Tag Archives: seasonal

Real Menu: Baby Shower!

I had the privilege of catering my good friend’s baby shower last weekend. Forty-five guests! Here are the highlights of the menu I prepared:

Pink Lemonade with Lavender-Thyme Infused Vodka

Three Kinds of Finger Sandwiches: Minted Radish, Moroccan Carrot with Goat Cheese and Green Olive Tapenade, Curried Chicken Salad on Gluten-Free Bread

Salad of Mixed Greens, Fennel, Red Onions, Shaved Pecorino Romano with Orange-Sherry Vinaigrette and White Truffle Oil

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Mushrooms, Spinach, and Sage Béchamel

Gluten-Free Pasta with Caramelized Onions, Lentils and Kale

Pumpkin Tea Cake

Meyer Lemon and Poppyseed Almond Tea Cake

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Apple Crumble

I’ve been getting a lot of apples and pears in my CSA. A LOT. A friend of mine invited me over to her house to break the Yom Kippur fast, so I decided to bring an Apple Crumble Pie. This recipe is for a very large (13 x 9 inches) tray of Apple Crumble, but I decided to divide the filling between a 9-inch (alas, store-bought) piecrust and a 10-x-7-inch baking dish.

I think that this recipe is an amalgamation of a few different apple pie and apple crisp recipes I had looked up last year. It’s really easy to play around with it and figure out your ideal combination of flavors. I, predictably, decided to sweeten the filling with sucanat, as it has become one of my favorite natural sweeteners because of its rich molasses flavor. You can, of course, substitute sugar. Our CSA bag has included a variety of apples, so I used whatever was in the bag: Cortland, Macintosh, Golden Delicious, Empire. I like the variety of flavors and textures that result from combining different varieties of apples, making each bite a bit of a surprise.

Apple Crumble or Apple Crumble Pie

Ingredients

Topping:

  • 2 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

Filling:

  • 4 pounds mixed apples
  • 2/3 cup sucanat
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Vanilla ice cream

Procedure

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Lightly grease a 13-x-9-x-2-inch glass baking dish.

Mix oats, brown sugar, and flour in a bowl.  Add butter and rub in with fingertips until topping comes together in moist clumps. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)

Mix all filling ingredients in large bowl to coat apples.  Transfer to baking dish.  Sprinkle topping over.

Bake crumble until apples are tender and topping is brown and crisp, about 55 minutes.  Cool slightly.  Spoon warm crumble into bowls.  Serve with ice cream.

Note: If you’re baking this recipe in a pie or 2 smaller baking dishes, check on it after about 40 minutes. You don’t want the crumble to burn.

Ready for the oven.

CSA Quandaries on Hot Grease

Please check out my segment on Hot Grease with Nicole Taylor on the Heritage Radio Network: Hot Grease, Episode 78. In the last segment, Nicole asks me about what to do with July’s CSA & Farmers Market bounties.

Be sure to listen to the whole episode because Nicole interviews Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez of Print Restaurant. Heather’s work in farming advocacy is quite inspirational, and the menu at her restaurant sounds divine. I tried that chocolate bread, and Nicole is not exaggerating its greatness.

Hot Grease  

 

CSA Quandary: Zucchini

For the past two weeks, I’ve received four pounds of zucchini in my CSA share. I like zucchini just fine, but it’s not my favorite vegetable, so (with the help of Facebook and Twitter) I crowd-sourced some ideas of what to do with my bounty. Food writer Leah Koenig linked me to her zucchini post on Saveur’s website.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake piqued my interest because of its seemingly bizarre combination of ingredients. The recipe is good — very easy to follow. I, of course, complicated matters because I was missing a few ingredients and had no interest in schlepping out to the grocery store at 9pm. The missing ingredients: corn oil, one of the two eggs, and buttermilk.

The substitutions:

  • Corn Oil: The only cooking fats in my house last night were virgin coconut oil (I didn’t want to make the cake coco-nutty), butter, ghee, and duck fat. (This is why I need to go grocery shopping sooner rather than later.) I decided to go with melted butter. If I hadn’t just finished all my olive oil, I would have used that as a replacement.
  • One Egg: Having gone to a culinary school with a heavily vegan curriculum, I learned that flax seeds can act as egg replacers in baked goods. 1 egg = 1 tablespoon finely ground flax seeds + 3 tablespoons water
  • Buttermilk: I happened to have whole milk on hand. Generally, 1 cup buttermilk = 7.5 ounces milk + 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar or lemon juice.
The results were good, although I think I overcooked the cake slightly. I’m still figuring out the calibration of my oven. I also omitted powdered sugar because my sweet tooth simply isn’t that strong. Here is the recipe as I have prepared it.
Chocolate Zucchini Bread (tweaked)
Serves 8
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds, finely ground
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 3 1/2 ounces whole milk
  • 2 medium zucchini, trimmed and grated on large holes of box grater
  • 9 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
Procedure
  1. Make Egg Replacer: stir together ground flax seeds and water. Set aside.
  2. Make Buttermilk Substitute: stir together vinegar and whole milk. Set aside.
  3. Working in batches, put a small mound of zucchini in center of large square of double-layer cheesecloth. Gather corners together and squeeze out as much water as possible. Transfer zucchini to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Preheat oven to 325º. Butter a deep 9″ cake pan with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together into a mixing bowl and set aside. Beat together remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add melted butter, beating well. Beat in egg, then egg replacer. Add vanilla, reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture and buttermilk substitute in 3 alternate batches. Stir in reserved zucchini.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to let cool. Invert onto a plate and dust with sugar.

Not the prettiest presentation, but it sure is tasty!

Rhubarb-Vanilla Jam, Take 2

In my last post, I had mentioned that I might make this Rhubarb-Vanilla Jam recipe from Food 52. I’ve decided to make my own variation on it. I didn’t read the editor’s note to the original recipe until the jam was already cooking — if I had, I probably would have halved the total amount of sugar in the recipe. The resulting jam is definitely sweet, but also complex and delicious. I decided to use half organic cane sugar, and half sucanat. I’ve mentioned sucanat before, and I really do love the deep molasses flavor it imparts — a perfect complement to rhubarb’s bright tartness. For the most effective use of vanilla beans, check out Shuna Lydon’s blog post about vanilla.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Jam with Sucanat

Yields approximately 1 pint

Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 cup organic sucanat
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 18 ounces rhubarb, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup water
  • pinch kosher salt

Procedure

  1. Whisk together the cane sugar and sucanat. Split the vanilla beans into two halves. Lay each bean on a flat surface and scrape the interior out with a small sharp knife. Knock the oily interior into the sugar mixture and smush the seeds into it with your thumb, forefinger and middle finger to distribute evenly throughout.
  2. Place the rhubarb, vanilla-sugar mixture and water in a heavy saucepan with a generous pinch of kosher salt.
  3. Stir the mixture over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, stirring to scrape the bottom. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the fruit with the back of the spoon. Cook for about 25-30 minutes until the jam is thick, just shy of spreadable, as it will thicken when it cools.
  4. Remove the vanilla beans and reserve them for later use. Carefully spoon the hot jam into jars and leave unsealed to cool. When cool, screw on the lid and refrigerate.

Rhubarb: not just for dessert anymore!

A quick note about rhubarb. This week, our CSA fruit share included about 3 pounds of rhubarb from Briermere Farms, and I’ve been contemplating what to do with it. I’ll most likely make a few pints of this delicious Rhubarb-Vanilla Jam from Food 52 that I made last year, but I’m also thinking about savory uses for rhubarb. Rhubarb, in and of itself, isn’t sweet, but it’s most often paired with strawberries in jams, compotes and pies. I found this savory, Indian-inspired recipe for a Rhubarb Lentil Stew last year, and I thought it was brilliant. Usually, I’ll add lemon juice to lentil-based soups and stews to add that bright burst of tartness that balances out the earthy flavor of the legumes. In Mark Bittman’s recipe, the rhubarb provides not only the necessary acidity, but also complex flavor and texture to an already flavorful dish. As with so many of Mark Bittman’s recipes, this one is minimal effort for maximum pleasure. Enjoy!

Lentil and Rhubarb Stew with Indian Spices by Mark Bittman

Ingredients
  • 3 or 4 stalks rhubarb, strings removed, chopped
  • 1 cup orange lentils, well washed
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 dried ancho or other mild chili, optional
  • Salt
  • Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
Method
  • Combine all ingredients except salt and cilantro in a saucepan and add water to cover by about 1 inch. Cook at a steady simmer until lentils and rhubarb are quite soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove cloves and, if you like, cardamom pods. Add salt, then taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Thanksgiving (better late than never)

I haven’t written a substantial post in a little while, and I do apologize for that. I’ve been up to a lot of cooking (and apartment hunting, and moving, and unpacking). But the interesting thing is the cooking!

I want to share my Thanksgiving menu (with photos taken on my iPhone) that I cooked for a client in New Jersey. It was a fun menu, and I had a great sous chef — my friend (and Johnson & Wales grad) Dora. I also had the opportunity to cook for a small dinner party for New Year’s Eve. The menu involved olive-oil poached halibut with capers, black olives and cherry tomatoes. Let me tell you, poaching in olive oil really does make an evening special!

And without further ado… Thanksgiving!

The Obligatory Ramp Post

Always label your pickles!

Always label your pickles!

In case you haven’t heard, it’s ramp season. Ramps are generally celebrated for their aromatic, garlicky flavor and short season. Pickled ramps are on many menus these days, and I decided to give them a try myself. I got this recipe from Food52, and I have to say I’m quite happy with it. I didn’t have fresh thyme on hand, so I substituted with a half-teaspoon of dried thyme, and it worked out just fine. This recipe only uses the white and purple bulb/stem portion of the ramps. I reserved the leaves for sautéing. In fact, I pan-seared a pork chop from my butcher shop, and sautéed a few handfuls of ramp greens in a bit of the reserved fat rendered off from the chop with a sprinkle of salt. It was perfect.

Pickled Ramps Makes about 1 pint pickled ramps

Ingredients

  • 3 bunches ramps (about 1 pound), green tops and root ends trimmed off
  • 2 dried red chilies
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 slices fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¾ cups red wine vinegar
  • ¾ cups water

Ramps

Leaves and Bulbs

Procedure
Bring a medium pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the ramps and cook for 1 minute. Drain and run cold water over the ramps to stop the cooking. Drain again. Place the ramps in a medium bowl or mason jar. Add the chilies, thyme, ginger, and fennel seeds.

ramp bulbs ramps in a jar

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, red wine vinegar and water. Bring to a boil and pour this mixture over the ramps. As soon as they’re cool, you can serve them, or just cover and refrigerate.

A Culinary Ode to Spring. SPRING!

To celebrate Spring, I’d like to start out this blog with a recipe that highlights three harbingers of the season: morels, asparagus and leeks. I was poking around on Epicurious looking for promising seasonal vegetarian entrees for one of my clients, and I came upon this gem — Lasagna with Asparagus, Leeks and Morels. I had seen fresh morels at Whole Foods the week before, but I just knew that I wouldn’t have the time to make something wonderful with them, so I had to pass that day. When I was ready to make this recipe, I couldn’t find the morels, so I substituted with a mix of trumpets, shiitakes and criminis, which are also delicious. I’m still hoping it’s not too late to try it again with the morels.

a black morel

The original recipe is for individual lasagnas, but I’ve written it as one whole lasagna. Also, I wasn’t satisfied with how the recipe instructed its followers to make a béchamel sauce, so I’ve included instructions on how to make the sauce starting with a roux. Enjoy!

Lasagna with Asparagus, Leeks and Morels

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, divided
  • 1 pound thick asparagus spears, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 ounces fresh morel mushrooms, rinsed, coarsely chopped, or 5 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 9-ounce package no-cook lasagna noodles (12 noodles)
  • 1 1/4 cups (about) finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Equipment

9″ x 13″ lasagna pan

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large, heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Add asparagus, mushrooms and thyme. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and sauté, stirring often, until asparagus is slightly tender and bright green, about 5 minutes. Transfer the asparagus mixture to a bowl, and melt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the same sauté pan.  Add leeks; cook until wilted, stirring often, about 3 minutes.

Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the sauté pan to prevent burning, for one minute. Add broth, cream, bay leaf, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Then reduce the heat to maintain a brisk simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Spread 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch lasagna pan. Place four lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. Scatter 1 cup of the vegetable mixture over, spreading in an even layer. Drizzle ½ cup sauce over. Sprinkle ¼ cup cheese evenly over the vegetables. Repeat layering two more times: noodles, vegetables, sauce, and cheese. Drizze the remaining sauce over the lasagna. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any spills). Bake until noodles are tender, about 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese begins to brown, about 6 minutes. Let stand at room temperature 5 minutes before serving.

Ingredient Tip: If fresh morel mushrooms are unavailable, pour 2 cups boiling water over 1 ounce of dried morel mushrooms and let stand until the mushrooms are soft, about 30 minutes. Drain the mushrooms and squeeze dry before chopping.