Quick Bread & Butter Apple Pickles

November 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

Quick pickles are my go-to recipe when the cucumber crop goes gang-busters.  But it wasn’t until this past fall, when I cooked side-by-side with Cammy at Super Chilly Farm, that I added apples into the vinegar brine.  We made this recipe six times in three weeks and since coming home to Arizona, my mom has kept the crisper drawer stocked with cucumbers.

Two things to note:

(1) Use the very best apple cider vinegar you can find.  If you can, seek out a local apple orchard and buy vinegar in bulk (we buy gallon jugs).  The cost isn’t prohibitive (in fact, it’s often comparable to grocery store prices, or cheaper when purchased in larger quantities); it only requires a bit of extra effort.  While I lived in Maine I tracked down Sewall’s cider vinegar.  I brought home a bottle for my mom who tried it and said it tasted like wine and was the best she’d ever tasted.

(2) At Super Chilly Farm I was fortunate to have a stock pile of heirloom apples at my disposal.  With each batch of pickles, I sliced up different kinds of apples — softer, crisper, sweeter, tarter.  My favorite pickle batch used sweet, only slightly acidic, very crisp crab apple varieties called Chestnut and Pipsqueak.  Close runner-ups were Red St. Lawrence and Garden Royal apples.  (Photographs here.)  I suspect that this recipe would be quite good with the conventional varieties Pink Lady, Fuji, Braeburn or Gala.  Or, if you live in apple country, visit an orchard growing out apples native to your area and try out a couple that strike your fancy.

 Ingredients:
4 medium-sized pickling cucumbers, thinly sliced
4-5 small/medium apples, unpeeled, cored
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 early onions/shallots
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup honey (or more, to taste)
1 cinnamon stick

Method:

1. Prep cucumbers: Cut off ends, discard, and thinly slice with a cabbage shredder, mandolin, food processor or sharp knife.  Place cucumber slices in a colander and toss with sea salt.  Let sit for 20 minutes.  Prep apples and onions using the same slicing utensil—aim for uniform thinness and size.

2. In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, water and honey until full incorporated.  Add cinnamon stick and pour dressing over apples and onions.

3. Rinse cucumbers and lightly dry.  Add slices to bowl with apples and stir well.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Refrigerate for up to two weeks.

Diet Notes: SCD-safe, nut-free, gluten-free

A Really Good Shmear: Roasted Eggplant, Pepper and Onion

July 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m big on shmears.  I like whizzing black beans around in a food processor and adding cumin and cilantro, or pulverizing garbanzos with the predictable hit of lemon and garlic, or, come wintertime, blending-up roasted butternut squash and lentils or — one of my favs — mashing a couple cups of freshly-shelled green peas, roasted garlic scapes (garlic cloves work too), basil and a little olive oil and Parmesan cheese.

As versatile as shmears are on sandwiches, scooped up in lettuce wraps and so on, they can also stand alone and do so marvelously.  The aforementioned pea spread was my favorite dip of 2009; this sucker is my favorite of 2011.  It ushers summer into the kitchen with roasted bell peppers and eggplants and a little bite of lemon.  I like eating it plain, scooped on pitas and raw veggies.

Ingredients:
1 eggplant, peeled and cubed (about 3 cups)
1 bell pepper
1 medium red onion
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt, pepper

1.5 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice (approx. 1 lemon)

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut bell pepper, red onion and eggplant into large, 1″ cubes.  Cover with olive oil, chopped garlic, sea salt and pepper to taste and toss.  Bake in oven until soft in the middle and slightly browned around the edges, stirring half way through.  (Approximately 30-40 minutes.)

2. When vegetables are cooked, remove from oven and cool for a few minutes.  Add to food processor with tahini and lemon juice and blend until smooth.  (Be careful; veggies are still hot!)  Taste and adjust seasoning; I often add a few teaspoons of additional lemon juice and a dash of extra salt.

Diet Notes: SCD-safe, gluten-free, nut-free, vegan

Meal in a Muffin: Arugula, Butternut Squash & Sharp Cheddar Flecks

November 15, 2010 § 6 Comments

I am a muffin FANATIC.  I live for mornings that jump-start with mongo-muffins with cracked tops, splitting open, leaking berries and hiding clumps of nuts and oats.  The other day, a new muffin-recipe caught my eye: A savory, no-sweet-stuff muffin.  I’ve made savory muffins before, but mine were kind of like quicheHeidi’s pumpkin and feta muffins, on the other hand, are real muffins: Their base is two cups of flour rather than a slurry of egg and cottage cheese, and they’re flecked with delicious-sounding add-ins.

I’ve tweaked Heidi’s recipe and included some of my most favorite flavors. These are not my standard, googly-eyed breakfast muffins bulging with dried fruit and nuts or chocolate and bananas or smelling of all spice and nutmeg.  These fellas are dense, speckled with sunflower seed crunches, snappy arugula bites, sweet butternut squash hunks and loads of flavor from a couple scoops of whole grain mustard and a fluffy pile of grated Parmesan and cheddar cheese.  Packed with veggies and whole grains, these guys are a stand-alone meal.  While I don’t dig into them for breakfast (I cave to my sweet muffin varieties with homemade pumpkin coffee on these chillier, Fall mornings) I’ve rather taken to these toothsome, squashy-mustardy bites accompanied by a bowl of creamy tomato soup or my favorite lip-smackin’ chili.

Ingredients:
2 cups butternut squash, cubed
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt, pepper

2 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 handful arugula
1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese, sharp
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 eggs
3/4 cup plain almond milk (or milk preference)

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Roast cubed butternut squash with a sprinkling of sea salt, pepper and olive oil to coat.  Bake until fork-tender, about 20 minutes.  Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.

2.  Meanwhile, mix flour, powder and sea salt in a separate bowl and gently mix with a fork.  To the flour mixture, add arugula, parsley, sunflower seeds and cheeses.  Toss with a fork and set aside.

3.  When butternut squash is tender, remove from oven and combine with flour mixture.  The heat from the squash will help wilt the arugula (and make the flavor more subtle and less bitter).  Add liquids and mustard to the batter and gently stir until totally incorporated.  Scoop into greased muffin tins.  Depending on the size of the tin, cooking time will vary.  In a 350 degree oven, cook smaller muffins (12-to-a-tin) for approximately 22-25 minutes.  Larger muffins (see above photo) may take 30 to 33 minutes.  Pierce muffins with a knife to test; if clean, remove from oven.  Let cool in the tin for at least 10 minutes to set.  Cool completely before packaging.  These muffins freeze-and-thaw wonderfully and stay fresh on the counter for several days.

Bulgur & Pomegranate “Crunch” Salad

October 17, 2010 § 1 Comment

Off all the vegetables I’m likely to swoon over, the watery celery stalk is dead last on the list (tied with tasteless green bell peppers).  I never buy, eat or really spend any time thinking about celery.  But I bit the bullet and bought a handful of celery stalks this past week for a recipe experiment.

Let me back up: I’ve been on the lookout for good pomegranate recipes (hang with me a second; celery plays a hand, I promise).  It’s pomegranate harvest time in the southwest and I have six pink poms sitting on my counter top.   While I love the little seeds just as much as the next person, there are only so many handfuls I can eat plain on top of my yogurt bowls.  After perusing a half-dozen recipes and finding little inspiration, I asked my mom for advice.  She voted for a bulgur salad, created by Heidi at 101 Cookbooks.  I admit, I was skeptical — none of the ingredients really “sent” me, save the toasted walnuts.  But I started fiddling:

I scaled back on the celery, threw in another quarter cup of walnuts, amped up the bulgur, swapped out the pom-juice for orange juice (I like a little citrus tang) and doubled the garlic quota.  I also tried scaling back on the olive oil as well as nixing it entirely — both were delicious although I preferred the texture with a spritz of oil.  In the end, I loved it.  While this salad throws a lot of different tastes together into the same dish, the texture is fantastic.  Each bite has a different “crunch” — a crispy-snap from the celery, a beefier bite from the walnuts, a sweet surprise from the pomegranates and a nutty chew from the bulgur.

Bulgur is a whole grain, high in fiber.  Bulgur purchased in grocery stores or bulk bins is often par-boiled and dried and sometimes part of the bran has been removed.  There are a few different methods of cooking bulgur.  Most commonly bulgur is steeped in boiling water for about an hour or simmered.  I’ve tried both and prefer the simmering method (the bulgur seems less crunchy); but feel free to dabble!

Ingredients:
1 + 2/3 cup bulgur, raw
2 cups celery, chopped on slight bias
seeds of 1 pomegranate (de-seeding tutorial)
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
1/3 cup orange juice
2 cloves garlic
sea salt, pepper
1-2 tablespoons olive oil, optional

Method:

1.  Cook bulgur according to packaging instructions (either by steeping in boiling water or simmering with a pinch of sea salt).  Here are a few tips for some additional reading.

2.  Meanwhile, chop celery, de-seed pomegranate and chop parsley.  Set aside.  In an unseasoned skillet, toast walnuts on medium-heat until fragrant (about 5-7 minutes).

3.  Prepare dressing: Finely chop garlic.  Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on top and pound it with a back of a fork until it forms a paste.  Mix with OJ and, if using, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil.  Set aside.  When bulgur has finished cooking, pour dressing and allow it to soak.

4.  Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.  Best served at room temperature.

Diet Notes: Gluten-free, vegan


Kitchen Sink Stew

October 11, 2010 § 1 Comment

With subtle hints of autumn floating through my open windows, with cool winds swirling through the rest of the Lower-48, and frosty gales sweeping through the northern-most countrysides (it’s 24 degrees at my aunt’s house in Alaska!), it seems appropriate to post a hearty, comforting, chalk-full-of-good-stuff fennel-tomato-squash-peas-beans-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-stew.  This recipe is tweaked from Saveur.  While the majority of the recipe follows standard soup guidelines — saute vegetables in shifts, add water and seasonings, boil, simmer, re-season — the beginning of this recipe is slightly different:

Instead of sauteing an onion with soup aromatics, we pulverize the onion along with garlic, a little olive oil and a handful of herbs and then saute in an un-seasoned pot (no olive oil glug at the bottom) until all the water evaporates — all this before adding the next shift of vegetables.  This technique creates a thicker broth and richer flavor.  This soup is marvelously flexible.  If you don’t have butternut squash, cubed sweet potatoes make an excellent replacement.  Add a few cups of cheesy tortellini to the mixture; try cannelini beans instead of garbanzos for a creamier texture.

Start-to-finish, this soup can be ready in a half hour.  However, I recommend prepping this soup at least 12 hours before serving (overnight is ideal).  Let the pot hang-out, untouched, on the back-burner after it’s cooked, allowing the flavors to meld.  When it comes time to eat, reheat, doll out ladles of stew into separate bowls and sprinkle a generous amount of fresh Parmesan cheese on top.  Very good paired with crusty sourdough bread, dredged in butter and roasted garlic.

One final note: I prefer the taste of roasted butternut squash over boiled.  Prior to making soups that feature butternut or acorn squash, I often roast the squash chunks in olive oil and sage leaves and then add the cooked squash to the stew toward the end of the cooking process.  However, if you’d prefer to forgo that step — and it will still taste marvelous if you do — skip the roasting and add the raw squash when adding carrots and fennel.

Ingredients:
2 cups cubed butternut squash
olive oil, sea salt, pepper
8-12 sage leaves

1 yellow onion, large
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup basil, loosely packed
1 tablespoon + olive oil

5-6 medium carrots, chopped
2 heads fennel, sliced
1 + 1/2 cups whole plum tomatoes + juice, roughly chopped
2 cups garbanzo beans, cooked*
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen and thawed
few handfuls spinach or arugula, optional
Parmesan cheese rind
1 -2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
sea salt, pepper

Parmesan cheese, grated, for topping

*For those following a strict SCD diet: Swap garbanzo beans with dry white beans, lentils or black beans after 1+ month symptom-free.  Soak dry beans 24 hours before cooking to remove excess starches.

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cubed butternut squash with a coating of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and sage leaves.  Roast for 20 minutes, until softened.  (You can do this the night before or day-of.)

2.  In a Cuisinart or blender, pulverize onion, garlic, basil and 1 tablespoon + of olive oil.  When the onion reaches the consistency of a slightly-chunky, translucent chutney, stop blending.  In a large pot, pour onion mixture and heat on medium high until all water evaporates (approximately 5 minutes).

3.  Meanwhile, chop carrots and fennel.  (If you choose to forgo roasting the butternut squash, chop squash now.)  Add carrots and fennel (squash, optional) to pot when onions begin to turn brown.  If the bottom of the pot looks a little dry, add a few drips of olive oil or a splash of water. Saute until slightly-crisp, about 7-8 minutes.

4.  Add 4 cups of water, plum tomatoes and juice and 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans.  Add Parmesan rind and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  When carrots and fennel are al dente, add peas, roasted squash and a few handfuls of spinach or arugula to the pot and stir.  Add 1-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, sea salt and pepper to taste.  Cook 1-2 minutes and remove from heat.  Let sit, preferably for 12+ hours, lid on.  Before serving, reheat and remove Parmesan cheese rind.  Garnish each bowl with a generous handful of fresh, grated Parmesan cheese.

Diet Notes: Gluten-free, nut-free, SCD-safe (see asterisk)

Veggie-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

April 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve never been one to croon over a twice-baked potato.  I like mashed potatoes; I like baked potatoes; I really like butter and cheese.  But somehow, all together, the ingredients unite on my taste buds to form a perfect zero sum.

So, it won’t come as a surprise that when I peruse a cookbook, I breezily flip-past any potato recipe that involves “stuffing.”  That is, up until last week, when I happened upon a new potato recipe – or really – a new potato use.  I was spending extra time scanning the remaining pages of my favorite Mollie Katzen book and came across a short section, way in the back, that offers suggestions for using up extra veggies.  One of Mollie’s ideas is to slice a baked potato in half and stuff it with a heap of cooked vegetables.  I tweaked this idea slightly: At the time, my bottom fridge drawer was teaming with potatoes – Yukon Golds, baby ones with red skins and two lean yams.  I opted for the later.  An hour later, beneath two sagging Queen Palms, I ate a hollowed-out roasted yam, stuffed with sauteed baby onions & sweet peppers, corseted with Parmesan cheese.  I ate a second helping the next day at room temperature – I was in a work meeting – and it was, incredibly, even better.  The flavors seemed to heighten during it’s overnight chill in the fridge.

This recipe is extremely flexible and simple: Roast a couple yams or sweet potatoes, cut them in half, scoop out most of the innards and fill them with your favorite hot veggie stir-fry.  Top with cheese.  Pop back in the oven, under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese bubbles and crisps.  And there you have it: a new take on a stuffed potato that’s both vibrant and delicious!

Ingredients:
2+ yams/sweet potatoes
1.5 cups sweet pepper, diced
1 cup red onion/shallot, diced
2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt, pepper
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese

Methods:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Pierce raw sweet potatoes with a fork several times to allow steam to escape.  Place in a rimmed baking tray (sweet potatoes are notorious for leaking) and bake for 45-60 minutes until a fork easily pierces the skin and sinks into the center of the sweet potato.  When fully cooked, cool on the counter for a few minutes.

2.  While potatoes are baking, prepare “stuffing.”  Heat oil on medium-high heat and wilt onions with a bit of salt and pepper until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and sweet pepper and saute until soft (about another 7 minutes).

3.  When sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice in half and scoop out 2/3rds of the “meat.”  Set aside for another recipe.  Fill holes with vegetables.  Top with cheese.  Increase oven heat to broil and bake an additional 3-6 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and crispy.  Remove and let sit for a couple of minutes; serve warm.

Diet Notes: Gluten-free, nut-free

Aunt Kathi’s Cauliflower Sweet Potato Pie

March 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

I have to give a thankful shout-out to my Aunt Kathi in Palmer, AK for inspiring me to make this wonderful “pie”!   A couple of weeks ago she sent me a recipe for sweet potato + cauliflower pie via email exclaiming, “I can’t imagine you not loving this one!  Other fillings would be good too, but the first time, keep it ‘pure’!”

She was right on. I hardly veered from the original recipe – I just used a little less cheese.  Forty minutes from start to finish, this pie is a wholesome, hearty side-dish or main course.  It mixes both savory flavors – from sauteed onion, garlic & cauliflower – and sweet flavor from yams or sweet potatoes.  All the ingredients are bound together by a handful of cheese and a couple of eggs that make this winter-y meal fantastically satisfying.  Everyone in my family has gone back for seconds (I’ve had thirds!) and loved it – “a definite repeat!” my dad shouted, fork in hand, after a hot-out-of-the-oven taste-test.

Ingredients for “Crust”:
2 cups packed, grated yam / sweet potato (approx. 1 medium yam or 2 small)
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
pepper to taste
1 egg white (reserve yolk)

Ingredients for Filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt, pepper to taste
pinch each: dried rosemary, basil, thyme
1 medium cauliflower (1.5 – 2 cups of florets)
2 eggs + reserved yolk from above
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2-3 tablespoons milk or milk alternative

Methods:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, combine sweet potato, minced onion sea salt and pepper.  Add 1 egg white – reserving the yolk for later – and mix until thoroughly incorporated.  In an ungreased pie pan, spread yam mixture on bottom and halfway up the sides.  (I used a 9″ pie dish, but use whatever you have available – this recipe is flexible.)  If shredded yam sticks to fingers, dust fingertips with flour and continue.

2.  Bake “crust” in the oven for 25-30 minutes.  Remove half-way and brush surface with olive oil and continue baking.

3.  Meanwhile, prepare filling: on medium heat saute onion, garlic, salt and pepper for 5-7 minutes until onions have wilted.  Add chopped cauliflower and herbs and cook until al dente, about 6-7 additional minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside in a medium-sized bowl.  Add beaten eggs and reserved yolk, cheese and milk to cauliflower.

4.  Remove pie crust from oven.  Using a spoon, spread cauliflower + egg mixture on top.  Cook pie an additional 10 minutes.  If the egg is still runny, increase heat to broil and cook an additional 1-2 minutes until the center of the pie has set.  Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.  I enjoyed this dish hot out of the oven, slightly warm and at room temperature; slightly warm was my favorite.

Diet Notes: Nut-free, gluten-free

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