Friday, October 24, 2008

Roasted Squash Soup

I might once have had a real recipe for this, but I've long since stopped using one. This makes it more difficult to write down because the recipe changes dramatically based on what I've got in the house and I eyeball the ingredients. If you've got the ingredients to hand, it's a simple, quick recipe to assemble and it doesn't take all day to cook. With the exception of roasting the squash ahead of time, I think I started making this around 5 and we ate at 6:30 (and could probably have eaten earlier). Most of that was cooking time, as opposed to prep time.

Squash dishes are often too sweet for me, so I've come to rely on spice in order to balance it. Now that we've got a little one sharing our dinner, I've swapped out the chipotle powder I normally used in this soup for, you guessed it, smoked paprika. Evan and I can then add a dash of chipotle to our own bowls (assuming that Elspeth doesn't insist on that whatever is in our bowl must be better).

I use whatever roasted squash we have on hand and this season I've ensured there is plenty! If it doesn't get turned into soup, it can be added to muffins or Elspeth will just eat it in chunks.

A mistake I often make with this soup and my Leek and Potato soup (to be posted later) is that I add too much water--one of the drawbacks of eyeballing everything. That can make the soup taste a little thin. The general rule is similar to that for the Hearty Lentil Soup: I try to add only enough water or stock so that the squash pieces are just covered. This ensures an unctuous (I love that word!) texture to the finished soup.

The soup will be pureed, so don't worry about cutting up any of the ingredients particularly finely.

A new innovation I hit upon in March 2009 is to use dried red lentils as my thickener instead of chickpeas. I add the red lentils at the same time as the squash and stock and cook according to the recipe. The lentils are a lovely color and distintegrate so that, when pureed, the soup is even more unctuous than in previous attempts.
INGREDIENTS
1 TBSP olive oil
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (I use my mini chopper for this)
1 onion OR 2 leeks, chopped (if desired--I think I might often season only with garlic)
1-2 tsp ground coriander (I feel this is the secret to the tastiness)
1-2 tsp ground cumin (I prefer to add slightly less cumin than coriander)
1-2 tsp smoked paprika OR
1/2-1 1/2 tsp chipotle powder depending on your spice preference
1/8-1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (I don't want a sweet soup, but I love adding a dash of cinnamon to savory dishes like this soup and chili)
3-5 large carrots, chopped or sliced into rounds (or an equivalent amount of smaller carrots)
1 roasted red, yellow or orange pepper, chopped (optional--last time I didn't use any)
Flesh of 2 small, or 1 medium or large roasted squash, in large chunks
Enough water or stock just to cover (a couple of quarts, maybe?)
2 cups or 1-2 cans cooked white beans or chickpeas depending on how beany you want it OR
1 cup dried red lentils, picked over and rinsed
Salt, pepper to taste
Champagne or cider vinegar to taste

I bet you could also add potatoes to this soup for thickening.

If you felt really ambitious, you could make a stock using the innards from your squashes (removed before roasting) plus the usual suspects of onion and/or leek, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns and parsley). You could roast the squash seeds (pumpkin seeds taste best to me) and garnish the soup with them.

DIRECTIONS
  1. In a large soup pot (we use our 5 quart or 7.5 quart depending on how much squash we have), saute the garlic and onion/leeks (if using) in the olive oil over medium to medium-high heat until soft but not browned.
  2. Add the spices and cook another couple of minutes. I don't know if the flavors are really better using this technique, but I like to do it this way to let them bloom in the oil.
  3. Add the carrots and cook another minute or so
  4. Add the roasted pepper pieces (if using), squash, and water/stock and the dried red lentils if using
  5. Bring to a boil and then simmer until all the vegetables are nice and soft. I think I let this cook for 30 minutes to an hour.
  6. Puree the soup. I have an immersion blender, which makes things much easier, but you could do this in batches in a blender. However, if using a regular blender, I'd be tempted to make the soup a day ahead and cool without pureeing. Puree the cold soup and then simply reheat.
  7. Once the soup is pureed, add the cooked beans/chickpeas. You could certainly puree the beans along with the rest of the soup, but I like some chewy bits along with that unctuous texture I extolled earlier. You could also puree half the beans/chickpeas for thickening and save some out to add whole after.
  8. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings. Cider vinegar was a great addition this last time.
  9. This soup goes especially well with Drop Biscuits. Sauteed greens are an excellent side dish. I sometimes plop them in my soup bowl.
A note about beans: we had some fresh shelling beans from our CSA so I used those. Instead of cooking them separately and adding them whole, I decided simply to add them at the same time as the squash and water. This shortcut worked well and produced a completely smooth soup.

Another Savory Variation

I know, I know, it must seem as if I'm obsessed with clafoutis. However, with the eggs we've got accumulating in the fridge, I don't know what else to do! I want to make a huckleberry one soon for a sweet version, but today I needed a lunch idea for me and Elspeth, so I went savory--Kale and Garlic Clafoutis. This is a variation of Leek & Bacon Clafoutis.

Instead of the leek/onion and bacon, I did this:
  • smashed 3 large garlic cloves through a press and sauteed them in a little olive oil until cooked but not browned
  • took half a bunch of green kale and steamed in the microwave. then I chopped it up a bit in my mini food processor and added to the garlic
  • sauteed garlic and kale for a few minutes to get rid of any kale liquid; seasoned with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg (not as much as for the onion/bacon version)
  • put kale, garlic mixture in bottom of dish and made the rest of the savory clafoutis as written, again adding 7 eggs
Both of us enjoyed this a lot. Next time I think I'd add 2 TBSP melted butter instead of 1 because it was a tad drier than the onion and bacon clafoutis.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hearty Lentil Soup

This is a recipe based on 'Lentil Minestrone' from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I often quip that this is my 'desert island cookbook'. (I'm not sure if there is an equivalent here, but BBC Radio has a programme called Desert Island Discs in which celebrities talk about the 10 albums (or tracks) they would take with them if stranded on a desert island. So, VCfE is my desert island cookbook, smoked paprika is my desert-island condiment, pork is my desert island meat, you get the idea). It's a hefty tome full of wonderful recipes. The desserts, in particular, are great, which I wouldn't necessarily have expected.

At any rate, I don't call my version 'minestrone' because I choose not to use pasta in it. Instead, I've historically used brown rice. This last time, I used barley, in particular this stuff called 'purple prairie barley' that I got at PCC. It's a hull-less barely (meaning not pearled and actually containing more of the hull than pearled barley) with which I had much more success than usual hull-less or pot barley.

I make a few other changes to the recipe such as cooking the greens right in the soup rather than adding cooked greens. I also am sure I mess with the amounts of onion, garlic, carrot, etc based on what I have in the house. Come to think of it, I may even add smoked paprika to this recipe from time to time, or a slug of red wine vinegar for brightness.

The recipe doubles well and is great for new moms: our friend Melanie made it for us, I made it for her family after her second, and just made it for one new mom and a mom-to-be.

INGREDIENTS
2 TBSP olive oil
2 cups onion, finely chopped
2 TBSP tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 garlic cloves, chopped or put through a press
3 carrots, diced
1 cup diced celery or celery root (celeriac)
2 tsp salt
1 cup French (puy) lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 cup brown rice or barley (quinoa might work, or kasha could be really good)
1 bouquet garni of 2 bay leave, 8 parsley branches (I often omit these), 6 thyme sprigs
9-12 cups water or vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
1 bunch greens, washed and chopped
Mushroom soy sauce to taste (we got our at 99 Ranch Market, but I'm sure regular soy would work; I bet that some brewer's yeast might be nice, too, actually)

DIRECTIONS
  1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil and add the onion. Cook over high heat (I think I do medium-high) for about 10 minutes, stirring often. The onions should be slightly browned.
  2. Add the tomato paste, garlic, parsley, vegetables and salt and cook for 2 more minutes
  3. Add the lentils, bouquet garni, rice, barely, quinoa or kasha and water/stock. Because I recommend that you add the grain uncooked instead of adding cooked pasta, you may need to increase the amount of water/stock. My general rule is to add water to cover the ingredients by 1-2 inches. You can always add more water/stock if it seems that the grain doesn't have enough liquid to soften
  4. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Madison recommends cooking for 30 minutes, but your grain may take longer--the barley certainly will. The good news is that puy lentils hold their shape beautifully and won't disintegrate even with a longer cooking time. If using a grain, I'd recommend checking for tenderness at 30 minutes and then add time accordingly.
  5. When the grain is nearly done, taste for seasoning. Add salt, pepper as needed. You could also add some mushroom or regular soy sauce or brewer's yeast, vinegar or smoked paprika. Madison cautions that the flavors will meld and get nicer over time--the soup tastes better the next day.
  6. Add the washed, chopped greens and let them cook for 10 minutes or so. They might not be as bright green, but it saves a step and a pot and has always worked well for me.
  7. Serve with Delicious, Crusty Bread or Drop Biscuits

Monday, October 20, 2008

'So Easy a New Mom Can Make Them' Drop Biscuits

Here is Cook's Illustrated's 'Best Drop Biscuit' recipe from the November 2007 issue to which I alluded in the Scoops post. I love this recipe! I made it with Elspeth cuddled in the sling when she was 2 months old and I made it a few weeks ago with her in the Ergo when she needed a little extra attention--it's that simple. I always make a double batch and freeze. We reheat in the toaster oven on a medium toast setting. Evan likes his with peach 'yum' (a less sugary jam), whereas I eat mine naked.

I do use my scale in this recipe for the flour. Because I substitute whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour, I want to make sure I'm not adding too much. Other than that, I think I make the recipe exactly as designed by Cook's except that I don't bother brushing the biscuits with melted butter after they come out of the oven.

INGREDIENTS
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (10 ounces)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp table salt
1 cup cold buttermilk
1 stick (8 TBSP) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (about 5 minutes)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees.
  2. Stir flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in large bowl.
  3. Combine buttermilk with the melted butter in medium bowl, stirring until butter forms small clumps (apparently this helps with fluffiness)
  4. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients. Stir until just mixed. The batter should pull away from the sides of bowl.
  5. Using your handy dandy portion scoop (greased) or a greased 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop drop batter onto a rimmed baking tray lined with Silpat or parchment. The biscuits should measure about 2 1/4 inches in diameter and 1 1/4 inches high--I hope that this will be the case when I use the portion scoop. As it is now, the recipe only makes 9 or 10 biscuits, not 12, and they're not as high as I'd like them to be.
  6. Repeat until batter is gone, leaving 1 1/2 inches between biscuits.
  7. Bake until tops are golden brown 12 to 14 minutes.
  8. Transfer to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Scoops and Poops

This isn't a recipe (thankfully--I don't want to think too much about what it might be a recipe for...). Every once in a while I will post on food-related topics.

This post is about the difference a scoop makes. I recently made the Cook's Illustrated Best Drop Biscuits recipe (which I will definitely post). I didn't have a good portion scoop and have always used a greased measuring cup for the biscuits and a big spoon for everything else. Biscuit dough is not so easy to work with and I ended up buying the Cook's recommended Fantes 16 size ice cream/portion scoop to save myself for next time.

I have a freezer full of drop biscuits already since I make a double batch to have biscuits at the ready, but I made my Flax Bran Muffins yesterday and decided to try out the new scoop. The actual loading of the muffin batter into my silicone molds wasn't a revelation in mix transferal technology or anything. However, I must say that the finished muffins look so much nicer! They're a rounder, more uniform shape and I think that the tops puffed more. Given that the top is my favorite part, this is a good thing! I wouldn't have thought that using a portion scoop would noticeably improve my muffins, but it did.

On another muffin-related note, I used grated zucchini in the muffins for the first time (I added 2 cups). They're very tasty but drier than when I use squash. I would be tempted to add 1/4 to 1/2 cup applesauce to the batter for extra texture deliciousness.

As for the poops, let's just say that a certain Ms. E apparently responded well to the muffin she had earlier today. I was glad it was a day she was with my friend!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe comes from one of those Junior League-type cookbooks that we had when I was a child. No idea how we got it, since we never were part of whatever organization it was. They're called Cowboy Cookies, and I think they're a fairly standard variation on chocolate chip cookies. I never had any other kind until I was well into grade school. When I had my first Tollhouse cookie, I was so excited because we never had such 'brand name' things at my house. One taste, though, and I was longing for the familiar, hearty goodness of Cowboy Cookies. My mom used to stick in some wheat germ, but now I use ground flax. I thought of adding this recipe because the sensory table had flax seeds today and we were talking about how we add them to cookies and smoothies for ourselves and our kids. The flax can be a substitute for some of the fat or one of the eggs, if you like. In the non-lamented Low Fat Late 80s-Early 90s, I discovered that you could also substitute applesauce for some of the butter (in those days the recipe called for margarine). Though I'm all about the butter these days, the applesauce version is good if you want a cake-ier cookie.

The recipe makes a lot of cookies--probably 5 dozen. You can freeze them already baked, but I like to roll the dough into balls and freeze on a baking tray. Once fully frozen, I transfer the dough balls to a plastic bag and store in the freezer. When we feel like we need a cookie fix, we put the balls on a baking tray and let them thaw while the oven heats up and then bake. They may take a few minutes longer, but they do quite well with this treatment.

INGREDIENTS
2 cups (10 oz) whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar (or raw, natural sugar)
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups rolled oats OR
1 1/2 cup rolled oats plus 1/2 cup ground flax
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz chocolate chips (the semisweet ones from Trader Joe's are great)
1 cup chopped nuts (we usually use walnuts but I will be omitting for a while since we're only supposed to do nut butter until Elspeth is older)
Optional extras include grated coconut, raisins, dried tart cherries, wheat germ, pretty much anything you want

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients (everything up to the butter) in a medium bowl and set aside
  3. Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, cream the butter and then slowly add the sugars. Cream for several minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy
  4. Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, mixing between adds
  5. Beat in one egg, then the other
  6. Add the rolled oats, then the vanilla and mix briefly
  7. Add the chocolate chips and nuts and give a final mix to incorporate
  8. Shape the dough into walnut-sized balls and place on a baking tray an inch or two apart
  9. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Indian Beets

At last, a cooked beet recipe that I like! I found the recipe for 'Beetroot with Onions Shorvedar Chukander' in Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking. We had all the ingredients in the house for this and I decided to take a risk.

I made this beet dish and I had roasted a spaghetti squash we'd got in our CSA basket. I figured it was worth a shot to see what Elspeth thought, so I mixed up some of the beets with the spaghetti squash. A couple of mouthfuls went in. She then would not touch the beet-flavored spaghetti squash no matter how it was presented to her, but she kept shoveling in the beets and onions themselves! That is not what I would have predicted, particularly since she loves all other squash. It wasn't a fluke either; we offered her the beet dish tonight (with aloo gobi, the Savory Indian Lentils, and brown basmati rice) and she gobbled it up. I should note that we stripped her down to just her diaper for these beet meals--a necessary precaution as she was magenta all over afterwards.

When I can be detached about her choices, it's so interesting to see her preferences develop. In this golden era, she's so brave and excited about new foods.

I made the beet recipe essentially as written though I didn't have the exact quantities of beets and tomatoes so I threw in what I had and it was fine.

INGREDIENTS
12 oz raw beets (weighed without stems or greens)
4 TBSP vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 clove garlic (I added 2), peeled and finely chopped (I put through a press)
4 oz onions, coarsely chopped
1 tsp flour
1/8 to 1/2 tsp cayenne (I did 1/8)
8 oz tomatoes, finely chopped (she says to peel them, but I didn't bother)
1 tsp salt
10 fluid ounces water


DIRECTIONS
  1. Peel the beets and cut into wedges. I had reasonably small beets and chose to do about 1/2 to 3/4 inch-long wedges that are about as thick as a finger.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium pan. (Note that you'll need a lid later). Add the cumin seeds and let them fry for 5 seconds.
  3. Add the garlic and stir until it is golden (if you're using pressed garlic, this could happen very quickly--you want to avoid burning the garlic)
  4. Add the onions and fry, stirring, for 2 minutes
  5. Add the flour and cayenne. Stir and cook for a minute
  6. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until the beets are tender. (It took longer than 30 minutes for me, even though my beets were small; I waited until a fork slid out somewhat easily though the beets were still firmer than, say, a boiled potato).
  7. Remove the lid and cook uncovered for 7-10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. It will continue to thicken as it cools, but will still be nice and saucy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Peanut Sauce

This recipe has been adapted from Dana Jacobi's Natural Health Cookbook. I don't make as many things from this book as I used to, but this is the only peanut sauce I make. The Chewy Carrot Cookies are good, too; I'll post that recipe someday.

As usual, I've made some modifications. One day, wanting to make this dish, I realized that I didn't have any Chinese 5 spice powder. I shrugged my shoulders and used the Hot and Fragrant Curry Powder from the Savory Lentils recipe instead. It was delicious and now I don't bother with the 5 spice. Jacobi serves this with a millet/rice combo, but you could serve it over anything.

This recipe doubles very easily and freezes well. I love it because we almost always have all of the ingredients on hand and it's quick to put together.

INGREDIENTS
1 TBSP sesame oil
1 small onion, diced
1 TBSP minced garlic (I probably use more than this)
1 1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce (we've used Tabasco and Sriracha with good results--could be omitted)
1/4 c soy sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4- 1 tsp cayenne (we'd probably omit this for a meal with Elspeth)
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice or Hot and Fragrant Curry powder (or garam masala)
1 cup peanut butter--we like the Woodstock Farms natural (but slightly sweetened) peanut butter we get at PCC)
1 cup water
3 TBSP maple syrup
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1 cup chopped parsley (I've omitted this many times if we don't have any around)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Place the oil, onion, and garlic in a small skillet over medium heat
  2. Saute until the onion is translucent about 3 to 5 minutes
  3. Add the pepper sauce, soy sauce and spices and cook for two minutes
  4. Combine the peanut butter, water, maple syrup, and lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse until well mixed
  5. Add the onion mixture to the food processor and pulse a few more times
  6. Return to skillet and heat slightly, if desired
  7. Serve with steamed or sauteed greens and cubed tofu over a grain (millet/brown rice, couscous, barley, quinoa, etc)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Flax Bran Muffins

I tend to have these muffins every work morning as a quick breakfast I can have on the bus. I used to love that refrigerator muffin recipe on the All Bran box, but then I got sick of buying ridiculously expensive cereal just to make muffins with it and decided to try just adding bran. I probably don't need to make the bran slurry, but it works this way and I've never bothered to adjust that part of the recipe. The flax replaces some of the oil and provides Omega 3 fatty acids. You can also use flax as an egg substitute in other recipes.

I like these muffins because they're hearty, but not doorstop-heavy. I don't know if they'd pass the texture test of, say, Cooks' Illustrated, but they work for me!

INGREDIENTS
2 cups wheat bran
1-2 cups boiling water
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups sugar (I use raw sugar but you could use brown sugar or even molasses, I bet)
1/4 cup cooking oil
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (if desired, you can substitute 3/4 c. almond meal for 3/4 c flour)
3/4 cup ground flax seed (I use a coffee grinder and keep the whole flax seeds in the freezer)
1 cup oat bran
1 TBSP baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp assorted spices (I do a mix of cinnamon, ginger, cloves or cardamom, even chipotle)
Optional: you can add a 12-ounce can of pumpkin or 1 cup of roasted squash or sweet potato or grated zucchini; I like to add 1 cup chopped walnuts or 1 cup dried tart cherries (or both)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare two 12-cup muffin tins
  2. Pour the boiling water over the bran in a small bowl to make a paste and set aside
  3. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs
  4. Add buttermilk, sugar, oil and squash/zucchini if using. Stir until mixed.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal (if using), flax, oat bran, baking soda, salt and spices
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just mixed
  7. Stir in the bran paste
  8. Add the nuts and/or cherries if using and stir briefly
  9. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins (I load them pretty full)
  10. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (it's usually closer to 20 or even 22 minutes)
These muffins freeze beautifully. I defrost for 1 minute in the microwave and then toast them in the toaster oven on Medium for a crunchy-ish top

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Delicious, Crusty Bread


This is my take on the European Peasant Loaf from the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois I mentioned in the turkey soup post. I highly recommend buying the book or checking it out from the library. Their explanations will help give the context for my adaptation. The genius of it is, you can make enough dough for four loaves and leave it in your fridge. Whenever you want to bake a loaf, just cut off a piece and bake it. The dough will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks!

We use starter that Evan's parents received from a friend before Evan was born! For whatever reason, this starter is amazingly robust and stable. If you want us to give you some, we would be happy to share.

I base all of the dry measurements on weight because I find it easiest to dump stuff into my container rather than having to use measuring cups. In general, 5 ounces = 1 cup

This recipe makes four nice-sized loaves. The original recipe says 4, 1lb loaves but even when I followed their recipe exactly I never got 4 one-pound loaves. More like four 12-14-ounce loaves. Above is a photo of one of my loaves.

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup sourdough starter (the batter-like kind)
2 TBSP kosher or Maldon salt
3 oz rye flour
5 oz whole wheat bread flour
1 lb 6 oz unbleached all purpose flour

DIRECTIONS
  1. You'll need a clean 6 qt container that is not absolutely airtight. I use a Rubbermaid 'Servin' Saver' 6 qt square container and have been very happy with it
  2. Put the water, starter and salt in the container and give it a mix
  3. Put the container on your scale and zero it out
  4. Add the 3 oz rye flour; then add enough whole wheat flour to make the total 8 ounces (you can keep zeroing out if you really want to, but I don't bother). I don't even stir at this point, but you could lightly stir in the flours
  5. Add the unbleached all purpose flour until you have a grand total of 1 lb 14 ounces on the scale (or 30 oz if your scale works that way)
  6. Use a large wooden spoon to mix the flours into the water. You are not aiming to knead the dough and you should expect a pretty wet dough. After I mix as much as I can with the spoon, I went my hands and mix the dough with them until the flour is incorporated. Again, you're not kneading, you just don't want dry and wet patches
  7. Place the lid on the container loosely and put the dough in the fridge for a day. Using the starter makes the rising take longer but the flavor is superb. You can speed things up slightly by leaving the dough out at room temperature for 8 hours.
  8. You know your dough is active when you see air bubbles in it and it has risen. I almost never try to make a loaf until the next day
DOUGH PREPARATION
  1. Grease a medium bowl (ideally with a flat bottom that doesn't slope too much--I use a large souffle dish that looks like an oversized ramekin). You can use oil, but I've started using cooking spray as it is so much easier than fiddling with a pastry brush or paper towels.
  2. Then sprinkle cornmeal in the greased bowl and shake out the excess into the sink.
  3. Remove the dough container from fridge and sprinkle with all-purpose flour
  4. Grab a grapefruit-sized chunk of dough from the container
  5. Working quickly, shape into a flattened ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you do this (that's nearly verbatim from the book but is still hard to explain until you've done it)
  6. Place in the greased bowl
RISING DIRECTIONS
METHOD ONE--Cold rise all day
This method is great when you have a few minutes in the morning before leaving the house for a long time
  1. Following the steps above, put the dough in the fridge for at least 6 hours and up to a day (or even two--we've been very lax about the baking and it's been fine). Go to BAKING steps below
METHOD TWO--Quick Rise
This method works well when you're pottering around the house and forgot to shape the loaf earlier
  1. Following the steps above, leave the dough out at room temperature for at least 1 1/2 hours. Go to BAKING steps below

BAKING DIRECTIONS
  1. Thirty minutes before you want to bake the bread (but at least an hour before you want to eat the bread), preheat the oven to 450 degrees. You want the rack in the middle, preferably with a baking stone on it (hence the preheating for so long). A second rack should have a broiler tray or something that can hold water.
  2. Boil 1 cup of water or have really hot water from the tap and have it ready by the oven.
  3. Right before you want to put the bread in the oven, get out a baking peel. Sprinkle with cornmeal and turn the dough out onto it.
  4. Alternative: turn dough out onto a baking tray with Silpat or baking parchment on it. The crust won't be as nice, but it's foolproof in terms of getting the loaf into the oven intact.
  5. Sprinkle the dough with all-purpose flour and slash it a few times (in an X pattern or a # pattern--whatever seems appealing to you)
  6. Working quickly, slide the loaf onto the hot baking stone and then put the hot water onto the broiler tray. The steam will help to create a crackling crust that will 'sing' at you when you remove from the oven. Close the oven.
  7. Bake loaf for approximately 30 minutes or until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Depending on the size of your loaf, you may need to adjust baking time.
  8. Allow to cool as long as possible before eating (we try to wait half an hour at least if we can--the internal texture is much nicer if you wait; if you rush it, it just gets gummy)
  9. Serve and enjoy. We like it plain or with French cultured butter. I love buying local foods, but I have not found a US butter that can remotely compare with Celles Sur Belle French butter.

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

Our dear friend Melanie made this recipe for us to stock our freezer before Elspeth was born. We appreciated this so much in those early, crazy weeks. I since bought the cookbook it comes from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook: Whole Food Recipes for Personal and Planetary Health by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre. This is an incredibly comforting and nourishing soup. As usual, I've messed around with the recipe and techniques based on what makes sense in the moment.

This is delicious accompanied by some no-knead bread (we use a cookbook called Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day)

METHOD ONE if you have homemade turkey or chicken stock on hand or want to use storebought
(This is arguably a faster, simpler method that cooks in one pot and is the main way I changed the original recipe. I also like the texture of the turkey meat more.)

INGREDIENTS
2-3 pound organic turkey breast
2 TBSP olive oil
1 large leek cleaned well and sliced in half moons OR
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 tsp dried thyme OR
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp dried sage OR a few leaves fresh sage
1 cup wild rice
8-10 cups water, turkey or chicken broth
1 bunch greens, washed and chopped or ground finely in a food processor (the original recipe calls for baby spinach but we never have this around and do tend to have other greens)
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped (we often omit this if our parsley outside isn't doing well)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Roast the turkey breast. I like to slather it with a small amount of olive oil and then salt and pepper it. I also like to eat the roasted skin...my guilty pleasure. Once the turkey is roasted and cooled, separate the meat from the bone and set meat aside. You will also be happy if you put any drippings from the roasted turkey into your soup
  2. Saute the leek/onion, celery and carrot in the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot
  3. Add the turkey meat, herbs, wild rice and water. You should have enough water to cover all the ingredients by 1-2 inches, as the wild rice will soak up a lot of water
  4. Cook until the wild rice is thoroughly cooked (it will burst its skin), around an hour
  5. Add the washed greens to the pot and cook another 10-15 minutes
  6. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed--we'll often add a slug of champagne vinegar for a little brightness
METHOD TWO if making your own stock
INGREDIENTS
2-3 pounds organic turkey breast with bone and skin
1 large onion, chopped with skin on
1 large carrot, cut into large chunks
3 stalks celery, cut into large chunks
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (I often omit as I find rosemary too strong)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
5 whole black peppercorns
1 TBSP sea salt (I often omit this, too)
8 cups water

DIRECTIONS
  1. Place all ingredients in a big pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 2 hours, or until the meat falls off the bone easily.
  2. Strain the broth into a colander. Discard the solids (except turkey) and set broth aside.
  3. Take turkey meat off bone and follow the instructions in METHOD ONE from Step 2

Monday, October 6, 2008

Leek & Bacon Clafoutis

One of my favorite savory recipes from Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking is her Leek Tart (Flamiche aux Poireaux) recipe, which I've adapted over the years. It occurred to me that a slightly less caloric and slightly easier approach might be to turn it into clafoutis. I made this yesterday and all of us loved it! I didn't have any leeks, so I used onion. The secret is lots of freshly-grated nutmeg.

INGREDIENTS
1 very large onion OR
2-3 leeks, white and light green parts only
2-3 slices bacon (we use high-quality pepper bacon)
freshly-ground nutmeg
1-2 TBSP butter
6 large eggs (I ended up using 7 since we're overloaded with eggs and it was fine)
1 cup milk
2/3 cup all purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
pinch salt
pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and butter a 10.5 inch ceramic baking dish or pie plate (we use an oval ceramic dish and it works great)
  2. Dice the onion. If using leeks, clean thoroughly and cut into half moons
  3. Cut the bacon pieces into matchsticks width-wise (lardons)
  4. Cook bacon in a medium to large skillet over medium high heat until the fat renders and the bacon is a little crispy
  5. Add the onion/leeks and lots of freshly-grated nutmeg
  6. Cook until very tender (10-12 minutes probably) then put the mixture in the bottom of your baking dish
  7. Melt butter and set aside
  8. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until it is frothy. Slowly add the milk, flour, salt, pepper (if not using pepper bacon), yet more freshly-grated nutmeg and melted butter. Make sure it is well mixed.
  9. Pour batter over the onions/leeks. Bake until the clafoutis is set (puffed and golden), about 30-35 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before serving. Delicious warm or cold

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Beet and Carrot Salad

This is inevitably how we use beets from our CSA basket since I'm not fond of them cooked. (I really should work on that). We like things quite tart, so adjust to your tastes. Not sure if a kid would like this or not.

INGREDIENTS
1 bunch beets
1 bunch carrots (roughly equal to amount of beets)
Juice of 1/2 to 1 whole lemon
Pinch salt
1 TBSP olive oil

DIRECTIONS
  1. Top and scrub the beets and carrots. The beet greens can be used for another purpose
  2. Grate the beets and carrots in a food processor or by hand
  3. In a medium to large bowl, mix the lemon juice with the salt to dissolve the salt
  4. Add the olive oil and whisk to emulsify
  5. Add beets and carrots to the bowl and mix well
This dish is a great accompaniment to grilled sausage or in any context where you might like a slaw.

Savory Red Lentils

This has been a work-lunch staple for me for a few years now because it's so simple to make. I just made it this afternoon and, though she was fussy from molar teething, Elspeth liked it, too. I make the homemade curry powder since it lasts for a long time (I know I keep my ground spices longer than I should, but it still tastes good to me even after a few months) but I'm sure you could use store-bought.

The recipe is adapted from the "Dal with Chapati Pasta and Spinach" recipe in Laxmi Hiremath's The Dance of Spices Indian cookbook. I made it as written and liked it, but liked the simplicity of omitting the chapati pasta aspect and found that red lentils worked better than yellow split peas.

INGREDIENTS
3 TBSP vegetable oil
2 tsp yellow or brown mustard seeds (I use one of each)
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed
6 cups water
1 TBSP homemade curry powder (recipe below) or storebought
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne (optional-I used to add this but omitted it for Elspeth's benefit)
2 cups chopped fresh spinach or other greens (optional, but very tasty addition!)

DIRECTIONS
  1. If you have a splatter screen, get it ready! Heat the oil in a large (I use a 3qt) heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until it has a sheen. Add the mustard seeds and immediately cover with the spatter screen. Shake the pan and wait until the seeds have stopped popping (this can take over a minute if your pan wasn't hot enough).
  2. Add the turmeric and stir until fragrant (a few seconds)
  3. Add the lentils and water and bring to a boil. Once it's boiling, add the rest of the spices and turn heat to low. Cook until the lentils are very soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  4. Take the lentils off the heat and stir in the spinach. If using other heartier greens you may wish to leave on the stove for a few minutes, but I usually don't. You could also cook the green separately and add to each dish.
This dish is great over rice or millet. Toasted cashews make a nice addition.

HOT AND FRAGRANT CURRY POWDER

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup coriander seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp yellow or brown mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (I'm pretty sure I've omitted these when I didn't have any)
1/2 tsp whole cloves
2-inch cinnamon stick, broken
4 green cardamom pods, seeds only
10 kari leaves (optional--I've never found these or used them)
1/2 tsp vegetable oil
4 small, hot dried red chilis (I'm sure you could omit these)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine the coriander, peppercorns, mustard, cumin and fenugreek seeds, cloves, cinnamon and kari leaves in a 10 or 12 inch heavy skillet over medium heat.
  2. Toast the spices, stirring frequently, until they are aromatic and darken slightly (5-6 minutes). Place mixture in a bowl.
  3. Put the same pan on medium heat and add the oil. When it is hot, add the chilis. Toast until they're darkened and turn reddish, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and put in the same bowl with the other spices.
  4. After letting the mix cool slightly, grind in a coffee mill or spice grinder (we have a burr grinder, which works great).
  5. Pour into an airtight container. Give the powder a mix and let cool before putting on a lid. Close tightly and store at room temperature. May also be stored in the fridge for prolonged freshness.



Cherry Clafoutis

This recipe is adapted from the Fig Clafoutis recipe in Patricia Wells' Bistro Cooking. It works perfectly with cherries. I am sure other berries or fruit could be substituted (pears, figs, maybe even apples). If using frozen fruit, I would think you should thaw it first, but you might want to experiment to see what works best.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb cherries
1-2 TBSP butter
6 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
1 cup milk
2/3 cup (97g) all purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
pinch salt

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and butter a 10.5 inch ceramic baking dish or pie plate (we use an oval ceramic dish and it works great)

2. Pit and halve the cherries (prepare other fruit if using so that it is in appealing-sized pieces). Place in the buttered ceramic dish.

3. Melt butter and set aside.

4. Combine the eggs and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until it is frothy. Slowly add the milk, flour, salt, extract and melted butter. Make sure it is well mixed.

5. Pour batter over the cherries . Bake until the clafoutis is set (puffed and golden), about 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before serving.
As with the pumpkin clafoutis, this is good warm but may be even better cold or at room temperature.

Pumpkin Clafoutis

A less fussy version of Claudia Fleming's Pumpkin Clafouti (sic) recipe from The Last Course: Desserts from the Gramercy Tavern. I also use almonds instead of hazelnuts.

In case you're not familar with clafoutis, it is a traditional French dish often made with cherries. I think of it as a cross between a Dutch baby and flan but with fruit in it. Yum!

INGREDIENTS
1 large baking pumpkin or squash (or 2/3 cup drained canned pumpkin)
5 large eggs
3/4 cup +2 TBSP sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 inch piece vanilla bean (use pulp only)
pinch salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup chopped toasted almonds

DIRECTIONS
1. If using a baking pumpkin (such as sugar pie) or other whole squash, you will roast the pumpkin first. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Halve the squash and scrape out the seeds. Bake on a baking tray for 1.5 hours (less time if using smaller squash--she is using a 4-5 lb one).

2. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh into a food processor, discarding the skin. Process until smooth. Then place the squash in a sieve lined with cheesecloth over a bowl and let drain in the fridge for a few hours. (You may or may not find a lot of liquid drains out). After it has drained, take 2/3 cup of the mixture and use the rest for another purpose such as squash muffins or soup.

3. If using canned pumpkin, you may not need to drain. The organic kind usually does need draining for an hour (in a sieve lined with cheesecloth over a bowl). Proceed with the rest of the recipe as usual.

4. Place the eggs, 3/4 cup of sugar, milk, cream, vanilla extract & pulp, and salt in a blender, food processor or mixer. Blend until very smooth (30 seconds or so). Add squash puree and blend well. Add flour and pulse until well integrated.

5. Preheat oven to 425. Brush a 9 inch pie plate (we use pyrex) with the melted butter. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 TBSP sugar. Sprinkle in the nuts. Pour batter over the nuts.

6. Bake clafoutis for 15 minutes, then lower the oven heat to 375 and bake for aonther 12 minutes or until the center is just set.

Claudia Fleming says to serve immediately, but we like this clafoutis almost better cold--the flan-y texture really comes through then.

Welcome to EATS!

After talking to parents in preschool today about recipes, I was inspired finally to start a food blog. My 'vision' right now is that this will be a repository for my favorite recipes. Feel free to send me recipes that you would like to have added to the blog. I'll test them out and upload the ones I like best.
The name EATS! with the URL EATSeats is a little joke because our daughter's intials are EATS and she is a fantastic eater. Many of these recipes will be Elspeth tested-and-approved.