Saturday, April 23, 2011

Maple Roast Parsnips

These are yummy with a sweet, sticky crust.

The first time I made these they were too undercooked and too many.  "Make fewer, cook longer", was Ed's advice.  So for a company dinner the next night I cooked fewer and longer and the longer cooking shrunk the volume so I had even fewer than intended and every last piece was enjoyed.

Bottom line is 2 pounds serves 4-6.

Scrub well and peel only major blemishes:

2 pounds parsnips

Cut into strips about 3 inches long and 1/4 inch in cross section, then toss with:

2 t olive oil
2 T maple syrup

Place in flat oven proof dish, approximately 9 inches by 13 inches that has been brushed with olive oil and put in pre-heated 400 degree F oven.  Roast for approximately 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until parsnips are golden.   While cooking at 400 degrees may result in a few dark tips, this temperature gives the parsnips a crispness that a lower oven temperature does not.

Sautéed Parsnips and Pears

Serves  ~3-4

Scrub well and peel only major blemishes:

1 pound parsnips

Cut into strips about 3 inches long and 1/8 inch in cross section.

Core:

1 pear

Slice pear into narrow sections.

In a medium size wok heat:

2 t olive oil

When the oil is hot add the parsnips and sautee until they are tender and beginning to brown.  If the pear is very crisp/hard, add with the parsnips.  If it is ripe/soft add after parsnips have cooked for 2-3 minutes.
When parsnips are tender add:

1 T maple syrup

Plus optional:
2 T dried cranberries and/or
~15 pecan halves

Stir until the parsnips and pears are well coated with the syrup.

Monday, April 18, 2011

APRIL

I've been thinking for a while about writing a post for each month, highlighting the foods and flowers in season and suggesting recipes to take advantage of the local harvest. April seems a perfect month to start.  In Animal, Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver writes: 


"April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot wrote, by which I think he meant (among other things) that springtime makes people crazy. We expect too much, the world burgeons with promises it can't keep, all passion is really a setup, and we're doomed to get our hearts broken yet again. I agree, and would further add: Who cares? Every spring I go out there anyway, around the bend, unconditionally. I'm a soul on ice flung out on rock in the sun, where the needles that pierced me begin to melt all as one.
 ... Come the end of dark days, I am more than joyful, I'm nuts." (1)


Kingsolver's book describes a year in the life of her family eating only food produced on their Virginia farm or in their own neighborhood. It is a back to the earth, good food journal with a light touch of humor; an excellent read.  It all begins in April:
"We kept postponing our start date until the garden looked more hospitable, but if we meant to do this for a whole year, we would have to do this sooner or later.  We had harvested and eaten asparagus now, twice.  That was our starting gun: ready, set ... ready?"(2)


Here in Massachusetts, April is one of my favorite months. The forsythia and the daffodils burst into bloom and the woods are a symphony of light greens and all shades of pink and red as the trees pop their buds. Tourists flock here for the "fall colors"; I prefer the spring ones. 


Fresh flowers from our yard replace the andromeda and rose hips at the center of our table and the farm stands begin to offer their first local produce of the season. The selection is limited, mostly spring dug parsnips and greenhouse grown spinach so far.  But the fields are being tilled, the rhubarb plants are growing every day, and the greenhouses are full of seedlings.....  It won't be long until the selection is awesome. Meanwhile time to roast some parsnips in this year's maple syrup and revisit some favorite recipes:


Spinach Salad
Chana Masala (Spicy Chickpeas and Spinach)
Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Spinach, Goat Cheese and Mushrooms
Cod with Roasted Veggies (heavy on the parsnips, served on a bed of spinach)
Roasted Red Bliss Potatoes with parsnips

1  Animal, Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life, page 43
2  Animal, Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life, page 32

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sweet Potato Balls (with Black Beans, Avocado and Spinach)

Ed and I tried Bergamot recently and for an entrée I chose: 

Plaintain Gnocchi
Black Beans, Avocado, Red Pepper, Portobello Mushroom Confit, Shishito Pepper, Cilantro

This entrée was good enough to try adding to my home repertoire, but the gnocchi seemed a bit complicated so I decided to substitute sweet potato balls.  As a child I always ordered the signature Sweet Potato Balls when our family ate at the Woodbine Cottage in Sunapee, NH. Remembering how much I liked them I rummaged through my recipe book and found what I had copied from my Mom's Woodbine Cottage Cookbook many years ago.*  I started with this, and here is my spicier, healthier (no deep fat frying) update: 

MAKE THE SWEET POTATO** BALLS (They work well as a veggie on their own or as part of the Black Bean... dish.  If serving them on their own choose spices/herbs to compliment accompaniments.)

In a 350°F oven bake for 1 hour or until soft:

2 sweet potatoes ~ 1.5 pounds (I used garnet yams)

Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Cut the cooked potatoes in half and scoop the flesh from the skins and place in a bowl.  Add: 

1 1/2 t butter (omit for vegan)
1/4 t ground chipotle chili
1/2 t ground cumin
1 T fresh corriander, minced finely 
1 T orange juice  (add if using sweet potatoes which are drier in order to obtain a soft consistency, I did not use with yams)

Mix well. Roll mixture into marble-sized balls approximately 1 inch in diameter. (Wet hands with water to make it easier.)

Roll each ball in:

Golden Flaxseed Meal (I used Bob's Red Mill) 


Place coated yam/sweet potato balls on a baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed with:

Olive oil 

Then  lightly spray top of each ball with olive oil. To make balls more perfectly rounded, referigerate for at least an hour then shape again. Balls can be made several hours ahead of time. Bake along with the black beans (see below) 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

PREPARE OTHER INGREDIENTS

I kept the beans, avocado and cilantro from the Bergamot presentation, added spinach because it was in season at our local farm stand and eliminated the other ingredients because they were hard to come by and I did not think were really essential to the dish.

(1) Drain any excess (leave about 1 T) liquid and place in small oven proof dish:

15 oz  black beans, add
1/2 t unsweetened cocoa (optional - I always add cocoa to refried beans - when I tasted the cold black beans after adding the cocoa I was sure I had made a mistake but actually liked the beans plus cocoa when warmed. Definately an acquired taste.)


Cover and place in 350 degree oven along with the sweet potato/yam balls.

(2) Wash, devein and dry:

6 oz spinach

Place in medium bowl and toss with: 

1 1/2 t  lime juice
1 1/2 t olive oil

(3) Cut in half  and remove skin and pit from 

1- 2 ripe avocados  

Rub with a mixture of

1 t lime juice
Salt to taste

Cut into slices.

ASSEMBLE THE DISH  (Serves 3)

Divide the spinach among 3 plates.  Divide the beans among 3 plates. Place the sweet potato balls on top or beside the beans/spinach. Garnish with avocado and additional:

Cilantro, finely chopped.

CONTINGENCY NOTE:

If the avocado, despite outward appearances, is was not up to "garnish" standards,  cut out grey spots, cut the avocado in small pieces and mix the avocado and salt with the spinach mixture.



* WOODBINE COTTAGE SWEET POTATO BALLS

This is how the recipe appears on my recipe card.  It is a little vague. I probably condensed the information when copying:

"Cook six sweet potatoes, rice [don't cook rice too, rather put potatoes through a potato ricer], and mix with a little butter, milk and salt, add grated orange rind. Dilute 1 egg in  2 TBSP cold water.  Dip balls of sweet potato in egg and then roll in crushed cornflakes. Fry in deep fat [oh my, we really thought these were good] 390 degrees [ I would do 350 degrees]  until brown.  Drain on brown paper."

** SWEET POTATO vs "YAM"

Since I actually used garnet yams for this recipe, I wondered if I could really call it Sweet Potato Balls.  I consulted a number of sources and found the best explanation at Cooks Thesaurus

yam = moist-fleshed sweet potato   Notes:   Americans use the word "yam" to refer to a sweet, moist, orange-fleshed variety of sweet potato.   To everyone else in the world, a yam is what Americans call a tropical yam, a firm tuber with white flesh.  Varieties of American "yams" (sweet potatoes) include the garnet yam .... and the jewel yam.  Substitutes:  sweet potatoes (drier, less sweet, and often more expensive).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chipotle Chocolate - Olive Oil Cake

It suddenly hit me a few days ago when I was having chipotle chocolate cake at Bergamot:  The combination of chili and chocolate is one of my favorite (read comfort) foods.  Although I love all of the Moonstruck truffles that Alex,Dan and Henry give me, I always save the Ocumarian Truffle for last. So why don't I cook with this combination?

Here is a first in what I hope will be many chili-chocolate recipes. While the cake at the Bergamot was good, I'm sure it was loaded with butter and eggs. When we ate at Six 89 (Carbondale, CO, now closed) in February, I had my first piece of olive oil cake; this recipe takes the olive oil concept and makes a healthier, spicier version of Asian Five Spice Cake.


Line a  9 inch spring form pan with a piece of parchment paper, buttered on both sides.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and put some water on to boil.

Sift together:

7/8 c flour (4.45 oz.)
7/8 c sugar (5.55 oz.)
1/2 c unsweetened baking* cocoa (2.40 oz)
3/4 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda

1/2 - 1 1/2 t chipotle chili powder (I love it at 1 1/2 t, but I always order the entree with the 3 chili symbols after it;  suggest 1/2 t for mild, 1 t for moderate and 1 1/2 for very spicy)

Optional: 2 t Asian five spice powder  (Asian spice powder varies depending on the blend of spices. I use Frontier brand (cinnamon. fennel, cloves, star anise, white pepper - not very spicy).  A typical (Asian market) five spice powder would more likely contain Sichuan pepper and be spicier/hotter. Adjust amount and additional chipotle accordingly. For a clearer chili - chocolate cake omit these spices.

Add:

1/4 c "egg product" (or 1 egg)
1/4 c + 1 T olive oil
1/2 c skim milk (or 1/2 c orange juice)

Mix well by hand (my choice) or using a food processor or an electric mixer, and then add, a few tablespoons at a time, mixing after each addition:

1/2 c boiling water

Mix well until the batter is smooth and glossy.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until a small skewer or broom straw inseerted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Let cool in pan then run knife around edges, open spring form and remove cake.  Remove paper from bottom.

Dust either the whole cake or individual pieces with:

Powdered sugar

Embellishment options are limitless. Bergamot topped their chocolate chipotle cake with caramelized banana ice cream, (made on site, very light) marshmallows, and peanuts.

The first night I topped the first quarter with Chocolate Drizzle garnished with raspberries.

Next night, I topped the second quarter with mangoes and Chocolate Drizzle.

Tonight I cut the third quarter in two pieces and sliced each piece in half horizontally. I put sliced, mashed strawberries that I had frozen last June mixed with a teaspoon of finely chopped cilantro between the two layers and made Strawberry Chocolate Chipotle Cake. This was definitely a case of save the best for (almost) last. I am thawing more strawberries for tomorrow night....





*Use cocoa powder that is not "Dutched" or alkalized. "Some recipes rely on acidic natural cocoa to react with baking soda and generate leavening carbon dioxide.  If the same recipe is made with an alkalized cocoa, the reaction won't take place, no carbon dioxide will be generated and the taste will be alkaline and soapy." (page 706, On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee)

June 2015: Birthday Cake!  Top is covered with "drizzled" melted chocoalte and cake is surrounded by the first pick of local strawberries.










Reviewed 5/11/17

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Beet Salad with Horseradish "Panna Cotta"

Two years ago I wrote about the awesome beet, hazelnut, and arugula salad with horseradish panna cotta that Ed and I had for an appetizer at the Center Cafe in Moab. Shortly after, I tried to reverse engineer the recipe and the results were a runny disaster.  Ed suggested my failure* was a result of trying to make the panna cotta "too healthy".  Panna Cotta, an Italian desert, literally means "cooked cream" and I had substituted non-fat yogurt. When I asked about the panna cotta at the restaurant the waiter suggested it was maybe made with some yogurt (in retrospect not necessarily non-fat and not necessarily without cream).  Two years later I decided to stick to my non-fat goals and try again, this time with considerably more success.


Serves 6 (While this recipe serves 6, the prepared ingredients can be kept for 3-4 days with a smaller number of servings assembled at a given time.)


MAKE THE PANNA COTTA 


Combine in a small microwave-safe bowl:


1 envelope of unflavored gelatin (approx. 2 teaspoons)
1/2 skim cup milk


Let sit for about 5 minutes or until the gelatin is softened, then heat the mixture (high power) in a microwave oven for approximately 30 seconds or until the gelatin is completely dissolved.


In another bowl whisk together:

2 T horseradish
12 oz  non-fat plain yogurt



When the gelatin mixture has cooled, add to the yogurt mixture and divide this "panna cotta" among 6 (1/2-cup) ramekins. Cover and chill for at least 24 hours. 


PREPARE THE BEETS


Wash and peel (gloves recommended unless you like the red hand look):

2 pounds beets (about 6 medium sized beets)

Using a zester cut ~2 T of thin strips off the beets and reserve. If medium beets are used, cut beets in half; if small beets are used, leave them whole.  Place in a oven-safe baking dish.

In a small dish combine:

1/3 c orange juice
2 T olive oil
1/2 t pepper


Pour over the beets. Cover (I forgot once and all the liquid boiled away) the dish with a cover or aluminum foil and bake for 50 or 60 minutes until the beets are tender. Remove the beets from the pan, reserving the liquid in a small dish, and cool until the beets can be easily handled to cut, then cut into small wedges.  



MAKE THE VINAIGRETTE

To  the dish containing the reserved beet liquid add:

2 T vinegar (I use my homemade tarragon, wine or raspberry would work too)
½ t pepper

Pour the vinaigrette over the beets and refrigerate at least until the beets are cold.

PREPARE THE NUTS

Preheat oven to 350° F

Place on a jelly-roll sheet or other shallow pan with sides: 

3/4 c hazel nuts (or since oven is on anyway, roast more and save for other uses - awesome on hazelnut gelato!)

Place in preheated oven and roast for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the skins are blistered. Remove the pan from the oven, place a spoonful of nuts at a time in a dish towel and rub the nuts with the towel to remove loose skins (don't worry about skins that don't come off) and cool completely. Slice the nuts in half (optional).

ASSEMBLE THE SALAD

Distribute evenly among 6 salad plates 

5 oz arugula 

Remove the panna cotta from the ramekins: Place each ramekin in turn, briefly (~15 - 20 seconds) in a pan of hot water. Remove and run a knife around the inside the ramekin.  Dry the outside of ramekin and immediately invert on the center of the salad plate on top of arugula.  Carefully lift off the ramekin, gently shaking to release the panna cotta. If the panna cotta does not slide out easily, using the same knife, try lifting a bottom edge to break the suction. Repeat until panna cotta has been placed on all 6 plates. Surround each panna cotta with 1/6th of the beets, sprinkle a few hazelnuts on the beets and top the panna cotta with 1/6th of the beet zest.  Serve immediately.


* Failure












Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cauliflower Soup

This recipe is intended to use the remaining puree from the Cauliflower Steak with Quinoa recipe.

Combine:

Cauliflower vegetable puree (~ 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 c chicken or vegetable stock
3/4 c skim milk (or another 3/4 c of stock)
1 t fresh thyme leaves
1 t fresh chives, chopped

Heat until warm.   Place in two warm bowls and garnish with:

Fresh thyme leaves and/or chives, chopped
Lemon zest

Serve with salt and pepper to taste.

Cauliflower Steak with Quinoa


In the recent weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal  the headline  "Meet the Meaty Veggies" and a photo of a cauliflower "steak" caught my eye.

Always on the lookout for good vegetarian dishes I read further and found that the cauliflower recipe was provided by Dan Barber, the chef at Blue Hill in Manhattan.  Since Alex and Dan had been entertained at Blue Hill recently and reported the food was excellent,  I decided to give this a try.

Family legend has it that when my husband Ed was a young boy in New Jersey, he burst into the dining room, which was already full of seated guests, slid into his chair and exclaimed loudly, "Steak at last!"  Needless to say he was not responding to a huge slab of cauliflower.  When I ran the cauliflower idea by him he was less than enthusiastic, in fact quite skeptical of my use of the word "steak".  He asked me to define "steak" and I could not easily find any definitions that supported my argument. Finally he suggested maybe this concept would work if the cauliflower had enough sauce....  I  modified the ingredients, adding a marinade to address this concern and the preparation so that I could prepare the bulk of the dish ahead and would not need to use two ovens simultaneously.

Serves 2

Cut a cauliflower in half, then slice a 1" thick piece off each side of the head to create 2 "steaks". Place the two pieces in a marinade of:

2 T lemon juice
1 T olive oil
1 t Herbes de Provence (I used an "Americanized" blend that Ed likes that includes lavender)
1 t crushed rosemary

Be sure all sides of the cauliflower are well coated with the marinade and set aside.

Cut the remaining cauliflower into small florets and blanch in hot salted water until tender, about 3-4  minutes. Drain and spread the florets on a baking sheet and place in a 300 degree F oven for 15 minutes.

While the cauliflower is baking, saute in a medium skillet until vegetables are wilted and soft:

1 1/2 t olive oil (heat first)
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 leek, white part only, coarsely chopped
1 small apple, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, chopped

Place in a food processor and add the cauliflower pieces and blend well, then add:

1/2 c no-fat chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian)

Continue blending until mixture is very smooth,  Put in a storage container and set aside.  The cauliflower and sauce can be prepared to this point several hours in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.

About 20 minutes prior to serving, cook (I use rice cooker):

1/2 c quinoa (rinse well, see notes on quinoa below - use black quinoa if possible) *
1 c water (or chicken or vegetable stock)

While quinoa is cooking, preheat a gas grill (or have charcoal grill ready to cook over low coals).  Spray or brush cauliflower  steaks with olive oil and cook over low heat for about 12 minutes, basting with marinade and turning half-way through. In lieu of grilling, the preparation in the Blue Hill recipe can be used: In a hot pan coated with olive oil, roast the steak on each side until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. 

To assemble.  Heat the vegetable puree (I use microwave).  Add:

1 t fresh thyme leaves

Mix 1/4 c of the vegetable puree with the quinoa. Divide the quinoa between two warm plates. Place 1/4 c of the puree in the center of the quinoa on each plate and place the cauliflower "steak" directly on top.



Garnish with:

Lemon zest
Fresh rosemary

Serve immediately.

Save the remaining vegetable puree to make soup.

*ABOUT QUINOA
When I compared my photo (at top left) with the Blue Hill photo in the Wall Street Journal article I found that the quinoa used by Blue Hill was much darker than mine and presented the cauliflower steak much better (mine looked better in fact than in the photo, but still not as good Blue Hill's).  Following up on this I discovered that quinoa comes in three colors, the common white, red which is reportedly quite bitter and black which is to white quinoa as wild rice is to white rice, crunchier with a stronger, nuttier flavor.  Though not specifically called for, I assume black quinoa was used in the Blue Hill recipe that was photographed. The Blue Hill recipe calls for rinsing the quinoa well and this is especially important if using black quinoa (verses prewashed white). To remove the saphonin dust, put the quinoa into a fine strainer and run water through it, or stir it in a bowl of cold water and pour it through a clean kitchen towel. Repeat the process until the water runs clear and is no longer sudsy. The amount of rinsing necessary may vary greatly. 


VARIATIONS:  The Blue Hill recipe suggests "a ring of sauteed zucchini around the quinoa".