Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Green Curry Zucchini Bisque

Oh look. Another zucchini recipe. At this rate I will be carving zucchini-o'lanterns in a few weeks.

As unenthusiastic as I was while making this, I can say with sincerity that it actually was very good - probably because the zucchini acts as an almost secret background ingredient to the bold lime, curry and coconut flavors. I threw in a potato to add body and I suspect that the bisque's creamy texture is due in part to this addition.

Curry pastes and sometimes fish sauce can vary in their strength so start on the low-end of the amounts I suggested and work up from there depending on your preference. I personally added 4 tablespoons of fish sauce and 6 teaspoons of curry paste.

I spooned some Jasmine rice in which soaked up the coconut creaminess perfectly. Thin rice noodles would also be a welcome addition.

For 4-6 servings:

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
  • 5 cups cubed zucchini (about 2 medium or 1 annoyingly large one)
  • 1½ cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 3-6 teaspoons green curry paste
  • 3-4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • The juice of 1 small lime
  • Steamed jasmine rice, for serving

Heat the oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the potato and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the zucchini and cook for another minute. Add the stock and bring to a strong simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Puree the mixture with an immersion blender or transfer it in stages to a blender. Blend until very smooth. Return the zucchini puree to the pot.

Over medium heat, stir the coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, and lime juice into the puree. Bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and add more curry paste or fish sauce if desired. Simmer for 5 minutes more. Serve with the steamed rice.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Apple Zucchini Bread with Almond Struesel

Since my zucchini plant just won't die, I am dutifully (still) using it up in any way I can. I am soooo over summer, eager instead for the foods of fall. Currently I am in deep apple love and eat them constantly. There is nothing more satisfying than biting into a perfect Honeycrisp apple.

But I digress, for there are 6 zucchini in my refrigerator right now. I foresee a few last gasp zucchini recipes in the next week or so but what better way to get rid of them then to combine them with apples. Apple and zucchini both benefit from spice, both bake up beautifully, and both add moisture to baked goods. I tested this by combining them in this quick bread. It worked.

Topped with a cinnamon-sugar-almond struesel, this bread is not only delicious, but quite pretty too. This recipe makes a large 9x5-inch loaf but feel free to split the batter amongst two smaller pans or even adapt it to make muffins. Bake just until a knife comes out clean from the center.

For one large loaf:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced (I used Braeburn)
  • 1 cup finely shredded zucchini, lightly squeezed dry
For Almond Struesel:
  • 4 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, spices, salt and brown sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and melted butter. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the dry mixture until just moistened. Fold in the apple and zucchini.

Butter a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.

To make the struesel: in a small bowl, stir together the almonds, sugar, flour and cinnamon. With your fingers work the butter into the mixture. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.

Place the pan into the center of the oven and bake for 60 - 70 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely or serve warm.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Braised Lamb Shanks with Tomatillos, Peppers & Olives

Sometimes it sucks being married to a chef - the hours are long, we don't have a lot of the same days off, and I can often feel him judging me as I slowly and wrongly chop an onion.

But then, there are the good things about the profession, like coming home from work on a Tuesday and having the dinner pictured above waiting for me. It looked spectacularly rustic, fancy enough for guests but was also an inexpensive one-pot meal. Lamb shanks are one of those cuts of meat that are much less costly than their rack and chop counterparts. For two large shanks, it cost about $6.

Our garden is flush with tomatillos and peppers right now so it was great being able to use some up in this dish. We served this over steamed quinoa and it was perfect.

For two servings:

  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3-4 mild peppers such as Anaheim or Poblano, stemmed and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups chopped tomatillos
  • 10 green olives
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1½ cups cooked quinoa for serving

Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Generously season the lamb with salt and pepper. Put the lamb in a heavy, dutch oven, such as a Le Crueset and place in the oven. Turn the lamb every few minutes in order to brown it on all sides. Remove from the oven and transfer the lamb to a plate. Set aside.

In the same dutch oven, add the 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions for 5 minutes, then add the peppers and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes more. Add the tomatillos and olives and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock, thyme and lamb to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 1½ hours until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over the quinoa.

Adapted from a recipe in How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Five-Spice Apple Chips

Years ago, The Chef and I saw a recipe for "Cumin Apple Chips" from Gourmet Magazine and were instantly intrigued. After making them we decided that cumin wasn't quite right so The Chef ingeniously came up with the idea to use Five Spice Powder instead.

If you're unfamiliar, Five Spice Powder is a deeply aromatic, Chinese spice blend that typically includes star anise, anise seed, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and sometimes pepper. It is mainly used in savory dishes but the blend of spices compliments fall fruits so well, I often use it in desserts this time of year.

A few things to know about making apple chips - they takes a long time to bake, the recipe doesn't yield that many chips, but they are so yummy that they will be eaten in far less time than it took to make them. The use of a mandoline and baking sheet liners such as a Silpat is essential. If the apples aren't sliced thinly enough, they will be chewy rather than potato-chip-crisp.

I think that Haralson apples make the best apple chips but feel free to use whatever variety you like. I have had success with many different kinds.
  • 2 apples
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon five spice powder
Slice the apple on a mandoline very thin (you don't have to worry about peeling, coring, or deseeding the apples), about 1/16 of an inch thick. Over a bowl, sift together the sugar and spice.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with Silpat liners. Pour the sugar mixture back into the sifter and liberally sift it over the Silpat. Place the apple slices on it and sift the sugar mixture over the top.

Place in the center of the oven and bake for 2 hours. Peel the apple slices off the Silpat and allow them to cool on a wire rack. Store the apple chips in a sealed plastic bag or container.

Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet Magazine.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Broccoli, Apple and Curried Sunflower Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Although saying farewell to summer can be difficult, my love for apples eases the seasonal shift. I love apples more than any other fruit but my passion for Honeycrisp Apples specifically is strong. I think Honeycrisps do particularly well in salads for they don't brown quickly and their crunchiness adds substantial texture.

I whipped this salad up on a whim and sometimes, things just turn out right. I'm mainly pleased with these curried sunflower seeds I made for I love the faintly exotic taste curry powder imparts to any dish. I can tell you that I ate quite a few of these seeds before they even made it into the salad.

The dressing is an old favorite of mine that I originally discovered in the Joy of Cooking. I have tweaked it a bit over the years to suit my tastes and I think it really works as an all-purpose tangy, creamy dressing.

To serve 4-6:
  • 1 small head romaine
  • 1 small head broccoli, trimmed into small florets
  • 1 honeycrisp apple, diced small
  • A handful of dried currants
  • Curried Sunflower Seeds*
  • Buttermilk Dressing*

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the broccoli florets. Blanch for 1 minute and transfer to an icewater bath. Once cool, drain thoroughly in a colander.

Tear the romaine into pieces and place into a large bowl. Add the apple, broccoli, and the currants and sunflower seeds to taste. Toss thoroughly. Drizzle the dressing over the top and toss again. Serve immediately.

*Curried Sunflower Seeds:

  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

In a small bowl, sit together the sugar, curry powder and salt. Set a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sunflower seeds and the sugar mixture. Stirring constantly, allow the seeds to be thoroughly coated in the caramelizing sugar, about 2 minutes. Take off the heat and spread the seeds out on a piece of wax paper to cool.

*Buttermilk Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 a small shallot, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in a blender and thoroughly blend until emulsified and smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blueberry Wild Rice Muffins

I made a pot of wild rice the other night for a pilaf I threw together. It contained sauteed kale, shallots, and freshly diced yellow pear tomatoes (yum!) and revitalized my love of wild rice. I set aside a generous cup of it to make these muffins and I can say that I love the texture it adds: pleasantly chewy and substantial.

I like to think of these as summer/fall transition muffins as they are filled with the juicy blueberries of warmer months and hearty with wild rice which I associate with cooler weather. Here in Minnesota, wild rice is quite common and I don't think I eat it enough.

The batter for these muffins is quite stiff so don't be worried when folding it all together. Make sure to only moisten the ingredients, but not overwork the batter or they will be rocks instead of muffins. The resulting treat is subtly sweet, healthy and perfect for an on-the-go breakfast.

For a dozen muffins:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1 cup cooked wild rice
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add the blueberries and mix to coat. In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, and buttermilk. Stir the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture until just blended. Fold in the wild rice and pecans.

Spoon into a 12-cup muffin pan that has been greased or lined with muffin cups. Bake in the center of the oven for 18-20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for a couple minutes before removing from the pan.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

St. Germain Champagne Cocktail

I was introduced to St. Germain liqueur recently and it was love at first sip. St. Germain is a french liqueur made from elderflowers harvested in the Alps during a brief harvesting season. I was familiar with the elderflower flavor because of the concentrate IKEA sells which makes refreshing sodas when mixed with sparkling water. If you haven't tried the IKEA elderflower concentrate, I highly recommend you get some immediately. Then, go and procure a bottle of St. Germain to round out your new elderflower existence.

I added St. Germain to a glass of champagne and garnished it with a strip of orange rind. For a simple cocktail, the taste is quite sophisticated and unusual. There are all sorts of cocktail ideas on the St. Germain website and I look forward to trying them all while imagining some French guy picking elderflower blossoms in the cool mountain air.

For 1 cocktail:
  • 1/2 ounce St. Germain
  • Champagne or Sparkling Wine
  • Orange Rind for garnish

Add the St. Germain to a champagne glass, pour the champagne over it, garnish with the orange rind. Simple, chic, very French.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Late Summer Bounty

The end of summer is a bit of an alarming time for me as I steel myself for the coming winter months. If only fall could last longer, winter wouldn't be so difficult. I know that once the Brussels Sprouts are big enough to slice off their large, prehistoric looking stalks, the growing season is near its end.

Some of the more interesting vegetables in the garden certainly take their time growing. Our leeks for example morph from looking like chives then scallions then leeks over the summer months. The particular variety we grow, Blue Solaize Leeks, get a distinct deep blue at their ends as they mature.

One of my favorite late summer items are the Cranberry Beans. Vibrantly fuchsia, speckled, and abundant, these beans are easy to grow and are an unusual addition to soups or succotash. I have found that they freeze well once shelled. I keep them on hand, portioned out in individual bags.

Our tomatoes have been a sad disappointment this year, as I suspect it has been for a lot of people. Strange cool weather coupled with dry spells essentially stopped our tomatoes from ripening. Once the weather got back on track, another tomato hazard took over: our two labrador retrievers. These pests lie in wait, only pulling off a tomato when it has a hint of ripeness to it for they don't really want to eat the green ones either. Next year, we need to come up with a new plan of attack.

Pictured above: Lacinato Kale, Blue Solaize Leek, Ancho (Poblano) Pepper, Anaheim Pepper, Jimmy Nardello Pepper, Wenk's Yellow Hot Pepper, Purple Tomatillo, Green Zebra Tomato, Long Island Brussels Sprouts, Vermont Cranberry Beans.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Peach Ginger Conserve

Conserves, which are essentially jams containing dried fruits and nuts, have scared me for a long time. Believe me, I had clear reasons. One, I had never heard of such a thing until I started reading up on canning. Two, I had never had a conserve served to me nor had I ever seen it in a store. Three, I was apprehensive about the idea of nuts and raisins in my jam. My conserve-fear was irrational for it is a glorious thing.

Conserves were popular in old-timey days as a condiment for meat - which I am guessing means it served as a cover for questionable meat that had maybe not seen its freshest days. These days though, I serve it the same way as I would a jam and discovered it made a particularly good crepe filling. There's really no going wrong when peaches, ginger, brandy, raisins, almonds and a hint of orange are combined. So, so good.

For about 8 half-pint jars:
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 3 cups of pitted, peeled and crushed ripe peaches
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 6 cups sugar
  • The zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 2 pouches liquid pectin
  • 3/4 cup very lightly toasted sliced almonds

In a bowl combine the raisins, ginger and the 1/2 cup of brandy. Place in the microwave for 30-45 seconds and set aside while the rest of the ingredients are being prepped.

In an 8-quart pot stir together the peaches, lemon juice, sugar, orange zest, and butter. Drain the brandy off of the raisins and ginger and add them to the pot, reserving the brandy for later. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Bring the heat up to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. When the mixture comes to a full boil, quickly squeeze both pouches of pectin into the pot and stir for 1 minute. Take the pot off the heat.

Set a timer for 5 minutes and stir in the almonds and a 1/3 cup of the reserved brandy. Stir the conserve once or twice every minute for 5 minutes to distribute the ingredients evenly through the syrup.

Ladle the jam into prepared, hot, sterilized jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes at 200 degrees. For detailed canning and sterilization procedures, click here.

Adapted from a recipe in Blue Ribbon Preserves by Linda Amendt.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mango Hot Sauce

Now that September is upon us, our peppers are in full force in the garden. We grow 6 different kinds but my particular favorite are the Wenk's Yellow Hots. Initially yellow, they transform to a coral and then bright shade of red. I usually end up picking them when they are a sort of mango color which inspired me to try my hand at making hot sauce.

I used a Rick Bayless recipe as a base and built my version around it, adding mango and a bit more sweetness in the form of agave nectar. Mr. Bayless' sauce uses habaneros which are of course, scorching, but the level of pepper heat is always a bit hard to describe, isn't it? I, for instance, would categorize Wenk's Yellow Hots as a sort of medium heat, similar to a jalapeno, but I am quite certain that my friend Eric would be weeping in a hellfire imprisonment if one even got near him. He thinks pepperjack cheese is spicy, so...yes. We are all different.

I loved this sauce and was motivated to make a tropical-style dinner to use up the sunshine-tinged goodness. I cooked up some black beans, white rice, and fried some nearly ripe plantains. The mango and tangy heat worked well together and made the whole meal deliciously spicy.

I have no evidence of this, but I am guessing that the amount of vinegar in the sauce will allow it to last quite a while in the refrigerator. I plan on packing mine into jars and handing them out to those who appreciate a little spice in their life.

For about 4 cups:

  • 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • ½ pound fresh chili peppers, stemmed
  • 1 cup diced ripe mango
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ a medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1½ cups cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar (or sugar or honey)

Roast the garlic cloves in a small skillet over medium-high heat, turning frequently until blackened in some spots and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Set aside and peel when cool enough to handle.

In a medium saucepan, combine the chili peppers, mango, carrot, onion, vinegar and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

In a food processor (or a blender), add the pepper mixture along with the salt, agave nectar and roasted garlic. Puree thoroughly until quite smooth. Taste and add a bit more salt or sweetener if desired.

Pour into jars and store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Adapted from a recipe by Rick Bayless

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Heirloom Tomato, Corn and Squash Relish

One of the good things about being married to a chef is that I get to occasionally hang out with other chefs. This was the case a couple weeks ago when I volunteered at a local food and wine event. I helped man the Oceanaire table passing out Corn Cakes with Smoked Trout topped with an extremely tasty summer relish. At least a dozen people told me that the corn cakes were the best food item there...and, even though I am obviously biased, I had to agree.

A corn cake is a crowd-pleaser but for me, it was the relish element that made it a real standout. The flavors were so bright, so full of summer sun that I couldn't get enough of it. The Chef's boss, Rick, was kind enough to pass along his recipe to me which was adapted from one that appeared in Food and Wine magazine a while back.

I love the lively colors of this relish. Heirloom tomatoes come in so many shades that I recommend mixing them up if you have them. I used both lime green and deep purple tomatoes and they looked (and tasted) great. Last night we served this with some grilled steak but I can't think of a protein this relish wouldn't compliment. At the restaurant The Chef served it with some cornmeal crusted salmon and as an accompaniment to seared scallops with sweet corn flan.

For about 4 cups of relish:

  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoons mustard seed
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2½ cups of ½-inch diced heirloom tomatoes
  • ¾ cup of ¼-inch diced zucchini or yellow squash
  • 1 ear of sweet corn
  • 2 tablespoons onion or shallot, minced
  • 1 jalapeno or other hot peppers, minced

In a small saucepan, boil the vinegar, salt and sugar until dissolved. Pour into a large bowl.

In a sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat, add the garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, black pepper, and cumin. Stir frequently and remove from the heat after about a minute.

Slowly whisk the oil into the vinegar mixture. Blanch the sweet corn in boiling water for 1 minute. Run it under cold water or place it in an ice bath to cool. Cut the kernels off the cob and add it to the bowl. Add the tomatoes, squash, onion, and jalapeno and gently stir. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Adapted from a recipe in Food and Wine Magazine.