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.