Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How I Cut a Mango

(We bought a flat of champagne mangoes this week, so we've had a little time to practice.)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Oven-Roasted Peaches and 'Cream'

Most of the desserts you see on here are my better half's creation. Tonight, though, I got inspired by some perfect little Jones Orchard peaches that she had washed and set out on the counter. This summer dessert is the right combination of tart and sweet; it's also relatively uncomplicated to put together.

Oven-Roasted Peaches and 'Cream'

12 small peaches
5 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup white wine
one 6-oz. container of non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup almonds
sprinkle of Peace Bee Farm bee pollen

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Halve 12 peaches and take out the pits. Lay them cut-side-up in a baking dish. Drizzle with honey and put a small pat of butter inside each half. Put this in the oven for about 30 minutes; you want to see the sugars to caramelize. Deglaze the baking dish with a sweet-ish white wine such as riesling. Mix one small container of Greek yogurt with 3 tbsp. of honey. Roughly chop a handful of almonds. Spoon 5-6 warm peach halves into a bowl and add some syrup from the pan. Top with yogurt, almonds, and a sprinkle of bee pollen for a little flair.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Goat Cheese Dumplings w/ Olives & Capers over Purslane topped with Balsamic & Fig Caramelized Onions

A dish inspired by Michael and created to go with Coeur Esterelle, Cotes de Provence for the so-much-fun online rosé tasting on Whining and Dining this Thursday night!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blueberry-Cornmeal Muffins + Problem-Solving

I've found that it is so difficult to make good blueberry muffins -- ones that you actually want to eat -- at home. They fall apart right out of the muffin tin or get soggy. Once, my blueberry muffins even came out green, which may have been due to the blueberries' chemical reaction with baking soda. Nevertheless, I have had annoying experiences all around with this type of muffin, and it's a shame because the professionally baked ones aren't that appealing either: a bright white crumb in a muffin just lets me know that it's probably a really unhealthy, not-so-nutritious thing to eat for breakfast. So the cornmeal in these muffins acts as a binder.

Here are my hard-fought tips for muffins in general:
1. Use a bendable silicone muffin pan brushed with canola oil; set it on a baking sheet for sturdiness.
2. Use frozen fruit because it stays together better when you bake it. You may want to use less of it than any recipe calls for because if there's too much fruit, the batter has less to grab on to and won't come together.
3. Let the muffins cool before you pop them out, and you will have much better luck when it comes to keeping them pretty and in one piece.
4. A dry topping needs a thin slice of soy margarine on top before baking; this keeps the dry ingredients more in place.
Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins
(adapted from a recipe in the wonderful blueberry article in Whole Living this month)

3/4 cup wheat flour
3/4 cup AP flour
1/2 cup Delta Grind cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup cane sugar

1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup milk
1 egg and 1 duck egg, beaten
3/4 cup frozen blueberries

Topping, 3 spoonfuls each:
rolled oats
+ 2 tbsp. soy margarine

Preheat oven to 375. Mix all dry ingredients. Add in oil, milk, and eggs. Fold in blueberries. Next, brush a silicone muffin pan with canola oil and fill cups with batter almost to the top. Mix the three dry ingredients for the topping and sprinkle it all on top of the muffins. Add a sliver of soy margarine on top of each. Bake for 30 minutes. Remember, let these cool before you pop them out and eat them!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Baked Samosas

We love Indian food, especially anything served at Mayuri here in Memphis. Their samosas are one of the best appetizers around, and it's really not too difficult to try your hand at making some in your own kitchen. I looked up the traditional way to fold them, but then I decided to do something a little different. My (baked, not fried) version uses traditional filling, a thicker pie crust, and what I call a 'dumpling fold.'

Baked Samosas

3 new potatoes, peeled, boiled, and mashed
2 tbsp. ghee (can sub. in olive oil or butter if needed)
2 tbsp. hot curry powder
one jalapeno, finely diced
one onion, finely diced
one carrot, finely diced
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp. vinegar
3/4 cup English peas (frozen is fine)
sea salt and crushed pepper

Peel and boil potatoes until they're soft. Set aside. Melt ghee in a large, heavy pot and add 2 tbsp. curry and the jalapeno. Cook for 3-4 minutes in order to toast the spices then add onion. Add carrot. Cook it for 3-4 minutes or until carrots are tender. Add potatoes, water, and vinegar. Stir to incorporate ingredients. Add peas. (At this point, the mixture should be thick and able to stand on its own without being soupy.) Add salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
Now preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll your crust out thin. Using a pint glass, stamp out a circle. Mound about 2 tbsp. of filling into the center. Now make a 3-sided pyramid from the circle by folding two sides of the circle together and then bring the bottom side up to join it. Pinch dough together along the seams. Repeat until you run out of dough or filling, whichever happens first! Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. If you want them to be darker in color, brush the samosas with an egg wash (just a well-beaten egg + silicone brush) after 10 minutes of baking.

*To go with these, you also can make a quick raita with grated cucumber and Greek yogurt plus a squeeze of lime. A mango-ginger chutney works well, too; combine a diced mango, microplaned ginger, salt, and lemon juice.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Our Visit to Cucina Bread

After routinely picking up ciabatta and baguettes (the two best-sellers, we learned) from Sherri McKelvie's Cucina Bread at the Memphis Farmers Market, we decided to ask her if we could hang out with her for a little while when she's baking and see how it all happens.

Her bread-baking is compacted into an intense 12-hour schedule each Friday starting around 4:30 or 5 a.m. Last week, we strolled into a yeasty, flour-suspended-in-midair whirlwind of activity around 11. Sherri makes 300 loaves, a combination of the following kinds in addition to our original favorites: rosemary, semolina, focaccia, honey whole wheat, jalapeno cheddar, cranberry walnut, and kalamata olive.

She pointed out a baby loaf of kalamata that she had set aside for us. Later, it made it to about Southern and Highland as we ripped off pieces and devoured it together. It was one of those serendipitous taste memories that can't be topped, just salty and savory with pockets of warm air throughout and a nice chewiness. Somehow the heat settled down the strong kalamata taste and made it into an accent, not something overwhelming as that kind of olive can be.

The process of baking bread calls for a little bit of talking in-between forming and baking the loaves. I wondered when Sherri started baking since she made it look so organized and had expert moves and advice. Twenty years ago, she was snowed in while house-sitting in Ashland, Oregon, and she decided to making some bread in order to pass the time.

Soon, we were wishing that we knew some secrets to making bread, and she divulged a few:
1. Get the dough a little wet while also adding a little flour.
2. Roll it around gently into a ball but mostly shape it by moving it side-to-side with the palms of your hands until it's smooth.
3. Get ready to live life in 10-minute increments because that's how long everything takes.
4. Read the book The Bread Baker's Apprentice. It's "all you need to be an artisan bread baker," she says.
5. Put some water in your oven (we put it in a shallow bowl) to assist in the baking.
6. Practice!

It was great on Saturday to see the fruits of her labor, and we branched out and bought a loaf of cranberry walnut bread because the dough looked so amazing the afternoon before and we had heard it was a great flavor. It's been our breakfast toast all week.

*Sherri's bread sells out quickly, so be sure to stop by early and see her on Saturday to try some of the great stuff she's baking!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Herb Lasagna

I am constantly on the lookout for new herbs to grow in our new 8' x 4' raised bed garden and in the front yard flowerbed. At last count, we have thyme, lemon thyme, oregano, lavender, rosemary, stevia, lemon verbena, bee balm, mint, green, purple, and thai basil, sage, and parsley. Please tell me if you're currently growing something else that I shouldn't live without! (I think I must add French tarragon and lemon balm to the wish list now...)

We try to use as many of these herbs as we can since they're flourishing now and also seem to grow bigger the more we pick them. So here's a shockingly bright green summer mixed-herb lasagna, much lighter than the meaty versions that are omnipresent in cold months.

Summer Herb Lasagna

olive oil
no-boil lasagna noodles (for ease; the ones you boil may be slightly better if you have the time)
one container of ricotta cheese
generous handfuls of a mix of your favorite green herbs (thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, sage)
one egg
sea salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups of mozzarella, grated
1/2 cup of parmesan, grated
Italian seasoning
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush the inside of a baking pan with olive oil and spoon a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of it. Line up 3 or so sheets of noodles and press them lightly into the sauce. Set aside.

For the ricotta and herb layer, put a container of ricotta into the food processor along with a cup of your fresh herb blend. Add one egg and a splash of olive oil plus salt and pepper to taste. Pulse it until it is smooth and a striking green color. Spread 1/3 of this into the pan over the noodles. Add a layer of noodles, then tomato sauce and sprinkle in some of the mozzarella and parmesan and the Italian seasoning. Keep alternating until the last top layer: noodles, then tomato sauce to cover, and a copious amount of the two cheeses on top. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until top is nice and burnished. Let it sit for 5 minutes before you cut into it.

*Tips: This is fine to freeze and have on hand for later. Also, Lindsey added zucchini from her garden as another layer; she used a mandoline to cut it into thin strips.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lavender + Peach + Honey Ice Cream

Yeah, this first Memphis heat wave's getting just a little bit intense now, isn't it? It looks like the 3-burning-hot-suns-in-a-row graphic on the National Weather Service site promise plenty more of it as we get into next week. It's obviously time to break out your ice cream maker and get to work!

We just bought Jones Orchard peaches in anticipation of one of the first big signs of summer: peach ice cream. This one is a smooth, blended version with a pretty scent from the lavender simple syrup.

(You should know that there was some major hand-wringing this week over getting this recipe right. One nameless person forgot to put the paddle in the freezer bowl of the ice cream machine and also didn't add enough fat to the mix. So we thawed out the first attempt and added some cream. Then we thought it tasted too plain, and we added the lavender syrup and the whipped honey. Salt was the last addition, but then we threw in a little more lemon juice. We put it in the machine again, and nervously sampled it after the hard freeze: finally, success!)

Lavender + Peach + Honey Ice Cream

5 sprigs fresh lavender (stems must be removed)
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup water

8 peaches, peeled and smashed
3 cups milk
1 container Greek yogurt
1 small container of heavy cream
3/4 cup cane sugar
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla paste
2 tbsp. whipped honey
juice from one lemon
2 tsp. salt

Combine lavender leaves, sugar, and water in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Stir it and allow it to thicken, which will take about 15 minutes. Put heat on low and simmer. Once you can coat a silicone spatula with the syrup and it's about half of what it was to begin with, it's done. Set it aside to cool; be sure to strain out all of the spent lavender leaves.

Whisk the rest of the ingredients together and also add in the cooled lavender syrup. Put it all in a blender and blend until smooth because no one really likes big chunks of dense frozen fruit in their ice cream. Pour the mixture in your ice cream maker and let it do its job. Crucial yet annoying last step: transfer the ice cream to a container so that it can harden off in the freezer for a few hours. Because of this, it is a good thing to make ahead of time because the more time it has to set, the better.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Purslane Pesto

I love jumping in and trying something new and then doing my research in the resulting fit of excitement. It all started when Van Cheeseman set aside some purslane for us last week. Purslane's thick leaves taste pleasantly grassy and lightly bitter; it looks a lot like a succulent houseplant but generally is classified as a weed. We thought it would be perfect in a pesto with walnuts.
When I looked up the details on purslane, it got even more interesting. With plenty of omega-3s and beta carotene plus vitamin C in its stems, this may just be the perfect green.

Purslane Pesto

one bunch of purslane, stems removed
2/3 cup walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
juice from half a lemon
2 tsp. honey
sea salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in a mini-prep food processor and pulse until you can't see any whole leaves. Use it on toasted bread, pizza, or with pasta.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sweet Potato Pancakes + Peaches and Pecans

Anytime someone raves about something great they've eaten or are about to eat these days, I think, Now I've got to make that. At the downtown farmers market on Saturday morning, a coworker of mine was so excited about going to the Arcade in order to have their sweet potato pancakes for breakfast. She raved about them, and I just had to have some, too...some from my kitchen.

The bushel of sweet potatoes we bought from the Bennett-Burks Farm guys in November is dwindling, but I swear, they got sweeter the longer we stored them. I boiled four small ones and adapted this recipe from this really easy one. (I didn't know that sweet potato pancakes were considered a Southern thing, but then again, I also learned this week that the tea cakes we always ate when I was growing up are a Southern phenomenon, too.) These pancakes even won over TCV himself; finally, I hit on a healthy-ish pancake recipe that works for all. There was a silkiness to them that was way different from the usual buttermilks or buckwheats.

The first Jones Orchard peaches are out now, and wow, they're small in size at this point, but they're so full of flavor. We just macerated them with some cane sugar and lemon for a bit and then dry toasted the pecans in a skillet.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

4 small sweet potatoes (or 3 regular)
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup vegan margarine, softened

1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3 tbsp. cane sugar
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
a couple shakes of nutmeg

(+ peaches, pecans, and maple syrup)

Boil the sweet potatoes on medium-high for about 20 minutes; carefully test them with a fork because when they're soft, they're ready. Pour them into a colander and run cold water over them. Once they've cooled, cut off the skins in strips and mash them like crazy in a bowl. Add the eggs, milk, and margarine to them, and set this aside.

Now whisk all the dry ingredients together and add to the sweet potato mixture. You may need to add a bit more milk to the batter if it seems too thick. Pour the batter onto a buttered medium-hot pan, flip, and you're set.

*Be forewarned: the way these taste is like nothing else I've ever tasted, and I mean this in the best possible way.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Smoked Mushroom BBQ

I decided that there was no one method of preparing vegetables that could capture the complexity that is the draw of conventional BBQ. So I decided that I would try merging flavors from three different cooking methods in order to create a proper vegetarian BBQ experience. I used fried seitan, grilled portobellos, and smoked button mushroom in concert with a smoky and spicy homemade BBQ sauce. It was fantastic.

You will need:
5 8-oz. packages of white button mushrooms
3 packages of seitan
3 large portobello mushroom caps
lots of BBQ sauce
olive oil

Smoke the button mushrooms using THIS method I developed for smoking garlic. Next, stick them in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes until cooked through. Shake dry rub onto the portobello mushrooms, drizzle them with olive oil, and grill until thoroughly marked. Lastly, fry seitan that has been well seasoned with the dry rub in a few tablespoons of olive oil until crispy. Lay all three components out on your chopping block and give everything a rough chop. Make sure everything gets broken down into bite-sized pieces. Transfer to a large baking dish. Mix in about a cup of BBQ sauce and keep warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.

I served mine with a fennel slaw that was simply a sliced fennel bulb, sliced head of cabbage, and two grated carrots mixed with about a 1/2 cup of soy mayo, 2 tablespoons of mustard, and a splash of mirin. Pile the mushroom mixture onto a bun, add extra sauce, a heap of slaw and enjoy. The smokiness of the buttons and the texture of the seitan make for one fine Memorial Day BBQ sandwich.