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Posts Tagged ‘Nuts’

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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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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Just like last year, I’ve been buying up my beloved dry farmed early girl tomatoes like crazy.  They are the best tomato ever, and if you are lucky enough to find them at your farmers market, buy them.  You won’t regret it.

With those tomatoes on my mind, I was quite excited to stumble across this recipe in this month’s Food and Wine.  The tomatoes don’t get cooked, so it’s really a perfect recipe to savor the last of the amazing summer tomatoes.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Anchovies, and Almonds
Recipe by Food and Wine

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds  tomatoes, cored and finely diced.  I used dry farmed early girls, but the recipe recommends beefsteak.  I think any meaty tomato that doesn’t have a lot of water in it would work.
1/4 cup finely shredded basil leaves
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup salted roasted almonds
3 large oil-packed anchovies
1 large garlic clove, smashed
1/2 cup grated fresh pecorino cheese.  I used parmesan, but the recipe recommends Fiore di Sardo.
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 pound pasta.  I used fetticine, but the recipe recomments spaghettini

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the diced tomatoes with the shredded basil, scallions, olive oil and crushed red pepper.  Season lightly with salt and black pepper and let the tomatoes stand for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mini food processor, pulse the almonds with the anchovies and garlic until finely chopped. Add the 1/2 cup of cheese and the capers and pulse to combine.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, shaking off the excess water. Add the pasta to the tomatoes along with the chopped almond mixture and toss well. Serve the pasta, passing extra cheese at the table.

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I’ve been buying up elephant garlic from Happy Boy Farm at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market.  Elephant garlic is about the size of a normal head of garlic, except it’s just one giant clove.  Apparently, it’s not really garlic, but closer to a leek or onion.  It tastes like garlic, except a little more mild.  And it’s delicious roasted.

To roast the garlic, I preheated the oven to 400.  Then, I wrapped each head individually in tin foil with a drizzle of garlic and a small sprig of rosemary.  I put the cloves in a baking dish (they might leak and you don’t want garlic oil burning at the bottom of your oven) and baked them for about 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven, unwrap, let them cool, then remove the skin.

At this point, you can mash them up and do whatever you want with them, like spread on crostini.  To make the pesto, I tossed three heads of the roasted elephant garlic in the food processor with the roasted rosemary needles, a half a cup of walnuts, and about two ounces of parmesan cheese.  I pulsed it a few times until it started to come together, then slowly added some olive oil, about 1/3 of a cup or so, lots of freshly cracked pepper, and a large pinch of salt.

To serve, I tossed it over some linguine with a sprinkling of toasted walnuts.  It should make enough to cover about two pounds of pasta.  I wound up freezing half the pesto to use for another meal.

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Last week, it was freakishly cold, wet, and rainy here for a few days.  These ingredients made it all better. 

I piled them on pizza dough topped with fontal cheese and the result was amazing.   Fontal cheese is a type of Fontina, only nuttier and earthier.  If you can’t find it, I’d go for regular Fontina if you prefer mild cheeses or Taleggio, if you like more pungent cheeses.

Winter Pizza

Ingredients
Butternut squash – peeled and diced into 3/4 inch chunks, about 2 1/2 cups
4 ounces of an earthy, nutty cheese like Fontal or Taleggio, grated (if it is soft, it helps to stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes before grating)
1 cup of walnuts, roughly chopped
15 or so sage leaves, more if you’d like
3-4 shallots
Pizza dough (I use this one)
Olive oil, salt and pepper

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425. 

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the shallots and saute for about 8 minutes or so, until they become golden brown and carmelized.  Remove and set aside.

In the same skillet, heat another tablespoon of oil.  Add the butternut squash, and saute that for 5 minutes or so.  This is really just to make sure it gets fully cooked when it goes into the oven.  You don’t need to make it soft, just brown it for a few minutes to start the cooking process.

Roll out the pizza dough and brush the carmelized shallots over the base, making sure they are evenly distributed.  It won’t be totally covered, just more of a flavoring.  (If you want it totally covered, I would double the shallots.) 

Sprinkle the cheese on top, followed by the squash and walnuts.

Bake in the oven for 8 minutes.  While it is baking, toss the sage leaves in a drop of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  You just want to coat them so they don’t burn in the oven and get a little fried.  Take the pizza out and sprinkle the sage over the pizza.  Put the pizza back in the oven for another 8 minutes or so, until the cheese starts to brown.  Then serve.

The end result really was incredible.  I want to make this all the time.  The walnuts get really sweet in the oven and complement the cheese really well.  The salty sage leaves are a nice bite too.  With a glass of pinot noir, this really did make life a lot better.  I would definitely consider cutting this up in small pieces and serving this as a party appetizer.  So good.

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When I made sweet potato gnocchi a couple weeks ago, I froze half the batch.  I wanted to try something new with the second half, so I opted for this recipe from the great blog Not Eating Out in New York.  Since the gnocchi were already made, it took me no time at all to throw this dinner together.   It was incredibly delicious, and I liked it even better than the cider sauce I made the first time around.  Of course, given this blog’s name, that should come as no surprise.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Arugula and Hazelnuts
from Not Eating Out in New York

1 pound of sweet potato gnocchi
1 large bunch arugula, coarsely chopped
about 1/3 cup hazelnuts, crushed or chopped
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
freshly grated parmesan (optional)

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet and add the hazelnuts.  Toast for about 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan frequently. R emove from the pan just as you begin to notice some sides of the nuts darkening.  Transfer to a bowl or a cutting board to crush or chop.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the gnocchi.

Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan with about half the olive olive and when it’s hot, add the arugula and a pinch of salt and pepper.   Stir frequently for about 2 minutes, until the arugula is just wilted.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the finished gnocchi to the pan with the arugula, transfering some of the cooking water with you.  

If you finish cooking the gnocchi before the arugula is ready, just drain it and reserve a bit of the water, and add in a few splashes as neccessary to keep things from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Season with more salt and pepper, and drizzle with the rest of the olive oil.  Transfer to serving plates and top with the crushed hazelnuts.  Finish with the optional garnish of grated nutmeg, or do what I did, and grate some parmesan on it.  Serve immediately.

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When I got a huge bunch of rosemary in my recent farm share box, I started looking around for fun things to do with it.  Because I have an undying devotion to putting herbs in desserts, I went searching for something sweet.  This recipe from the New Orleans Times-Picayune came up, and I couldn’t resist.

It’s incredibly easy and you can have it mixed, baked, and in your mouth in about 30 minutes.   It’s like a Rachel Ray recipe, only it actually tastes good.  

Do not fear the addition of rosemary in this cookie.   It goes very well with the lightly sweet, buttery taste.  The end result tastes like a cross between pie crust and short bread.  It went well with a glass of limoncello after dinner, and with coffee the next morning (they are that addictive).

Tuscan Pine Nut Cookies with Rosemary

Ingredients
¼ cup pine nuts
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup all-purpose flour

Directions
Preheat oven 350 degrees. 

Toast the pine nuts.  The recipe suggests putting them in the oven, but really, there is no need to bother with at.  Get the pot that you will be making this batter in, toss the pine nuts in, put the burner on medium, and just let them toast up.  Give them a shake every 20 seconds or so and keep an eye on them as they’ll go from toasted to burnt very quickly.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

In that saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Remove pan from heat and stir in the powdered sugar, rosemary and pine nuts. Then stir in the flour to make a stiff dough.

Spread dough evenly into an ungreased 8-inch-square baking pan.  Bake until bars are golden and firm at the edges, about 18-20 minutes.  Cool pan on a rack for about 2 minutes, and use a sharp knife to cut into 16 squares.  Let bars cool in pan at least 10 minutes before removing them with a small spatula.

Ok, so maybe with cooling time these things technically take longer than 30 minutes.  But not much.  And they are totally yum-o.

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