun.


Na Zdrowie! Happy pickling!


Oh how yummy!
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Ingredients & Directions --

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • Bring to a boil and let cool.
  • Add:
  • 1 tbsp. pickling spice
  • 1 tbsp. mustard seed
  • 15 to 18 cucumbers, sliced
  • 1 onion
  • As much garlic and dill as you want (I sprinkled in crushed garlic and dill after each layer of pickles.)
  • Layer cucumbers, onions, garlic and dill in a gallon jug in multiple layers.
  • Pour liquid into jar and refrigerate overnight. Keep refrigerated.
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