Thursday, December 23, 2010

ginger crinkles



I thought I would be able to get away without making any cookies this holiday season.

Obviously, that was a naive thought.

It's been a bit of a strange year for me when it comes to holidays. For someone who loves to cook, the food-filled holidays of late fall and early winter should be a time to look forward to. But for some reason this year, I simply haven't been able to get my head into it.

I skipped out on Thanksgiving, choosing instead to spend the time on an adventure in London and Paris. I also planned a non-Christmas: rather than the norm of a decorated tree, a trip to Washington state and presents, I am escaping to Hawaii for a brief winter vacation with JR, my mom, and brother. I did not decorate anything. I have not bought a single gift. I did not send any cards. I thought I would be able to skip out on the baking that typically goes along with the holiday season as well.

Truth be told, I could have. But I was at Melissa's last week and we made these really tasty white chocolate peppermint cookies for John's cookie exchange that kind of got me in the mood to bake. We had our work team's holiday gathering earlier this week, and I decided to make some cookies for the occasion.

These turned out quite tasty: chewy and spicy, with a flavor like gingerbread men without the hassle of rolling and cutting. They pair perfectly with a glass of eggnog (one holiday treat that I knew going in that I wouldn't be able to do without). The recipe is from Mary Engelbreit's Cookies Cookbook, which I bought in college and has since gone out of print. I had originally been planning to make my favorite sugar cookies from this book, but opted to try something new instead. I also made shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate and pistachios that I'll post soon.

In the meantime, I wish you and your loved ones a very merry Christmas. Personally, I am looking forward to the soon-to-come new year and the new adventures that it is sure to bring.

Ginger Crinkles
Makes about 3 dozen

1/2 c. unsalted butter
1/4 c. unsulphured molasses
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract
confectioners' sugar, for coating

Melt butter and molasses in a large saucepan. Allow to cool.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

Whisk the eggs and vanilla into the cooled butter mixture. Stir into dry ingredients until blended. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in confectioners' sugar to cover and set 3 inches apart on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Bake about 14 minutes, until cookies have puffed up and sunk and are set around edges.

Allow to cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

pea and pancetta risotto



I have been thinking about this dish since my plane ride from Seattle to San Francisco nearly two weeks ago. I knew I would be traveling home to a ripe lemon on the tree in my backyard (the very first!) and was thinking about how to put it to use. I had made a meyer lemon risotto in the summer with lemons from a friend's tree that turned out quite tasty. I started thinking about what veggies might go well in a variation on that dish.

One of the things I love about California is that we're able to get fresh produce all year long. That said, we are coming to the time of year when the variety of local veggies becomes a little more limited. There are nearly always plenty of dark leafy greens, which I love, but I recently made a chard risotto and so was looking for something different in this particular instance.

Enter frozen peas.

Frozen produce is a great alternative to fresh. Fruits and vegetables are typically frozen at their seasonal peak and freezing preserves the vitamin content. In fact, frozen produce often has higher nutrient content than non-local fresh counterparts that have to be shipped long distances from farm to grocery store. This means if you can't eat local, from a nutritive standpoint, frozen fruits and vegetables are often the next best choice.

As a child, I remember eating frozen peas often. I recall sitting at the table, eating peas one at a time with my fingers, squeezing the insides into my mouth before popping the skin in. In retrospect, I'm surprised my mother tolerated this, though I suppose when parents can get their kids to happily eat vegetables, they are willing to perhaps let some other things (e.g. eating with one's hands) slide.

Let's spend a moment on peas and pancetta. Again, looking back to my childhood, I seem to remember frozen peas always being served with baked potatoes. And I recall topping my baked potatoes with Bac-Os ("bacon flavored chips" for those unfamiliar). Thinking back, I have to believe that is probably where the taste memory that is the basis for this dish originated.

There is certainly something about peas and pancetta that make them perfect for each other. Beyond the alliteration (which I enjoy), I think it's the combination of both texture and taste: soft and sweet on the one hand, crisp and salt-brined on the other.

As I mentioned, one reason I'm excited about this dish is because it incorporates the first ripe lemon from my lemon tree. You may recall that I've had this tree for quite some time - since August 2009, to be exact. Though it blossomed almost immediately, the actual process of growing lemons was quite slow at the beginning, I think due to the tree's initial location where it didn't get much direct sunlight and inhabited a pot slightly smaller than recommended. When I transplanted it into a wine barrel in our yard this past April when we bought our house, the tree decided it was lemon producing time. It had a single lemon on its branches at that point, about the size of a silver dollar and dark green. It's this same lemon (now fully ripe) that is in our risotto dish this evening:


The very first lemon blossom in summer 2009.


Fast forward 16 months: the first ripe lemon!


The tree is now packed with ripening lemons (the one plucked for the risotto is on the bottom right).

The resulting risotto was magical. A sweet, tangy, salty meal that conjured the bright taste of spring in the almost-winter (that starts officially the day after tomorrow)!

Pea & Pancetta Risotto
Serves 4

2 c. frozen peas, thawed
1/4 lb. sliced pancetta, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 c. arborio rice
1/2 c. white wine
juice of 1 lemon (note: grate peel first)
4 c. hot chicken stock
1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
1 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
a pinch of white pepper
1/4 c. parmesan, grated

Puree half of the peas in a food processor. Set aside.

Crisp pancetta in a medium pan over medium heat. Drain on paper towels. Set aside.

Heat oil and butter in a pot (I use my french oven). Add onion and cook until translucent. Add rice. Stir until rice is coated with oil and butter. Add white wine and lemon juice. Adjust temperature to maintain a constant simmer. Stir regularly until liquid is absorbed.

Add chicken stock, 1/2 c. at a time, stirring regularly and allowing the liquid to fully absorb between each addition. Add pureed peas with the last ladle of stock, stirring to fully incorporate.

Add whole peas, lemon zest, mint, thyme, pepper, parmesan, and half of the pancetta. Stir to incorporate.

Serve in individual bowls, topped with remaining pancetta.

One year ago: rocky road fudge

Thursday, December 16, 2010

cooking...and data visualization?

I enjoy cooking, that much is clear. But those who know me personally are familiar with one of my geekier interests: data visualization. I studied applied math in school and have always enjoyed turning data into pictures and into stories. I teach a class at Google on this topic and recently have had the opportunity to present to external audiences as well. The external engagements in particular led me to start thinking about creating a personal brand that goes beyond the kitchen. I've enjoyed (and plan to continue to enjoy) blogging about my culinary adventures. I've decided to start blogging about data visualization, too.

I assume those interested in the intersection - cooking and data visualization - is not a large population. But in the event that you happen to enjoy both like I do, I recommend checking out my new second blog, which can be found at www.storytellingwithdata.com.

For those asking themselves what in the world data visualization is, don't fret - cole's kitch will remain focused on cooking. Stay tuned for a sweat pea risotto recipe that's been sitting in my 'to post' pile and will cause your taste buds to jump forward to spring for a moment until the sparkling holiday lights remind you that winter is nearly officially here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

carrot apple ginger soup



Between the garden and the bunches arriving the past two weeks in the CSA box (which JR didn't touch when I was in Seattle - I've never really figured out how/what he eats when I'm not here to cook...), I found myself with a fridge suddenly overrun with carrots earlier this week. Overrun with carrots and not exactly sure what to do with them.

I had soup on my mind. It has been cold and rainy - the kind of weather that calls for something hot to be simmering on the stovetop. I love unabashedly autumn thick, burnt-orange colored soups: butternut squash, kabocha, pumpkin. It struck me that carrot soup would have a similar sapphire tone. I scanned the kitchen to determine what else to incorporate. Onion is a soup-staple from my perspective. The apples and ginger root on the counter sounded like they would combine for a good flavor profile, so into the pot they went. The soup was healthy, tasty, and came together relatively quickly. If I had more time, I might have roasted the carrots first to bring out their natural sweetness. I'll try that next time.

Carrots from the garden.

A note on organic carrots: when I was scanning carrot soup recipes online, I noticed that many call for peeling the carrots. If you are vegetarian and use organic carrots (especially from your own garden), I would actually advise against this. Organic dirt is one of the few non-animal sources of B12, a vitamin important for brain and nervous system function. The small amount of organic dirt in your carrot's skin may actually be beneficial.

Carrot, Apple, Ginger Soup
Serves 4

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
8-10 medium organic carrots, chopped
3 medium apples, peeled & chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger root, minced
4 c. vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. honey
1 generous pinch of sea salt
toasted walnuts & cream for garnish

In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until soft. Add carrots, apples, and ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots begin to soften. Add broth, honey, and salt. Simmer for 20 minutes, until carrots are fully cooked.

Use an immersion blender (or an upright blender, processing the soup in batches as needed) to puree the soup to a smooth consistency. Serve topped with toasted walnuts and cream.

One year ago: eggplant pizza

Saturday, December 4, 2010

meringue, charcuterie, and turkey pie, oh my!


It's hard to believe that it's been a week already since I returned from Europe. This trip included adventures in London and Paris. Adventures with an incredible amount of amazing food, which is the topic of this post.

There was just one restaurant on my must-visit list in London: Ottolenghi. I had read about the quartet of London restaurants on several blogs and upon checking out their website, confirmed I needed to try one for myself. So on a chilly Wednesday evening after a day of museum exploration, I found myself trekking by tube and foot to Islington, north of London, with high hopes for a memorable meal. I was not disappointed.

The meal at Ottolenghi was one of the best meals I've eaten.

Ever.

While waiting for a table to open up, I occupied myself admiring the daily cold specials and pastries, my mouth watering more and more at each new treasure I observed.

What caught my eye most were the meringues: grapefruit-sized, stone-shaped objects in the flavors of chocolate, raspberry, and hazelnut. I chatted with the chap who was preparing takeout orders; he said without hesitation that hazelnut was his favorite, as it was soft in the middle with cinnamon inside that "tastes like Christmas".

Sold.

But first, dinner.

All of the menu items are tasting portions, which was lovely, as it meant that between myself and my dinner companion (a fellow foodie, so I was in good company), we were able to try a number of delicious dishes, including: roasted aubergine, thinly sliced tuna wrapped in nori with a wasabi-panko crust, beef carpaccio served with an amazing sweet-tangy cilantro dipping sauce (I'm not sure how I misguessed on the sweetener - I was sure it was agave, but upon asking learned it was maple syrup, which I use so often I should have definitely identified), a dish with salsify, mushrooms, and quail egg that might be the single best dish I've ever enjoyed, and a red wine too perfect to even attempt to put into words.

Desert consisted of a blueberry cupcake. A blueberry cupcake that served as the foundation for the best buttercream frosting I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Yes, the combination of sugar and butter typically yields good results. But this was beyond good. The cupcake itself was incredibly moist, with blueberry marmalade cleverly baked into the bottom of the cake.

I took the hazelnut meringue to go and enjoyed it the following morning with a cafe latte while waiting for a train to Paris. It was a little like eating sweet air with a bit of a crunch to it - until arriving at the middle, that is, which contained all of the warm spice of Christmas, as promised.

It's interesting to me that a London meal tops the list from my culinary adventures (not a city known for its great food); the rest of the highlights are from Paris:

Turkey pie (left, with cranberry sauce) on my Thanksgiving Day train ride to Paris.

Charcuterie and a beautiful rose from Provence in a Paris cafe.

French onion soup at another Paris cafe.

Tomate, fromage, jambon crepe enjoyed in a warm cafe near Sacre Couer as it began to snow outside.

Macaron chocolat enjoyed with an espresso in Gare du Nord.

...and one more non-food pic, because it's too beautiful not to share.


I continue to be enamored with Europe and am already starting to think about my next adventure: to Italy in the spring, if not sooner...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

red chard risotto



Leafy greens have become a weekly staple of late in the CSA delivery. I am enjoying the variety, which seems to run the gamut from week to week. Last week, it was beautiful baby dino kale (yes, sounds like an oxymoron, but it's true!). This week, our leafy greens came in the form of the biggest red chard leaves I have ever seen. Ever. "Bigger than my head," according to JR. The pic confirms it.

Sometimes big leaves can be tough or bitter, but I didn't find that to be an issue here. This was definitely a case of making up a dish based on ingredients we had on hand vs. grocery shopping with a specific idea in mind. I was happy with the results. Lemon brightens the flavor of the overall dish and I enjoy the salty bursts of kalamata olives. With a lighter colored stock (the mushroom stock is quite dark), it would be possible to create a beautiful pink risotto as the rice soaks up the color from the chard ribs.

My posts have been a little slow lately and will remain that way for a while. This is turning out to be a busy fall full of travel. Next up: London. While I don't plan to cook from there, I definitely do plan to eat: if you know of any great restaurants there, send me a note!

Red Chard Risotto
Serves 3-4

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch chard, center ribs separated from leaves: center ribs chopped and leaves cut into thin ribbons
zest & juice of 1 lemon
1 c. arborio rice
1/2 c. white wine
4 c. hot mushroom stock (can substitute vegetable or chicken)
a big pinch of white pepper
12 kalamata olives, quartered
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
1/4 c. feta cheese, plus more to garnish

Heat olive oil in a french oven. Add onions, garlic, and chard ribs. Cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add rice. Stir until covered with a nice sheen. Add wine. Simmer 3-4 minutes until mostly absorbed. Add lemon juice. Adjust heat to maintain a gentle simmer.

Add stock 1/2 c. at a time, letting the rice absorb the majority of liquid between each addition and stirring regularly.

Once rice is tender (if you run out of stock before this happens, add hot water 1/2 c. at a time until rice is tender). Add chard leaves, lemon zest (reserve some for garnish if desired), white pepper, olives, and cheeses. Stir and cook until chard is wilted.

Serve garnished with reserved lemon zest and a sprinkle of feta.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

pear galette


Today was a cold, rainy day. The kind of day that makes you want to drink hot tea, wear slippers into the afternoon, and avoid going outdoors at all cost. Due to my trip to the northwest and some busy workdays since returning, it has been weeks since I've posted anything made in my own kitchen. To top things off, my last post (over a week ago) features what might be my ugliest food photo ever. Yes, my mom's split pea soup tasted phenomenal, but no, it did not photograph well.

All good reasons to spend some quality time in my kitch making something beautiful and blog-worthy.

Four pretty pears called out to me from the fruit plate: two anjou and two bartlett. JR had bought them to go with the "blue cheese" he purchased, that upon opening the fridge I discovered was really Humboldt Fog chevre - one of my favorite cheeses, but I'd personally prefer to pair it with fruit & nut crackers. Which, in my opinion, meant that the pears were up for grabs.

Up for grabs and the perfect filling for my first galette, which seemed somehow fitting for this cold, fall day. The following recipe is loosely based on one I found on marthastewart.com. My main changes were to swap muscavado sugar for the white sugar called for, to omit corn starch and apricot jam, and to make the dough in my KitchenAid vs. a food processor. I left the skins on the pears to go with the rustic look of the free form pie.

The galette came together quickly and is unquestionably delicious (even without the vanilla ice cream I forgot to pick up at the grocery store to accompany it). Bonus: it photographs much better than split pea soup. :-)

Pear Galette
Serves 6

1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. muscavado sugar
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 c. chilled butter, cut into pieces
4 large pears, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/4 c. muscavado sugar
pinch of sea salt
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg
coarse sugar (I used demerara)

Combine flour, 1 Tbsp. sugar, and 1/2 tsp. salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add butter. Beat until the mixture resembles coarse meal, stopping to incorporate the flour that makes its way up the side of the bowl as needed. Add water slowly while mixer is in motion, mixing just until dough comes together. Flatten the dough into a disc, rap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Combine the pears, 1/4 c. sugar, and pinch of salt in a medium bowl.

Roll dough out on floured parchment paper to a roughly 14-inch round (aim for 1/4" thick). Mound pear mixture in the center of the dough, leaving a couple-inch border on all sides. Fold the dough over the pear mixture, overlapping where necessary and gently pressing to adhere folds. Transfer carefully on parchment to a baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Beat egg in a small bowl. Brush the edges of the dough with egg. Dot the top of the galette with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until crust is golden and juices are bubbling, about an hour.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

mom's split pea soup



Lesson #1: Split pea soup does not photograph well (especially given the limitations of my phone camera, which is the only photo-taking device I have with me at my mother's house).

Lesson #2: My mom makes the best split pea soup. She says it's different every time because she doesn't follow a recipe. Which means I had to give her the 5th degree to tease out something that resembles a recipe (exactly how many stalks of celery equates to "quite a bit of celery"? the answer, it turns out, is 5). Here's what I pieced together:

Mom's Split Pea Soup
Makes a big pot of soup

2 c. split peas, rinsed
2 ham hocks
10 peppercorns, smashed
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
5 stalks celery, chopped
marjoram, thyme, celery salt
1 c. milk
1 c. beef boullion

Simmer peas, ham hocks, and peppercorns in 6 cups of water in a partially covered soup pot for one hour.

In a separate pan, saute vegetables in a bit of olive oil until crisp tender.

Remove ham bone from broth and set it aside to allow to cool. Add vegetables and herbs/spices to broth and simmer for 1 hour.

Once ham hocks are cool enough to handle, cut the meat from the bone and chop.

Add ham, milk, and boullion to soup. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Lesson #3: Mom's split pea soup is even better on the second day. :-)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

maple syrup sweetened corn bread



I'm a bit obsessed with sweetening with maple syrup at the moment. I like the flavor and it doesn't have the sickly-sweet bite that sometimes comes with cane sugar.

Within the last week, maple syrup has made cameos in quinoa and in cookies. Tonight, I used it in corn bread (stay tuned for the recipe for the split pea soup that it accompanied!). Here's what I did:

Maple Syrup Sweetened Corn Bread

1 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 large egg
1 c. flour
1 c. corn meal
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt

Combine buttermilk, maple syrup, and egg in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients.

Add dry ingredients to buttermilk mixture; stir until just mixed.

Pour batter into greased 9x9 baking dish. Bake in 350 degree oven until edges are golden and center is set, 30-40 minutes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

doughnuts



The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Note: this post was written on 10/3, but held for publishing until the Daring Bakers' October release date (today).

I did something totally out of character this morning: I ate a doughnut for breakfast.

Ok, truth be told, I ate 2 doughnuts for breakfast.

And they were amazing. I can only describe my reaction to these fried and sugared wonders as surprised excitement. Doughnuts are not anything I would have ever thought to make (it's a very rare occasion that I would think to eat one). But when I learned they were the October Daring Bakers' challenge, I figured I'd give them a try. Unlike many of the challenges, this one didn't require any strange equipment or ingredients - I had all of the tools and ingredients on hand except for a doughnut cutter and the large quantity of oil required for the frying - both easily procured. So the same day that I read about the challenge online, I decided to give doughnut-making a try.

One word of caution: heating oil to 300ish degrees to fry 20ish doughnuts yields a very hot pot. Perhaps it was due to my awkward use of 2 smallish slotted spoons to transfer the doughnuts into and out of the hot oil, or perhaps it was due to my general clumsiness - but I can tell you for certain that it takes only a fraction of a second contact between skin and doughnut-frying-pot to produce quite a nasty burn. Given said clumsiness, I count myself lucky for coming out of the frying process with only one. But I'd strongly recommend avoiding the one if you can.

Luckily, I had plenty of doughnuts to soothe my pain. :-)


Given that this was my first doughnut attempt, I thought it wise to follow one of the given recipes to try to ensure an edible end product (I followed a yeast doughnut recipe). The recipe said it would yield 20-25 doughnuts, so I decided I'd experiment with half of the dough (hopefully ensuring at least 10ish edible doughnuts at the end).

For my "follow the recipe" half, I did just that. I dusted the resulting doughnuts in caster sugar. They were amazing. I love the contrast between the crisp edge, crunchy sugar, and soft, airy doughnut flesh.

For the experimental half, I played it relatively safe, adding 2 apples (peeled & finely grated with a microplane) to the dough and dusting with a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Once I figured out the right amount of additional flour to add so I could handle the dough (much more than I had anticipated, probably a cup or more in the end), the experiment was successful, yielding an apple-frittery-like doughnut. The apple doughnuts turned out denser than the plain version, but with great flavor.

If I were to do it again, I'd probably repeat the halves, as it would be too difficult to choose one over the other!

Here's what I did:

Doughnuts
Yields about 20 doughnuts & doughnut holes

1 1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. vegetable shortening
2 packages active dry yeast
1/3 c. warm water
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 2/3 c. all purpose flour (+more if adding apples)
canola oil for frying
optional: 2 apples, cored and finely grated

Heat milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until warm enough to melt shortening. Put shortening in a bowl and pour milk over. Set aside.

In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Let dissolve for 5 minutes (it should get foamy). Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add milk and shortening to mixer (should be lukewarm). Add eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Use paddle attachment to combine on low until the flour is incorporated. Turn to medium speed and beat until well combined.

Add remaining flour at low speed, then increase to medium and beat well. Change to hook attachment. Beat on medium until dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth 3-4 minutes.

If adding apples, add them to stand mixer at this point, plus an additional cup flour. Beat with mixer until throughly incorporated, adding more flour if the dough remains very sticky.

Transfer dough to a well-oiled bowl. Cover and let stand for 1 hour, until doubled in size.

On a well-floured surface, roll dough to 3/8" thick. Cut out dough using a 2 1/2 inch doughnut cutter. Set doughnuts and doughnut holes on floured baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat oil in a large pot to about 315 degrees. You want enough oil for about 3" depth. Gently place doughnuts 3-4 a a time. Cook 1 minutes per side until golden. Transfer to a rack to cool positioned over a baking pan to catch oil drips. Dust with sugar, or cinnamon sugar mixture.


Monday, October 25, 2010

apple peanut butter oatmeal cookies


It is apple season in Washington State. Red delicious, golden delicious, cameo, granny smith, pink lady, jonagold, braeburn, fugi, gala... with so many varieties, it's no wonder that apples are the state fruit. The majority come from the 185,000 acres of orchards nestled in the eastern foothills of the picturesque Cascade
Mountains.

I have the luxury of Washington apples grown even closer to home*.
*Closer to my mom's house in Poulsbo, WA, where I'm visiting currently.

The apple in my cookies traveled approximately 15 feet from tree to kitchen. (How's that for eating local?!?) It grew on the Gravenstein tree in my mom's front yard.

This was a true kitchen experiment, where I mixed and matched ingredients that sounded like they would go together, with hopes of getting something that would hold together and taste good in the end.

I'm going to count the endeavor a success. Because there's no cane sugar, these don't have the sugary-sweet taste of typical American baked goods. I think this makes the flavors of the peanut butter, apple, and oats stand out more. I'd recommend enjoying a warm cookie or two with a cool glass of milk.

Apple Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
1/4 c. natural peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. rolled oats
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt*
1 large apple, peeled and grated
*Reduce salt if the peanut butter you're using contains salt.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place rack in top 1/3 of oven.

Combine coconut oil, maple syrup, peanut butter, and vanilla in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda, and salt.

Add dry ingredients to wet. Stir to combine. Fold in apple.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoon 2" apart on cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden, flattening with a fork after the first 3-4 minutes.

One year ago: roasted pumpkin penne

Sunday, October 24, 2010

garlic ginger quinoa with kale and tempeh



Something with tempeh
was my mother's challenge to me for the evening meal last night.

Tempeh is a fermented food made from soybeans that has a firm texture and slightly nutty flavor. It is made from the whole soybean, giving it a higher protein, dietary fiber, and vitamin content than other soy-based foods. Because it is fermented, it is also easier to digest. Like tofu, tempeh readily absorbs the flavors of other foods with which it is cooked, making it versatile for cooking. Its texture stands up well in marinades. Probably my favorite preparation is pan frying, which yields a crispy exterior and soft spongy middle.

My mother's tempeh request was due to its potential cancer-fighting properties (she is currently battling uterine cancer). Several studies have shown that the potent antioxidant in tempeh inhibits malignant cell growth and possibly kills human cancer cells. Other items on my mom's anti-cancer list (due to anti-cancer properties that she's read about from various sources): shitake mushrooms, beets, blueberries, carrots, garlic, ginseng, green tea, and fruit (especially grapes). When I battled my way through the rain to the grocery store yesterday afternoon, I made a point of loading up on many foods from this list and incorporated a few into last night's dinner.

I was originally planning on making this dish with green beans. But as I perused the organic vegetables at the grocery store, the lacinato kale, with its beautiful dark blueish green leaves, called out to me. I decided to let it replace the green beans in the recipe that had formed in my head. I am glad I did.

My mom watched in the kitchen as I prepared this meal, somewhat skeptical based on the ingredients that it would turn into something she would want to eat. I think this was mostly based on the inclusion of kale. The last time I tried to convince her of the awesomeness of kale, I made a bad substitution (we were out of balsamic, but instead of running to the store, I tried substituting red wine and rice vinegar... not something I would recommend) that rendered the resulting garlicky kale much less appetizing than it would otherwise have been. I promised that this kale would be much better (hoping desperately that she would like it!).

A couple bites erased my mom's skepticism. Her comment was something like this is actually really good, which I decided to take as a compliment. We discussed that this is a nutrient-packed, healing meal: cancer fighting tempeh, garlic, and shitake mushrooms, whole grain and protein-rich quinoa, healing ginger, and vitamin-packed kale. It also tasted great. The flavor was well-balanced garlicky-salty-sweet, with the crunch of the pan-fried tempeh offsetting the soft textures of the other components. Here's what I did:

Garlic Ginger Quinoa with Kale & Pan Fried Tempeh
Serves 3-4

3/4 c. quinoa
olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
3 Tbsp. tamari
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 bunch lacinato kale, center stem removed and roughly chopped
1 handful shitake mushrooms, sliced
6 oz. tempeh, cut into 1/2" cubes
2 scallions, sliced on the diagonal

Cook quinoa according to directions. Set aside.

Combine tamari, maple syrup, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger. Cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add kale. Cover and allow to steam for 2 minutes. Uncover. Add mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally. Add quinoa and tamari mixture. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Cover and reduce heat to low to keep warm.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a separate pan over medium-high heat. Add tempeh. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tempeh is crisp and golden.

Serve quinoa mixture on individual plates. Top with pan fried tempeh and scallions.

One year ago: pear bread

Saturday, October 23, 2010

perfect easy hard boiled eggs


I got up this morning and immediately began thinking about food. I started perusing recipes online and imagining things to make. Between busy work and weekend obligations of late, it's been some time since I've been able to do this. I'm currently on a bit of a break - I'm in the northwest for 10 days, spending time with my mother. Time that will include cooking.

My online searching was focused on dinner ideas. But then I started thinking about an earlier meal: lunch. I have plans to visit the grocery store this afternoon, so scanned the fridge and cupboards for ingredients to make something tasty prior to that trip.

The eggs in the fridge called out to me. I love egg salad sandwiches, but very rarely think to make them. Decision made.

Actual recipes and recounts of my adventures in my mother's Poulsbo kitch should follow in the next week. But in the meantime, here's an easy, step by step guide to perfect hard boiled eggs.

Perfect, Easy Hard Boiled Eggs

1. Place eggs in a single layer in the bottom of a large pan.
2. Cover with water (water level should be 1 inch higher than eggs).*
3. Heat pot on high to a rapid boil.
4. Turn off heat; allow eggs to sit in hot water for 15 minutes.
5. Drain and rinse under cool water. Allow to cool. Your eggs are ready to enjoy!
*Some would add vinegar or salt at this step to help prevent cracking, but I've never had any cracking issues so I don't do this.

I turned my hardboiled eggs into egg salad by mashing the peeled eggs together with mayonnaise, mustard, white vinegar, tarragon, and white pepper.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

roasted garlic, kale, and cannellini soup



I left sunny San Francisco Friday morning for a weekend in SoCal filled with grey sky and drizzle. Drizzle that moved up the coast while we feted friends getting married (congrats, Gary & Jayme!). Drizzle that caused our short flight earlier today to be delayed by two hours and then kept us on the tarmac in the airplane for an hour waiting for SFO to clear us to land so that we could leave LA. Drizzle that met us here upon landing.

When we finally got home - cold and hungry - all I could think about was hot soup. So I set about making some.

I had kale on hand from the last CSA delivery - beautiful petite curly kale. I've been convinced since I made kale cannellini crostini earlier in the year that these greens and beans were made for each other. But what else to include? Should I keep it simple, or go to town? I started flipping through cookbooks for inspiration.

I found one in Fresh that caught my eye: roasted garlic, winter kale, and white bean soup. I've never thought to put roasted garlic in soup. Surely, that's a fantastic idea. The kale soup they had in mind included potatoes and heavy cream. That didn't fit the bill, but it didn't matter, as the roasted garlic idea was all I needed to put the rest into motion.

The resulting soup was hot, healthy, and flavorful. It reminded me how much I enjoy having something cooking on the stove when the weather is chilly. I will definitely make this again. I'm already looking forward to eating the leftovers tomorrow. Here's what I did:

Roasted Garlic, Kale & Cannellini Soup
Serves 3-4

1 large head of garlic
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
3 c. vegetable stock (I used my favorite mushroom stock)
2 c. water
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
15 oz. can cannellini beans, well rinsed and drained
1 bunch kale, center ribs removed and roughly chopped
rustic bread
high quality extra virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Make a small boat out of aluminum foil. Place garlic head in it and roast in oven until soft, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool, then remove skin from cloves. Chop.

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion. Stir and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add half of the roasted garlic and all of the thyme. Stir and cook 1 minute.

Add stock, water, and tomatoes (with juice). Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium. Partially cover pot and simmer for 30 minutes.

Stir in kale and beans. Cook 10 minutes uncovered. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix the other half of the roasted garlic with 3 Tbsp. olive oil and a generous pinch of sea salt. Spread on rustic bread and enjoy alongside (or dipped in) soup.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

potato green bean curry



This has been sitting in my 'to post' pile for a couple of weeks now. Which basically means that I don't remember too much about it, other than conceiving it because it sounded good and it apparently photographed well. The fact that it made it into the 'to post' pile means that it met my expectations taste-wise.

I try to keep my cupboards stocked with curry powder, coconut milk, canned tomatoes, and garbanzo beans, so that I always have the basic staples for curry on hand. Vegetable and starch additions are interchangeable - throw in what you have available or what sounds good. We ate this dish as follows. If you omit the potatoes, I'd recommend serving it over rice or noodles. It would also be great with a side of naan.

Potato Green Bean Curry
Serves 2-3

olive oil
2 handfuls fingerling potatoes, sliced into 1/2" thick rounds
2 handfuls green beans, trimmed and cut into 2" pieces
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, chopped
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
15 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 handful mushrooms, sliced
about 7 oz. coconut milk (not lite)
2 Tbsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
chopped cilantro, to top

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix potatoes with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and a generous pinch of sea salt. Transfer to baking sheet. Roast in oven 10 minutes.

Add green beans to same bowl as used for potatoes. Mix to coat with some of the olive oil that remained in the bowl. After potatoes have roasted for 10 minutes, add green beans to baking sheet and roast an additional 10 minutes.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add curry powder and red pepper flakes. Stir to coat. Cook 1 minute.

Add tomatoes and coconut milk. Cook, stirring occasionally until bubbly.

Add roasted vegetables, garbanzo beans, and mushrooms. Mix well. Reduce heat to low, simmer for 5 minutes. Serve topped with cilantro.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

prosciutto-wrapped figs



The figs this year have been amazing: giant, beautiful Turkish figs, intensely flavorful mission figs.

Tip: they are even better wrapped in proscuitto.

I am taking an Italian class Tuesday evenings at Stanford, in anticipation of a trip to Italy in the Spring to visit my brother, who will be studying in Bologna. My professor's name is Giovanni. Because the class is focused on basic Italian for travelers (and perhaps because it runs through dinnertime), a decent amount of our conversation tends to be focused on cibo, food. At least twice per class, Giovanni reminds us: Prosciutto e melone? No, no. Prosciutto e fichi. Prosciutto e fichi sono deliziosi.

So perhaps it was due to Giovanni's inspiration that I had prosciutto and figs on my mind when I was planning our dinner party last weekend. I found this combination to be perfectly balanced: salty against sweet, the crispy prosciutto di Parma offset by the soft flesh of the fig. Meravigliosa!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs
40 appetizers

20 mission figs
2 oz. goat cheese
1/3 lb. thinly sliced prosciutto
honey

Preheat broiler.

Remove stem from fig. Slice in half. Top each half with a dallop of goat cheese. Wrap with prosciutto. Place prosciutto-wrapped figs on baking tray.

Broil for about 2 minutes, until prosciutto begins to crisp and cheese begins to melt. Transfer to serving tray. Drizzle with honey. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

butternut squash lasagna



It is officially fall. There is a crispness in the air. Colors are changing from bright greens to burnt oranges and yellows. Though the days have remained beautiful and sunny, I've awoken the past two nights from slumber to the sound of rain - a sound I haven't heard for months.

With the transition from tank tops to sweaters also comes the ripening of fall crops: apples, squashes, cruciferous veggies. One of my personal favorites that is available here year-round, but seems to fit into fall fare best is butternut squash.

Our friends Todd & Rachael came over for dinner last night: as expected, it was an evening filled with great food, some amazing wines, and entertaining conversation. I spent the day planning and making our meal, selecting butternut squash for the main course and incorporating apples, sage, and goat cheese to tie us from one dish to the next. For me, this meal marked our culinary transition into autumn. Here's what we ate:
I had been considering the idea of butternut squash lasagna for some time. My basic idea was to transform squash risotto into lasagna form, including lasagna staples like ricotta and mozzarella. The resulting dish was tremendous: flavorful without being too rich, filling without being too heavy, full of cheesy, butternut squash and sagey goodness. I am already looking forward to eating the leftovers for dinner tonight. Here's what I did:

Butternut Squash Lasagna
Serves 6-8

1 medium butternut squash
9 lasagna noodles
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
15 oz. whole milk ricotta
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
4 c. fresh mozzarella, grated
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 c. fresh sage, roughly chopped
1 c. mushroom stock
3 oz. fresh parmesan, shaved

Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Brush with olive oil and place cut-side down in glass baking dish. Roast in 400-degree oven until soft, about 60 minutes.

Cook lasagna noodles according to directions. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl. Add ricotta, cream, egg yolks, and 2 c. mozzarella. Mix to incorporate. Set aside.

In the same pan used to cook onions, melt butter over medium heat. Add sage leaves. Cook until sage is light gold and begins to crisp, 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Scoop flesh of roasted squash into the same large bowl. Add broth. Stir to combine.

Spread 1 c. of the ricotta mixture in the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish. Cover with a layer of noodles. Top noodles with 1/2 squash mixture, then another cup of ricotta mixture. Repeat. Top final noodle layer with remaining ricotta mixture, remaining 2 c. mozzarella, and parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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