Friday, December 3, 2010

Promenades Gourmandes Macaron Class, or, How I Finally Learned How to Make Macarons

When I was in Paris this autumn, I used my free time well. From shopping at Merci to walks along the Seine, multiple crepes from Le Comptoir, plus a self-guided macaron tour and a macaron cooking class. I do believe the macaraon is just about the prettiest cookie out there. But at $1-2 a pop, (or more. Especially at "temples to the macaron" like Pierre Herme, where I spent about $8 on three -- creme brulee, passion fruit and peach) it's no wonder people want to try to make their own. I've come clean about my past struggles with baking macarons. I was bound and determined to learn the technique once and for all. So I signed up for the macaron class at Promenades Gourmandes. The class, which I highly recommend, is taught in the kitchen of Parisian Paule Caillat by Chef Joël Morgeat. I knew the basics. After all, I had learned the hard way that you cannot really tinker with the amount of sugar in the recipe, to double up on the baking sheets, etc. but over the course of the three-hour class, I picked up a few more techniques and tips, such as: 1. You don't need to age your egg whites when making macarons (or at least, Chef Joël doesn't). 2. How to test the temperature of the sugar syrup portion of an Italian meringue recipe WITHOUT A THERMOMETER (involves dipping your fingers in water, into the boiling hot liquid sugar and back into water -- only for the daring). 3. Pipe the cookies with your pastry bag totally straight (perhaps this is Piping 101 but it was totally news to me!). 4. Let macarons rest and develop a thin skin before baking. 5. Bake only one tray of cookies at a time. And adjust the baking temperature and time to suit the quirks of your oven. 6. Temper the sweetness of the shells by using a less-sweet filling (like bittersweet chocolate ganache or a combination of white almond paste, butter and flavoring). I ended up taking about three dozen macarons home with me (ok, by the time I officially returned home to the U.S., it was about a dozen and a half. Macarons keep beautifully in the fridge for at least a week). Fast forward two months, and I finally dragged out the recipe and my macaron supplies. I had purchased finely ground white almond meal at G. Detou in Paris, found white almond paste at Whole Foods and picked up pastry bags, tips and food coloring at Chef Central. I have to say, the recipe I brought back from Paris was vague on some of the details, so I crossed referenced with this recipe and got to work. And it did work! I ended up with four trays of cookies. From left to right: 1. I left the first batch in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. It was too hot and too long. The cookies were hard at first, but softened after a few days in the fridge. 2. I turned the oven down to 320 (per the Food Geek recipe) and baked for 12 minutes. The shells came out slightly flat and undercooked. 3. The third try was a charm - 320 degrees for 15 minutes. 4. I left the fourth batch in at the same temp and length of time, but you could see I was getting tired as my piping was kind of sloppy (macarons are not supposed to look like acorns). All in all, I am happy with my progress. After my failures two years ago, this was validation that you can do it, with the proper ingredients and attention to detail. And this was only a trial run for the macarons I plan to make later this month as gifts for my coworkers. Let the 2010 12 Days of Macarons begin! For more macaron adventures, read on.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Paris Finds: Bio Market Blvd Raspail

One of the reasons I love checking out farmers markets on vacation is the variety -- sometimes you find something familiar, sometimes you find something new, but every time you find some kind of tasty treat. The bio market on Blvd Raspail in Paris has a bit of a reputation for being overpriced and full of pushy Parisians. But it also has a reputation for beautiful produce, flowers, souvenirs and treats. Upon arriving, follow your nose and find some galettes tout suite. There are at least two vendors that sell these delicious, freshly fried potato pancakes -- one at the northern end and one mid-market (that sells a galette with cheese!). The one-handed snack leaves your other hand free to pull out your wallet and buy some flowers to brighten your hotel room or holiday flat. Finish your market visit by getting some gifts for the people back home. I particularly like the vegetable soaps stamped with the Eiffel Tower (the "son" scented ones that look like oatmeal soap are my favorite). But carrot perfume doesn't smell so bad either (and how often do you see that!). Then head home to whip up a post-market treat, like these roasted vegetables served over a baguette with cheese. Full disclosure, although the image above was taken at my holiday flat in St. Germain, I did buy the vegetables pre-roasted from the nearby healthy takeout restaurant Cococook (lesson learned, not all flats come with an oven). However, served over a Comte cheese covered sesame baguette from Eric Kayser, it made the perfect (and cheap) Paris supper. Marché de Raspail is near the Sevres metro stop. The Sunday market is organic (bio) but there are also weekday markets on Mondays and Fridays.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Summer nostalgia: Rehoboth Beach Farmers Market

Where has the time gone? Late October already, the foliage in the lower Hudson Valley is at peak and Halloween is around the corner. In other words, a perfect time to share what I did on my late summer vacations. Unlike most people, I tend to take more vacation in September than any other time of the year. Last month, I went from the sandy shores of Delaware to the bustling (yet mostly protest free) streets of Paris to the lazy canals of Amsterdam. First up was the beach, which is an annual event. After Labor Day, the crowds dwindle but the bounty of summer is still to be had, especially at the farmers market. The Rehoboth Beach market is not huge, but seems like it's getting bigger every year. Offering a mix of prepared treats and local produce, it's the ideal place to shop to stock your beach rental kitchen. The first week of September, peaches and corn shared table space with eggplant and pumpkin. But the find of the day were multi-colored heirloom plum tomatoes. When the weather cools off a bit, or when I am staying in a fully air conditioned beach rental, I love to crank the oven to 225 and slowly roast plum tomatoes for five or six hours or so. Just halve the tomatoes lengthwise, place cut side up on a sheet pan, cover with a glug of olive oil and sprinkle of salt and you're good to go. Luckily, I've been able to find plum tomatoes at my local market, even as recent as last week, but I know the season is ending (kind of like summer). The good news is that any plum tomato, even the sad grocery store specimens of January, taste great after a few hours in the sauna/oven. Meaning slow roasted tomatoes provide taste of summer that you can enjoy all year.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Seneca Lake: U-Pick Raspberries

In late August, I had another opportunity to go up to Seneca Lake for the day (and yes, passed that cute honey stand again). But this visit, I got to do something I had been waiting to do all summer: pick raspberries. I have been known to shell out big bucks for raspberries from the farmers market. So when I passed a small field with a sign saying "U-Pick -- $3 a quart" how could I resist? Little did I know that it had not been a banner year for this particular field. What berries there were were tiny. The farmers, who came out into the late afternoon sun to pick alongside me (they sell most of their berries at auction) said the weather had been terrible. It took me, and my two helpers (thanks mom and dad!) about 20 minutes to fill the quart-size container with little berries, dodging BIG bees the whole time. After some post-picking cleaning, I still had a nice quantity of raspberries to use in my morning oatmeal, top a scoop of frozen yogurt and just eat plain. Here's hoping for better weather and a better crop next year (I'll be back).
Peach Upsidedown Cake (inspired by Alton Brown)
I baked these in a 6-count, 6 oz. jumbo muffin pan but you can also use ramekins. And no, the berries pictured below are not the ones I picked in New York, but are their California cousins.
Ingredients 5 T. Butter 1/4 C. Brown sugar 3 Peaches, peeled and chopped 1 oz. Crystallized ginger, chopped as finely as you can 3/4 C. Flour 1 1/2 t Baking powder 1/4 t. Baking soda Dash of salt Dash of cinnamon 1/3 C. Sugar ¼ C. Plain yogurt ½ C. Milk 1/2 T. Vanilla Method Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the muffin pan or ramekins with non-stick spray. Add a small pat (approximately 1/2 T.) of butter to each tin and cover with about a 1/2 T. of brown sugar, 1/6 of the peaches and a sprinkling of the crystallized ginger. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl, melt the remaining butter and combine with the sugar, yogurt, milk and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just incorporated. Pour the batter over the peach ginger mixture and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool slightly and then invert and serve.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Local Honey on Seneca Lake

I was upstate over the weekend -- this time on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake. The Finger Lakes are a great place to visit in the summer. There's a roadside stand around every corner, be it someone selling corn right out of the field or a small table loaded with squash, tomatoes and a small cash box (got to love the honor system)! But this visit, I found something I'd never seen -- a small roadside honey house. Local honey is in. And honey, let me tell you: this stand was literally golden. Surrounded by wildflowers, the little "lean to" looked like something out of the pages of a magazine (MSL - take note). Inside was a small table with a cash box, a few bottles of honey and a price list. For $5.50, I grabbed two 1/2 pound jars of honey: one pale and golden and one a dark, rich amber. Inside the small cash box was a little pad where people noted the dates of their visit and what they took ("third year visiting!" one entry read). Honey, especially local honey, is supposed to have a lot of benefits (helps with allergies?). I don't use honey very often, but nothing beats the combination of honey with banana and peanut butter. And during hot summer mornings, the combination mixed with a little milk and ice makes a great smoothie. Plus, it's a sweet way to enjoy summer (and the bounty of bees) while it lasts.
Peanut Butter Honey Banana Smoothie
1 Banana, peeled and cut into chunks*
1 T. Peanut butter (preferably natural)
1 t. Honey
.5-1 C. Skim milk (depending on desired thickness)
Ice cubes
Method Add first four ingredients to blender and puree until combined.
Add ice cubes a few at a time or extra milk until smoothie is desired thickness.
*This smoothie recipe works great with frozen banana chunks if you have them/have time to freeze them.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stuffed Eight Ball Squash with Ratatouille

I actually made ratatouille this morning before I left for work. Yes, I am insane, but it was a cool 70 degrees, I was already chopping vegetables for my brown bag salad, and had a bunch of stuff lingering in the crisper, including $6 worth of Japanese eggplant I got at the farmers market last weekend. So I cranked the oven to 400, combined chopped squash, onion, eggplant and pepper with olive oil, canned diced tomatoes, salt and pepper and let it cook for an hour or so (until I had to pack it into the fridge and head out the door). Hard? No. Hot? Yes. I admit I was a little flushed as I ran down to catch my train. But if you have a gas grill, there is an easier way to enjoy ratatouille this summer. If you turn the burners to medium high and leave the lid down, most grills will heat to 400+ degrees (making it an ideal outdoor oven). So the next time you're preheating the grill for steaks, chicken or burgers, try cooking stuffed eight ball squash as a veggie side dish. Your indoor oven will be glad for the reprieve.
Eight Ball Squash Stuffed with Cheaters Ratatouille
I supposed you could make ratatouille and then stuff the squash, but if you're pressed for time, you can make this "cheaters" version.
1 T. Olive oil, plus extra for brushing squash
2 Shallots, diced
1 Quarter of a fennel bulb, chopped
4 Eight ball squash
1 C. Eggplant caponata (Trader Joe's makes a nice version)
1-2 Slices of whole wheat bread, crumbed
Grated Parmesan for garnish (optional)
Ground black pepper
Start gas grill, setting burners to medium high.
In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, add shallots and cook until translucent.
In the meantime, slice off the top third of each squash at the stem end, wrap the tops loosely in non-stick foil.
Using a paring knife, start to hollow out each squash by running the knife along the edge (leaving about a quarter inch of flesh) and cut out a cone-shaped section; hollow out the remainder of the squash with a measuring spoon or melon baller.
Roughly chop the scooped out flesh and add to skillet along with fennel; cook until most of the water has evaporated.
Remove the skillet from the heat; add the eggplant caponata and bread crumbles.
Brush each hollowed out squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper; fill to top with eggplant mixture, wrap in non-stick foil.
Place the two foil packets in grill pan or directly on grates; lower the lid and cook for 20-30 minutes or until squash is soft.
Garnish with the cooked squash tops for show, as well as cheese if desired.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summer baking: Blackberry peach crostada

Summer baking is the ultimate Catch-22; on one hand, there is great seasonal fruit to enjoy, but on the other, it is too darn hot (most days, the mere thought of turning on the oven makes me want to weep). But then all it takes are farmers market peaches and blackberries to make me change my mind. Was upstate last weekend and, over the course of two days, managed to hit two markets and one roadside stand, including the Vestal market, the Ithaca market and a random farmer off route 90 on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake. While the markets were great, the stand was the mother lode. Although it looked a tad suspect (as all good roadside stands do), the crusty farmer had tender corn, perfect tomatoes, red new potatoes and one loan pint of freshly picked blackberries up for the taking. So I broke my no baking during the summer rule and made a peach blackberry crostada. I like galette and crostada recipes because they are supposed to be "rustic" (which gives me more leeway if the end result does not come out picture perfect). Plus, most crostada and galette recipes call for very little sugar, which allows the natural sweetness of the fruit to shine through (and for you to top with whipped cream or ice cream with low-to-no guilt). So the next time you pass a roadside stand, slam on the breaks, put in in reverse and see what gems you can find (just watch out for the traffic!).
Blackberry Peach Crostada
I cut the butter in this recipe, so if you want a more tender crust, double the amount of butter called for. If you want a more firm (yet still tasty and less calorie) crust, use amount of butter recommended.
2 C. All purpose flour (plus a bit more for dusting work surface)
1/2 C. Cornmeal
1/2 t. Salt
1 T. Sugar (plus extra for dusting crust)
1 Stick butter, cut into tiny cubes and chilled
2/3 C. Ice water
6 T. Sour cream or plain yogurt
1 Pint Blackberries
5-6 Small peaches, peeled and diced
1 T. Cinnamon
1 t. Vanilla extract
1 t. Corn starch
Preheat the oven to 400.
In a large bowl or food processor, combine dry ingredients (flour through sugar).
Add cubes of butter and work into dry ingredients with two forks or by pulsing food processor blade until the butter pieces are no bigger than a pea.
In a small bowl, mix water and sour cream or yogurt; pour slurry over flour/butter mixture and combine until dough ball forms (you may not need it all, or you made need a bit more water).
Divide dough ball into two, flatten and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for one hour, then roll out both dough balls on floured work surface and transfer to parchment-lined cookie sheet(s).
Combine the remaining, tossing gently until the cornstarch is mostly dissolved by the liquid in the fruit.
Dump the half of the fruit mixture in the middle of one dough circle, and the remaining on the second circle (or oval or "shape"); spread out, leaving a one inch border.
Fold the border edge over the fruit mixture, patching as needed.
Brush crust with water or an egg wash (if preferred) and sprinkle a bit of sugar on the edges.
Bake at 400 for 35-40 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Giant Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Do not adjust your screens. Despite the low resolution (I was forced to use my BlackBerry camera to take pictures for this post), what you see below is not an enlarged image of a tiny pattypan squash. It is in fact A GIANT PATTYPAN! I admittedly love cute vegetables, so when I saw this giant yellow squash from Cowberry Crossing at Saturday's market, I had to buy it. I decided to treat it kind of like a pumpkin, hollowing out and discarding most of the innards, par boiling it for 10 minutes and then stuffing and baking it for another 30 minutes. The squash was really easy to cut, and the soft flesh (which I scooped out with measuring spoons -- first using the tablespoon and then moving onto the teaspoon for the "detail work") did have seeds reminiscent of a pumpkin. I was barely able to submerge the squash in my small saucepan, and in the end, needn't have bothered because after 10 minutes, the squash was almost overcooked. I let it drain and cool slightly before coating it with oil and seasoning the inside with salt and pepper to prepare it for stuffing. By using an oval container that was just bigger than the squash, I was able to preserve the shape (you could also use aluminium foil balls to help prop up the squash in a square or rectangular container). The end result tasted similar to a stuffed spaghetti squash, but with the giant pattypan, you could eat the rind and all -- one way to conquer a monster (squash) .
Stuffed Squash
This recipe makes extra filling, which you'll want to serve alongside the squash so you can maintain the good filling-to-veg ratio while dining!
1 Giant pattypan squash
1 t. Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 t. Light whipped butter
6 Baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 Small onion, diced
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
.25 C. Bruchetta sauce (or diced tomatoes and extra oil)
1 t. Oregano
1 t. Dried basil
1 C. Brown rice
1 Link chicken sausage, diced
1 oz. Romano cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 350.
In a large saute pan, melt the butter and saute the sliced mushrooms until caramelized.
In the meantime, cut a circle through the stem end of the squash.
Using a small scoop, hollow out the interior, discarding the seeds and pulp or reserving for another recipe.
Place in a small casserole dish and drizzle one teaspoon of oil over the hollowed-out squash, season interior with salt and pepper.
Add onion, basil and oregano and saute two minutes; add garlic, diced sausage and bruchetta sauce, cook two additional minutes and remove pan from heat. Stir in cooked rice and cheese.
Stuff the squash until full but not overpacked (there will be excess filling). Bake squash at 350 for 20-30 minutes until squash is lightly browned and filling is bubbling.
Let stand for five minutes before serving.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Soup for Summer: Part 2 - Asparagus

Come summer, a recipe has to be pretty intriguing for me to get the energy to turn on the stove (otherwise it's cold salads and microwaved meals). But the asparagus soup recipe from Eating Well looked good enough to risk sweltering in an already overheated kitchen. After all, asparagus season was ending, and it was my last chance to use up the half bunch in the crisper. So on a recent "cool" evening (with temperatures finally dipping into the 60s and 70s), I fired up the gas burner and made soup. In the summer.
With a little tweaking (leeks for onions, garlic scapes for garlic clove), the end result was more like a vichyssoise -- perfect for enjoying hot or cold. Or, in other words, a perfect soup for summer (as long as you can bear standing over the stove)!
Asparagus Spinach Vichyssoise
1 T. Light whipped butter
2 T. Olive oil
2 Leeks, cleaned and chopped
1 Clove of garlic, mashed
1/2 t. Salt
1/2 t. Curry powder
1/2 t. Ginger root, grated
1 Lemon, zested and juiced
2 C. Red potatoes, diced
3 C. Chicken broth
1 C. Lite Coconut milk
2 C. Asparagus, chopped
2 C. Baby spinach Black pepper
In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat; add leeks and cook until soft.
Add garlic, salt, curry powder, ginger root and lemon zest; cook for three minutes.
Add potatoes, broth and coconut milk; simmer for 10 minutes.
Add asparagus; summer for 5 minutes more.
Remove pot from heat; add baby spinach and then puree mixture using immersion blender.
Season with additional salt, freshly ground black pepper and lemon juice to taste.
Serve hot or cooled.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Soup for Summer: Part 1 - Squash

Despite the record heat, this is one of my favorite times of year, because week-to-week, there's always something new at the farmers market. The other day, I hit my local market and bought a sea of green -- from bok choy to dill, wild arugula to squash, napa cabbage to garlic scapes. So what to do but make a green soup? I recently subscribed to Eating Well, and also receive their free email newsletter. This recipe was inspired by one of the soups featured. Although it will be a few weeks until the local corn is ready, this is a nice way to use up some of the zucchini that will be flooding the market for weeks to come. And since it's pretty low cal, it's a great soup for bathing suit season too!
Dilled Zucchini and Corn Soup
Ingredients 1 t. Olive oil
1 Shallot, diced 2 Medium zucchinis, chopped 2 C. Chicken broth
1/4 t. Salt Kernels from 1 ear of corn 1 t. Lemon juice 1/4 C. Feta, crumbled
2 t. Fresh dill, chopped
Additional dill, plain yogurt for garnish (optional)
Method Saute shallot in olive oil over medium heat; add zucchini and cook until the squash starts to soften.
Add the broth and salt, bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook for 5-10 minutes over low heat.
Puree the soup in a blender until smooth.
Return to put and add corn, cook for 5 additional minutes over low heat.
Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice, dill and feta.
Garnish with additional dill and/or a dollop of plain yogurt.

Friday, June 18, 2010

If Is June, It Must Be Strawberry Season

Yay! June in New York State means strawberry season and this year's crop is especially good. Since the season for local berries is so short, there's only one way to enjoy them: as nature made them. But after a long workweek, you may prefer to drink them. And the recipe couldn't be easier.
Frozen Strawberry Daiquiris
Makes three drinks, or one super grande drink for those that are extra thirsty.
1 Pint Strawberries 1/3 C. Rum
1/4 C. Fresh lime or Lemon Juice
3 t. Simple syrup or agave OR 3 packets of Splenda
Splash of orange Juice
4-6 C. Ice cubes
Add all ingredients to blender; blitz until well Incorporated.
Garnish with whipped cream if you're feeling extra decadent.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Spring Finds at the Farmers Markets

After several weekends on the road, I am starting to return to old routines, including visits to the farmers market and some home cooking (as opposed to home defrosting). A few weekends ago, my travels took me to Ithaca, NY, and of course I stopped at the farmers market. Although Macro Mama’s was sadly missing, I did find a few other prizes, including a large bunch of rhubarb and basil plants. A few days later, I actually was able to get out of work in time to make it to the Union Square Greenmarket before they closed for the day. For a Friday market before a holiday weekend, the place was buzzing, but I managed to pick up some choice items, including spearmint mint plants (“mojitos?” the vendor asked as I handed over a 5 dollar bill), wild arugula and $11 worth of sugar snap peas (my bad for not looking at the sign saying they were $6 a pound).
So with my haul from Ithaca and my haul from Union Square, I spent Memorial Day weekend chopping and boiling and baking and braising. I prepared the Cheater’s Pulled Pork (which, with my off-brand slow cooker being on the fritz, took 22 hours to cook) and tried the potato salad with yogurt, arugula and dill posted on The Kitchn last week.
I made a riff on Simply Recipes rhubarb crumble, and enjoyed some pickled ramps on a Hoffman's Hot Dog. And I did end up mixing some mojitos with the fresh mint, lime juice, rum, agave syrup and a hit of Fresca. Not a bad way to toast the start of the summer season.
10 Ingredient Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble The tartness of the rhubarb really shines through in this recipe (aka, if you want it sweet, add more granulated sugar). Serve with whipped cream or ice cream to help mellow the flavors and make this humble dessert more special. Ingredients Cooking spray 1 lb. Rhubarb, cut into one inch pieces 1 lb. Strawberries, hulled and sliced into quarters 2 T. Corn starch 2 T. Orange juice ½ C. Granulated sugar ½ C. Butter, cubed ½ C. White whole wheat flour ½ C. Brown sugar 1 C. Ginger cookies, crushed Method Preheat oven to 375. Cover a 9x13 dish with cooking spray; add rhubarb, strawberry, granulated sugar, corn starch and orange juice and toss to combine. In a small bowl, whisk flour, brown sugar and cookie crumbles; add butter cubes and mash together until combined; sprinkle on top of fruit mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes until fruit has cooked and topping has crisped. Serve warm or cold, but make sure you serve with vanilla ice cream!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Crisper Clean Out: Asparagus and Ramps

About two weeks ago, I hit the Union Square green market. You could tell people had spring fever, because every other person was walking around with a bunch of just-purchased lilacs (with a going rate of $7-8 a bunch, you could make a killing as a lilac farmer down here). But those in the know were walking around bunches of other springtime favorites -- asparagus and ramps. So for $10 bucks, just a little more than a bunch of flowers, I grabbed some of both. And they sat in the fridge for a week and a half. I had intended all along to try pickling the ramps. I made a special trip to Penzey's for their pickling spice mix. I got myself a nifty container. But for one reason or another, I did not get around to it until last night. Since you only pickle the white parts of the ramps, I had whole mess of the green leaves leftover. I decided to use some of them in a pasta dish based on a recipe I found online (which, ironically, was originally was inspired by a recipe from Talula’s Table). I crisped a bit of pre-chopped pancetta, and then added a few sliced Baby Bellas and sliced ramp leaves. In lieu of eggs or cream, I (attempted) to melt a wedge of Laughing Cow garlic and herb cheese into the pan, before adding the asparagus, which I sliced thinly and blanched, and a bit of cooked lemon pepper pappardelle. Since the cheese did not really melt, I added a healthy amount of grated cheese at the end and called it dinner (by then, it was 9 p.m., my kitchen smelled like ramps and vinegar, and Lost was starting). Still, I was happy to clear two more items out of the crisper.
Pickled Ramps
Inspired by a recipe from Serious Eats
Unless you have a incredibly well-stocked spice pantry, consider buying a pickling spice blend, which will save you some money and time.
Ingredients 1 C. White wine vinegar
1 C. Sugar
1 C. Bottled water
2-3 T. Pickling spice mix (a combination of mustard, coriander, and fennel seeds, plus peppercorns and bay leaves)
2 Lb. Ramps (wild leeks)
1 T. Salt
Set a pot of salted water to boil.
Prep the ramps by cutting off most of the leaves and the hairy root ends; clean well by submersing in a bowl of water and letting the grit settle to the bottom (as you would clean regular leeks). Once the water is boiling, blanch ramps for about 30 seconds, then immediately shock them by adding to a bowl of ice water; drain well and insert into a glass jar; sprinkle with salt.
Add the vinegar, sugar and bottled water to the pot; bring up to a boil.
Add the spices to the pot and leave on heat for one minute.
Pour brine mixture over ramps; let cool to room temperature and then seal glass jar and refrigerate.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Crisper Cleanout: Apple Muffins

I admit it -- I've been letting produce pile up in the crisper. Oh sure, if it gets soggy and/or brown, I'll toss it, but if it has some life left in it, I let it sit, waiting for the right day, right moment, right recipe. But no more. This week, I am using up all of the odds and ends that have been in the fridge drawer for too long. First up: Fuji apples. Shamefully, I've had about 10 small apples lingering around SINCE THE SECOND WEEKEND OF MARCH. Because that's when I bought them at the Hastings Indoor Market. They were starting to look a little shriveled, so I pulled them out on Sunday and made apple muffins. After all, who doesn't bake when it's 86 degrees out? After much deliberation, I chose Ellie Krieger's recipe, which uses apple sauce and raw apples. Since I had so many apples, I actually made my own sauce (which actually was more of a mash, since Fuji's don't break down easily). Making apple sauce is simple, and it does not take much effort (of course, turning on the oven and the stove on a warm day has it's own challenges). But the nut topping is what makes these a standout. Do not omit! Despite slaving over a hot stove/oven and dirtying all of my mixing bowls plus assorted other implements, the end result was worth it. And getting to enjoy breakfast al fresco on my newly madeover terrace made it that much better.
Double Apple Muffins
Inspired by Ellie Krieger's Apple Muffin Recipe
Ingredients 5-6 C. of apples, chopped ½ C. Milk 1 T. Lemon juice ½ C. water ½ t. Cinnamon 2 T. Brown sugar 1/2 t. Cinnamon ¼ C. Pecans, chopped 2 C. White whole wheat flour 2 T. Corn starch 1 t. Baking soda ½ t. Salt ½ t. Cinnamon ¼ t. Nutmeg ½ C. Brown sugar ¼ C. Vegetable oil 2 Eggs 1 t. Vanilla
Method Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Simmer over medium high heat about two-thirds of the chopped apples with a quarter cup of water and a dash of cinnamon, reserving one-third of the raw apples. In the meantime, pour half a cup of milk into a liquid measuring cup. Add one tablespoon of lemon juice and set aside. Next, mix the next three ingredients (brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped nuts) in a small bowl, set aside. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg) and whisk to insure they are well incorporated. In your largest bowl, whisk together the oil and remaining half cup of brown sugar. By now, your apples on the stove should be tender and starting to break down into a sauce (if not breaking down, give it a whirl in the blender). Add apple sauce/mash to large bowl and whisk to cool slightly. Once close to room temperature, add eggs one at a time, and then add vanilla. Add one third of the dry ingredients to the large bowl, mix until just combined. Follow with half of the milk mixture, and then repeat dry-milk-dry until everything is in the bowl. Fold in the remaining raw apples. Scoop the batter into a prepared muffin tin. Top with the sugar-cinnamon-nut mixture. Bake for approximately 20 minutes; allow them to cool before removing from pan.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hastings Outdoor Market Returns...Sort Of

The Hastings market had its first outdoor showing earlier this month. Despite the cool temperatures, the flowers were out in full force.

I had the chance to visit old favorites (Breezy Hill had my favorite Honey Crisps, Chutney Masala was out) and find some new favs. First up was Big Girl Baking, whose table was literally groaning under the variety of treats.

I am usually hesitant to buy baked goods at the market...unless I can sample first, and Big Girl was really generous on the samples. So of course I picked up a loaf of olive oil tea cake (after reading a lovely recipe in the New York Times for lemon olive oil cake, I actually went out and bought all the ingredients to make it, but had been too lazy to turn on the oven). Next up was Hudson Milk Company. I am usually a non-fat Greek Yogurt person, but their yogurt from Maple Hill Creamery has made me a convert. Their flavored, whole milk yogurts are just sweet enough and so much better than any run-of-the-mill grocery store variety. I bought the lemon, and it did not disappoint. And then how could I pass up the cute offerings from Honey Locust? I snagged a bunch of young carrots for $1.50 and scallions for $1.00.

The April market got me super excited for Hastings' official outdoor season, but sadly, it does not begin until the beginning of June! But the market continues to pop up monthly, with the next date slated for May 8.
Carrot Soup with Yogurt
Using the carrots from Honey Locust and the lemon cream yogurt from Maple Hill, I did a lazy riff on the recipe for Moroccan carrot soup that was published in the April issue of Bon Appétit. By lazy, I mean I used ground cumin (rather than cumin seeds) and lemon flavored yogurt (in place of yogurt and lemon juice). Luckily, it’s hard to screw up soup! This only made 1.5 cups of soup so, for a larger batch, adjust the recipe accordingly.
Ingredients 1 t. Butter 1 Large shallot, finely chopped 4 oz. Carrots, peeled, cut into thin coins 1.5 c. Chicken broth 1 t. Cumin 1 t. Honey .25 c. (Non-sweetened) Lemon yogurt Salt and pepper Method Melt butter in small saucepan, add shallot and sauté for two minutes Add carrots, cumin and broth; bring to boil, then turn down heat and simmer until tender Add honey and then puree soup using immersion blender, or in batches in standard blender, until smooth Before serving, drizzle yogurt over the soup and sprinkle with additional cumin