July 16, 2012 § 2 Comments
We are in the heat of the summer and finally the zucchinis are sprouting their phallic protrusions like it’s going out of style, the cucumber vines are spotted with petite yellow flowers that morph into miniature cucs, the nasturtiums are going wild, broccoli crowns royally spring up after every cutting, snap peas line the twirling tendrils, green tomatoes sun bathe trying to turn their sick skin ruby red, the chard is plentiful, garlic scapes emit their pungent fragrance and the kale isn’t stopping any time soon.
Along with the boisterous produce, eggs with yolks that are as orange as the sky at sunset are coming rapidly. The four chicks are growing faster than the purslane at the feet of my brandywines and I’m excited to figure out their sex. I’m hoping for no more than one rooster, but that would be some ridiculously good luck.
Good food is always plentiful in the summer as meals are always straight from the garden. It takes a lot to grow the food so to not take advantage of each morsel that comes from the rich soil seems silly. With that being said, I’m sure you can image how much chard and kale I’ve been eating, no? After eating greens for breakfast, lunch and dinner I guess it’s not surprising that I would start doing “crazy” things. First I started using nut butter to dress the leaves of the salad, next I added some fruit and then I went wild, mixing cacao nibs into my plate of Russian Red kale. Oh so good.
I guess it may seem strange if you’re stuck on the black and white idea that cacao = chocolate and chocolate = cacao but if you step out of the narrow-mindedness of typical associations, cacao is no more than a dried seed that belongs nestled between the chlorophylly leaves of your kale salad. Plus, cacao + kale = super food extravaganza. Together (2 cups kale and just one ounce of cacao nibs) they deliver over 1300% of the recommended vitamin K and over 300% of the needed vitamin A. Plus calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, B vitamins, essential fatty acids, fiber and more flavonoids than almost any other super food (think blueberries, wine, green tea, etc).
If that is not enough, both kale and cacao contain a significant amount of the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin, found mainly in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals is known to promote feelings of happiness and well being (ever wonder why chocolate is magical?). Now maybe you can see why it’s a good idea to start your day with cacao and kale, never mind just consume the stuff in general. Edible optimism.
This is not really a recipe per se, but more of a suggestion. I’ve used raspberries, blue berries, or strawberries and if it’s really hot I substitute half of a frozen (organic/fair trade) banana. Depending on the fruit I use I interchange peanut butter with almond butter but anything works. Also, I’ve been breaking up pieces of homemade halva into the salad to give it more nuttiness – it’s a nice addition and adds some extra calcium if you like halva. Toasted coconut or buckwheat granola also work really well with the flavor of kale. Remember, kale is bitter so taste as you go to make sure you like the flavor combinations.
1 1/2-2 cups raw kale, chopped, 2 Tbsp nut butter, 1 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup fruit, 1/8 cup organic, raw cacao nibs or beans
Chop kale, toss it in 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Mix remaining olive oil with 1 tbsp of nut butter and mix with a fork until it’s homogenous. Pour the oil and nut butter mixture over the kale and toss. Add nibs and toss until mixed. Add fruit. Top with the remaining nut butter and a sprinkling of nibs.
Share and enjoy!
May 9, 2012 § 1 Comment
Yes. That’s exactly what you expected right? Step aside artificially colored mint chip; never mind the mind-blowing flavor, the attractive color will be a favorite as far as aesthetics go in no time. Plus, what’s ice cream without chocolate. Come to think of it, what’s dessert without chocolate, I mean really?
To get a bit more up-close and personal
This recipe, with the personal addition of Oaxacan chocolate I brought home from Mexico, landed in my inbox last week as a Cinco de Mayo dish curtsey of Gourmet Magazine. The second I laid eyes on it, I knew I had to give it a shot and I’m happy to say I had some serious beginner’s luck (this was my first time churning up gelato). Unfortunately, you will need an ice cream maker for this recipe, but at this point I’m convinced the world would be a heck of a lot more peaceful if everyone had the pleasure of licking a cone of homemade ice cream (or gelato) whenever they desired.
2 cups of organic whole milk, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 large avocados, soft to touch, 2 Tbsp organic corn starch, 500mg tablet of vitamin C, crushed, 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla, 1/4 cup chocolate (optional)
In a small sauce pan, bring1 ¾ cups milk, ½ cup sugar, and a pinch of salt to a simmer. Stir consistently to prevent milk from burning. Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch in ¼ cup cold milk and whisk into simmering milk. Bring the simmering milk mixture to a boil over medium heat, continuing to stir constantly. Boil for one minute. Pour the milk mixture into a metal bowl and chill down in an ice bath, or in the freezer until cool to touch.
While cooling the milk, purée the flesh of the avocados with ¼ cup sugar and the crushed vitamin C tablet. Refrigerate the avocado purée until the milk mixture has been chilled. Mix the chilled milk mixture he avocado purée and add vanilla. Freeze in an ice-cream maker. If you choose to add anything (i.e. chocolate, macadamia nuts, coconut, etc) add at the last 5 minutes of churning.
Remember to keep all of the ingredients COLD before adding them to the ice cream machine.
October 12, 2011 § 3 Comments
The season for figs is waning away right before my eyes, which of course sets in a slight feeling of panic. No fresh figs until next July seems kind of, I don’t know, sadistic – so I did what any other person would do; I preserved them. Now, let me tell you, buying three dozen figs at once will earn you some soliciting stares from people you don’t know.
None the less, this jam is worth it. It’s going to be such a relief when I pop the lid off this baby in the middle of February to enjoy the closest thing there is to fresh figs in such a dreary month. The jam is really, truly simple. It is made with a mere four ingredients, all of which you may just have on hand, besides the fresh figs (unless you have a fig tree, in which case, let’s talk). I used honey, cane sugar & a lemon, rendering this a pectin-free recipe, my favorite kind.
Let’s talk about honey for a moment. Or better yet, let’s talk about bees. Earlier this fall I had the opportunity to take part in a late honey harvest with my boyfriend’s family. If you ever get the chance to be a part of a honey harvest, I eagerly encourage you to do it.
Bees are miraculous insects. Bees maintain a symbiotic relationship with flowers as they retrieve pollen, their protein source & nectar, their energy source. As bees fly from flower to flower picking up what they need, they loose some of the pollen that they have recently retrieved. The pollen (pollen is a flower’s gamete, or sex cell) they loose lands on the pistils of the flower (also known as the reproductive organs of the flower) & pollinates it. The bees store the nectar in their stomach then bring nectar back to the nest. While the nectar is in the bee’s stomach enzymes break it into simple sugars, fructose & glucose.
Upon arrival at the nest the bee stores the inverted nectar in six-sided cells & covers it with wax. The warmth of the hive causes the water to evaporate, leaving us, or the queen bee with a saccharine syrup, we know as honey. Honey, bee pollen & royal jelly (the food of the queen bee) contain many beneficial nutrients that can do everything from bolster our immune systems to ease our allergies. Bees not only produce honey, but they ensure biodiversity within our ecosystems. By avoiding chemical fertilizers, herbicides & pesticides we can help to keep bees thriving the way they should be.
Getting back to the jam; go now, buy your figs & while you’re out grab a jar of local honey. Local honey helps with allergies & tastes much more bold than the stuff you are probably used to.
3 dozen fresh black mission figs, stemmed & quartered, 1 2/3 cups of cane sugar, 1/3 cup local honey & 1 lemon*
* From the lemon you will need all of the juice, 2 Tbsp of zest & the rest of the rid peeled & cut into 1/2 strips.
Combine the quartered figs, lemon zest, lemon juice & the sugar. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Add the honey & the slices of lemon rind. Continue cooking & stir occasionally until the mixture thickens.
This does take some patiences, but I promise, after about 30 minutes, the mixture is sure to thicken right up (if not keep the heat up and the mixture moving). When finished, pour the jam into glass containers & store in the refrigerator for months. Upon refrigeration the jam will thicken even more.
August 18, 2011 § 1 Comment
Oh so many summer tomatoes…
Not that there really are any other kind.
Or at least any other kind that compare to the real thing. Buy tomatoes in the winter & I’m sure you’ll be sorely disappointed by the deceptive look-a-like that tastes like nothing more than bad water & mealy flesh. It’s curious how we still eat these winter “tomatoes” even though they are so terrible. I wonder, could it be an emotional attachment, a comfort thing? Our culture praises self discipline, yet can’t even wait for tomato season to roll around to enjoy them. To me that’s just the thing; if you are eating a winter tomato, there is a very slim chance that you are actually enjoying it. In which case, what is the point?
If you think the point of eating tomatoes in the winter is to get your daily dose of lycopene, don’t be fooled. Lycopene is a micro-nutrient that gives tomatoes their brilliant color. It is an important anti-oxidant that has been shown to rid the body of cancerous cells, fight heart disease & lower levels of undesirable cholesterol. However, according to Functional foods: biochemical & processing aspects, by G. Mazza, studies have shown that lycopene concentrations are the highest in mature, vine-ripend, sun grown tomatoes during the summer (June through August specifically) months & much lower during the winter. Tomatoes that are available in the winter are seldom vine-ripened & are usually genetically modified to survive cross-country shipping. If you don’t think you can go a whole winter without tomatoes, buy them now & can them. In fact, this sauce can be made in bulk, canned & eaten as a treat during the winter.
I can’t help but smile when I pick the real thing; sweet & acidic, tomatoes come in all different shapes & sizes. Honeyed sun-golds are highlighter orange & need to be picked before they anxiously crack open on the vine, deep green & ruby red, black prince tomatoes are bold & savory, while scarlet brandy-wine tomatoes are misshapen rouged orbs of luscious flesh. Regardless of which types you use, the blistered tomatoes in this recipe are just as esthetically pleasing as they are tasty. This recipe requires minimum preparation. The outcome, a thick savory sauce, is great to top bruschetta, to toss with pasta, or to can & save for the tomato-less days of winter. Recently I used it as a sauce with lamb confit & homemade gnocchi (recipe will follow).
Rustic Tomato “Sauce”
12-14* cups of tomatoes, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 6 garlic cloves, whole & peeled, dried oregano, sea salt
*this recipe can easily be halved and/or doubled. I used 12 cups of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes and 2 cups of Amish Paste tomatoes, but any variety will work.
Preheat oven on roast to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If necessary, chop tomatoes to uniform size. If you are using all cherry tomatoes, keep them whole. Add olive oil, garlic, a healthy dose of sea salt & about a tablespoon of oregano. Toss & roast for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbling & slightly blistered.
Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Put 1 Tbsp of bottled* lemon juice at the bottom of sterilized mason jars. Fill the jars with sauce, leaving a 1/2 inch of space at the rim of the jar. Wipe the mouth of the jar & secure the two-piece lid. Completely submerge the jar in the water & let it boil for 35-45 minutes until the jar has sealed. Allow the jar to cool, then store. If the jar does not seal, it needs to be refrigerated until use.
* bottled lemon juice has a consistent acidity & is much safer to use than fresh lemon juice. Instead of lemon juice, 1/4 of a tsp of citric acid can be used as well.
August 1, 2011 § 1 Comment
Berries are good by themselves, but when their season comes, making jam undoubtedly comes right along with it.
Besides making this jam, I was not very productive yesterday. The heat was intense, but lovely & I have it to thank for the abundance of berries I found on the side of the road. At first glance I guessed they were classic raspberries, but I noticed slight differences as I began picking them. The berries oozed a sticky red nectar & grew from furry yellow-orange canes.
It goes without saying that only a taste test could confirm my suspicion. I had picked raspberries only two days previous so the taste was fresh in my memory & easy to compare. Wineberries are more seedy & a bit tart compared to raspberries, so I decided they would be best thrown around in some sugar & preserved.
This recipe works for any type of berry, just adjust the fruit to sugar ratio based on the tartness of whatever fruit you are using. In this particular recipe I used a ratio of 4:1 1/2 cups respectively. Normally I’ll use a ratio of 4:1 cups, but as I mentioned, wineberries are more tart than a sweet raspberry or black raspberry.
8 cups of berries, 2 1/2 cups, plus 1/2 a cup of organic turbinado sugar, 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1 Tbsp lemon zest, fruit pectin*
*I use Pomona’s Universal Fruit Pectin, it does not require sugar to gel, but instead is activated by calcium so it works really well in low sugar recipes. I will give directions based on how I make the jam using Pomona’s Pectin.
Wash the berries & sift threw them to remove all of the debris. Make calcium water. Add berries & sugar to a medium sauce pan. Add 8 teaspoons of calcium water. Mix over medium-high heat until a light foam appears at the top. Skim off the foam, stop stirring & bring to a boil. Meanwhile prepare the pectin (according to the directions which depend on what type you are using). In this case, mix 5 teaspoons of pectin with a half cup of sugar.
Once fruit comes to a rapid boil, reduce heat & add pectin slowly while stirring. Be careful not dump it all in at once or you will find yourself with large clumps of pectin. Stir well until pectin has been fully mixed into the fruit. After all the pectin is distributed evenly, bring the jam to a rolling boil. Have sterilized jars ready. Transfer all of the jam to the jars & either boil to seal or refrigerate immediately.
In the refrigerator jelly will keep for at about 6-8 weeks after opening it. If you to seal the jars completely (by submerging them in boiling water for at least 10 minutes), the jam will last for months before it is opened.
Making jam may seem old-fashioned when we can buy it so many places, but it is so much better home-made. It makes a great gift, it’s delicious mixed into yogurt, paired with cheese, warmed over ice cream or enjoyed on some good old buttered toast.
July 20, 2011 § 3 Comments
Upon entrance to the oven a pie is not much of a pie at all, but merely a flimsy pale dough bulging with crisp fruits of the season. Then, with a blast of heat & the magic of time, a bronzed, pie bubbling with saccharine filling emerges to be consumed by a few lucky people.
Maybe you guessed that pie is one of my favorite desserts. I like how that statement is incredibly broad – it means whatever type of pie I’m making at that moment can be my favorite. The term “pie” in general covers a vast amount of options & the possibilities are infinite: a pie with fruit, with custard, or with pudding; or a whoopie pie, a potpie, or an icebox pie; a pie with a crust of cookies, of graham crackers, of pâte sucrée (French for sweet dough) or of the classic pâte brisée (French for breaking dough); one with a crumbly topping, a lattice topping, a meringue topping, or no topping at all.
This Summer I’ve made several pies, a Raspberry-Lemonade Icebox Pie, an Apricot Pie with Coconut Crumble (both are recipes from Martha Stewart Living) & most recently the one I’m sharing with you now (a recipe of my own).
Pâte Brisée (makes 2 discs)
2 3/4 cup of flour, 1 Tbsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, 2 sticks & 2 Tbsp cold organic butter, 2/3 cup of ice water & 1 egg
In a food processor, pulse sugar, flour & salt until well combined. Add butter & pulse until coarse, no more than 15 seconds. Add 1/3 cup of ice water, pouring evenly over coarse mixture. Pulse until mixture is tacky & stays stuck together when pinched (the dough should not be sticky or wet). If it is too dry, add more ice water 1 Tbsp at a time & continue to pulse. Shape the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic wrap & freeze (30 minutes) or refrigerate (60 minutes at least) until firm. When
2 honey wheat graham crackers, broken into crumbles, 1/2 cup oats, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 4 Tbsp organic butter, melted & 1/8 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add melted butter, mix & set aside until ready to top the pie.
4 cups of ripe peaches, cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges, 1 cup of strawberries, quartered, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 Tbsp organic corn starch, 1/8 tsp coarse sea salt
Mix fruit, sugars, cornstarch & salt in a bowl & let sit for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a 9 inch pie dish with butter. Roll out pâte brisée on a lightly floured surface until it is 1/4 inch thick & fit dough into pie dish so that there is a slight overhang. Add filling mixture. Top with crumble, leaving a 1 inch space around the perimeter of the top of the pie. Fold the overhanging crust toward the middle of the pie & crimp edges of crust as desired. Brush the crust with a lightly beaten egg. Bake on the middle rack with a cookie sheet beneath it to catch the drippings. After 30 minutes, tent the crumble with aluminum foil to prevent it from burning. Continue to bake for 50 minutes (to an hour) until the filling is bubbling & the crust is bronzed. Cool for at least 2 hours before serving.
This pie can be made the day before & refrigerated. If you are anxious to dive into the pie as soon as it comes out of the oven, be sure top it with a scoop of french vanilla ice cream.
April 29, 2011 § 1 Comment
If you’ve got some old Meyer lemons hanging around, rumor has is that this is the best way to use them before they become inedible. Preserved lemons are extremely popular in Moroccan cuisine for sauces, tagine & both cold and hot salads. Supposedly, they lend a sophisticated sweetness that varies based on how long you cook them. Meyer lemons are an ambrosial version of the lemon; sour with a confectionery zing.
In my dream life, I would have a little lemon tree right in my backyard so I could experience the balmy fragrance of these deep yellow orbs when they are at their finest- but for now, salted to savor for the future is just fine!
Preserving is easy. It only requires a couple of minutes & about a month for the lemons to brine. They can be kept in the pantry, but I keep them in the refrigerator just to ease my mind.
Preserved Meyer Lemons:
1 canning jar, i.e. Mason or Bell, 15-20 Meyer lemons & grainy sea salt
Wash the lemons well. Add 3 Tbsp of salt to cover the bottom of the jar. Holding the lemon vertically, slice longitudinally into fourths, stopping before you reach the bottom of the lemon. Make sure to slice the lemons over a bowl in order to catch the juice. Pour about a teaspoon of salt into the middle of each partially sliced lemon. As you work, add each lemon to the jar, packing them as tight as possible. Layer salt between the lemons as you pack them in. When the jar is full, pour in reserved juice & the juice of any lemons that couldn’t fit into the jar.
Seal the jar & store at room temperature or in the refrigerator. If a couple of weeks have passed & the lemons aren’t completely submerged in liquid, open the jar & add some more lemon juice. The lemons should be ready for use after about a month, but can last more than a year. I’ll add some recipes featuring the lemons as soon as mine are finished!
Until then, bon appetite.