Saturday, December 31, 2011

December Photo Dump

Gingerbread, not just for eating but also for constructing houses, abstract sculptures and ornaments. This tower was later slathered with frosting and topped with selections from an overwhelming amount candy options.

The holiday season just wouldn't be complete without a good Hanukkah party. This year I even assisted with the most important duties of all. Frying up as many latke patties as possible so that they could be topped with sour cream and applesauce and quickly devoured.

The Portland Soup Company street cart was my lunch savior while running errands in downtown Portland right before Christmas. This roasted turkey breast sandwich with bacon braised cabbage, Russian dressing, Swiss cheese, tomato and salad greens was phenomenal.

A gluten-free snickerdoodle operation in process. Bags of alternative flours and extra clean surfaces and tools to prevent cross contamination.

I learned how to make challah this month! There have been many, many experimental batches. Challah knots for a dinner party, batches with forgotten ingredients and finally these beautiful loaves that were passed out to friends and family.

We kept Christmas Eve simple with superbly grilled steak, mashed potatoes caramelized onions and a beautiful salad. Accompanied by a glass of wine, candle light and the company of family, it was the perfect meal.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Trieste Style Sauerkraut Soup

This soup is one of those just add water to a few dollars worth of ingredients and you get enough soup to feed an army. It helped that I acquired some meaty ham hocks for free, but still, there was so much soup. So much soup that smells really bad cold and sounds pretty strange but when steaming in big bowls it is deliciously tangy, meaty and rich. Served with buttered slices of thick bread, nothing will keep you warmer

Trieste Style Sauerkraut and Bean Soup adapted from Saveur

10 cups of water
2 ham hocks
1 onion
4 strips of bacon
2 cloves of garlic
black pepper
1- 15oz can of kidney beans
3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
2 cups sauerkraut

1. Place the water and ham hocks in a large stock pot and bring to a boil, skimming and foam that rises to the surface. Simmer for about 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, dice bacon, garlic and onion and saute in a skillet until the bacon fat has rendered and the onion is soft. Add the the stock pot with the ham hocks.
3. Rinse the sauerkraut thoroughly in a large colander with cold water, drain well. Add the sauerkraut and potatoes to pot and continue simmering until potatoes are soft when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife about 30 minutes.
4. Remove the ham hocks from the soup pot and use a fork and your fingers if necessary to carefully remove all of the meat from the bones. Add the meat back into the soup pot. Simmer for another 15 minutes or so and serve hot.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Navel Orange Marmalade

I don't know why navel orange marmalade is not more readily available. Seville oranges are the standard marmalade orange but the result is a very strong flavor that is hard to eat a lot of and leaves a lingering bitter aftertaste. However navel oranges, which are available everywhere, produce a much more mild marmalade that is still very fragrant and obviously bursting with orange flavor. I used a mandoline slicer to get perfectly thin half-moon orange slices. This recipe makes a lot of marmalade, unless you are planning on giving a jar to everyone you know, (like I did for Christmas) I would suggest cutting the recipe in half. Oranges are a winter fruit, they are in season now and I imagine almost any variety would work for a marmalade, just be sure to use organic oranges to avoid eating the residual chemicals from pesticides and herbicides that could be on the rinds.
Navel Orange Marmalade adapted from David Lebovitz and Ina Garten

Yield: 132 oz (I used 15- 80z mason jars and 1 12oz jar)
Cook time: 2 hours and 45 minutes plus 12 hours inactive time

7 organic navel oranges
2 lemons
8 cups of sugar
10 cups of water

1. Wash oranges and wipe them dry.
2. Cut the oranges and lemons in half lengthwise and use a mandoline slicer to cut them into very thin half-moon slices. Discard any seeds.
3. Place the sliced fruit and 10 cups of water in a large stainless steel stock pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar until it dissolves.
4. Cover and allow to stand overnight at room temperature.
5. Bring the mixture back to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 2 hours.
6. Turn the heat up to medium and boil gently, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure it does not burn on the bottom.
7. Cook the marmalade until it reaches the jelling pint, about 220 degrees fahrenheit. Use a candy thermometer or test the marmalade by placing a small amount on a plate that has been chilled in the freezer and briefly return it to the freezer. Check it in a few minutes; it should be slightly jelled and will wrinkle just a bit when you slide your finger through it. If not, continue to cook until it is.
8. Remove from the heat.
9. In order to can in mason jars: Heat oven to 225 degrees fahrenheit and place jars (but not lids) on the baking racks. Jars will need to stay in the oven for at least 20 minutes. Boil the lids and place then on a clean towel, allow to dry completely. Fill your biggest, deepest pot with water and bring it to a rolling boil. Ladle the marmalade into the jars, fill to within 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe the rips cleans with clean paper towels. Place a clean lid on the jar and close tightly. Using tongs place each of the jars in the boiling water and boil for 10 minutes.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Maple Hazelnut Pie

This year I celebrated my first Unthanksgiving. Hosted by friends of mine, it follows in the same suit as Thanksgiving and this year it was held about a week after. We had a turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, the best sweet potatoes ever, cranberry sauce and a smorgasbord of desserts. The catch about Unthanksgiving is that instead of going around the table saying something we are thankful for we say something we are not thankful for. It is a great way to vent about the current state of the world or a comical unjust doing like returning from Grandma's with your Dad's underwear instead of your own. While it may sound cynical it produced the most laughs I have even seen at a table of twenty. Hilarity ensued and we were all secretly thankful for many things at this Unthanksgiving table it just wasn't the right time to share. To riff even more on the traditional Thanksgiving, I made an alternative version of pecan pie, the pie my mom always makes. This one however uses hazelnuts, my favorite nut and it is spiked with maple syrup. This one might have to become an Unthanksgiving tradition.
Maple Hazelnut Pie adapted from Bon Appetit

3/4 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 refrigerated pie crust (half of 15-ounce package or half of my favorite pie crust)
2 large egg white, lightly beaten to loosen
1 cup hazelnuts, husked, coarsely chopped (about 5 ounces)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Bring maple syrup, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling 1 minute, reducing heat as needed to prevent mixture from boiling over. Remove pan from heat. Add butter; whisk until butter melts. Let cool to lukewarm, whisking occasionally, about 20 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
3. Unroll pie crust. Line 9-inch diameter glass pie dish with crust. Crimp edges decoratively. Brush crust with enough egg white to coat. Scatter hazelnuts over.
4. Whisk eggs and vanilla extract in medium bowl until blended. Whisk cooled maple-sugar mixture into egg mixture. Pour mixture over hazelnuts in crust. (If you have a maple leaf cookie cutter, this would be the time to roll out extra pie crust dough scraps and place the maple leafs on top of the pie.)
5. Bake pie until filling is set and slightly puffed, about 50 minutes. Cool completely.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kale Pesto with Roasted Butternut Squash and Pasta

I think kale is one of the best trendy 'superfoods'. I prefer this dark leafy green cooked. I often make kale chips or quickly sauteed kale with garlic and olive oil. I hide it in lasagna, toss it in pasta and add it to omelets, but I know more than a few people who devour the stuff raw. People shovel away giant bowls of it at lunch dressed with balsamic vinegar, salt and maybe a handful of sunflower seeds. A friend of mine loves it because she can dress it in the morning, eat it for lunch and the greens haven't all wilted and aren't logged down with dressing. This kale pesto blends up steamed kale into a delicious nutritious sauce. Tossed with pasta and roasted butternut squash it is quite the vibrant dish. By vibrant I mean green, very green. Even the bright orange squash picks up a green tint. But if you want to get your kale in, or feed some vegans, this pesto is the way to go.
Kale Pesto with Roasted Butternut Squash and Pasta adapted from Melissa Clark/The New York Times

1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch kale (about 1/2 pound) , center ribs removed, roughly chopped
8 ounces pasta
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss squash with salt, pepper and olive oil. Spread pieces into an even layer, making sure there is space between them. Roast, stirring squash pieces once or twice, until golden brown and tender, about 30 minutes.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop kale into boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Use tongs or slotted spoon to transfer kale to ice water. Bring water in the pot back to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.
3. Drain kale well. In a food processor, pulse together kale, nuts, garlic, lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon juice and a liberal sprinkle of salt and black pepper. With motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until fully incorporated. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
4. Drain pasta. Toss pasta with pesto and top with squash and cheese.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sparkling Ginger Chip Cookies

It feels like Christmas time has become synonymous with cookie season. Everyday at work there are boxes, and boxes of open grocery store cookies and even after everyone is burned out on sugar I can still pass out homemade cookies to just about everyone who walks by. The box just can't compare. These are the glammed up gingersnap. You don't need to chill and roll out dough, but they are just as delicious and even more good looking. These cookies are not just special because they sparkle, and are studded with chocolate shavings but because they are deliciously spicy and fragrant. Freshly grated ginger adds an extra kick alongside liberal sprinklings of ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Tis the season, for sparkling ginger chip cookies.
Sparkling Ginger Chip Cookies adapted from Heidi Swanson

Makes roughly 2 dozen cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup unsulphured molasses
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, peeled
1 large egg, well beaten
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/8-inch pieces or slivers
1/2 cup turbinado coarse grain sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the turbinado sugar in a bowl, set aside.
2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
3. Heat the butter in a saucepan until it is just barely melted. Remove from heat and stir in the molasses, brown sugar and fresh ginger. When cool, whisk in the egg.
4. Pour the molasses mixture over the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate.
5. Roll the dough into tablespoon size balls and roll in the turbinado sugar before placing on prepared baking sheets, a few inches apart from each other.
6. Bake for 8-11 minutes or until cookies puff up, darken a bit and get quite fragrant.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper and Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

Nothing quite like the sound of a food processor whirring. Especially when it is your very own food processor blending up something delicious. I recently acquired my Grandmother's food processor and I am going to make sure it gets put to more use in my home than in her kitchen where the motto is "kitchen closed due to illness, I am sick of cooking." So dips, spreads, soups and more, here I come. This creamy dip, lacks cream, but is bulked up with the help of toasted almonds and olive oil. The sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers make a brilliant red dip that is perfect shmearing for pita chips, celery, cucumbers and sandwiches.

Roasted Red Pepper and Sun-Dried Tomato Dip adapted from Gourmet

Makes two cups of dip

1 shallot, chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
1 cup roasted red peppers
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

1. Saute the shallot for 3 to 5 minutes until soft.
2. Puree all ingredients except olive oil, in a food processor.
3. Add olive oil with motor running and continue to puree until dip is smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lattice Pie with Pears, Apples and Vanilla Brown Butter

The holiday season just cries out for pie. Something warm and comforting that makes the kitchen smell wonderful for hours. There is the alluring fragrance of a pie just ready to be pulled from the oven, but even before that there are tasks to be shared. There is nothing like warming up a kitchen with the bustle of people mixing dough for the crust, preparing fruit, mixing the filling, rolling out the dough and assembling the whole mess into its pan. I love the hint of brown butter in this pie, with cinnamon and the power team fall fruit; apples and pears. I love the lattice crust on this pie but you could really do anything you like. Crust is your blank canvas, be the designer, architect and creator of your next pie and warm up with someone special.
Lattice Pie with Pears, Apples and Vanilla Brown Butter adapted from Bon Appetit

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 pounds ripe pears, cored, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 pounds crisp apples, cored, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon milk
1 tablespoon sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
2. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook until butter is golden brown, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly. Add the vanilla extract, stir. Butter will boil up, stand clear.
3. In a large mixing bowl, gently combine pears, apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, flour and lemon juice. Stir in the vanilla butter.
4. Roll out 1 dough disk on a lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch pie dish. Trim overhang to 1-inch. Transfer filling to crust. Roll out second dough disk to 13-inch round. Using a pastry wheel, cut dough into ten 1-inch wide strips. Arrange 5 strips over filling, spacing evenly apart. Arrange remaining strips at right angle to first strips, weaving if desired. Fold lower crust overhang over strips and seal. Crimp edges. Brush lattice with 1 teaspoon milk and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Bake pie until crust is golden brown, fruit is tender, and filling is bubbling, covering crust edges with foil collar if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool at least 1 hour before serving.