Sicilian Style Pizza
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Philly is known for soft pretzels, Peanut Chews, and TastyKakes, but there’s also some decent pizza in the area. I used to love hitting Lorenzo’s on South Street after a show. All the really good pizza I’ve had in town has been of the thin crust variety, but my heart really belongs to sicilian style pizza with a thick crust. Not deep dish—that’s something different—but great, thick, yeasty crust. That kind of pizza is few and far between in Philadelphia, but you can make your own . . . almost entirely from locally grown ingredients.
My favorite crust recipe comes from Serious Eats. They have absolutely perfected a simple sicilian style crust. The secret is kind of weird but perfect for Philly area localvores—potatoes. We’ve always got lots of options for buying potatoes, it seems!
1 medium russet potato, about 7 ounces
15 ounces (3 cups) all-purpose flour
1/2 ounce (about 2 teaspoons) kosher salt
1/4 ounce (about 1 1/2 teaspoons) rapid-rise yeast
1/2 ounce (about 3 teaspoons) sugar
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/3 cup warm water
Boil the potato until tender, then put it through a ricer; let cool. Combine remaining ingredients in a mixer with a paddle attachment; blend until the dough comes together, and then add the riced potato. Mix on medium-high speed for about six minutes.
Spread a thin layer of olive oil over a rectangular baking sheet (I use a typical cookie sheet). Dump the dough onto the oiled sheet. The original recipe calls for you to allow the dough to spread by itself over a period of two hours. I’m a little on the anxiety-ridden side, so I like to press the dough into the pan with my hands and then let it rise for a few hours.
From there you can use local tomato sauce or pesto as well as local cheese for toppings (Cherry Grove Farm does a decent locally made mozzarella, or you could go with some of the great locally made cheddar or goat cheese). And, of course, there are all sorts of locally grown vegetables in season right now: spring garlic, sorrel, asparagus, mustard greens, spinach, and herbs.
How do you finish the pizza after it’s topped? Bake at 500 degrees for thirteen or fourteen minutes. It should be noted that this dough would also make amazing breadsticks. Depending on how long you let it rise, my dough has turned out anywhere from an inch to two inches thick.
Dessert, with a Side of Drinks
Friday, April 27, 2012
While I am not a fan of normal cheesecake, I’ve always loved the Italian variety made with milky ricotta instead of cream cheese. This ricotta cheesecake gets an extra splash from the addition of rhubarb, which starts to pop up right about now. I actually used rhubarb from last year’s crop this time, since I like to freeze bags of it for off-season use, but you should be able to find this year’s rhubarb in your local market soon if it isn’t there already.
As a bonus, the poaching liquid for the rhubarb can, after the fruit is added to the cake, be simmered until reduced by about half, leaving you with a beautifully pink, slightly tart syrup, which can be added to iced tea, lemonade, or fizzy water, or used as the basis for a fancy springtime cocktail.
Rhubarb Ricotta Cheesecake (with a rhubarb syrup bonus)
(Adapted from Nick Malgieri, How to Bake)
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
12 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut in ½ inch cubes
3 large eggs
For rhubarb layer:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups water
Half a vanilla bean, split
1 ½ lbs rhubarb, leaves trimmed away and sliced into 1-inch pieces
For cheesecake layer:
1 15-ounce container whole milk ricotta cheese
⅓ cup granulated sugar
Zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
Combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a food processor and pulse briefly to mix. Add the butter and pulse again until powdery, then add eggs and pulse until the dough begins to come together. Pat into rectangular block, wrap tightly in plastic or in a quart-sized zip-top bag, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Meanwhile, bring the sugar, vanilla and water for the rhubarb to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the rhubarb and immediately turn off the heat. Let the rhubarb cool to room temperature and drain well, setting it aside while rolling out the dough and preparing the ricotta filling. Return the poaching syrup to the pan and simmer briskly until reduced by half, decant into a glass jar, and refrigerate for use in drinks later.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a quarter sheet pan or 9-inch tart pan with parchment paper, leaving enough to overhang the sides all around.
Slice off one third of the pastry for the top lattice, and roll out the remaining two-thirds on a floured sheet of parchment paper into a rectangular piece large enough to overhang the edges of the pan by about an inch and a half. Tuck the pastry into the prepared pan. Roll out the remaining third of dough into a rectangle just larger than the pan, and use a pastry or pizza roller to slice into strips one inch wide.
In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the ricotta on the lowest speed just until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and add the sugar, mixing again on low for 30 seconds, then repeat with lemon zest and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down between additions and mixing only until each egg is incorporated.
Lay the poached rhubarb in an even layer on the bottom of the pastry-lined pan. Pour the ricotta filling gently over, spreading it all the way out to the edges. Lay the strips of pastry lightly over the top of the filling, fold the overhanging edges of the pastry over to seal in the ends of the strips, and crimp all around.
Bake 35-40 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the filling has set. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack before using the parchment to lift the cheesecake out of the pan, and slice into 8-12 squares. If not serving within a few hours of baking, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Spring Sesame Collard Greens
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Last October, one of my housemates came home with a few little collard seedlings and I planted them in our backyard. They kept on growing all winter, and for the last month or so I’ve been harvesting the still-tender leaves for raw collard green salads. This past weekend was the last hurrah though, since the plants started flowering and my farmer friends at Mill Creek Farm encouraged me to harvest what was left and then take them out. Fine with me, since I can certainly use that space for my other plants!
I was surprised by how delicious this simple dish turned out.
1 bunch collard leaves
2 T vegetable broth or water
3-4 T sesame seeds (toasted, optional)
1 T sesame oil
spices to taste (I used McCormick Far East Sesame Ginger Blend, a mix of garlic, sesame, ginger and red pepper, orange peel, coconut, onion, and soy sauce)
Heat the broth in a wide skillet and lightly saute the greens until bright and slightly wilted. Remove from heat and toss with sesame seeds, sesame oil, and seasoning. That’s all!
When Life Hands You Yogurt: Use #3
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
I’ve written about Jamie Oliver’s brilliant use of yogurt as a substitution for bechamel before. That time, I was heeding his recipe, using it in manicotti. This time, I used it as a layer in a mushroom lasagna.
When Life Hands You Yogurt - Lots and Lots of Yogurt
Saturday, April 14, 2012
As I’ve said before, Winter Harvest is a wonderful program. Every month, I am astounded by the variety and availability of fresh produce, meat, poultry, and prepared foods – all of them locally grown or made.
Nonetheless, I am prone to error when ordering for the month. For example, several years ago, I ordered 22 half-gallons of milk rather than 2. The good people of Farm to City caught that mistake. This time, however, I had to live it: last week, I brought home a five-pound container of Pequea Valley plain yogurt.
For some of you, perhaps, this is not much of a purchase. For a household of two, I can assure you that it is. However, with flexibility that CSAs require, in which you cook with what’s available, we decided to use up all five pounds of yogurt in as many different ways as we could.
Uses 1-2: Yogurt Flatbread and Baked Eggs with Arugulga and Yogurt
Eager to use our newest cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, we first opened the container for breakfast last weekend. The flatbreads called for greek yogurt, a much thicker consistency than the five pounds in front of me. Following Mark Bittman’s advice, I strained two cups of yogurt through a flour sack dishcloth and a mesh strainer. Within a few hours, I had the requisite ¾ cup of greek yogurt.
The yogurt and whole-wheat flatbreads were cooked on a griddle. Meanwhile, we baked Rineer Farm eggs and Silver Mine Farm Sylvetta Arugula, and topped them with yogurt spiced with paprika (see here).
We made substantial progress with these, and the yogurt did not feel repetitious coming, as it did, in two very different forms. However, there was plenty more yogurt to go.
Dinner Pilfered From Friends
Monday, April 09, 2012
Recently, my wife was explaining to a friend how she had learned to replant Jerusalem artichokes to propagate more. Our friend warned us to be sure we planted them in a pot, as they tend to spread quickly and become very difficult to extirpate. “In fact,” she continued, “I’ve probably still got some in my (community garden) plot right now. You’re welcome to dig them out for yourself.” And so we did.
This soup was pilfered from her plot and combined with some chicken stock of ours. We’ve had some excellent creamed Jerusalem artichoke soup – most memorably at the Farm and Fisherman. But here I wasn’t looking to create anything complicated; instead, I wanted to have an effortless soup that also focused on the taste of the artichokes. There are innumerable ways to elaborate on this, so think of it only as a starting point.
Creamed Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
4 cups chicken stock
1 ½ pounds Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper
Melt the butter the butter in a saucepan large enough to hold the remaining ingredients. Add the garlic and sauté until golden. Add the artichokes, stock, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the artichokes are cooked through. Blend until smooth in a blender or with an immersion blender.
Top with some caramelized onions, truffle oil, horseradish, or whatever else you can think of.
My Favorite Root Vegetable
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
I’ve never been able to understand why so many people dislike beets, since ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved their sweetness and their fun ability to turn everything they touch violently pink. Another fantastic thing about beets is that they’re still in markets this time of year, like many other root vegetables, and if you can find them with the tops still attached, you also get a nice bunch of tender, mild-flavored greens for use in another meal.
Roasting is by far my favorite way to cook beets, since it concentrates their flavor and prevents them from going watery, as they would be if boiled. Here, they’re combined with French lentils and herbs as a topping for whole wheat pasta, mixed with locally-produced fresh goat ricotta. You could use a creamy blue instead of the ricotta, since both beets and lentils can easily stand up to a more aggressive cheese. This would also make a nice vegan dish without the cheese, although in that case it would be a good idea to add back some of the pasta cooking water along with the olive oil and herbs, for extra moisture.
Whole Wheat Penne with Goat Ricotta, French Lentils and Roasted Beets
2 small bunches of beets
1/2 cup French lentils
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons garlic-flavored olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
8 ounces whole wheat penne
4 ounces fresh ricotta, preferably goat
2-3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the tops off the beets, wash any dirt off, and wrap each one tightly in foil. Place on a baking sheet and roast at 400 F until easily pierced with a sharp knife. Let the beets cool enough to handle, then peel and cut into half-inch dice.
Boil the lentils until tender, then drain and mix with the roasted beets. Dress with the garlic olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Taste and add more oil or vinegar if needed.
Boil the penne in ample salted water according to package instructions, being careful not to overcook. Drain and toss with the ricotta, oregano leaves, salt and pepepr, and enough olive oil to moisten everything.
Plate the penne, and mound the lentils and beet salad on top. Allow diners to mix the pasta themselves, as the bees will turn the pasta magenta if mixed ahead of time.
Winter Carrots to the Rescue
Sunday, January 08, 2012
Now is about the time I start thinking about spring—and it’s not just the batallion of seed catalogs popping up in the mail. I start to get tired of potatoes and other root vegetables, all the stuff that I canned or froze the past summer. I want something to eat with bright colors and flavors.
That’s when I break out my favorite carrot soup recipe. I noted on Twitter the other day that I planned to make it, and someone tweeted me back: “How do you make soup out of just carrots?
Oh, ye of little faith. Most people forget about carrots when it comes to winter vegetables. You can often find them at winter farmer’s markets, and if you grow them at home, you can generally leave them in the ground in the fall (with a little protection during colder winters) until you need them. And it’s not like carrots are usually considered the star of the show—maybe you throw them in soup as part of a miripoix, maybe you chop them up and throw them in a meatloaf or something.
I’ve seen lots of variations of carrot soup—usually paired with ginger and pureed until smooth. I prefer soup with a little bit more body, and this recipe fits the bill for me. I tinkered with it, of course, because I just can’t leave well enough alone. Most of the ingredients can be sourced locally, and the flavor is fantastic: hearty but bright.
2.5 lbs. of carrots (trimmed, peeled, and chopped)
half of a red onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp butter
1 pinch of saffron threads
1 pinch of sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
.5 cup sour cream
4 Tbsp. cilantro (chopped)
Combine in a stockpot: carrots, onions, garlic, saffront, sugar, salt, butter, and 1 cup of stock. Bring to a simmer and then cover, cooking over medium heat while stirring occasionally for fifteen minutes or until most of the stock is evaporated. The carrots should be tender.
Add 2 cups of stock and the heavy cream; bring to a simmer. Stir in 3 Tbsp. of cilantro, sour cream, and more salt to taste. Use a stick blender to puree roughly half the soup. You can also do this using a regular blender, of course. I I prefer the soup slightly chunky.
Serve with a drizzle of sour cream or yogurt, a light sprinkling of more cilantro, and a few curls of carrot.
There are other ways to enjoy carrots as a main dish, of course:
Saturday, December 31, 2011
While we’ve been enjoying a mild winter so far, many long months still lie between us and spring. This is a great dish to combat the winter blues with, being so savory and warming, and locally grown mushrooms, onions and herbs are readily available even in this pretty bleak period for produce. It’s also a great vegetarian (or vegan, if you leave out the sour cream and use all oil instead of a mix with butter) option for New Year’s Day or Super Bowl parties, easily scaling up to feed a crowd.
If you like it hot, you can substitute Hungarian hot paprika or ground chipotle for the Spanish smoked paprika below.
2 tablespoons each unsalted butter and olive oil
3 large or 6 small onions, thinly sliced
16 ounces cremini and/or white button mushrooms, sliced
1/3 ounce mixed dried mushrooms, reconstituted in one cup boiling water, then drained and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
2 cups hot vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream
Chopped parsley for garnishing
Cooked egg noodles or rice
Melt the butter into the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring regularly, until they have softened and begun to turn gold, then add the mushrooms and continue cooking until they have begun to wilt.
Sprinkle the sweet and smoked paprikas over the onions and mushrooms, and continue stirring over the heat for a minute or two. Pour in the stock, adding a bit more if necessary to just cover the vegetables, and salting lightly. Cover the pot, lower the heat and simmer until the onions have broken down and the mushrooms are cooked through, 30-45 more minutes.
Take the pot off the heat and stir in the sour cream and parsley. Taste and add more salt and pepper as desired, then serve over the cooked noodles or rice.
Leftovers can be gently reheated the next day, though if you use low-fat sour cream, it may look a bit curdled, which won’t affect the taste.
Give Liver (Pate) a Chance
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Liver pate gets a bad rap. Well, let’s face it: liver in general is reviled. I recently announced that instead of Christmas cookies this year, I made pate. It was universally met with a disgusted “ew!” It’s a shame. There’s nothing better than a good liver pate on water crackers. It’s smooth and delicious. It’s also ridiculously easy to make, and you can prepare it using almost entirely local ingredients.
Let’s start with the livers. You need about a pound of chicken livers, and you can get those from any local producers of chickens. Mine came from Friendly Farms. Sure, they look a little disgusting, but get over it. Oh, and soak them in milk for two hours. People say this is how you get the disgusting flavor out of them…personally, I’ve had soaked and unsoaked livers, and I can’t really tell the difference. I say it’s all in how you cook them.
But let’s assume you’ve soaked your livers in milk and you’re ready to get moving. What else do you need?
1 cup yellow onion, diced
2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
salt and pepper
1/4 cup of bourbon
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp butter, cold and chopped into pieces.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onions for about 3 minutes; add garlic, and saute for 30 seconds. Toss in the chicken livers, bay, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook all this down for about five minutes—basically you want the liver to still be slightly pink inside. Add the bourbon and cook until the liquid is mostly evaporated.
Let the mixture cool, remove and discard the bay leaf, and then toss everything (but the bay leaf) into your blender or food processor, along with the cold butter. Blend it up until it looks like something you so don’t want to eat and adjust the seasonings to your taste. Pour into ramekins and refrigerate for at least six hours.
If you’re taking them to a party, you can seal the pate with clarified butter to keep it fresher.
Delicata Squash and Apple Bisque
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Appropriately enough for the October apple challenge, my Thanksgiving stuffing recipe features apples, along with a lot of onions and celery, walnuts or pecans, and fresh sage and thyme. Since it’s not quite time for stuffing yet, I turned that basic inspiration into a smooth, warming soup that also made great use out of the handful of Delicata squash that came out of my garden before all the rain softened up the rest.
There are three apple elements in this soup: a large tart apple, cider mixed into the stock, and a shot of Calvados at the end. If you can’t find Delicata squash in the markets, this soup can be made just as well with any other winter squash, although I think butternut or Kabocha would give the best results. If you prefer to leave out the alcohol, the soup can be finished with a drizzle of cider vinegar instead.
Delicata Squash and Apple Bisque
4 small Delicata squash, cut in half and seeded
3 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large or 2 small Honeycrisp, Fuji, or other tart-crisp apple, peeled and diced
2 sprigs fresh sage, leaves julienned
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped off the stems
3 cups vegetable stock
1 ½ cups apple cider
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Calvados, applejack, or brandy
Preheat oven to 400 F. Rub the cut surfaces of the squash with 2 tablespoons of the oil and set rind-up on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast squash until tender all the way through and yielding to the point of a sharp knife. Once cooked, scrape the flesh out of the squash and discard the rinds.
Heat the butter and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat until the butter has melted. Saute the onion until wilted, then add the celery and apple and continue cooking until soft.
Add the stock, cider, herbs and roasted squash to the pot. Salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, lower the heat and simmer 20 minutes, until the squash has completely broken down into the soup.
Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree the soup until smooth. Stir in the Calvados or brandy, taste, and add more salt and pepper as necessary.
Romanesco and Cauliflower Manicotti
Saturday, October 22, 2011
A few weeks ago, as Tom Culton explained to me why his romanesco were so small (he had cut them prematurely so they didn’t have a chance to rot from all of the rain), I had a small, inward panic. His romanesco, beautiful fractal patterns in lime green, are among my favorite arrivals for the fall. Thankfully, Tom’s later crop have returned to their normal, bountiful size. I am always looking for new ways to cook it, and this manicotti recipe is among my favorites. It almost seems a shame to cook romanesco down to an unrecognizable mash, but I think the manicotti easily compensate in taste.
This is, undeniably, a main dish that just happens to be vegetarian. It’s substantial and rich enough to satisfy people who have difficulty imagining a meal without meat. I’ve made some revisions to Jamie Oliver’s original. First, I make my own tomato sauce. Second, I supplanted store-bought cannelloni tubes with buckwheat manicotti (crepes). Third, I substituted anchovy paste for actual anchovies. I do love anchovies, and I am one to purchase them salted and then fillet them myself when needed. But in this instance, because it should dissolve consistently in the cooked vegetables, I opt for the paste, saving the fillets instead for a my homemade version of Otto’s “Romana” pizza. Fourth, instead of creme fraiche, I use goat yogurt from Patches of Stair Dairy.
Making your own tomato sauce and crepes, in addition to being in accord with the credo of this blog, guarantees a freshness and quality you will find difficult to equal in store-bought ingredients. Further, the recipes included here for both the tomato sauce and the crepes make more than this recipe calls for. Therefore, in making these manicotti, you are making key ingredients of two other meals. For example, I used the other half of the tomato sauce for a pasta dinner and the crepes for breakfast. Additionally, by using manicotti, I’ve eliminated the need to fill cannelloni with a pastry bag.
Like many of Oliver’s dishes this represents a nice twist on something classic (in this case, anchovies and broccoli). My favorite aspect of this dish, though, is the quick “white-sauce” of goat yogurt and Parmesan thinned with some water. You can easily find other uses for that alone.
One last thing: thanks to my awesome neighbors for first serving me this.
Cauliflower and Broccoli Manicotti
1 lb. broccoli, washed and chopped
1 lb. romanesco cauliflower, washed and chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small bunch basil leaves, picked and washed
1 small bunch thyme, washed and leaves stripped and chopped
1 oz. anchovy paste
2 small dried chilies (or to taste)
2 cups goat yogurt
8 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced
2 cups tomato sauce (see below)
1 dozen (approximately) buckwheat manicotti (see below)
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it as you would for pasta, and drop in the broccoli and cauliflower. Blanch for 5 minutes and then strain, reserving the cooking water.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide, shallow saucepan (make sure the pan is wide enough to hold all of the cauliflower and broccoli) over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for approximately 1 minute. Add the thyme, anchovies, and chilies. Stir together and cook for 30 seconds. Add the cooked broccoli and cauliflower, stirring everything together. Add ½ cup of the reserved cooking water, turn the heat to medium-low, partially cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft enough to mash. (If the mixture is too wet, allow it to cook longer uncovered. If the mixture is too dry, stir in more of the cooking water, one tablespoon at a time.) Remove from the heat and mash the vegetables with a spoon. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, mix the goat yogurt and 4 oz. of the Parmesan to form the quick “white sauce.” Thin with a little water if necessary.
Assemble the manicotti. Spread the tomato sauce on the bottom of a large casserole dish or lasagna pan. Lay one of the manicotti on a plate. Spoon a strip of the mixture in the center, being careful not to overstuff them. Roll up on side and then other; one side should overlap the other. Arrange the manicotti in the pan, seam-side down, packing them tightly together but keeping them in single layer. Spread the basil leaves over the manicotti, and then cover with the white sauce. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the top and then cover with the mozzarella. Season the top with black pepper and a drizzle (or two) of olive oil. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden and the whole thing is bubbling.
Serve with some simply dressed greens.
1 quart of canned tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
salt and pepper
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and sauté until softened (approximately 5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and oregano, stir, and cook for 1 minute (though I usually just wait until it’s fragrant). Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat until it simmers and leave it to cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree in a blender, in a food processor, or with a hand blender until smooth. Return to the heat and continue to cook uncovered until it reaches your preferred thickness.
(adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World)
¼ cup white spelt flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
½ cup whole milk
Butter or canola oil (for frying)
Combine the flours, eggs, and milk with 1 cup of water. Whisk until smooth. Allow to sit for 1-2 hours. Heat an 8- or 10-inch nonstick skillet (I use a Lodge cast iron pan and it works beautifully). Add just enough butter or oil to the pan to coat the bottom. Pour in ¼ cup of the batter and swirl it to coat the bottom of the pan. Turn in 1-2 minutes, or when the it “sets.” (You may need to adjust the heat so the bottom does not burn before the top sets.) Turn and cook the second side for 30 seconds. Remove from the pan, add enough oil or butter to cover the bottom, and repeat.
Using Up Your Habaneros
Saturday, October 15, 2011
The first threat of frost usually has pepper growers praying—or at least fervently hoping—that the bumper crop of peppers will turn red or orange soon. Whether it’s bell peppers or chile peppers, no one wants to leave food in the garden when fall turns into winter.
My husband wanted to grow habanero peppers this year, something I was confused about because he’s not a fan of spicy food. If you’ve never bitten into a habanero, they’re fairly fiery. An orange habanero ranges from 130,000 to 325,000 on the Scoville scale (the scale that measures chile heat). As a point of reference, the trinidad scorpion pepper is at the top of the scale—900,000 to 1,463,700—while a cherry pepper comes in at 0 to 500. I like spicy foods, but I must admit I’m somewhat nervous of cooking with vegetables so hot I have to wear latex gloves to avoid a capsaicin burn.
You can pick green habaneros, but they will be slightly less spicy (possibly a good thing, all things considered). You can also force green habaneros to ripen to orange by putting them in a paper bag and letting them sit for a few days—of course, it doesn’t make them any hotter.
One of the things I came up with for using habaneros is to make butter sauce, which is fantastic over roasted chicken. Yes, it’s spicy. My husband tried it and immediately ran for a glass of water.
10 orange habanero peppers, seeded and halved
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and halved
zest from one orange
4 Tbsp. of white wine
2 Tbsp. of salt
1 glove garlic, smashed
1 c. of white wine, apple cider, or champagne vinegar
2 tsp. cornstarch
3 Tbsp. butter, softened
Toss chiles, bell pepper, orange zest, 2 Tbsp. wine, 1 Tbsp. of salt, and the garlic clove in a blender and puree; let it sit in the blender at room temperature for at least 4 hours but up to 12 hours. When you’re ready to continue add vinegar and remaining wine and 1 Tbsp. of salt to the blender and puree until smooth. Place a mesh strainer over a saucepan, and transfer the contents of the blender to the saucepan. Press the solids with the back of a spoon to get as much liquid out as possible; discard the solids (add them to your compost pile). Heat the liquid in the saucepan to a simmer over medium heat. Place the cornstarch in a small bowl and mix with 2 tsp. of water to form a slurry. Pour slurry into saucepan and whisk until the mixture thickens, around 3 minutes. Whisk in butter and season with salt.
This makes a cup or two of butter sauce. Use it to spice up any dish.
Other interesting ideas for using your habanero peppers:
- Habanero brownies
- Orange Habanero Vinaigrette
- Habanero Salt Water Taffy
- Habanero Cashew Brittle
- White Chocolate Habanero Ice Cream
- Spicy Grapefruit Margarita
- Garlic Habanero Chicken Meatballs With Kale Polenta
- Cranberry Habanero Jelly
- Pickled Habanero Peppers
What’s your favorite way to use up your late-season habanero peppers?
Friday, September 30, 2011
I have a thing about beets. Well, actually it’s not so much a thing about as a thing with. You see, when first presented with a beet I always think I don’t like them. I will never go out of my way to buy beets and when I get them in my CSA share my first reaction is always a resigned oh, beets.
But then I force myself to do something with them—so I take the first step and either steam or roast them.
And then I force myself to take the next step and eat them because one must not waste food.
And then my reaction is always an elated ah, beets!
In the interest of time, the next time I get beets I should really just skip to the ah, beets! reaction.
In my last few weeks of CSA deliveries I’ve received beets and lots and lots of wonderful cilantro, garlic, and chives. I also had lounging in my fridge a block of fresh goat cheese from Sunny Side Goat Dairy and a baguette from Big Sky Bread. In a desperate act of eating all this produce and the cheese before it became un-usable I went ahead with making a beet salad. And it was awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I had two platefuls of it along with some sliced baguette to mop up the juices.
I highly encourage you to try this. It will change any negative thoughts you may have about beets.
Beet Salad with Goat Cheese
6 beets—cooked, peeled, sliced and chilled
2 tsp. sugar (or to taste)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch of chives, chopped
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
Combine the vinegar, sugar, garlic, chives, and cilantro.
Pour over sliced beets.
Add some fresh goat cheese just before serving.
Just for fun, at the last second I threw on some pickled garlic scapes that were hanging out in my fridge and it was a nice way to spice things up. Totally optional, of course.
Cusp of Fall Produce
Thursday, September 29, 2011
As much as I love the berries, stone fruit and corn of summer, I honestly think the best time for produce in this area is early fall. This time of year, you can find both the best of the late-summer fruits and vegetables and the apples, pears and pumpkins of autumn. In my garden, I have a handful of straggling green tomatoes and peppers turning red right beside the hard squashes swelling on their vines.
This baked dish is the perfect thing to make with the fruits of this season, since it’s just a little bit heartier than I would want in the heat of August, when I’d be wanting to make a salad instead. This is a more comforting and warming configuration for those same ingredients, much more suited to the somewhat drippy weather we’ve been having this month. I’m especially pleased with the fact that everything is local except the wine and the feta, and a fair bit of it was even home-grown. The twisty red frying peppers, green bell pepper, tomatoes and herbs all came from containers on my patio, while the onion and darling little pale-purple fairytale eggplant came from the Saturday Chestnut Hill farmers market. Later this fall, it can be made instead with big Italian eggplant and good canned tomatoes, but for the next few weeks, I urge you to take full advantage of the fact that the ingredients can still be found fresh in the markets!
Fairytale Eggplant Baked with Peppers, Tomatoes and Feta
(Adapted from Diane Kochilas, The Greek Vegetarian)
¼ cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and sliced thinly
1 green bell pepper, sliced in thin rounds
2 red frying peppers, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup chopped tomatoes (approximately 4 small)
½ cup red wine
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
1 quart fairytale eggplant
4 ounces feta cheese
Salt to taste
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat and add the onions, cooking until wilted. Add the peppers, red pepper flakes and garlic, cover and cook for another 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and wine and bring to a simmer, cover again, and cook 10 more minutes. Stir in the oregano leaves and salt to taste.
Trim the tops off the eggplant and cut into wedges about an inch wide. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat and fry the eggplant pieces until golden and beginning to turn tender.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Brush a medium-sized baking dish with 2-inch sides with oil, and layer the bottom with half the eggplant. Cover with half the sauce mixture, and repeat with the remaining eggplant and vegetables. Crumble the feta in an even layer on top.
Cover loosely with foil and bake until the eggplant is fully tender and the sauce is bubbling, about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes if you’d like the feta to brown a bit.