Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's CSA time!

Last Wednesday I got my first CSA box of the season. For those of you who don't know, CSA is community supported agriculture and basically, it's getting a box a fresh fruits and veggies delivered once a week from a local farm (click here for more info, or to find a CSA near you). The box was full of fresh spring goodness, and I quickly made use. This week I got mushrooms, scallions, lettuce, rhubarb, and strawberries. The lettuce became a weeks worth of salads, but the rest became some local cooking magic.

First, and delicious smoothie:

Strawberry-banana-maple smoothie (my new favorite):
1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk original
1/2 a banana, frozen
1 cup of strawberries
1-2 tsp of maple syrup (depending on your preference)

Blend everything together and enjoy! This makes 1 serving.

Next we have a mushroom-truffle pasta

1/2 box of pasta, I used penne
2 cups of mushrooms
1 bunch of scallions
1 tbsp of butter
1/4 cup of beef stock
Cooking spray
2 tsp of truffle oil
Parmesan cheese
Salt, pepper

Make the pasta according to the directions. Wash mushrooms and slice. Spray a small pan with non-stick spray and heat mushrooms over medium-high heat. Chop scallions up through the light green, add to mushrooms. When they are browned slightly add beef stock and allow to cook until stock is evaporated and mushrooms are tender. Mix the mushrooms, scallions and pasta together with the butter, salt and pepper to taste. Add truffle oil in a drizzle and toss. Serve with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Finally, the very delicious jam:

Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam

1 cup of chopped rhubarb
2 cups chopped strawberries
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 tsp cornstarch

Over medium heat stir together strawberries, rhubarb and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add cornstarch and raise heat to bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook covered for 5-10 minutes until jam has thickened. This is so delicious, I cannot stop eating it. I have been putting it on everything. My favorite is this jam and ricotta on an english muffin. yum.

The recipe makes a bit over a cup of jam, so feel free to increase. The jam will keep for about 2 weeks refrigerated. I made not attempt to can it, and do not know very much about canning, but I will be making some attempts soon (so stay tuned). For more information on safe home canning, see the USDA complete guide to home canning.

All and all a delicious haul and it's only going to get better. I can't wait to see what's in my box this week.

Happy Eating.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chicken Drama

Not all chickens are created equal. Or are butchered that way. I learned this lesson the hard way last night, when I attempted to remove the giblets bag of a chicken that I was going to roast. There was no bag. I am not squeamish, I have even seen a chicken butchered before (from the head-on stage, in Spain), but it's not exactly pleasant to stick your hand inside a chicken expecting to pull out a little white bag and instead being jabbed by bone and having your hand come out covered in chicken guts. Ew. I assume that this chicken is for making stock, when the bones and guts would probably come in handy, but I was not about to roast this bad boy. I grabbed my cleaver and "broke down" the chicken myself, with none of the impressiveness of a Top Chef. I managed to chop off the legs, wings and the breast (in two pieces). Then used a newly purchased back up chicken to roast instead. I didn't have any fresh herbs but I still followed my basic-no fail-always wonderful Roasting Chicken. And, it came out wonderfully.

In garden news, everything is re-potted and moved to the back porch as of Sunday (there are also some lovely new additions, thanks to a trip to Home Depot). I am giving them a few days in there new home to smarten themselves up (and make sure they survive) and then I will take some pictures.

I do have a recipe for all of you today. It is for a quick and easy London Broil, which with corn on the cob (I love summer) was a very delicious Sunday night dinner.

London Broil

1 Plastic Bag
1 2.5-3 Lb top round roast (beef)
1/2 cup of Balsamic Vinegar (I used my special and delicious fig vinegar)
2 garlic cloves, chopped up or pressed
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup of Olive oil
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Salt and Pepper

Rub the meat with brown sugar and salt and pepper it. Put it in the plastic bag. Add the vinegar, oil, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Seal bag and shake to combine. Sort of rub/massage everything together. Allow the bag to sit and marinate for at least an hour, but ideally overnight. If you are letting sit for only an hour or two, leave out on the counter and flip a few times. Longer than that put it in the fridge and try to flip it at least one. When you are ready to cook the meat, position a rack in the upper third of the oven and pre-heat the broiler (you can use a grill as well). When the broiler is all the way hot put the meat on a broiler pan. Cook for about 12-13 minutes on each side. Serve and Enjoy.

Happy Eating.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Lattice Topped

I love pie. It is my favorite dessert to eat and to make. Why? Because it is a challenge. Cookies, cake cupcakes, not problem. Follow the recipe (even with some changes) and you are golden, even if you don't it's most likely fine. But, pie. Pie is different. Even a fantastic recipe does not guarantee success. The middle can be too runny, the crust to dense or mushy or cracked. There is also no obvious way to sample and check to see if it is party worthy. You just have to slice in and hope for the best.

The crust is generally speaking the real challenge. To get it crisp and flaky but still flavorful. My go to pie crust recipe is the same one I used for my Birthday Pie Recipe. The Williams and Sonoma basic pie dough. I find this to be the most versatile, easy to work with recipe I have found. Just as easy to make ahead and roll out after refrigeration as it is when you make it. Thanks to this recipe, and trying out a variety of methods (Blender, electric mixer, hands, knives) I have become quite proficient at doing the bottom crust. I now can do that part with success and ease. So when I make pies with the crumb topping it is relatively stress free. So that must mean it is time to go on and concur the next stage. The lattice top. Nothing looks so elegant and beautiful as a perfect lattice topped pie. However, this is much easier said than done.

This one turned out pretty well. The pie tasted amazing (it was strawberry rhubarb, by the way), which more than made up for the less-than-perfect lattice topping. I rolled out the dough and started cutting the strips and placing them on as soon as I cut them, this was my first error. Next time I will roll out the dough, cut the strips and refrigerate them until they regain their firmness before covering the pie. This also led to my next mistake, I forget the weaving until I was half way done (oops) so some of it was weaved and some of it was not (this also would have benefited by refrigeration). Lastly the egg wash, I used egg yolk mixed with a little water, which I should have brushed on, but I couldn't find the brush, so i used a paper towel, which was not as good of a substitute as I thought and led to some uneven browning. I also dusted the top with sugar, which was definitely the right move. All and all, the pie turned out wonderful, while not perfect it still looked (and smelled) delicious (which it was) and was impressive enough to win over the Mother's day BBQ crowd.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie:

1 double recipe of basic pie dough
4 cups of strawberries, cut into quarters
3 cups of rhubarb (4 stalks, about), cut into chunks
1/2 cup of dark brown sugar
1/2 cup of white sugar
1/4 cup of corn starch
1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp of salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place rack in the lower third of the oven. Toss the strawberries and rhubarb with all of the above ingredients (except the pie dough). Place is a completely raw prepared pie crust (no pre-baking required), if it looks like its not going to all fit, push down of the topping gently, and kind of mush it in. Top with the lattice top according to your favorite method, or learn from my mistakes above. Brush top with egg wash made from 1 egg yolk and a little water, then dust with sugar. Bake for 20 minutes until crust is looking pretty golden and tasty, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for another hour, if you are going to re-heat it or 1 hour and 20 minutes if you are going to serve it. Cover or tent edges with foil if it is browning too much. To re-heat, just put back into a 350 degree oven for another 20 minutes. Either way let cool a bit before serving. Rhubarb is mostly water, so this pie needs time to thicken. Serve and Enjoy!

Happy Eating.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Spring Lasagna

Hello All. Sorry I have been away for so long. To be perfectly honest, I was in a real cooking rut. That's not to say I wasn't cooking, I just wasn't cooking anything new. Just my old stand by's. I was uninspired and down on my kitchen creativity. Meanwhile my little garden has flourished, and I will be doing some re-potting this weekend, then I will post some pictures of my growing collection of herbs (which were used for the first time last night) and new veggies. Anyway, back to cooking. After trolling my favorite recipe haunts for days trying to whip up some inspiration, I found a recipe to revamp and revive my kitchen spirits. Here is the original recipe from Yahoo's Shine Food, Caramelized Onion Lasagna. And here is my version of the fabulous spring pasta dish.

Spring Lasagna:

Onion Filling
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large Vidalia onions
1 Small Yellow onion
3 medium portobello mushroom caps
1/2 cup beef stock wine
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper

Spinach & Cheese Filling
4 cups spinach
1 15 oz container of nonfat ricotta cheese
1 heaping tbsp of fat free plain yogurt (I used the Greek variety)
1 handful of chopped fresh basil (from my garden!)
1 teaspoon salt

White Sauce
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbs all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups fat fat milk
1 tsp salt
2 ounces soft goat cheese

12 whole wheat lasagna noodles

Cut the onions into thin slices. Heat 1 tbsp of oil over medium heat and add sliced onions. Allow onions to just sit and cook, stirring occasionally until they are extremely tender and golden with a little brown, about 25-30 minutes. In the mean time. Boil water and cook noodles to al dente. When the onions are all golden and delicious, hit them with a little bit of salt and pepper, and chop and add mushrooms. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes then add beef stock, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Stir together and salt and pepper to taste (if it needs more). In a blender or food processor mix together ricotta, spinach, yogurt, salt and basil. Blend until creamy and bright spring green. Then make the sauce, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium high heat and whisk in the flour. Add the milk and whisk for about a minute until thick and creamy, then stir in salt and cheese. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover the bottom of a large glass baking dish with 1/2 cup of the sauce, then a layer of noodels, then half the ricotta mixture, then 1/3 the onion mixture, spoon another 1/2 cup of sauce on top, then do another noodle layer, then the other half of the ricotta, and another 1/3 of the onion mixture, then 1/2 cup of sauce, then the last noodle layer, the rest of the onions and the rest of the sauce. Bake for 30 minutes uncovered and allow to stand out for 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy.

Happy Eating