Saturday, September 19, 2015

Real Simple: End of Summer Dinner

This weekend is the last weekend before Fall officially sets in on the east coast. In other parts of the US, the dates that demarcate the changing of seasons can seem arbitrary. But in New York City, a few weeks after the school year begins, and Fall arrives, the weather, the air, and the wind really do change and make it feel like autumn.

So what does the end of summer mean for food or, more specifically, for me, as an ingredient-obsessed cook? Well, for one thing, it means I better get in my fair share of tomatoes before I mourn their disappearance and I can only find them in cans or my freezer. After I made this pasta from the Smitten Kitchen blog last weekend, I could not stop lusting for tomatoes that taste so candy-sweet all on their own!

I kept this dish real simple - roughly chopped heirloom beauties, basil from our pot on the sill, garlic, fresh corn (because that will be done soon, too), peppery olive oil and fresh burrata. And I think I would have been happy to eat it without any pasta at all! Maybe next time...

How To Keep It Simple:

2-3 pounds of the best tomatoes you can get your paws on
1 clove garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
1 ear amazing corn, kernels cut off the cob
2 T lemon juice
fresh black pepper to taste
salt to taste
Pasta shape of choice, cooked according to package
burrata, or other fresh cheese
olive oil to finish

Combine tomatoes, garlic, corn, lemon, pepper, salt in a bowl. Let sit for close to 20 minutes. Cook pasta. Serve pasta with vegetables on top, and douse with cheese and olive oil to finish. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Make this soup! (it's cold outside)

All I wanted to eat yesterday was something that would be soothing on my throat. Ahh, sore throat syndrome has finally reached my body.

I browsed and browsed. I sought a simple recipe with few ingredients. Simple process. I found this on Smitten Kitchen - it's a recipe that had been adapted from Charlie Trotter for the NYTimes. I like that it can be completely vegetarian or, if you want a richer soup, you can use a meat stock, instead. I also like the clarity of the soup - the thinly sliced onions cook for almost an hour before anything is added to them and then, even when stock is added, it's completely clear! Just broth and onions! The herbs are infused by steeping them in the soup for just a few minutes wrapped in cheesecloth or, if you have none on hand, by tying them together with thread or stuffing them into large fillable tea bags, as I did.

The wild rice blend at the bottom makes the soup heartier, and the blue cheese croutons on top just make it more exciting! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Sweet Onion Soup with wild rice and blue cheese croutons
Serves 4-6

1/2 c wild rice (I could only find a wild rice "blend" which was fine)
3 T butter
2.5 lb vidalia or other sweet onion, sliced very thin
salt and pepper
6 c vegetable or meat stock, or 3 c stock, 3 c water
herb bundle (3/4 c chopped herbs, may include: tarragon, chives, basil, parsley, thyme)
baguette, sliced
olive oil (for brushing)
blue cheese

Cook rice according to directions on package. Wild rice should take around 45-55 minutes.
In a large pot or dutch oven, melt butter over low heat. Add onions. Toss to coat in butter, then cover the pot. Leave onions to sweat in covered pot for 15 min. After 15 min, uncover pot, stir onions. Add some salt and pepper, stir, raise heat to medium, and continue cooking onions another 25 min. You want the onions to be well cooked and tender, but not browned, so lower the heat if you need to. After 25 min, add the stock. Simmer over low-medium heat for an additional 25 min. Add salt and pepper to taste. In last 5 minutes of simmering, add herb bundle. When time is up, remove herbs. Brush the baguette slices with olive oil on each side and pop 'em onto a baking sheet and into the oven set to 400 for 5-10 minutes. When bread is warm from oven, spread blue cheese on top.
To serve, spoon rice into the bowl first, then add onion soup, and top with 2-3 blue cheese toasts. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Welcome to 2015!

Let's kick off my return to food blogging with a bang, shall we? Perhaps by highlighting last night's Winter Foods potluck at 666?
There were no specific guidelines - only that attendees should prepare something seasonal (-ish, considering we are in the midst of a New York winter). And everyone was told that of the 9 of us, 4 or so would be vegetarians. Despite the dark, cold winter having descended upon us all, together we made a pretty colorful table! Clockwise from center we had: blood orange and grapefruit fennel salad with pomegranate and hazelnuts, vegetarian farroballs and tomato sauce, dal with spiced yogurt, chickpea leek salad with feta, polenta with mushrooms, kale cabbage salad with apples and cumin, Finnish avocado pasta, and risotto with beet and taleggio.

Recipes to come in the next few days!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Home Brewed Ginger Beer

This may look just like a small glass of drink. Maybe even a glass of ginger beer, which it is! But did you know it's homemade? So easy! You can do it, too! Even better with added Anchor Steam's whiskey, Old Potrero.

This non-alcoholic fermented beverage is created with the help of making a ginger bug. I got my recipe from Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation. For those of you who don't know, Sandor Elliot Katz is a fermentation genius. Aside from touting the health benefits of fermentation, which are huge, Katz makes the idea of fermentation way less daunting than some other authors. He makes me excited to begin fermenting things. And going through the process of starting a new ferment makes me feel like a creative scientist, which is an added bonus!

Here's how to make a ginger bug:
In a clean, hopefully sterilized mason jar or bowl, place a couple of tablespoons of grated/minced ginger, with the skin still on, and a tablespoon or 2 of turbinado (or even white) sugar. Add a cup of water. Stir, place cheesecloth on top, and let sit. For the next couple of days, add a bit more ginger and a bit more sugar (but not more water), until the mixture develops bubbles on the surface. Once the bubbles appear, you know that some friendly bacteria are eating that sugar and releasing CO2, the stuff that makes your soda bubbly. Congrats. You have created a Ginger Bug!

Now, bring a pot of water to boil. 4 c water, 2 c sugar, 6 inches grated or minced ginger, skin on!
Let this ginger base cool. Add juice of 2 lemons, 12 more cups of water, and when it is definitely cooled completely, add your ginger bug! Stir well. Strain through cheese cloth or fine mesh sieve, and bottle in sterilized bottles. I used these awesome fellers with swing tops. Place bottles in a dark place, and let ferment for 2 or more weeks, then move to the fridge for a couple of days and enjoy with ice, plain, or whiskey!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Back! For Summer CSA goodness

After an extended hiatus, I'm back, with amazing produce from our organic CSA. If you don't remember from last year's explanation, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It's a coop system where you pay a fixed fee in the beginning of the season as an investment in the farm, and then each week, for a few months, you get a share - think of it as your dividend, in edibles!

Getting a CSA can be particularly daunting. So many vegetables, so little time! What can you do? How do you use them all (or most) before the next week's share comes in? I find the process a bit overwhelming sometimes, and I was a bit worried about this week, since Mr. Ripe is away. Lots of vegetables, all for me. What's a girl to do?

This past week, we got some really good stuff. Fresh onions with greens attached, garlic scapes, arugula, salad mix, summer squash, sugar snap peas, shell peas... I'm sure I'm forgetting something... oh - Parsley. A good mix of things green and other colors.

Dinner last night highlighted the CSA bounty: 2 grilled pizzettes, one with garlic scape pesto and mozzarella, the other with smashed blanched shell peas, grilled zucchini slices, mozzarella, and shredded boiled egg to finish. I sat outside with a friend and munched away, and then enjoyed the latest batch of infused vodka (nectarine/lime/ginger).

What a summer night! Below you'll find the recipe for scape pesto, and an introduction to what, exactly, a scape is:

A garlic scape is the bit of green that grows out of planted hardneck garlic that farmers chop off so as to not let the green drain the garlic bulb of its energy. The green is cut and sometimes sold at the farmers market or thrown into your CSA, and the garlic bulb is left in the ground to grow a bit more before it's harvested.

Scape pesto is like basil pesto, only without the basil, and garlicky!
I used 1/2 c roughly chopped garlic scapes
1/4 c of blanched almonds, toasted, or sunflower seeds, or sesame seeds, or pumpkin seeds, or a mix of all!
3 T grated parmesan
1/2 to 1 t salt
juice of half one lemon
1/4 c olive oil or grapeseed oil

Put the scapes, nuts, parm, salt in a food processor. Chop it up real well in there. Then alternatively add lemon juice and oil as the machine is running. Scrape down sides and run again, until a smooth paste is formed. Add more oil if necessary. Taste, add salt or more lemon as needed.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Happy Hamantashen!

I had four of these for breakfast. And then made more. And now all the raw dough is gone, and I'm almost positive the cookies will be gone within 24 hours, too, even though I only live with one other person. It's hard to find the perfect hamantashen recipe. But thankfully, after a friend shared her mother's recipe with me, I can make (and share with you) the BEST hamantashen I've ever had.
Happy Purim, everyone.
And Thanks, Elaine!

makes about 50 2-3" cookies

3 c flour
1 heaping cup sugar
3 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
3/4 c shortening* 
2 beaten eggs
2-4 T orange juice
lekvar or thick jam for filling

Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.With your fingertips, mash the shortening into the dry ingredients. Roll shortening gobs into the flour mix, and you should have a pebbly/sandy looking mixture in your bowl. Now add the eggs and 2 T OJ. Mix until combined (I used a fork for this), and if it's too crumbly, not enough like a dough, add more OJ, by the tablespoonful, and mix after each addition. If dough is still crumbly, you can add some water, but 4 T should be enough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.
When ready, roll dough out to about 1/8" thick. I did this in batches of a third of the recipe at a time, keeping the other two thirds in the fridge. With a small glass or round cookie cutters, cut the dough into circles and place on ungreased cookie sheet as you cut. If you have dough scraps left over, just ball them up and re-roll. I was able to roll dough out 3 times.
When all the circles are cut, dab a half or full teaspoon of jam in the middle, but no more than that!!!
Fold into triangles. I used this method which was AMAZINGLY helpful.
When all are folded, bake 10 min, or until golden brown at the edges. Remove from pan and cool on rack. Be careful - hot cookies = hot jam = very burnt mouth!!

*I will admit, I was really not into buying Crisco for these - I was actually embarrassed buying it in the store and even more, I had to have someone help me get it because it was on a super high shelf and I couldn't get it down myself. But for some reason, it is the only fat that creates the results you want in the perfect cookie. So, like me, you will get over the shortening hump.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Black and White minis

I love getting the Food 52 Digest on Sundays. It's a rare digest day when I don't find myself drawn to at least one of the recipes for inspiration. Usually, though, I don't see something and have the urge to make it IMMEDIATELY. Today this very thing happened when my eye caught Mini Black and White Cookies!

I'm always on the hunt for a good black and white cookie. There's nothing I hate more than buying a cookie that looks like a black and white only to find it is an Imposter black and white cookie, not a real one. This recipe *almost* makes the cut of excellent black and white. The cakey bottom is spot on - it has the right texture and flavor. My only complaint (which I'm sure I could fix with some research) is that the fondant-like icing was not as creamy/waxy/thick as I like it to be - my test for perfect black and white cookie icing is that I should be able to peel it off in 1-3 pieces and eat it as its own entity if I so choose. Not possible with this recipe, but still a pleasure to make and eat. I honestly made the entire recipe within one hour and was eating cookie after cookie shortly after that.

Here is the recipe, adapted from Food 52:
 1 c all purpose flour + 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour (or just 1.5 c flour)
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
6 T room temp butter
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
1/3 c buttermilk

Heat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone liner. Whisk together flour, soda, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, cream sugar and butter. Add egg and vanilla. Mix. Alternate between adding the flour and the buttermilk, in three additions.  Stir until just mixed. Spoon cookie dough by the tablespoonful onto prepared pans, leaving an inch between cookies. Bake 6-10 min, until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool on racks. When completely cool, spread vanilla and chocolate icing (recipe below)
on half of each cookie.

1 1/2 c confectioners sugar, sifted
pinch salt
1/2 t vanilla
1 T light corn syrup
2 t lemon juice
2 T water
6 T cocoa, sifted

In a medium bowl, whisk sugar, salt, vanilla, corn syrup, lemon juice, and water until smooth. You're going for spreadable and thick, not runny. If it's too thick, add water by the teaspoon. Too runny? Add more sugar by the tablespoon. Take half of the icing out and put in new bowl, and add cocoa to this bowl. Add water until spreadable. You can also add 1/4 t instant espresso powder to the chocolate but I didn't have any and it turned out fine.