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


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:

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

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

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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