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Archive for the ‘Fall’ Category

This was something I had made with the intention of posting it back in January as part of the Dark Days challenge.  The challenge host got exceptionally busy, so the challenge died.  Clearly, I wasn’t going to be keeping up with it anyway, so while I’ll miss the fun in participating, I also completely understand that life sometimes gets in the way.

But, this soup reminds me of all that I loved about the challenge.  Throwing together a meal of entirely local ingredients is a true challenge, even in this part of the country.  It takes planning and creativity, but it pushes you to cook things you wouldn’t ordinarily.  Like this soup.  Probably not something I would have made if I had my whole pantry and everything in the grocery store available to me.  But, it is absolutely delicious.

It’s relatively simply, hearty, and great for a cold winter’s day.  I topped mine with crumbled bits of Marin Sun Farms pancetta and served it up with a crisp Sonoma rose.  Absolutely delightful.

I took a lot of liberties with the original to work within my local parameters.  It’s a simple recipe and lends itself well to tinkering.

Apple and Parsnip Soup
Inspired by the The Kitchn

3 Granny Smith apples (about 1-1/2 pounds), peeled and cored, and diced into small pieces
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
About 1-1/4 pounds medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
1-2 bay leaves
a few sprigs of thyme, tied
5-6 cups liquid (recipe recommends chicken broth, I just used water and had no problem)
1/4 cup or so of cream or half and half

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and sauté until they start to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add parsnips and sauté for three more minutes. Add the apple pieces and saute for a few more minutes.

Add the broth or water, the bay leaves and thyme and bring to a boil. If you are using water, not broth, add some salt in there before you bring it to a boil – probably a tablespoon or so, maybe a bit less. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes.

Allow the soup to cool slightly. Fish out the herbs.  Purée until smooth, either by working in batches in blender or using a hand blender, thinning with more broth/water by half-cupfuls as desired.  Taste it – if the parsnips are really strong, you might need a dab of honey in there.  Return soup to pot and bring to simmer.  Remove from heat and whisk in the cream.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The original recipe recommends serving it with some sauteed, diced apples.  A commenter suggested crushed marcona almonds, which sounds lovely.  But, I have to say, completely perfect with some crumbled fried pancetta on top.

 

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I have seen both Martha Stewart and Jamie Oliver make white crudite platters.  And they looked soooo beautiful.  Even Jamie’s, who’s food usually looks delicious, but well, not like Martha’s, to say the least.  So, I wanted to do that.  Either they have whiter vegetables than me, or they were photographed through some magic whitening lens because this is not white.    So, this is my shades of beige crudite platter.

The vegetables are endives, steamed potatoes, radish, and carrots.  The white (ish) carrots and radishes were procured by my amazing husband, who went to Berkeley Bowl and searched for the best white vegetables he could possible find, just for me.  Totally made my day that he came back with awesome stuff and not boring old cauliflower.   The potatoes were inspired by a friend of mine, who served steamed potatoes and siracha aioli at her housewarming, and it was so delicious.  But since siracha aioli is not white, I did not make it.  Instead, I made roasted garlic aioli.

Roasted Garlic Aioli
Recipe from the this website, reprinted from the Mustards: Napa Valley Cookbook by Ciny Pawlcyn.

Ingredients
1 large head garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 egg yolks
1 clove garlic, mashed to a paste
Juice of 1 small lemon
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
1-1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Instructions
To roast the garlic, preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Cut a thin slice off the very top of the head of garlic to expose the tops of all the cloves. Set the garlic head in a shallow baking dish. Pour the oil slowly over and into the head. Season with the salt and pepper. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 1-3/4 hours, until the garlic is very soft and tender. Don’t rush it; older garlic may take longer. Drain and reserve the oil, and set the garlic aside.

When cool, squeeze the pulp out of the roasted garlic into a food processor or blender and add the egg yolks, garlic, lemon juice, water, salt, and cayenne pepper. Purée until smooth. With the motor running, add the reserved roasting oil and the additional 1-1/2 cups oil in a slow, steady stream and continue processing until emulsified.

Makes about 2 cups

This was my first time making my own mayo, and I couldn’t believe how easy it was and how delicious it tasted.  I used half the mayo at the party.  The other half went into a potato salad with fingerling potatoes, scallions, and arugula, which was amazing, and a bit on some burgers.

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I served these at my New Year’s Eve party.  They were one of those, rare “please please please let this idea in my head work” hail marys that actually turned out exactly as I had imagined.  A Festivus Miracle indeed.

I don’t have a recipe, but I can tell you they were easier than they looked.  First, I cut a butternut squash in half, oiled it, and roasted it in the oven until it was soft.  Scraped out the insides and threw it in the food processor.

To make the polenta, I heated 2 cups of whole milk,  1 cup of water, and about 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan and added 1 cup of polenta over medium heat.  I whisked and stirred for a good ten minutes, then added about a 1 1/2 cups of butternut squash puree to the mix, as well as a good heaping teaspoon of salt.  Stir until it starts to get firm and the corn tastes cooked.

Pour the mixture into an oiled 9X13 pan and refrigerate over night.  The next day, I heated an oven to 350 and baked it for a good 30 minutes or so, until the top began to brown.  Let it cool, then cut into 1 1/2 inch squares.

To make the pesto, I cut a small chunk of parmesan cheese (probably about 1-2 ounces) and 5 or 6 large sage leaves and pounded the hell out of them in a mortar and pestle.  Add a bunch of salt and pepper and about 1 1/2 cups of walnuts.  Pound away until you reach the desired consistency and taste.  If it’s too sagey, add more walnuts.  If it’s not sage-y enough, mince some and add it in.  It’s really trial and error here.  Once the balance is right, mix in some olive oil until it gets to a pesto consistency.

To serve, dollop the pesto and a bit of mascarpone cheese on each square.  Surprisingly, they still looked and tasted fine well past midnight, so you can make these a bit in advance and serve at room temperature without a problem.

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Twas the night before Christmas, and my husband and I were enjoying the glorious peace and quiet of a holiday alone.  I made a lovely Italian-themed dinner, but before that, we had our own cocktail party.  On the menu, roasted olives and fennel, blue cheese cookies (cut in the shape of stars, to be festive), and negronis.

Roasted Olives and Fennel

I am a huge olive fan.  Love them.  But, there is only one thing better than olives, and that is warm olives.  To make them, I rinsed off a mix of olives from the olive bar at the store.  I then zested an orange and lemon, removing the zest in big chunks, then juiced each of them.  Toss the olives in the juice.  Then, take a fennel bulb (or part of one, depending on how big and how much you like fennel), cut it in strips, and toss that in.  Add a bay leaf and a few cloves of garlic smashed up.  Toss it all together with a drizzle of olive oil.  Preheat the oven and stick them in.  This is not an exact science, so if your oven is already on for something else, that’s fine.  In general, I’d say a good 12-15 minutes or so at 375 or so ought to do the trick.  You want to heat them up, and cook the rawness out of the fennel.  And voila, warm yummy olives.

Negroni

Now on to the drinkies.  I am not a huge cocktail person.  Wine is my vice.  But, I make an exception for these.  They are just lovely.  The Campari is bitter, but it’s cut nicely by the vermouth. Not too sweet, not too harsh, just right. To make one, put one ounce each of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari in a shaker with some ice, shake it up, and serve with an orange wedge.  Cheers!

 

 

 

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I really love my meat CSA, but one challenge it presents is finding new things to do with all the ground meat.  We get five pounds a month, usually 3 pounds of beef and 2 of something else.  There are only so many burgers and chili that I can possibly eat.  When I picked up my December shipment last week and tried to cram it all in my freezer full of meat, frozen cooking projects, and limoncello, I realized I was really far behind.  So I did an inventory and discovered I had about twelve pounds of ground meat in there, including seven of beef.  Oof.  Time to start using it.

Back in April, I made a Shepherd’s Pie with Spring Vegetables.  It was really good, and I made it a lot over the summer, often adding sweet summer corn into the vegetable mix.  I figured just because peas and carrots were no longer in season, there had to be a way to still make this.  So, I ventured off to the farmers’ market last weekend and basically bought one of everything, chopped it up, and threw it in my Shepherd’s Pie with Winter Vegetables.  And it was to die for.  It might even be better than the spring one, because while fresh peas are pretty delicious, nothing beats mashed sweet potato.

This is a pretty flexible recipe.  Nothing technical about it.  Everything in this is local – the meat is from Marin Sun Farms, the produce from the farmers market, dairy from Clover Stornetta, and the dollop of honey is from some dude in Oakland, who apparently sells his honey at my grocery store.  Who knew?

Shepherd’s Pie with Winter Vegetables

Ingredients
2 pounds ground meat (I used beef)
2 onions, thinly sliced
6 cups diced root vegetables (I used a mix of carrots, parsnip, celery root, and turnip)
lots of mashed sweet potato (I baked about 5 big ones)
2 cups of diced Brussel sprouts
a few tablespoons minced woody herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and sage.

Directions
Bake the sweet potatoes until they are soft.  Mash them up with a good pat of butter, salt and pepper, a splash of cream, and a good dollop of honey.  The honey really made these things, especially since the vegetables had some bitterness in them.

Preheat the oven to 400.

In a big saute pan, heat up some butter or oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Slowly saute until they turn golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.  Add the root vegetables and saute those.  You may need to add a splash of water to deglaze the pan if it starts to look like it’s going to burn.  When the vegetables start to soften up a bit, you add the meat.  If your pan is not big enough (mine wasn’t), just dump them out and add the meat.  Brown it, add the herbs, then add the Brussel sprouts.  Stir together and add to the root vegetables.

In a deep baking dish, add the meat and vegetables and spread it out.  Then start adding the mashed sweet potatoes on top and spread those out.

Stick it in the oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes.  If you want your potatoes brown and carmelized on top (who doesn’t?), finish it off in the broiler for a few minutes.  Cut up and serve.

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I’m alive and I’m back.  I have had a really busy few weeks and just haven’t had time to post anything.  But, I signed up to do the Dark Days challenge again this year, which should keep me on a more regular posting schedule.

The Dark Days Challenge is hosted by (not so) Urban Hennery, and is a winter-long challenge where participants commit to cooking one meal each week comprised of local, organic, and ethically sound food.  I did it last year and had a lot of fun discovering new ingredients, as well as local resources, like my Marin Sun Farms meat CSA and the super delicious Stonehouse blood orange infused olive oil.  All the meals I made last year can be found here.

And this begins my second year.  As my inaugural entry, I made a pumpkin chestnut soup.  Technically, a kabocha squash chestnut soup, I guess since that’s the gourd I had in the house.  And oh em gee, it might be the best soup I have ever made in my life.  It was nutty in the way that a peanut based soup is, but earthier than that.  And kabocha squash (aka my new favorite winter vegetable) is also a pretty nutty tasting vegetable, so it worked really well with the chestnuts.

I will say that the chestnuts were a pain in the neck to shell.  Usually, once I find out I like a soup recipe, I make a triple or quadruple batch of it and freeze it by the quart.  But, the idea of shelling three or four times as many chestnuts makes me want to cry.  So, I won’t tell anyone if you buy the jars of shelled or pureed chestnuts.

I found the recipe on Sunshine’s Kitchen, discovered by browsing Food Gawker, and it is an adaption of a Martha Stewart recipe.  The produce all comes from my local farmers’ market, the chicken stock was homemade from a Marin Sun Farms chicken, and the cream comes from Clover Stornetta.

Pumpkin and Chestnut Cream Soup
Recipe by Martha Stewart, as adapted by Sunshine’s Kitchen

Ingredients
2 Tablespoons of butter
1 small onion, minced
1 large carrot, diced
3 small potatoes, diced
About 1.5-2 pounds of pumpkin, cubed (or kabocha squash)
About 1/2 pound of chestnut purée, or the same amount of cooked and peeled chestnuts
4 cups water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth
a good splash  cup of cream
salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Directions

Heat butter in a large pot and add onions.  Saute until golden brown.  add carrots, potatoes, and squash and saute for a few minutes.  Add thechestnuts, and water or broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, carefully transfer to a blender to puree.   Add back to pot.  Gently whisk in cream or milk, and add a bit more water if the soup is too thick.  Add salt and pepper to season and serve.

I served mine up with a cold glass of Lagunitas Copper Ale – perfect match. 

 

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Beef stew.  With Belgian beer.  Need I say more?  Probably not, but since I’m verbose, I will.  This is a really good beef stew recipe.  It’s a classic Belgian dish.  I’m sure it’s particularly delicious with frites, but I’m not quite that ambitious, so I served it with bread.  The person who recommended the recipe to me suggested I add in a couple diced, peeled apples.  Which I did, and which is what made it extra awesome.  So, I suggest you do the same.  The apples and the onions break down into a rich, thick brown sauce, that’s sweet and savory.  For beer, use a good Belgian brown ale.  I used Moinette Bruin, above, but Leffe Bruin would also work.

Carbonade Flamandes
Recipe from this website

Ingredients
4 pounds boneless stew meat,
such as chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter (I used olive oil)
3 large onions (about 2 pounds), thinly sliced
2 bottles (12 ounces each) Belgian beer
2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 tablespoons red currant jelly (or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon cider or red wine vinegar
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and diced into 1 inch chunks (optional, but highly recommended)

Directions

Season the beef cubes with the salt and pepper and dredge with the flour. Shake off any excess.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter or oil in a large dutch oven or heavy, oven-proof pan over high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add the beef cubes and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Work in batches so as not to crowd the beef cubes, or they will steam instead of sauté.  Add additional oil or butter if necessary.  Once browned, set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter or oil to the skillet and melt over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook stirring occasionally, until browned, about 15 minutes.  If necessary, raise the heat toward the end of the cooking time.  It is important to brown the meat and the onions evenly to give the stew its deep brown color.  The trick is to stir the onions just enough to avoid burning the but not so often as to interrupt the browning process.

Deglaze the pan with the beer, scraping with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits.  Add the beef back to the pan as well as the apples and bring to a boil.  Add the thyme and bay leaves.

The recipe recommended simmering covered, over low heat until the meat is very tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  I did this and it was fine, but if I do it again, I’d put it in the oven at, say 325, for longer – three or four hours.  It’s really going to depend on the meat used, but I think mine was a bit tougher.  Before serving, stir in the red currant jelly or brown sugar and vinegar; simmer for 5 minutes.   Adjust the seasoning as needed and serve, preferably with more beer.

 

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