Thursday, October 18, 2012

Week 18: Potato and Onion Knishes

After a potato-filled summer that led to a potato-filled fall, this is a fitting (and filling!) way to send off the CSA season.

How many potatoes? you ask. We totaled 42 pounds over the last 15 weeks. Clearly we hit some kind of weather jackpot for potatoes. (The other notable delivery: six heads of cabbage and six heads of cauliflower, which doesn't sound like a lot -- until you start thinking about eating a head of cabbage and a head of cauliflower each week for a month or so.)

Back to the potatoes: You'll need only a pound and a half, or about 3 medium potatoes, to make these knishes. Which you should do. Like, now. They are fantastic, and they are much easier to make than you might think.

For the recipe, I must refer you to the Smitten Kitchen website. I used the dough recipe as written and made one small change to the potato and caramelized onion filling, substituting olive oil for the butter to keep the knishes dairy free. The Joe Pastry blog, which provided the recipe that inspired the Smitten Kitchen version, also has fantastic step-by-step photos for rolling out and shaping the knishes.

And with that, the season is over, though the kitchen never really closes. Love and knishes to you all.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Week 17: Lemon-Marinated Cauliflower

This recipe is quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to prepare cauliflower. And let me emphasize the quick part. All you have to do is pour a simple marinade over bite-size florets. The cauliflower will essentially "cook" itself with several hours of standing time in the refrigerator. Set up the vegetables in the morning and you'll have marinated cauliflower for dinner.

The florets soften a bit in the marinade, but retain much of their texture for a couple of days. Use the marinated florets in a salad, or as part of an antipasto course, or nibble them on their own.

Lemon-Marinated Caulflower
(Adapted from an old, old recipe book from Borden foods.)

4 cups cauliflower florets
6 Tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
6 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely minced
Black pepper to taste

Place the florets in a shallow container. Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the florets. Mix to combine. Cover the container and refrigerate six hours or more, stirring occasionally.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Week 16: Pickled Red Cabbage, Kimchi Style

With the farm season winding down, and the vegetables piling up, I've been looking for ways to preserve the produce. Recently, that's meant a series of quick-pickle projects: beets, cauliflower, and cabbage. The tangy goodies will keep in the refrigerator for at least a couple of weeks -- our noshing notwithstanding.

For the cabbage, I tweaked a recipe for a pickled, but not fermented, kimchi. This is a mildly spicy kimchi; it's meant to be pantry clearing, not sinus clearing. The recipe starts off with what seems like an unholy amount of salt, but the final kimchi is not overly salty. That's because the salt is used to wilt the cabbage and to draw out some of its water. The salt is then rinsed off before the cabbage goes into the pickling brine.

I'm storing my kimchi in a couple of quart-size pickling jars, which fit nicely in my fridge, but shallow containers are probably better to keep the vegetables evenly submerged in the picking liquid.

Pickled Red Cabbage, Kimchi Style
(Adapted from Creative Loafing Tampa. Makes 8 cups. Note: the salt amount -- 1/2 cup -- is correct; most of the salt will be rinsed off after wilting the cabbage. Makes 8 cups.)

1 red cabbage, weighing about 2 pounds
1/2 cup Kosher salt
2 Tbsp chili paste (Sriracha)
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
8 to 10 radishes, cut into matchsticks
2 cups thinly sliced onion
2 cups thinly sliced carrot
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

Cut the cabbage into quarters, remove the tough core, and slice the cabbage into bite-sized pieces. Toss the cabbage with the salt. Place the salted cabbage in a large colander; set the colander in the sink, or over a bowl or plate to catch any liquid, and let the cabbage drain for 30 to 45 minutes. Rinse the cabbage thoroughly with fresh water and drain well.

In a large bowl, whisk together the chili paste, garlic, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, and soy sauce. Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.

Add the wilted cabbage, radishes, onion, carrot, scallion, and cilantro to the pickling liquid and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a one-gallon resealable plastic bag and squeeze out the air. Place the bag flat in the refrigerator, so the liquid is distributed evenly among the vegetables, and let the mixture pickle for at least two hours, but preferably a day or two, flipping the bag periodically. Store the kimchi in shallow containers or pickling jars, mixing periodically if some of the vegetables are not submerged in the liquid.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Week 15: Butternut Squash Lasagna With Basil Bechamel

I had no intention of featuring two pasta dishes in a row, let alone two pasta dishes containing winter squash. But with a CSA, you cook what you have; and last week, I had two butternut squash and a sugar pumpkin sitting on the counter. I'm hardly making a dent in my supplies.

If you are not blessed with a squash (or two) of your own, it's worth getting one just for this lasagna. The basil adds a lot of flavor to the sauce, and gives it a pretty green color.

Butternut Squash Lasagna With Basil Bechamel
(Adapted from this Giada de Laurentiis recipe. Serves 8. You can prepare the squash puree ahead of time.)

Olive oil
1 butternut squash, about 3 pounds (or 3 cups prepared squash puree)
Salt and pepper to taste
4.5 Tbsp butter
4.5 Tbsp flour
4 cups whole milk
Pinch nutmeg
3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan

Prepare squash: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Brush the cut surface lightly with olive oil and set the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet (foil-lined, if you like). Roast the squash for about 45 minutes, or until the flesh is soft (but not mush). Let the squash cool a bit, then scoop out the cooked flesh, discarding the peel. Place the cooked squash in a food processor and pulse several times to puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside. You should have 3 to 3-1/2 cups of puree.

Prepare bechamel: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk gradually. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer the sauce, whisking often, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. (This makes a thin white sauce.) Whisk in the nutmeg. Carefully transfer about half of the sauce to a blender and let it cool there for at least 5 minutes. Add the basil leaves on top, then blend until smooth. Return the basil bechamel to the sauce in the pan and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble and cook the lasagna: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup sauce on the bottom of the pan, then make three layers as follows, leaving space between the noodles (they expand considerably when they cook):

3 noodles
1/3 of the squash puree (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup mozzarella
1/2 cup basil bechamel

Place the final 3 noodles on top and spoon on the remaining bechamel. (You will probably have more sauce than you need.) Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes.

Sprinkle the lasagna with the remaining half-cup of  mozzarella cheese and all of the Parmesan. Bake uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden. Let the lasagna rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Week 14: Pasta With Roasted Squash, Mushrooms, and Sage

I made butternut squash-filled ravioli once -- only once. The recipe used wonton wrappers for the pasta, and while it was not a total disaster, it was not worth repeating, either. Someday, in a more ambitious moment, I'll go the complete route from scratch. In the meantime, there's today's recipe. It mimics the flavor combination that I was going for, but eliminates much of the work. Definitely one for the "repeat" list.

(And now that I'm contemplating the recipe, I think it would be great to try pairing the roasted vegetables with ricotta-filled ravioli or cheese tortellini, instead of just plain pasta. Lots of delicious possibilities here.)

Pasta With Roasted Squash, Mushrooms, and Sage
(Adapted from Beyond Salmon. Serves 4. If you roast more squash than you want for this dish, you can use some of the roasted cubes in one of these salads.)

1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), seeded, peeled, and cut into 3/4-inch to 1-inch cubes
About 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided use
Salt and pepper
2 portabella mushroom caps, cleaned
8 ounces pasta (I used farfalle)
1 Tbsp butter
12 sage leaves (or more, to taste)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Toss squash cubes with a tablespoon (or little more) of olive oil and spread them out in a single layer on one or two baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the mushrooms on a baking dish (they can share space with the squash), brush with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Roast the squash and mushrooms for 20 to 30 minutes,  flipping the pieces about halfway through the cooking time, until the squash is soft and just beginning to caramelize. Remove from oven. When the mushrooms are cool enough to handle, slice them 1/4-inch thick.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the sage leaves in one layer. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, until the leaves begin to stiffen and crisp, then add the garlic. Continue to cook until the garlic turns golden, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Drain the pasta well, then mix in the roasted squash, mushrooms, and sage-garlic butter. Sprinkle with cheese, or serve the cheese on the side.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Week 13: Massaged Kale Salad

Don't you love how food brings people together? I have a new acquaintance, and we are bonding over our mutual experiences with community-supported agriculture, and, in particular, kale.

Kale is great stuff, but it's easy to fall into the "saute with olive oil and garlic" rut when you are trying to throw dinner together after a long day. So I have to thank E. and her mother for suggesting this recipe to me. It's quick to make, it keeps well in the fridge, and it's different from the sauteed standard. Best yet: It's an excuse to really play with your food. 

Massaged Kale Salad
(Slightly adapted from Aarti Sequeira's recipe -- which is to say, I used peaches instead of mango, because I had a ton of peaches from the farm. There's a nice companion video to the recipe on the Food Network site, from which I learned, after the fact, that I did not slice my kale as thinly as recommended. Serves 4.)

1 bunch kale, stalks removed and discarded, leaves sliced into thin ribbons
Juice of 1 lemon, divided use
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons honey
Ground black pepper
1 cup diced peaches
2 to 3 Tbsp pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)

Place the kale in a large bowl. Add half of the lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Massage the kale with your hand for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the kale begins to break down and wilt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining lemon juice, honey and black pepper. Stream in the olive oil slowly and whisk until a dressing forms. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Pour the dressing over the kale, then add the peaches and pepitas. Toss and serve.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Week 12: Aloo Gobi (Potatoes and Cauliflower)

I'll be upfront: I have no idea how closely this recipe resembles the traditional Punjabi dish of spiced potatoes and cauliflower. It might just share the name. Doesn't matter, really. This is a great late-summer harvest dish, especially on a day that has just enough of a chill in the air to suggest a change in season.

Aloo Gobi (Potatoes and Cauliflower)
(Adapted from a recipe)

2 Tbsp canola oil (or another neutral-tasting vegetable oil)
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 tsp cumin seed
1 bunch cilantro, leaves and stalks separated and roughly chopped
1 T minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
3 cups diced fresh tomatoes (2 to 3 tomatoes)
1 small cauliflower, separated into florets
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed (to be about the same size as the florets)
2 tsp garam masala (make-your-own recipe at the bottom of this post)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, then add the onion and cumin seeds. Cook together until the onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the cilantro stalks, ginger, garlic, turmeric, salt, and chili powder to the onions, and cook another minute or two. Stir in the tomatoes, and cook about 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to break down. Add the potatoes and cauliflower, turning them in the sauce to coat. Cover and simmer the mixture for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables are cooked through. Stir in the garam masala and cilantro leaves near the end of the cooking time.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Week 11: Corny Corn Muffins and Vegetarian Chili

Corn on the cob? Not this summer: Both kids have braces on their teeth. But fresh corn kernels off the cob? We're using them practically everywhere.

Vegetarian chili is one of my favorite mix-and-match recipes. You can adjust the ingredients to work with whatever you have on hand. Don't like peppers? Leave them out. Got some mushrooms you need to use up? Throw them in. Your chili won't be exactly like mine, but it will still taste good, particularly if you have peak-of-the-season corn and tomatoes. I often serve the chili with rice, but  fresh corn muffins make a perfect summertime accompaniment.

Both the muffins and chili freeze well, so make an extra batch and enjoy a bit of summer long after the season is gone.

Vegetarian Chili
(Adapted from Parade Magazine. Serves 4-5.)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (red, yellow, or white)
5 medium cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, or substitute 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces) black beans with their liquid
1 cup chopped bell pepper (any color)
2 cups chopped summer squash (about 1 squash) or zucchini, or use a combination of both
1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 1 to 2 ears of corn)
1 cup (packed) chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder and cumin; cook 1 minute more. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Serve with the garnishes of your choice, such as shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped scallions, or additional cilantro or onion.

Corny Corn Muffins
(Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's recipe, as seen in the New York Times. Makes 12. Instead of buttermilk, I used the standard substitute of 1 Tbsp white vinegar mixed with milk to equal 1 cup.)

1 cup all-purpose flour 
1 cup yellow cornmeal 
3 Tbsp sugar 
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 cup buttermilk (or buttermilk substitute, as described in the headnote)
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 Tbsp canola oil 
1 large egg 
1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 1 to 2 ears of corn)

Fit the molds of a regular-sized muffin tin with paper liners, or grease the molds. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, oil, and egg until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, using a rubber spatula, quickly but gently stir to blend. Do not overbeat the mixture; the batter will be lumpy. Stir in the corn kernels. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups.

Bake the muffins for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the tops are golden; a thin knife inserted into the center of a muffin should come out clean. Transfer the muffin tin to a rack and cool five minutes before removing each muffin from its mold. Serve the muffins warm, at room temperature, or toasted.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Week 10: Roasted Kohlrabi and Mozzarella Crostini

Among food bloggers, the general consensus on kohlrabi seems to be that the vegetable tastes like the stems of broccoli, resembles Sputnik 1, and is good in slaw. I can't disagree with any of that. But you don't need another recipe for slaw, do you? I'm pretty confident that you can simply shred raw kohlrabi with carrots and onions, add a little vinaigrette or mayonnaise-based dressing, and come out OK.

I went a different route this week after finding an intriguing appetizer recipe on the Food 52 site. That recipe turned out to have some flaws (Two to three kohlrabi for only 12 appetizers? Must have been way smaller than the ones I had. And the "crispy lemons and shallots"? Never worked for us ... ) but we persevered. You can't go too wrong pairing a broccoli-ish vegetable -- or just about any other kind of vegetable, for that matter -- with fresh herbs and mozzarella cheese.

Prepare the components of the crostini a day in advance and assemble them just prior to serving, or give yourself a large window of time to prep and roast the kohlrabi. You'll need to use your judgment on how much kohlrabi to roast. You will want one slice of cooked kohlrabi (about 1/4 inch thick) for each slice of toasted bread. I had all of the fresh herbs in my garden, but you can try simplifying this recipe by substituting pesto or an olive tapenade for the herb paste.

Roasted Kohlrabi and Mozzarella Crostini
(Adapted from this recipe on Food 52. Makes 12 appetizer servings. Pare the kohlrabi to remove the fibrous outer layer.)

1 or 2 kohlrabi, about 3-inches in diameter, well-trimmed and pared
Olive oil
12 slices, 1/2-inch thick, from a baguette (about half of a 1-pound loaf)
1 sprig basil
1 sprig rosemary
4 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs thyme
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
8 pitted kalamata olives
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly

Brush the kohlrabi with olive oil, wrap tightly in foil, and roast in a 400-degree oven for 40 to 60 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Set aside to cool, then slice into 1/4-inch slices. Meanwhile, place 12 baguette slices on a baking sheet and toast at 400 degrees until they reach a light golden brown, maybe 5 minutes per side, but watch carefully.

Remove and discard the stems of the basil, rosemary, parsley, and thyme. Finely chop the leaves of the herbs with the garlic and salt; a small food processor works well for this. Add the olives and pulse until the mixture comes together; add a little olive oil if needed to form a paste.

Preheat your broiler and adjust your oven rack to one level below the top one. Spread each toast round with a bit of the herb paste. Top with slices of roasted kohlrabi and fresh mozzarella. Place the crostini under the broiler until the cheese is golden and bubbling. This should take just a minute or two; watch carefully so you don't burn the edges of the bread. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Week 9: Pizza With Potato, Rosemary, and Caramelized Onions

It's shaping up to be a potato-filled summer. How so? We're at the half-way point of our CSA season, and we're up to 16.5 pounds of potatoes. Last year, it was only 4 pounds for the entire 18 weeks. In 2010 and 2009? No potatoes at all. (Wait, I'm not the only one who keeps spreadsheets of such things, am I?)

I like the carb-on-carb combination of this pizza, even though it didn't use up a lot of potatoes. The topping would work on focaccia as well. (For another take on potatoes and dough, consider pierogies, which, admittedly, don't taste anything like this pizza.)

Pizza With Potato, Rosemary, and Caramelized Onions
(Adapted recipe, inspired by many Internet sources)

1/2 pound new potatoes (2 to 3 small potatoes), scrubbed but not peeled
1 onion, sliced
Olive oil
Prepared pizza dough for a 12- to 14-inch pizza
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

Prepare the vegetables: Boil the potatoes gently in enough salted water to cover, about 15 minutes or until just tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. When cool enough to handle, slice the potatoes about 1/4-inch thick.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a wide skillet. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions. Cook over low heat until they are very soft, browned, and sweet, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Construct the pizza: Heat your oven to 450 degrees. Stretch the pizza dough into your pizza pan. (Note: a 10-by-15-inch baking sheet has about the same surface area as a 14-inch round.) Brush the dough with olive oil. Spread the Parmesan cheese evenly on top, then layer the  potato slices, caramelized onion, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Drizzle a little olive oil on top (1 to 2 tablespoons). Bake 15 minutes, or until the crust is cooked through and golden.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Week 8: Kale (or Chard) Tacos

Sometimes I come across a recipe idea that's so simple, so logical, that I'm a little bit embarrassed that I didn't come up with it myself. Of course, I'm not too embarrassed to share this idea with you now, in case you didn't come up with it either.

Tacos. Brilliant.

Start off by sauteing kale (or chard, but I happened to use kale) with onions and garlic and some spices. Gosh, I do this for almost every kale or chard recipe. Spoon the mixture into tortillas or taco shells, and top with cheese and salsa. That's pretty much it.

Naturally, you can add your own spin to this. Go ahead and caramelize the onions first. Mix in a jalapeno or two. Bump up the protein with black beans. Make a fancy salsa. You get the idea. Or, keep it simple and get dinner on the table in a flash.

Kale (or Chard) Tacos
(Adapted from several Internet sources, which attribute their own adaptations to Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless. This might be the cooking equivalent of "Whisper Down the Lane." Serves 4.)

1 bunch (12 ounces) kale or Swiss chard, stems removed
1-1/2 Tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 cup water or vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste (omit if using salty broth)
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

For serving:
8 to 12 soft corn tortillas (6-inch size) or hard taco shells, warmed (I'm partial to the shells)
About 4 ounces crumbled feta, Mexican queso fresco, or another fresh cheese
Salsa as desired

Slice the kale (or chard) leaves into 1/2-inch ribbons. Heat the oil in a large skillet or a wide Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, or until the garlic is aromatic, then add the water, salt, cayenne (if using) and the sliced kale/chard leaves. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook until the greens are almost tender. (This will take about 8 minutes for kale; 5 minutes for chard.) Uncover the pan, return the heat to medium-high, and cook the greens another minute or two, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Build your tacos with the greens, warm tortillas, cheese, and salsa.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Week 7: Ricotta Cheesecake With Fresh Berries

In an ordinary summer, I would have made a blueberry pie last week. This, however, has not been an ordinary summer, even for a household that might not best be described as "ordinary" anyway. But we're flexible, right? Pie week has been delayed, but we did share this berry-topped cheesecake before my household temporarily separated for overnight camp and other out-of-state obligations.

This is not cheesecake in the New York sense of the word. It's short. It doesn't have two pounds of cream cheese in it. A slice won't sit in your stomach like a lead weight. It's a summer dessert, not a doorstop.

Two points of note, especially if you are considering trying out this recipe for company. According to the original recipe, the cake should stand about 2 inches high after cooling. Mine sunk more than that; it was maybe an inch tall at serving. We were happy with the texture nonetheless, but I imagine the cheesecake would be even lighter had it not collapsed so thoroughly. Also, we had trouble getting clean slices onto serving plates, but that's purely an aesthetic issue.

Ricotta Cheesecake With Fresh Berries
(Adapted from an Ellie Krieger recipe. Credit to Caboodle for the berry design. It would not be wrong to add a drizzle of chocolate to your serving plate.)

Ingredient note: Neufchatel (the American kind, anyway) is a lower-fat cream cheese; look for the Philadelphia brand in bricks next to the regular cream cheese. Do not substitute a low-fat cream cheese that comes in a tub, as the water content is different.

For the cheesecake:
1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
4 ounces Neufchatel cheese, softened
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt

For the topping:
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam (or another flavor of your choice)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Fresh blueberries and raspberries, about 6 ounces each, or other fruit

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a food processor, process the ricotta cheese until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and process until well blended, scraping the sides of the food processor once or twice and making sure no ingredients remain unmixed on the bottom. Pour into the springform pan and bake 50 to 55 minutes or until the center is just set.

Transfer the cheesecake to a wire rack to cool, then cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours. When the cake has been thoroughly chilled, carefully remove the sides of the springform pan.

Bring the jam and lemon juice to a boil in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until smooth. Brush the jam mixture over the top of the cheesecake and place berries on top. Store the cake in the refrigerator.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Week 6: Zucchini and Ricotta Galette

Oh, Zucchini and Ricotta Galette, if only I had known ... known how wonderful you would be, I wouldn't have waited so long to make you.

You enticed me with your flaky, buttery crust and farm-fresh zucchini. I swooned over the delectable ricotta-mozzarella-Parm combination and that finishing touch of garlicky olive oil. So many flavors coalescing into a whole that somehow surpassed the sum of your individual parts.

Zucchini and Ricotta Galette, you were delicious and quickly gone, but you won't soon be forgotten.

Friends, I wish I could claim this recipe as my own, but I didn't even adapt it. So I'm sending you off to the Smitten Kitchen site, where the recipe originates. My galette wasn't as pretty as the one over there (for one thing, I forgot to overlap my zucchini slices) but it tasted wonderful anyway -- like a garlicky "white pizza" in a pastry/croissant dough. If you get your hands on some fresh, smallish zucchini, I highly recommend making this.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Week 5: Dressed Carrots and White Beans; No-Fuss Potato Salad

There's a certain irony in writing a food blog in the summer. The produce is great, but do you really want to turn on the oven when it's roasting outside? This week, in the interest of energy conservation (mine at least), I've been sticking mostly to salads and stovetop-prepared foods that let me get in and out of the kitchen (and blog) quickly. Here are two to try when you need something quick, easy, and good for a cookout or barbecue.

 Dressed Carrots and White Beans
(Adapted from 101 Cookbooks. Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish.)

1 Tbsp regular olive oil, plus a little extra for sauteing
1.5 cups slender carrots, sliced thinly on the diagonal (about 3 to 4 carrots)
1 15-ounce can small white beans, rinsed and well-drained
2 Tbsp finely chopped dill leaves
1 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Dash salt
About 1/4 cup thinly sliced white onion (mild or sweet variety)

Heat a bit of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and cook about 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, or until they begin to soften and brown. Add the beans and dill and cook about 3 minutes longer, or until the beans are heated through. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the brown sugar, and stir gently; the sugar will dissolve. Whisk together the tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Pour over the carrot-bean mixture. Stir in the onions. Serve warm or at room temperature.

No-Fuss Potato Salad
(A personal recipe, but inspired by several sources. Serves 4 to 6.)

2 lbs new potatoes, scrubbed clean but not peeled
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 Tbsp white granulated sugar
1/2 Tbsp prepared yellow mustard
1/4 tsp table salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
1 celery stalk, diced
1/2 cup diced white onion
2 scallions, sliced

Boil the potatoes in a saucepan of salted water, 20 to 25 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and cool the potatoes, remove peels if desired, then cut the potatoes into cubes. Place the potatoes into a large bowl.

Mix together the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. Pour over the potatoes. Add the diced celery and onions and stir gently to combine. Chill in the refrigerator. Before serving, garnish the potato salad with the sliced scallions and paprika.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Week 4: Cheddar and Dill Scones

Treadmills are boring, boring, BORING. I can't read when I'm walking or jogging on one, so the only thing that improves the experience for me is snagging one of those funky machines at the Y that comes with its own little television set. Naturally, I tune into the Food Network. There's hardly a better incentive for working out hard than spending half an hour watching Paula Deen.

I tread into more dangerous territory, so to speak, if I catch one of Ina Garten's shows instead. She makes her share of rich treats, too, but I don't find her exasperating like so many of the other Food Network celebrities. Maybe it's her calm manner, her style of entertaining, or her Hampton digs. If I spend a half-hour with Ina, I don't want to work out, I want to go home and cook. And I want to cook something buttery and worthy of the calories.

If you are in the mood for a savory treat, and you have a good-sized bunch of dill (as I did this week), Garten's scones are worth a try. I considered lightening them up a bit -- they contain a copious amount of butter -- but I was seduced by the recipe and kept it as written. I guess that means I'm heading into the Y for another workout session soon.

Cheddar and Dill Scones
(Adapted from Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Makes 8 large scones.)

2 cups plus 1/2 Tbsp flour, divided use
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
12 Tbsp cold butter, diced
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
4 ounces finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup minced fresh dill (leaves only)
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp milk, for egg wash

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Have on hand a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Combine the 2 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse to combine. Sprinkle the butter on top and pulse until the mixture forms pea-sized pieces. Mix the eggs and heavy cream together and add to the flour-butter mixture, and pulse just to combine. Mix the cheese, dill, and remaining 1/2 tablespoon of flour. Add the cheese mixture to the dough and pulse until it is almost incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead for about 1 minute, until the cheese and dill are well distributed. Roll the dough into an 8-inch square, about 3/4-inch thick. Cut the dough into 4-inch squares, then cut each square in half diagonally to form 8 triangles. Brush the tops with the egg wash.

Move the scones to the baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outside is lightly browned and crusty. Serve warm.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Week 3, Part 2: Orange, Radish, and Mint Salad; Couscous With Mint and Peas

Sense a theme here? I can't say for sure if the minty foods we've been eating this week have made us feel any cooler, but it's been worth the shot.

Both of these recipes are a little more accessible than the spiced potatoes described in my previous post. They use only common ingredients and don't require any oven time.

Orange, Raddish, and Mint Salad
(Adapted from Ellie Krieger. The combination sounds odd, but the salad is a little sweet, a little peppery, and very refreshing. )

4 navel oranges, sectioned or supremed (see note)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
6 large radishes, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
Black pepper to taste

Combine the orange segments, onion, radish slices, and mint in a bowl. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or let the flavors blend an hour or two in the refrigerator.

Note: To "supreme" an orange: Using a small knife, cut the top and bottom off the orange, stand it on one end, and cut away the peel and pith, following the curve of the fruit. Cut along each segment of the orange and remove the fruit from its membrane. You can leave the orange pieces whole, or cut in half. Add any juices that accumulate on your cutting board into the salad.

Couscous With Mint and Peas
(From many sources)
2.5 cups water
1 cup fresh shelled peas
1 10-ounce box plain couscous (about 1.5 cups), uncooked
3 sprigs mint, leaves only
Juice from 1/2 lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the peas and cook gently 2 minutes. Add the couscous, cover the saucepan, and remove from heat.

Let stand 5 to 10 minutes, until the couscous absorbs the water. Fluff the couscous mixture with a fork, then stir in the mint and lemon juice. Season to taste.

Week 3, Part 1: Spiced Potatoes and Cilantro-Mint Dressing

My daughters are 12 and 14 this summer, and you would think that after 12 years or 14 years of feeding my kids that I would know what they would like to eat. You would think that, but, like me, you would be wrong. Two non-adventurous eaters going for spiced potatoes (and in particular, Indian-food-style spiced potatoes)? Who would have guessed? I'm documenting this surprising event in my blog so I can remember it the next time they are being fickle and contrary over whatever I'm serving. Which will probably be at dinnertime tonight.

The potatoes have an addictive quality to them, and a bit of kick from cayenne pepper. The cilantro-mint dressing somewhat tames them, but has a kick of its own, from jalapeno pepper. I'm finding that all herby, green dressings are somewhat similar -- this one isn't far from chimichurri or cilantro-basil sauce -- but I accomplished my primary goal of the week, which was to use up a bunch of cilantro and work down some mint. If you don't have the herbs on hand, the potatoes are fine without the dressing.

Spiced Potatoes and Cilantro-Mint Dressing
(Adapted from Deborah Geering's recipes for Atlanta Magazine. In addition to vegetables, the cilantro-mint dressing would complement grilled meat or fish.)

For the dressing:
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only (about 2 cups)
2 to 3 sprigs mint, leaves only
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp canola oil, or another flavorless vegetable oil
2 Tbsp water
Juice from 1/2 lime (about 2 Tbsp)

Place the jalapeno, cilantro, mint, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the oil, water, and lime juice and process until smooth, scraping sides if necessary. Makes about 1/2 cup.

For the potatoes:
3 baking potatoes (such as russets), cut into 1-inch cubes
2 to 3 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp cumin seed
1.5 tsp garam masala (see note below)
1.5 tsp ground tumeric
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp kosher salt

Place the potatoes in a large pot (I used my 5-quart Dutch oven) and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook the potatoes until they can be pierced with a fork, about 5 minutes. Drain. (Parboiling the potatoes cuts down on the subsequent roasting time. You can skip this step, and roast the potatoes for longer.)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Pour the oil onto a large rimmed baking sheet (e.g. 10-by-17 inches). Add the potatoes and toss to coat with oil. Mix the spices together and sprinkle them over the potatoes; toss again to coat. Arrange the potatoes so they are in a single layer, and roast until browned and cooked through, about 30 minutes if you parboiled them.

Note: Garam masala is a spice mix available at many grocery stores. One way to make your own is to mix: 

1/4 tsp (or 1 part) ground clove
1/4 tsp (1 part) ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp (1 part) ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp (2 parts) ground cardamon
1/2 tsp (2 parts) ground black pepper
1 tsp (4 parts) ground cumin
1-1/4 tsp (5 parts) ground coriander

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Week 2: Strawberry Freezer Pops

As in years past, our CSA season has started off with a whole mess of green leafy things and a couple of quarts of luscious strawberries. Some people might consider it a sacrilege to alter said strawberries in any fashion, but we are not such people. We are definitely not such people during a legitimate heat wave. Besides, these freezer pops are only the teensiest step away from fresh fruit.

Of course, strawberries are one of the easiest items in the CSA share to use up, and I'm guessing you might want to know what's happened to that whole mess of green leafy things. So before we get to this week's recipe, here's a quick rundown of some of the other foods we've been eating:
  • Kale, held over from last week, never made it to the freezer. Instead, I boiled and drained it; seasoned it with sauteed garlic, a little olive oil, salt, and lemon; and mixed it into leftover spaghetti.
  • Arugula and red leaf lettuce became a salad with scallions, strawberries, and my balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Another head of leaf lettuce went into a braise with onions, garlic, and salmon, based on this recipe from Everyday Food. As far as cooked lettuce goes, I'm going to stick with grilled or stir-fried romaine. But the fish was very good, and the dinner reduced the volume of lettuce in our refrigerator considerably.
  • Collard greens received the "stuffed cabbage" treatment with a tabbouleh-influenced filling of bulgur wheat, mint, parsley, carrots, and bell pepper. Not bad, but still a work in progress.
  • Radishes are not in the "green leafy" category, but we've had a lot of them, too. Last week, some became pickles (David Lebovitz's recipe); some went into a "summer roll" (aka fresh spring roll) along with more mint. I had high hopes for the summer rolls, and I did like the vegetable combination, but I was completely turned off by the gelatinous cellophane noodles and the equally gelatinous rice paper wrappers. Still, if you want to take a stab at this, you could start with this recipe here. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Strawberry Freezer Pops
(adapted from Everyday Food)

2 cups halved, hulled strawberries
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice (about 1/2 lime)

Combine ingredients in a blender. Puree, scraping down sides as needed.

Divide puree among four 3-ounce freezer-pop molds. Freeze until solid, 4 to 6 hours. Run molds under hot tap water to release pops just before serving.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Week 1: Zucchini and Cheese Frittata; Spanish-Style Greens and Chickpeas

Just the other day I was musing about how it would be nice if the first CSA basket of the season filled my fridge. I really should have thought that one out a bit more.

We had a family obligation that coincided with our pickup date, and as fun as trips and family gatherings are, they do shorten the cooking week. I definitely felt challenged, not to mention overwhelmed and exhausted, when I saw the overflowing shelf of greens in my refrigerator the night we got back.

Fortunately, I recovered quickly. In the past three days I have tackled spinach, chard, and zucchini, and have made a reasonable dent in lettuce and radishes. I'm about to admit defeat on kale, however. Too much for a shortened week, let alone one when it's 90 degrees outside. I think I'll have to blanch and freeze it, just to make room for this Friday's pickup.

Zucchini and Cheese Frittata
(Adapted recipe from Sorrento cheese. Serves 4 to 6. If you want to double the recipe, bake it in a 9-by-13-inch dish for 20 minutes.)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/8 cup dry white wine
6 eggs
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie plate.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion and bell pepper for about 5 minutes, or until the onions soften. Add the zucchini, mushrooms, and wine, and cook until the zucchini is soft and the wine has evaporated, about 5 minutes more. Set aside.

Beat the eggs, add the ricotta, and whisk together until smooth. Stir in the vegetables and pour the mixture into the pie plate. Sprinkle the top with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until set and slightly browned on top.

Spanish-Style Greens and Chickpeas
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Serves 4 as a side dish. Makes a nice, light entree, too, served with a leafy salad and some crusty bread.)

1/2 pound Swiss chard
1/2 pound fresh spinach
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided use
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1-1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Smoked paprika and lemon juice, optional for serving

Thoroughly wash the chard and spinach. Remove stems from the chard (these can be saved for another use), and roughly chop the leaves.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven. Shake off any excess water on the leaves, then add the chard and spinach to the pot. (You may need to add the leaves in batches.) Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes or until the greens wilt and the leaves are tender. Remove the greens to a colander and set aside to drain.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute, then add the tomato sauce, vinegar, and chickpeas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are heated through. Add the drained greens to the pan and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You may not need to add salt if you use salted tomato sauce and chickpeas.) Sprinkle the dish with smoked paprika and lemon juice as desired. I forgot to do this the night I cooked the dish, but I really liked it on the leftovers.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Toasted Quinoa and Spinach Salad

School events, fundraisers, meetings ... I have a good mental calendar, but sometimes life still sneaks up on me. So here I find myself, somewhat surprisingly, on the cusp of CSA season.

I can't say that I have prepared in any special way, but we're down to dregs in the refrigerator, so I'm hoping for a nice "refill" from the farm. I think it's a good bet that Week 1 will include fresh greens, so consider the salad recipe below a teaser of the season to come.

Toasted Quinoa and Spinach Salad
(From The Boston Globe. This salad has a high proportion of spinach to quinoa. Serves at least 4 as a side salad, and 2 to 3 as a main dish for a light lunch or supper.)

1 cup quinoa (I used white)
2 cups water
Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Ground black pepper, to taste
6 ounces baby spinach
1 cup crumbled feta
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced into half moons
Salt, to taste

Heat a large, dry skillet (10- to 12-inches) over medium-high heat. Toast the quinoa, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes or until aromatic.

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the toasted quinoa, cover the pan, and lower the heat. Simmer the quinoa undisturbed for about 15 minutes, or until it absorbs the liquid. Fluff the quinoa with a fork, transfer to a large bowl, and set aside to cool.

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and black pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the quinoa. Add the remaining ingredients and toss gently. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Triple Red Slaw

New England can be a frustrating place to live, with its notoriously fickle weather. We get a blast of summer heat and sunshine -- several blasts, actually, in a rather mild winter -- and it dissolves into a week of cold rain, drizzle, dreariness. More March than May; more Seattle than Salem. (And by Salem, I mean Massachusetts, not Oregon.) We need the rain, of course, but after the tease of beach blankets and barbecues we find ourselves huddling under crocheted afghans and eating soup.

It was on one of those beachy, barbecue-y days in April that I happened to make this slaw. A little tangy and very red, the slaw is a good complement to burgers, chicken, or fish. It would be a cheery addition to a picnic or cookout, and a bright spot on an indoor table, no matter how gray the day is.

Triple Red Slaw
(Adapted from The Boston Globe. The "triple red" ingredients are red cabbage, red onion, and red wine vinegar. The acids in the vinegar prevent the cabbage from turning bluish or greenish when cooked. Serves 4-6.)

2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 red onion, peeled, halved, and sliced thin
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
Black pepper to taste
1 pound (about 1/2 medium head) red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Cook the onion, stirring frequently, until it softens, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the cabbage, turn up the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until the cabbage wilts and softens slightly. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

2 Flourless Chocolate Tortes (1 Even Has Sweet Potatoes)

I have a lot of dessert in the house that I would like to share with you, so please, have a slice of torte. Or two.

Both of these tortes are notable for what they don't have: No wheat. No dairy. No nuts. They are Passover friendly, suitable for gluten-free diets, and chocolate to boot. What's not to love?

First up is the Mock Chestnut (Sweet Potato-Chocolate) Torte, adapted from a Marcy Goldman recipe. I feel virtuous just saying the name of the recipe -- hey, it's got sweet potatoes -- but there's no mistaking this for anything other than dessert. The torte is rich, but not cloying, and has a wonderfully dense texture that slices neatly, though you can't see that in the picture below.

Mock Chestnut Torte, dusted with cocoa powder for a slightly bitter undertone.

The second torte, which I think I will dub the Vanishing Baked Chocolate Mousse, is adapted from a Robin Miller recipe. It still has a decadent amount of eggs and chocolate, but it feels considerably lighter than the other recipe because it is made without any solid fat. It's surprisingly easy to keep nibbling on the torte ... you know, just to even up the edges.

Baked Chocolate Mousse with a sprinkling of pulverized sugar.

Mock Chestnut (Sweet Potato-Chocolate) Torte

This is essentially Marcy Goldman's recipe, which you can find published on Epicurious and The Washington Post. Goldman recommends topping the torte with a chocolate ganache and decorating it with her Caramel Matzoh Crunch, better known in my household as Matzah Crack. This, I think, would be overkill. Instead, consider dusting the torte with some cocoa, and serve with fresh berries on the side. Serves 12 to 14.

1/2 cup unsalted margarine (Kosher for Passover and/or dairy free, according to your needs)
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
6 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (from about 2 large sweet potatoes)
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I had a 9-ounce bag of semisweet chips, which I supplemented with an ounce of bittersweet chocolate)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Unsweetened cocoa and fresh berries, for serving (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch springform pan with baking parchment.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the margarine with the 1/3 cup sugar. Beat in the egg yolks, sweet potatoes, and cooled chocolate.

In a separate bowl, with clean beaters, gently whip the egg whites until they are foamy. Add in the salt, increase the speed on the mixer, and beat the whites, slowly dusting in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, until the whites form stiff, glossy peaks.

Fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate batter to loosen it, then fold in the remaining egg whites. Mix thoroughly but gently so you do not deflate the mixture. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake for about 40 minutes. When done, the cake will look dry and slightly cracked on top, and the middle will be soft but firm. Cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before removing the outer ring, and chill the torte for an hour or two in the refrigerator before serving. Just before serving, dust the torte with unsweetened cocoa. Serve alongside fresh berries, if desired.
Vanishing Baked Chocolate Mousse Torte

Adapted from a Robin Miller recipe published by Spry. You can make a Passover version of confectioners' sugar by pulverizing granulated sugar with potato starch in a small food processor. I've seen two different ratios for doing this: 1 cup sugar to 1 Tbsp potato starch OR 2/3 cup sugar to 1 tsp potato starch. Because the quantity of sugar in this recipe is so low, I skipped the potato starch and just pulverized my granulated sugar plain. Makes 12 servings.

4 ounces semisweet chocolate
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (or use another 4 ounces of semisweet chocolate, as in the original recipe)
8 large eggs, separated
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1/4 cup pulverized sugar (or confectioners' sugar), plus extra for serving

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan with a neutral oil and line the bottom with baking parchment.

Melt the chocolate (in a microwave or in a double boiler, over simmering water) and let cool.

Beat the egg yolks in a large bowl until thick and pale. Beat in the cooled chocolate and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, with clean beaters, whip the whites with the sugar until soft peaks form. Fold one-quarter of the whites into the chocolate batter to loosen it, then fold in the remaining egg whites. Mix thoroughly but gently so you do not deflate the mixture. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until the torte is almost set but still a little jiggly in the center. The torte will firm up, and deflate, as it cools. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate to chill completely before removing the torte from its pan. Dust with sugar just before serving, if desired.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Red Devil's Food Cupcakes

Let me address your first observation: No, the cupcakes are not really red. Certainly not the brilliant red you might associate with a red velvet cake -- especially any red velvet cake (or cupcake or cookie) found in a supermarket bakery. If you squint just right, and your lighting is good, you might find that this cake is a dark reddish-brown -- red the way old mahogany furniture is red.

See what I mean?

You can find red-colored cakes just about anywhere these days, and they seem to be a source of much contention in the food-blog world. Red velvet cake is either a Southern specialty, or it’s not (an urban legend links the cake to the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City). The authentic topping is boiled icing, unless it isn’t (cream cheese frosting is widely popular). The cakes get their color from bottled food dye, unless they don’t (beets can provide a natural source of “red”). For all of the talk of old-time recipes, much of the popularity of red velvet cake can be traced to a smart marketing move: The Adams Extract company began distributing a recipe during the Depression era to encourage sales of its vanilla extract, butter flavoring, and red coloring.

Which brings me back to my red devil’s food cake. Devil’s food cake and red velvet cake are linked by common ingredients -- typically cocoa, buttermilk, baking soda, and cake flour, which provides the "velvet" crumb -- and some old cookbooks use the names interchangeably. The recipe that I modified comes from a 1952 cookbook and may have older origins. One notable difference is that devil’s food cakes use more cocoa powder, so they actually taste like chocolate. (This is a good thing.)

If you are fiddling with red velvet or devil's food recipes, you want to pay special attention to the proportion of acidic ingredients (cocoa and buttermilk) to alkaline ones (baking soda). It’s the chemical reaction between these ingredients that leavens the cake. Furthermore, the acids enhance the red pigments that naturally occur in cocoa powder, providing the cake’s faint red tint.

Red Devil’s Food Cupcakes
(Adapted from The Complete American-Jewish Cookbook. Makes 10 cupcakes. Recipe can be doubled.)

Ingredient notes:
  • You cannot use Dutch-processed, or alkalized, cocoa in this recipe, as it upsets the ratio of acidic-to-alkaline ingredients.
  • To make a buttermilk substitute for this recipe, mix 3/4 tsp white vinegar with enough milk to equal 1/4 cup. Let stand 5 minutes before using.

1 cup sifted cake flour (measure after sifting)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup natural, unsweetened cocoa, such as regular Hershey’s (see ingredient note)
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup buttermilk (see ingredient note)
1/2 cup boiling water


Line cupcake pans with paper or foil liners. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and cocoa, and set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and beat well.

Beat in dry ingredients, alternating with buttermilk, scraping the bowl as necessary and keeping the beaters on low speed to avoid depositing the powdery ingredients over your work surface. The batter will become very thick. Pour in the boiling water and use a whisk to distribute it through the batter evenly. The final batter will be very runny. 

Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full. Bake about 22 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely before decorating. Frost with a vanilla buttercream or frosting of your choice.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Eggs Baked in Hash Brown Cups

We eat a lot of "breakfast for dinner" around here, especially on nights when not everyone is home, so I'm always on the lookout for good main-dish egg recipes. Kit and I had dinner-for-two recently, and these baked eggs were definitely a step up from our more-mundane scrambled eggs and toast. They did have this slightly disconcerting quality, in that they seemed to stare up at us from the plate ...

but that problem was easily resolved with a knife.

Besides making for a light supper, these baked eggs would be ideal for a cozy Sunday brunch, and they would not be out of place on an Easter or Passover table. Or on a Halloween table, for that matter (it's the eyeball thing).

If you are not crazy about the fried-egg look, you could fill the hash brown cups with beaten eggs to make a scrambled or quiche-like center, though I did not test the recipe that way.

Eggs Baked in Hash Brown Cups
(Adapted from Everyday Food and various Internet recipes. Suitable for Passover and gluten-free cooking, but always check your food labels. Serves 2 to 3; should double easily.)

2 tsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing and sauteing
About 2.5 cups frozen, unseasoned hash browns, thawed
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup sliced green onion
3 Tbsp grated cheddar cheese
3 large eggs

Preheat your oven to 475 degrees. Lightly grease 3 ramekins (about 6-ounce capacity) or jumbo muffin cups.

Mix the thawed hash browns with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared ramekins. Press the hash browns firmly and evenly against the bottom and sides of each cup. Bake 15 minutes or until slightly golden.

Meanwhile, saute the red bell pepper (using a little olive oil or cooking spray, if necessary) until slightly softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the green onion and cook 1 minute more. Remove vegetables from heat.

Divide the vegetable mixture among the cooked hash brown cups and top each cup with about 1 tablespoon of cheese. Bake 2 minutes. Remove from oven.

Carefully crack an egg into each cup. Bake 8 to 12 minutes, until the whites are set and the yolks are done to your liking. Remove hash brown cups from ramekins and serve at once.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Say, kids, what time is it?

In baseball circles, it's time to report to Spring Training. In political circles, it's a preview of silly season. And in crop circles (ha!), it's time to sign up for a summer CSA share.

We are back with Connor's for a fifth season, and expect to be posting weekly from mid-June to mid-October.

If you are new to the world of community-supported agriculture, check out my tips post. CSA isn't for eveyone, so I'm happy to field questions from the undecided.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Baked Vegetarian Egg Rolls

If you are looking to duplicate restaurant-style egg rolls, this recipe probably isn't the one for you. "Baked" will not taste like "fried." But these egg rolls are good on their own terms: light, crispy, and a cinch to make. They're seasonal, too, both in terms of produce (cabbage) and holiday (Chinese New Year is around the corner). An added benefit (especially if you have been nibbling on these): The egg rolls can be made virtually fat free, depending on your brand of egg roll wrappers and whether you use canola oil or cooking spray.

Baked Vegetarian Egg Rolls
(Adapted recipe. For a shortcut, substitute 2 cups cole slaw mix for the shredded cabbage and carrots. Makes 8.)

Canola oil or cooking spray
1 cup shredded or chopped green cabbage
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup mung bean sprouts, coarsely chopped if especially long
1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts (approximately one-half of an 8-ounce can)
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp water
1/2 Tbsp corn starch
2 green onions, sliced
8 egg roll wraps
Additional water for sealing egg rolls

Heat a teaspoon of oil, or use cooking spray, in a large slope-sided skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, and ginger to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes or until the vegetables begin to wilt slightly but retain crispness.

Combine the soy sauce and water; stir in the corn starch thoroughly so there are no lumps. Add this mixture to the pan along with the green onions and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Remove the vegetable mixture from the heat and let cool.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Fill each egg roll as follows: Position the wrap in front of you so that it looks like a diamond. Place two rounded tablespoons of filling across the lower section of the wrap, avoiding the edges. Fold the bottom up over the filling, then fold in the two sides. Moisten the top edges of the wrap with a little water (a small pastry brush is useful here) and roll the wrap up, sealing the flap. Place each filled egg roll, flap-side down, on the baking sheet. Spray the top of each egg roll with cooking spray (or brush lightly with canola oil).

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, then turn the egg rolls over. Bake another 5 to7 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Serve with duck sauce, Chinese mustard, or a soy sauce-based dipping sauce of your choice.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sweet Beginnings (and Chocolate-Peppermint Thumbprints)

I know what you're thinking. It’s January, so it’s time to be resolute once again about diet and exercise. Ordinarily, I'm right there with you. After all, I have a CSA-centric blog -- I really like my vegetables. But events over the past couple of weeks have reminded me of life’s uncertainties, and I’m not ready yet for seasonal austerity. I’m having dessert first.

So here’s to a new year, one that I hope will feature good health and a dose of sweetness for my friends and family.

Chocolate-Peppermint Thumbprints
(From the December 2011 issue of Everyday Food. Makes about 4 dozen delectable cookies.)

For the cookie dough:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp table salt
1.5 cups sugar, divided use
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

For the filling:

5 ounces (3/4 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks set in the upper and lower thirds. Have on hand two baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Place 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Beat the remaining 1 cup of sugar and the 1 cup of butter in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to combine. Gradually beat in the flour mixture, using the mixer on low (if yours can handle a stiff dough) or by hand (which is the way I had to do it).

Scoop out cookie dough (in rounded 1/2 tablespoons, approximately) and roll into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the reserved sugar to coat and place the balls about 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.

Bake 5 minutes. Remove the sheets from the oven and use the back of a small melon baller or a round measuring spoon to make an indentation in the center of each cookie. Return the baking sheets to the oven, switching their positions on the racks, and bake the cookies until just set but still moist-looking, about 4 more minutes. Put the baking sheets on wire racks and let the cookies cool in place.

As the cookies cool, prepare the filling. Place the chocolate chips and 1/4 cup butter in a bowl and microwave in 10-second increments until melted, stirring to combine. Stir in the peppermint extract. Let the filling mixture cool until it is thick enough to pipe, about 5 minutes. Transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip or to a large zip-top plastic bag (to which you snip a 1/4-inch hole in one corner). Pipe the filling into each cookie.

Store the cookies in an airtight container, up to 1 week (if you can keep them around that long).