Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Culinary Confessions and a Non-Recipe for Colcannon

As you know, this blog is focused on produce and community-supported agriculture, and it features a lot of from-scratch recipes. But I didn't always eat or cook this way. My culinary beginnings included a fair amount of Cheez Whiz and Bisquick, brownie mixes, and cans of cream-of-mushroom soup -- though, fortunately, not all in the same dish.

Every once in a while I still dip into the realm of "semi-homemade"; which is why The Programmer did not get a home-baked layer cake on his birthday, but rather a parfait that featured instant pudding mix, frozen whipped topping, strawberries, and cubes of angel food cake. The cake, which I had in the freezer, was homemade, but it may have been a relic from The Programmer's birthday celebration last year. This reminded us of the "leftover parfait" bit from Malcolm in the Middle. Ours was a leftover parfait parfait.

Pudding Parfait
Not from scratch ...
but it tasted good.

By way of redemption, I present to you a non-recipe for Colcannon, just in time for St. Patrick's Day. Colcannon is simply boiled potatoes mashed with boiled cabbage or kale -- seasonal ingredients and authentic to Ireland.

Colcannon (Kale version)

Use a waxy potato variety, such as Yukon Gold, for mashing. I cut my potatoes into quarters for boiling, and don't bother peeling them until they have cooked.

Colcannon made with kale
Boil and drain about 2 pounds of potatoes. Let them cool slightly and remove peels as needed. Mash the potatoes, adding butter and warm milk, or pareve margarine and potato-boiling liquid, depending on whether you need to keep the recipe dairy free. Keep the mashed potatoes warm.

Meanwhile, remove and discard the stems from a bunch of kale. Roughly chop the leaves and boil or steam them until tender. Let the kale cool a bit, then chop finely.

Mix the cooked kale into the mashed potatoes, adding salt and pepper to taste. And that's pretty much it, though you could easily add in onions, garlic, or other seasoning if you like. If you have more cooked kale than you need for the potatoes, save it for another use, such as quiche or soup.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Summer Sunshine Peach Jam and Honey-Wheat Rolls

Few foods make me think of summer the way peaches do. They are wrapped up in the promise of picnics and beach time, cobblers and ice cream. It's hard to capture that feeling in March -- right now, a cold rain is pounding my office windows -- but I'm finding that jam helps. It's like a bit of summer sunshine in a jar, even when you start with frozen fruit.

peach jam and honey-wheat rolls
Peach jam with honey-wheat rolls
(which resemble potatoes in this picture).
Summer Sunshine Peach Jam
(Adapted recipe)

Note: Because my peaches were frozen in apple juice, I semi-defrosted them and drained off some of the excess liquid before proceeding with the recipe. All quantities are approximate.

7 to 8 cups peeled, sliced frozen peaches (about 2 to 2.5 pounds)
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup sugar, or to taste

Bring the peaches, water, and lemon juice to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the peaches are soft. Mash the peaches gently as they cook (I used a potato masher for this).

Add the sugar to the peach mixture, stirring until dissolved. Continue to simmer gently, stirring often, until the mixture thickens, another 20 to 40 minutes. The jam is done when a small amount placed on a cold plate holds its shape and does not run.

Cool the jam and refrigerate. Makes 2.5 to 3 cups.

Honey-Wheat Rolls
(Adapted recipe, attributed to Taste of Home, and included in a promotional brochure for the honey industry that was distributed at the 2010 Topsfield Fair. The rolls pair well with jam and peanut butter, and are particularly tasty when eaten warm.)

1 package active dry yeast
1.25 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees F), divided
2 egg whites
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp salt
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
2.5 cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of the warm water. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with a whisk until foamy. Add in the yeast mixture, the remaining water, honey, oil, salt, and whole wheat flour. Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon for about three minutes or until smooth. Stir in enough all-purpose flour to form a soft dough; it will be sticky. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Punch the dough down. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Divide the dough in half, then divide each half into nine balls. Shape into rolls. These can be ball-shaped, or roll each ball into a 10-inch rope and tie into a knot. Place the rolls onto parchment-lined baking sheets.

Cover and let the rolls rise until doubled in size, about 50 minutes. Bake them at 375 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown.