Friday, October 29, 2010

CSA #20

Yes, friends, our CSA is over. I'm so sad! I'm not sure I can go back to Big Y produce (it's fine, but compared to the CSA veggies, it's just a little wilty and sad), so I may have to start going to Davidian Bros in Northboro regularly.

What did our lasts CSA share bring us?
some potatoes, 2 tiny garlics, 2 pears, a bunch of beets, a bunch of carrots,
2 leeks, a head of lettuce some tomatoes, some peppers, a bunch of kale, and a really cute little squash (possibly a kabocha? I'm not sure)

What did I do with it all?

The potatoes have gone with our other potatoes, in the cellar. Clint needs to cook them somehow (although maybe I'll get inspired to cook something to share with others- I'll cook potatoes, I just won't eat them).

One tomato (so far) has gone into a salad, as has a good amount of lettuce. However, about the lettuce... we're still eating lettuce from 2 weeks ago. And you know what? It's still good. Have you ever seen lettuce that lasts that long?! I'm not sure if they're growing super lettuce, or that's how organic lettuce is, or what, but it's great! We keep it in open ziptop bags with a damp paper towel, and the lettuce just does not wilt! (well, eventually it does, so then we cut the bottom and put it in a bowl of water until it perks up again)

The leeks will go in a pumpkin quiche, more on that next week.

The carrots will probably go in salad, they're delicious and I want to enjoy them to the fullest (so eating them raw seems best).

The beets will be pureed and frozen for later.

The kale will go in Portuguese kale and sausage soup, eventually.

The squash will be part of the table centerpiece for a while, and then I'll cook it up (roast, stuff and bake, or puree and add to bread or something).

The pears will go into a pear crisp or pie (probably).

As for the peppers... I'm not sure. We have so many, and I can't even be in the kitchen when Clint cuts them because of my allergy to them (think about when you cut into a super strong onion everything stings... that's me in the dining room when Clint cuts a pepper in the kitchen. Pickle-making time at my parents' house was awful, they had to slice up like 4lbs of green peppers in the food processor. I had to go outside for a few hours.) I think I'll put one or two on a pizza tomorrow, mostly on one side and not the other.

I need to tally up all our bounty from the 20 weeks of CSA. Overall, we loved it. It was so much fun to be surprised every week, and learn to use veggies I'd never thought about before (chard and kale, garlic scapes). The quality was excellent, better than I'd imagined. We didn't get the volume we expected, but we struggled to use everything we did get (and our freezer's pretty full now). But the quality definitely makes up for less quantity. In the end, having a 20 week-long CSA was awesome, and we can't wait to sign up for next year.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What's Baking? Round 1

Well, it's finally happened- I joined a baking bloggers group! It's a small group, I believe there are 15 of us, and therefore it seems much less daunting than figuring out how to get into all the other big groups out there, like Tuesdays with Dorie (I don't even own any of Dorie Greenspan's cookbooks, anyway) or Barefoot Bloggers. And really, a bake along every week? Lately I'm lucky if I can make dinner every week.
One day, a nestie posted, asking if anyone was interested in a baking group. I jumped right in! We are What's Baking? and at the end of each month, I'll tell you what I chosen to bake from our assigned theme.

October: Fall-themed cupcakes
A year ago (fortunately, I never delete an email!) Bird emailed me this recipe for caramel apple cupcakes, looking for my opinion on her idea to bake them for a bake sale. Ok, really: apple cupcakes, caramel instead of frosting, how could this not be a hit?! She ended up making what turned into her famous whoopie pies (they're really Martha's, but they're Bird's specialty now), and I filed this recipe away to make myself a bit later.

A year later... after the What's Baking girls all agreed on fall cupcakes, I started looking around. I was about to embark on a big pumpkin cooking/baking spree, so I kind of want to not use pumpkins. What else would say fall? Candy corn would be good (Alison Ladman had another good recipe in the paper last weekend, candy corn cupcakes this time- I'll probably make those in the near future). Apples would be really good, but since there are 15 of us, I wanted something more than a standard apple spice cupcake with cream cheese or cinnamon frosting.

Did I mention how much I love caramel?

Caramel Apple cupcakes,
taken from chockylit.
For the cupcakes:
3-4 medium-sized apples (I used a mix of random seconds from Tougas, some golden delicious, a pink lady, and a mac)
1 1/3 cup flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1t ginger
1t cinnamon
1/2t nutmeg
1t baking soda
heavy pinch of salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola/veggie oil
1/4 cup apple cider (or juice)
1t vanilla

1. Core the apples. Place them on a baking sheet and bake at 350F for about an hour, until they're nice and mushy. Allow to cool, then scoop out apple mush and mash it well with a fork. Measure out 1cup, and eat the rest (eat the skins, too, they'll have apple mush clinging and are tasty)

2. Whisk together all the dry ingredients, set aside.

3. Beat the eggs, then add the oil, cider and vanilla, mix, then add the apple mush. Finally, add the dry ingredients, stir til just combined.

4. Fill muffin tins (greased or lined with cupcake wrappers- I used my silicone cupcake wrappers again) about 2/3 full with batter. Bake at 350F for 22-25 minutes. Makes about 15 cupcakes

Note: this recipe included a cream cheese frosting filling, which I did not do, mostly because I'm lazy, but we can pretend it was solely because I didn't want those extra calories.

Caramel "frosting"
(i.e. best frosting ever)

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (I used fat free)
1T cream (I used fat free 1/2&1/2)
dash of vanilla
pinch of salt
Note: You'll need a candy thermometer

1. Combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and SC milk in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat while the butter dissolves. Once it has started to boil, add the 1T cream/1/2&1/2.

2. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 248F on your candy thermometer (don't have one? another, less good, caramel recipe follows- but really, get a candy thermometer, they're cheap and available at the grocery store). This took me about 12 minutes, but the original recipe said 20 minutes.

3. Once it's reached temperature (and it will be boiling nicely and be really gooey and neat-looking by now), remove the saucepan from heat and add the vanilla and salt. Keep stirring for a few minutes while the mixture cools.

4. Cool about 15 minutes more, and then using a small offset spatula, spread the caramel mixture over the cupcakes.
5. Once you've finished frosting the cupcakes, you'll still have more than 1 cup of caramel left. Cut some apples wedges (a nice tart apple, like a Mutsu or Granny Smith) and dip in the caramel. The caramel will harden, zap it in the microwave until it's just starting to be soft- the next day, once it was completely at room temperature, it needed about 40 seconds in the microwave.

Alternate Caramel recipe
Caramel Sauce,

1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 cup cream (fat free 1/2&1/2 again)

In a medium saucepan over medium/medium-high heat, melt the butter and brown sugar. Once the butter's completely melted, stir in the cream/1/2&1/2. Cook, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool until it's gooey (it's pretty liquid while hot), and drizzle over the cupcakes.
I actually used this caramel sauce recipe to go with the pumpkin bread pudding epicurious intends it for (ooh sneak peek above!) But it's delicious and a nice easier alternative (although honestly, I prefer the first recipe). Oh another bonus: this recipe won't pull your fillings out. I'm a little nervous the first recipe will.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Return of the smell-good Sundays... on Saturday

There was some talk a while ago, about blogging recipes that aren't really recipes, because they're so easy and basic everyone knows them. The consensus was mostly that we only assume everyone knows, but some people like a little guide when they're learning these basic things.

So today I give you... French Toast.

French Toast is my favorite weekend breakfast. I love using Pepperidge Farm's cinnamon raisin bread, and lots of spices, and lots of real maple syrup. This "recipe" is what I grew up with, and is exactly how I like it.

French toast,
serves 1-2, depending how hungry you are.

4-5 slices of bread you love. I often collect the "heels" (the end slices) of La Panciata cinnamon raisin bread in the freezer to save for french toast. This time I cut up the last of the Pittsfield Bakery cinnamon walnut apple raisin bread from the week before.
1 egg
3/4-1 cup milk
1/2t cinnamon, approx
1/4t ginger, approx
1/8t nutmeg, approx
1/2t vanilla, approx

Beat the egg and milk together in a small, shallow bowl (I have a special french toast bowl, used only for french toast, or breading chicken. A small, 6 or 8inch, cake pan would work). Add the spices and vanilla.

Spray a griddle or large frying pan with cooking spray, heat to medium-high heat. Sprinkle some water droplets on it, if they dance around, it's ready. If they sizzle and evaporate immediately, it's too hot, and if they just sit there, it's too cool. Adjust heat accordingly.

Dunk bread slices, one by one, in the egg mixture. Smoosh around so they're really covered, then transfer to the pan. Do only 2-3 slices of bread at a time, depending how big your pan is, you want space between them all. Cook for a few minutes, then flip when the bottom is a little brown. Cook the other side til it's browned. Transfer to a plate (if you're making a lot, set the oven to about 200F and keep the french toast in there until everything's ready, to keep them all warm). Repeat with the remaining slices of bread.

Serve with real VT maple syrup. If you don't live where you can easily get real maple syrup, use a nice fruit syrup, or make friends with New Englanders that will visit you and bring you maple syrup in return for letting them stay in your guest room for the weekend. I forbid you to use fake maple syrup.

Alternatively, make a fruit compote. I intend to do this next time, and I'll tell you about it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

CSA #19

Ah, friends, the 2nd-to-last CSA share. :(

Now I'm even more sorry not to be a part of the fall CSA, because I'm really loving the produce of October.

Excitement at the bottom of the bag:
a pumpkin!!

And it was a Pansy-sized pumpkin.
We also got:
1lb of onions
cilantro, parsley, 4 pears, assorted (super fragrant) peppers, 3 tomatoes,
a huge bag of spinach (which will probably be 1 serving of sauteed spinach, oh well), red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, and beets.
So far we've used 3 onions, a tomato and some lettuce for tacos. I'll probably boil and puree the beets, and saute the spinach. The pumpkin, as well as all the squash from previous weeks, are hanging out to serve as a centerpiece for our Halloween party. I'll cook them after that (unless I don't have enough canned pumpkin for all the pumpkin dishes, but I found 2 more 15oz cans in the pantry, so I should have enough).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Adding to my apple reportoire

I had apples. I had butter, I had sugar. I had an urge to do something I'd never done before.

So obviously, I made an apple tarte tatin.

It came out pretty good. I had some issues (I burned the apples in the middle of the pan, and as a result, it didn't come out prettily when I flipped the pan over), but even so, this is seriously one of the best apple dishes I've made.

I originally planned to make it for the same small dinner party I made the pork with roasted grapes for- but I decided it's better to make a tried and true recipe for dessert when your dinner is something new. So I saved this for when we had friends over for dessert, immediately following going out to a restaurant. This worked very nicely, although I'm still kicking myself for forgetting to serve the ice cream. I always forget the ice cream!
Apple Tarte Tatin,
from a guest post on Smitten Kitchen

note: I followed the instructions exactly (this is rare for me), and used a food processor. I combined the dry ingredients in the food processor, then stuck the whole thing (not the electronic base, of course, just the bowl, blade and flour/etc) in the freezer for almost an hour. I diced the butter and froze that, and I use the chilled water that comes out of our fridge. It's important to keep everything cold, so that you get a nice, flaky crust.

1 1/2 cup AP flour
1.5T sugar
dash of salt
5oz (10T) butter
3-6T ice water

In the bowl of your food processor, whizz the dry ingredients briefly. Put the bowl and blade, with the flour still in there, in the freezer. Chop the butter into smallish pieces, freeze those. Chill the water. Leave it all for about 45 minutes.

Bring it all out, and add the butter to the flour mixture. Whizz until it's crumbly, then slowly add the water. I actually used the full 6T of water, and it was a little wetter than I thought it should be, but it was still good. It should come together, but not quite form a ball.

Turn the dough out on a floured or plastic wrap-lined surface, and pat into a dish. Don't handle it too much, you don't want it to get too warm. Roll into a circle big enough to cover your skillet, about 11 inches for me. Chill in the fridge while you make the apples (I rolled it up with the plastic wrap and laid it carefully on top of the egg carton to keep it from flopping or tearing.)

Apple filling:
7-9 apples, peeled and cut into wedges
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar

In a large skillet, about 8inch across on the bottom and 11 inches on the top (I used my Le Creuset braiser), melt butter over high heat. Once it's melted, remove from heat and whisk in the sugar, until it's dissolved. Spread around with a wooden spoon to make sure it's evenly distributed, then arrange the apple wedges all around, packing them in fairly tightly. You don't want to use all the apples you've already sliced, so don't crowd them all, or else cut another apple, as needed.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Let the apples cook for 10-12 minutes, and just leave them be! After 10-12 minutes, remove from heat and turn each of the apples over. Since they'll cook down, add in your extra apple wedges as needed. I added about 5 more wedges.

While that's cooking, preheat your oven to 375F.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and cook for another 5 minutes. Here I kind of poked around to make sure nothing burned, because, well, it did burn (I cooked over high, this is why I've changed it to medium high).

Now remove from heat, and take your crust and carefully place it over the pan. Be very careful to center it properly (approximately, you don't have to be exact), because the crust will kind of melt once it hits the hot pan, and you can't really adjust it.

Pop in the oven, uncovered, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the crust looks done. Let cool for about 30 minutes, then carefully invert the pan over your serving platter. If your apples stick to the pan (like mine did), just pry them out and try to arrange. It won't be pretty, since they'll be so mushy and stuck, but it'll still taste good.
Another option? Cook up the apples as above, and use a storebought, frozen puff pastry. That's what Joy the Baker did, and since the star of the dish is the caramelized apples, I think it's a great short cut.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Is it crockpot season yet?

Why yes, it is!

I saw this recipe on the nest, and because we'd already started eating soups, I decided it was high time for the crock pot to come out. Well, mostly it was because I wanted to make this recipe.

I made this the weekend we painted the guest room. I expected to be busy, between going to work for a few hours on Saturday, trying to catch up on sleep, and painting (and going to Lowe's for all the supplies- how on earth did that take 2 hours?!). So I thought a crock pot dinner, all ready to go once we finished the day of painting, would be perfect.

Like most crock pot dinners, this is really easy. Actually, it's almost easier than other crock pot meals. And, it was delicious. This is definitely on my list to make again.

Sweet fruit curry chicken
taken from A Year of Slow Cooking (and by the way, if you want to find more crock pot recipes, check this blog out, it has a ton of great recipes/ideas)

2lbs chicken, breasts or thighs, boneless/skinless or not (I used bone-in thighs, I removed the skin)
18oz jar of jam or marmalade- we used apricot, since it's what we had
1.5t vindaloo spice mix or curry powder
hot pepper to taste- 1/2t is probably good, use less if you use vindaloo powder, that's already spicy.
1/4t ground ginger
dash of salt
1/2 cup low/no sodium chicken stock (I actually used the stuff from the can this time- I know, crazy!)

Mix all the ingredients but the chicken together. (I microwaved the jam for 30sec to warm it up and make it easier to go into solution with the chicken broth).

Place the chicken in the crock pot. Pour the jam/stock/spice mixture over it. Cook on low for 6 hours. I poured some of the liquid over the chicken every once in a while.

Serve with grilled naan.

We both thought this meal was delicious. One issue, however, is that the sauce didn't thicken for us. It was still good, but next time I may try reducing the sauce a bit, either on the stove top or by turning the crock pot to high after removing the chicken. I also intend to try it with marmalade next time, now that I've added that to my grocery list.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Apple Crisp, 2 ways

Our favorite desserts involve apples. Crisp, pie, tart tatine (can't wait to tell you about that one), or even a simple baked apple, sprinkled with brown sugar. They're all delicious.

Crisp is generally our go-to dessert in the fall, when we're practically guaranteed to have a giant bowl of apples somewhere in the house (we stock up at the orchards... my parents even buy a couple bushels at the end of the season at the orchard down the street from their house and give us half- so I really mean we're guaranteed to have apples). And over the years, since I first loved apple crisp, way back in middle school, the year grandma broke our oven and we were stuck cooking only with burners and a microwave while the kitchen renovation got going and finished (it was actually good timing, we needed a new range at the same time as my parents had been considering remodeling the kitchen). So starting then, and all through the rest of my childhood and young adulthood, I made apple crisp in the microwave. It was good. It was super fast. But when I moved out, I inherited great-aunt so-and-so's ancient microwave that could barely soften butter, not to mention it couldn't even fit a dinner plate. I needed a new apple crisp.

And thus began the search. I found a few that weren't really what I'd call a "crisp", they were more of a cobbler- with a cake or biscuit topping. My apple "crisp" has a topping of flour, brown sugar, oats and butter. I finally found a good-looking recipe on the food network website, which also called for tossing/soaking the apples in apple cider (bonus), but every time I baked that one, all the fruit was just soaking in butter, and that's not my ideal food.

But finally, I found the perfect crisp. I picked up the September 2010 issue of the Food Network magazine. I was offered a special subscription rate, but due to poor opinion by other foodies and food bloggers, i passed it up. But I was still curious- so when we were at BJ's one day, where all the magazines are discounted, I grabbed it. And honestly, I thought it was a nice magazine. I'm not sure why it's so unpopular.

Anyway. The magazine had a mix and match fruit "crumble" article- I gather the different between a crumble and a crisp is that the crumble has nuts added. That's cool with me! I followed their topping suggestions with my own fruit filling, and...

perfection. This is what I've been looking for.

Apple Crumble,
taken from Food Network Magazine, Sept 2010

3/8 cup (1/2 cup minus 2T) chopped nuts: I like hazelnuts or walnuts, but FN also recommends pistachios, pecans or almonds
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/8 cup (3oz) AP or WW flour
dash of salt
1/2 t cinnamon, or play with other spices you like
3T softened butter

Whisk everything but the butter together, then work in the butter with your fingers or a fork, until the mixture is crumbly and well-combined.

fruit- apples, peaches, berries, pears, plums... play around!

In an 8x8 dish, place the fruit of your choice (apples, of course). I peeled and chopped about 5-6 apples, enough so that they were slightly mounded.

Top fruit with the topping, spread evenly around. The topping layer won't be all that thick, that's ok.

Bake at 375F for 40-50 minutes. Enjoy straight from the baking dish, or be more civilized and put it on a plate, with ice cream.

You'll note that I haven't added anything to the apples- no sugar, no spices. This is how I like my apple crisps and pies, just pure apples. By all means, add 2-4T sugar to your apples, some cinnamon and/or nutmeg, or follow the suggestions on the FN site, linked above. They have some good ideas. I also really enjoyed this crisp made with 2lbs of prune plums and 4 apples- normally I prefer my plums cooked alone, to enjoy them completely, but there simply weren't enough plums for this, and I didn't want to bake a single serving crisp/crumble at the time.

Apple Crisp, the 2nd way

This is a fun little single serving dessert- it's great if you want apple crisp, but there aren't enough people to require an 8x8 or 9x13 dish of dessert, and/or you're really not in the mood to peel and dice all those apples. I found it on taste spotting, and it just looked so cute I had to file the idea away.

Single Apple Crisp
taken from Jamie at My Baking Addiction

2 apples, washed and cored. Note: don't fully core the apple, just cut down far enough to get the seeds, and leave the bottom part intact. Make a well, not a hole. (if you accidentally make a full hole, that's ok- it's just easier if you don't. I have yet to remember not to make a hole. Do as I say, not as I do.)

1/4 cup oats
1T butter, softened
1.5T brown sugar
1/2 t apple pie or pumpkin pie spice, or some cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger

Whisk dry ingredients together, then add butter. Mix with a fork or fingers until crumbly.

Stuff filling inside of apples- don't pack too tightly, the filling might expand as it bakes.

Place the stuffed apples on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 min at 350F. Drizzle apples with maple syrup or caramel sauce before serving.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

CSA #18

Oh no, it's almost the end! super sad face.

This week we received:

2 leeks, a bunch of very fragrant celery, 4 pears, a delicata squash, 2 heads of romaine lettuce,

a bunch of big carrots,
a big bag of chard,
2 sweet potatoes,

about 1lb of tomatoes and a whole mess of assorted peppers.

I waited several days for the tomatoes to ripen, and I made this fantastic tomato salad.
The recipe is the one used at the Biergarten in the Germany pavilion in Epcot Center, which we had when we were in Disney World last month. While we were at the restaurant, one of the women at our table (family style dining, we sat with 2 other couples) asked for the recipe for their apple streudel. The waiter brought it for her, and copies for everyone, and that made me wonder if a google search would yield any Disney recipes. And boy oh boy, did it!

Disney Recipes

I'm in love.

The first recipe I made (as yet, the only recipe, but that'll change) was the tomato salad.

Here's my reduced version. The original makes a restaurant buffet portion.

Tomato Salad,
adapted from Disney's Biergarten Tomato Salad

2.5lbs tomatoes, thinly sliced or cut into wedges, as preferred
1 medium onion (white or red), thinly sliced (by hand or on a mandolin)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3T white vinegar
1T balsamic vinegar
1T olive oil
1/4-1/1t salt (depending on how salty you like it, I liked 1/2t)
a few grinds of black pepper
1T fresh or 1.5t dried basil
(optional: 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced into rounds or half rounds)

Mix everything together. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Healthy cookies, the pumpkin edition

Remember the healthy cookies I made a while ago? They were based on the classic Nestle's Tollhouse recipe, but just about everything had a substitution. The only thing I left alone was the baking soda and salt.

I used the well-known applesauce-for-butter substitution, which in my original healthy cookie batch, gave a nice apple flavor... that didn't play well with the chocolate chips (in my mind, everyone else seemed to like them). I loved the raisin and spice version, and I kept thinking that if applesauce subbed for butter like that, what about other fruit purees? The most obvious was pumpkin, but now I'm considering beet puree... it could be good. I definitely plan to try it at some point. Plus, the cookies would be naturally pink, and that's just plain awesome.

Oh, and today's healthy cookie is even healthier- greek yogurt instead of oil.

Pumpkin cookies
an original recipe
1 and 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 and 1/3 cup AP flour
1t baking soda
1t salt
1t cinnamon
1t ginger
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t cloves

Whisk these together, set aside.

2T ground flax meal
6T warm water

Stir together, set aside.

1/2 cup pumpkin
6T nonfat plain greek yogurt
2T oil
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated or turbinado sugar
1t vanilla

Beat that together. Then add the flax meal and water mixture.

Stir in the dry ingredients.

1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Drop a tablespoon of dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 375F for 12-15 minutes, bake only until the cookies are just barely browned.

I love that these cookies are like little pillows- these is only because I use a cookie scoop to drop the dough on the cookie sheet and the dough comes out nicely rounded on top. The cookies themselves are very fluffy and light, almost like a little cupcake. I love that they aren't greasy at all, I don't feel the need to wipe my hands after picking one up like I do with standard cookie recipes. However, you can tell they're healthy, they're not a perfect substitute for a higher-fat pumpkin cookie. But when I have an urge for a bite of carb, these are great.

The stats:
per cookie, 68 calories, 1.6g fat, 14.2g carbs, 0.8g fiber, 1.3g protein.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Let's bake some pumpkin!

It's fall! The massive quantities of tomatoes I've had all summer are tapering off, but we've started getting all sorts of squash! And last week when I went to the grocery store, I saw one of my favorite sights: lovely, round orange pumpkins lining the front of the store! So I bought some. Then I bought some more, and then... well, they are heavy, you can't buy all these at once. (And I haven't even photographed all our squash yet)

Above are some cans of pumpkin (apparently very precious, we're still in a pumpkin shortage. And because everyone always trades this info, I bought these 4 cans at my regular grocery store, here in central MA, for $2.25 (small cans) and $3.19 (large cans). I got one white pumpkin, which I assume (but don't know definitely) is a cooking pumpkin. 4 sugar, or pie pumpkins, 2-4lbs each. These are much more flavorful than carving pumpkins, which are mostly bred for their size. So, if you carve a pumpkin and feel guilty about not eating it, don't. You wouldn't want to eat it anyway. Finally, I bought a jaradale (I think) pumpkin at Davidian Bros this past weekend, just because it was there, and it looked cool.

To use for cooking, the fresh pumpkins will be quartered, seeded (seeds saved and roasted/toasted) and then the flesh will be roasted, then cooled, pureed and drained. I'll freeze that to use later. The cans will be opened (much easier, and also, cheaper- I've read that from 4 small pie pumpkins (about 8 lbs) you get 2 cups of puree. At my store, 4 pie pumpkins are $7.96, and 1 can of pumpkin is $2.15, for 1.5 cups. But using fresh pumpkin is more fun.)

For my first pumpkin recipe of the season, I opened a can. it was easiest, and I hadn't planned to bake anything, really.

What happened was like when I made that pork posole a few weekends ago: I opened the Sunday paper to the food section, and a recipe caught my eye. This time it was "Fall Harvest Muffins," muffin with pumpkin, apple and all the good spices in pumpkin pie. And a streusel topping.
Fall Harvest Muffins
from the Worcester Telegram and Telegraph, it appears to be an original recipe by Alison Ladman

for the muffins:
1 cup AP flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1.5 t baking powder
0.25 t baking soda
0.5 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1 t ginger (I would love to try crystallized ginger in this recipe)
0.5 t allspice
0.5 t cardamom
0.25 t cloves
10T butter (original called for 12 T)
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 cup pumpkin
3/4 cup apples, grated (2 small apples)
1/2 cup chopped, toasted nuts (I used hazelnuts)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or raisins)

Whisk together the dry ingredients (flours, baking powder/soda, spices, salt).

Beat together butter and sugar. Add eggs, then vanilla and pumpkin. Combine well. Add the dry ingredients, stir til just combined. Add apple, then nuts and cranberries.

Scoop batter into 18 greased (or cupcake wrapper-lined) muffin tins (the original recipe said it made 12 muffins, but their muffins must have been enormous). Top with streusel topping, recipe follows- just spoon a bit of streusel onto each muffin, and press in gently.

Bake at 375F for 20-25 minutes.

Streusel Topping:
2T butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
1/2 t cinnamon

Whisk dry ingredients together, stir in butter, and press with fingers or a fork until combined. (Note: I used far less streusel topping than this for my 18 muffins)

We found these muffins to be rather delicious. The apple flavor is kind of hidden, but I love the combination of these spices. They do have a lovely pumpkin flavor, perfect for a chilly October morning. The only drawback is that the streusel topping gets soggy after a few days.

Good news: I finally discovered a nutritional info calculator for recipes (yes, I'm pretty oblivious). Per muffin: about 245 calories, 10.2 g fat, 43g carbs, 2.5g fiber, 3.5g protein.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Local Ingredients: from the side of my grandma's house

I love it when I just happen across recipes using random ingredients I already have. Was this recipe designed with the current contents of my fridge in mind?

Of course not, but it's a really convenient coincidence.

My parents came up a couple weeks before I made the recipe below, and they brought me a big grocery bag full of catawba and concord grapes from my grandma's house, which is essentially covered on 1 and a half sides by grape vines. As a child, I have no memories of the grapes, aside from them being there, and the dining room reflecting the exterior wall with a grapevine wallpaper. I don't remember picking or eating them until I was a freshman in college, and picked a mess of grapes that were different than any I'd ever had before- I'm used to the seedless green and red grocery store varieties, which are as unlike grandma's house's grapes as mangoes from apples- they're both tasty, but they're completely different, and one of them has a really tough skin.

In the following recipe, I used catawba grapes. My parents brought be both concords and catawbas, but mostly catawbas, so I ate all the concords. Both these varieties of grapes have seeds: concords have very bitter, hard seeds that I prefer to spit out, but catawbas had 2-4 small seeds that aren't quite as hard, and are mostly tasteless. So essentially, you can happily eat the seeds of the catawba. However, that being said, it is a little annoying to eat a dish with lots of grape seeds, so matter how tasteless they are. And I did not seed the grapes. Why, you ask? Because I couldn't figure out how, without ruining the perfectly round grape. So, if you have any pointers, I'd love to hear them.

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grapes and Shallots
from Blue Kitchen

4 shallots, peeled cut in half
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1-1.5 lb pork tenderloin
1T dried sage
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
2-1/2 cups grapes

Preheat oven to 375F. Place shallots in a small baking dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, and bake for 15 minutes. (This is all you need the oven for, the rest of the meal is cooked on the stove top.)

Rub the pork with olive oil and salt and pepper. Wash and destem the grapes, and toss with a little olive oil.

In a large skillet/pan (I used my LC braiser) over medium-high heat, heat 1T olive oil. Add the pork, and brown on all sides, about 2min per side. Remove the pork and set on a plate.

Add the garlic and sage to pan, cook for a minute while stirring. Add the chicken broth and remove from heat. Place the pork back in the pan, carefully arrange the shallots around the pork (after being roasted, they may want to fall apart) and add the grapes around the pork. Cover and cook over medium-high for 10 minutes, then uncover and cook 10-15 minutes more, until pork reaches 155F at the thickest part. (During the uncovered cooking time, I poked around a bit with a wooden spoon, so make sure things weren't sticking to the bottom of the pan.)

Remove pork from pan, and let rest 5-10 minutes. Cut and serve with shallots, grapes, and liquid from the pan.

We all found this dish to be delicious. It's like savory grapes, with pork, and we love pork with fruit flavors. I actually served this when a friend came over for dinner, and he's an easy-going guy and too polite to ever say anything, but I was a little embarrassed about underestimating the crunch of the grape seeds. Oops! Then, to make matters worse, I served the pork along withthe following sauteed spinach recipe, which I reduced by 1/3.... except for the salt, which was the full amount. It was very salty spinach!

Ina's Garlic Sauteed Spinach
from the Food Network

(for the full recipe)
1.5 lbs fresh spinach
2T olive oil
2T minced garlic (6 cloves)
2t kosher salt
3/4t black pepper

optional: 1T butter, lemon juice

Rinse the spinach, and half-heartedly dry (as in, a little water on the leaves is ok).

Heat the olive oil in a very large pot, add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the spinach, salt and pepper, toss around and cover the pot, and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover the pot, cook for another minute, until the spinach is wilted, and place in a serving bowl. Optional: top with butter and lemon.

Have you ever wondered how much spinach cooks down? theoretically I know, but I'm still always surprised.

Crazy, huh?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

CSA #17

Time really flies! This is the 4th-to-last share from our CSA. :( We didn't act quickly enough to get into the fall CSA, so we're nearing the end of automatic veggies! Fortunately, we passed by a really nice farm stand in Northboro, Davidian Bros Farm, that had pretty much every type of veggie we'd want, great quality, and many grown by their farm. They're at the end of the road Tougas Farms is on, so we stopped by there after apple picking on Sunday- the last day of Tougas' apples! sad.

Anyway, the CSA. I think this was the last week of tomatoes, since we only got 2- I was very sad, we've had such a bounty this summer, between the CSA's excellent tomatoes, a cousin's garden's surplus, and the millions of pounds my mom gave me, from Hurricane Flats in South Royalton, VT, and Blossoming Acres, in Southwick, MA.
2 tomatoes, 6 pears, a bag of potatoes, onions and garlic, beets,
flat parsley, chard, lettuce, a bell-like pepper, a hot pepper, an acorn squash.
and a bunch of radishes.

I forgot to photograph the flowers, but it was a mix of zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, and one of the puffy pointy purple things.

I used the tomatoes in a tomato salad, the onions in the halibut I mentioned earlier, I cooked and froze the chard and beet greens, and I tossed the radish greens in some rice. The lettuce has been for salad, and the peppers are still waiting...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

CSA #16

I'm so behind! I haven't even cooked much with our CSA goodies, we're getting into hardier veggies like winter squash and more onions and potatoes, and many of the other things have just gone straight into the freezer.
Swiss chard (washed, roughly chopped, boiled for 5 min and frozen), beets (greens frozen, prepared like the chard), a butternut squash (currently part of our dining table centerpiece), 1 summer squash (grouped with leftover squashes from the previous 2 weeks: chopped and frozen), 4 pears (will tell you about that later), 1 bell-like pepper (in the fridge).

4lbs of tomatoes (blanched to remove skins and frozen), lettuce (salad), 2 leeks (one used in this halibut curry that I probably won't blog about- I overcooked the fish terribly, but the sauce was good. I used 1 leek and 2 small onions instead of the onions and scallions).
And flowers!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Vanishing Sally Lunn Buns!

Oh look, more basil! I feel like it's basil week over in wamozart12's kitchen.

I have to say, these buns were ridiculously good. Like, wow. I saw them on tastespotting a while ago, and realized they came from a blog I actually read regularly (who got it from another blog I read regularly, who got it from Williams Sonoma's recipe collection, which I love and use often). Anyway, I saw them and I laughed at the comment that Sally Lunn buns are southern challah, but after I made them... they're right. They are southern challah.

Probably the real reason I made them is because I was going to Disney World the following weekend, and the first full day we'd be there, we were planning to have tea at the Grand Floridian Garden View Lounge, something we do each and every year. They serve Sally Lunn Buns. The only other place I know of that serves SLBs is Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria, VA, a restaurant we always go to the first night of our stay in Washington, DC in July (this year, since Clint and I went alone and stayed in the city instead of in Alexandria, I had to miss out on this tradition :( ). But woohoo, SLBs without having to travel far? Sounds good!

This was an interesting bread, very unlike other breads I've made. I was a little concerned I'd screwed up. However, because they turned out close to perfect, I think I did everything correctly. The issue that worried me was: this is super duper sticky dough. Like, you have no hope of kneading it. It's like cookie dough. Fortunately, you're not supposed to knead it. And when you go to bake it, you scoop out the dough instead of cutting it into rolls. Iiinteresting.

Herbed Sally Lunn Buns
from Annie's Eats, also seen on Pink Parsley, originally from Williams Sonoma
4 eggs
2 t salt
2 scant T active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
4 cups bread flour
½ cup chopped fresh herbs (basil for me, but I think thyme, rosemary, sage, dill, etc would be delicious)

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, milk and about half the sugar (I measured out the sugar in 1 1/3 cup measuring cup, dumped a little into the yeast, and set the half-full cup aside til I needed the rest). Set it aside for a few minutes to wake up (while you get the other ingredients out).
Meanwhile, beat the eggs and salt in the bowl of your mixer for about 5 minutes, til they're fluffy. Beat in the melted butter and add the yeast mixture and the rest of the sugar.

Add the flour (I added it all at once). Mix to combine- I used the paddle attachment for this.

Once everything's combined,
add in the chopped herbs. Here were my chopped herbs:
I also had a few sprigs (or whatever unit it is) of chives from my garden.

Once everything's mixed together fairly well, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for about 2-3 hours.

Then, grease 24-30 muffin cups (depending on how big you want these- I did 18, and the rolls were bigger than my fist, which I thought was too big.). Scoop out dough (with an ice cream scoop was easiest for me, a regular serving spoon would also work) and fill the muffin cups. Poke a bit as needed to smooth out the dough balls. Cover loosely with plastic wrap again and let rise for about 45-60 min.

Make an egg wash (1 egg (or egg white or yolk if you have an extra on hand) beaten with 1T milk) and brush over the tops of the rolls. For a pretty presentation, press an herb leaf onto each roll (I skipped this). Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 25-30 minutes.

Serve warm with herb butter (recipe below). Store extras in tupperware or a ziploc bag, but they'll taste stale after a few days- they're still good, just not as good.

Basil butter
inspired by various recipes from google searches

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, minced
2T finely chopped/minced herbs (I used basil)
1t salt (or more or less to taste, I like my spreading butter salty)

Combine all together, beat thoroughly. Serve with herb SLBs or however you like your butter. Store in tupperware in the fridge.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Basil Ice Cream

Hey everybody, look! It's another use for basil!

I know, basil ice cream probably seems a bit odd, but it's actually really good (far better than the strawberry balsamic ice cream I made a few years ago- strawberry balsamic sorbet, yes, mixing balsamic and dairy, no.) As you can probably guess, I made this because I had more basil than I knew what to do with.

This ice cream had a nice vanilla taste but with the bite of basil. The basil wasn't overpowering, and it actually complements the sweet really nicely- maybe that's why basil and heirloom tomatoes are such a perfect combination?

Basil Ice Cream
from The City Sisters
4 cups 2% milk (original recipe called for whole)
6 T fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
pinch salt
8 egg yolks
1 cup light cream (the original recipe called for heavy, and I actually intended to use my favorite ff1/2&1/2, but I grabbed the wrong carton. I actually had no idea I had light cream)

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, basil, half the sugar and salt. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat (once it's started to boil) and let steep for 30-60 minutes. Then transfer to a blender and puree.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/2cup of sugar with egg yolks in a bowl and whisk vigorously for a few minutes, until the mixture is a light yellow. Combine the egg and basil/milk mixture together, whisk to fully combine, and put back in the saucepan, over low heat. Stir often with a wooden spoon, and heat until the mixture coats the back of the spoon and reaches 175F (or you can go with either of those indicators). Don't let it boil! Also, watch that it doesn't get too hot and the eggs scramble.

Transfer the custard to a bowl and chill (either in an ice bath for a little while, or for a few hours in the fridge).

Once it's cool, strain through a mesh sieve (which... I didn't. I forgot) and stir in the cream. Transfer to an ice cream maker and make ice cream!

I think I need to make basil sorbet next time, and use it as a palate cleanser course during a fancy dinner party. I think the dairy would cancel all palate-cleansing properties of the herb, and could be like an early dessert course.