Monday, December 29, 2008

Red Butter Chicken + Garam Masala + Homemade Chapattis

Red Butter Chicken

Before making this our own, we learned this first from Sam Stern’s Real Food/Real Fast - a great cookbook by a British teen. The girls like the breezy language of the original and all the photos of Sam and his friends.  I like the emphasis on real cooking with real ingredients.  All of us love the results!  Unbelievably delicious!!

Melt in a large pan
6 Tablespoons butter
Add
1 medium onion, finely diced4 cloves garlic, crushedPinch of salt
and cook gently for 2 minutes.


Add
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper½ teaspoon chili powder3 teaspoons paprika2 teaspoons garam masala2 teaspoons ground coriander1 cinnamon stick4 cardamom pods (or 1¼ teaspoons ground cardamom)
and cook until onions are soft.

Add
2 (15 oz) cans crushed tomatoes2 Tablespoons tomato paste2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
and stir. Bring to a boil. Simmer on reduced heat for 10 minutes.

Add
4 chicken breasts, without skin, diced
and stir to coat.

Add
1 cup heavy cream2/3 cup plain yogurt
Reduce heat. Cook at a gentle simmer for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook
2 cups rice
in
4 cups waterPinch of salt
Chop
fresh cilantro
and stir into chicken. Excellent served with warmed naan or warmed whole wheat tortillas or - even better - Homemade Chappatis (see below)


Garam Masala
We found this formula for a garam masala mix years ago in a children's book about India from the library. Now I see garam masala premixed in the grocery store, but this smells so wonderful roasting in the oven, it's worth taking time to make it when you can.

Preheat oven 200°.
Roast in an ungreased 9 x 13” pan on bottom oven rack
3 sticks cinnamon½ cup cardamom pods¼ cup whole cloves¼ cup cumin seeds2 Tablespoons coriander seeds¼ C black peppercorns
for 30 min. Stir often.

Let cool.

With fingers, break open cardamom pods: remove and keep seeds, discard pods. Crush cinnamon (rolling pin and 2 towels). Combine & mix well. Grind to fine powder (food processor or in short bursts in blender).
Add
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
Store in sealed jar up to 6 months.



Homemade Chapattis
These are easy enough, I don't know why we don't make them more frequently.  The recipe is from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook

Preheat oven to 325°. Mix in a medium-sized bowl
½ cup flour½ cup whole wheat flour
Add
½ cup water
and stir until combined. Knead dough on a clean, floured surface for a minute or two, adding more flour to combat stickiness.

Divide dough into 6 equal balls and roll each one into a very thin round – no thicker than 1/8 inch – using plenty of flour on rolling surface and rolling pin.

Oil tray and brush tops of chapattis with
olive oil
Bake for 10 minutes until very, very lightly browned.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Spiced Sweet-Potato Soup (week of December 14 to 20)

Spiced Sweet-Potato Soup
adapted from a recipe in Blue Moon Soup – a Family Cookbook by Goss and Dyer.

We kept trying to make this soup because it sounded so good in the original with a melted chocolate garnish, but it was always unpleasantly bitter – until this time when we left the chocolate out – MUCH better! We also substituted garam masala for the curry powder of the original.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Melt in a soup pot, over medium heat
  • 2 Tablespoons butter

Add

  • 1 small leek, chopped (1 to 1½ cups)
  • ¼ cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced (you will need one more sweet potato later)
  • 1 Tablespoon cooking sherry (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

and sauté for 10 minutes.

Add

  • 1 more large sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups water

and stir.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Blend or mash half the soup with

  • 2 cups milk

until thick and smooth. Return blended soup to the pot and stir.

Place soup crocks on a baking sheet. Ladle soup into crocks and divide (to garnish)

  • 1 cup shredded Munster cheese
  • ¼ cup sliced mushrooms

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbly.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bacon Potato Soup + Medieval Forest Brussel Sprouts (week of December 7 - 13)

Bacon Potato Soup
Adapted from a recipe that came from the CSA farm we had a share in this past year - the original (from Fresh from the Farmers' Market by Janet Fletcher) called for prosciutto di Parma. I substituted bacon and love the results - the comforting depth of the potatoes and cabbage, the zippy fresh herbs. I made a huge pot in September with red cabbage and froze the delicate-pinky purple leftovers which we enjoyed now months later.

Melt:
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Saute:

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh sage, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

until onions are transparent, about 10 minutes.

Add:

  • 2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed, chopped in ½ inch cubes

Season with:

  • Salt and pepper

Stir and saute about 3 minutes.

Add:

  • 2 cups broth
  • 4 cups water

Bring to a simmer, cover and adjust heat to maintain simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Using a potato masher, mash potatoes until most of htem break down and begin to thicken soup. It's nice to leave a few slightly rough pieces to give the soup a more interesting texture.

Stir in:

  • ¾ pounds green or red cabbage, finely sliced

Simmer gently until cabbage is just tender, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Medieval Forest Brussel Sprouts

On a whim, I tired combining a few Northern European late autumn-ripening foods. These tastes are meant to be eaten together. The red apple peel is especially pretty against the bright green of the lightly sauteed sprouts.

Clean and cut in half:

  • 1 - 2 stalks of brussel sprouts

Heat in a pan:

  • 1 - 2 Tablespoons goose fat (or butter)

Saute brussel sprouts with:

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 - 2 apples, unpeeled but chopped small
  • ¼ - ½ cup fresh walnuts, shelled and quartered
  • Salt and pepper to taste

When sprouts turn bright green and onions soften, remove from heat and sprinkle with

  • 1 - 2 Tablespoons walnut oil
  • 1 - 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Adjust salt and pepper before serving.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Shepherd's Pie (week of Nov 30 - Dec 6)

If you think this is just warmed up leftovers, you're forgetting that dinner is 75 %  presentation.

I made this crowd-pleaser twice - the second time I was out of leftover mashed potatoes so rolled out some pie crust and made a pot pie with only a top lid.

Butter a covered casserole and preheat to 350°. Layer in casserole:
  • Cooked dressing
  • Mashed plain baked sweet potatoes
  • Turkey
  • Gravy
  • Mashed potatoes
Dot with:
  • Butter
Bake until top is golden. Great served with Orange-Cranberry Relish.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

PLUS Grandma's School Lunch Dressing and Orange-Cranberry Relish (week of Nov 23-29)



Grandma's School Lunch Dressing

Those must have been some mighty fine school lunches back in Grandma's day. This is a heavier stuffing than some - especially if made from homemade whole-grain bread. I like the moistness and the savory vegetables. Best if the bread crumbs are crushed or cubed quite small.

Slice thinly and toast in a warm oven enough bread to make:
  • 2 quarts of breadcrumbs
Remove from oven and cube and partially crush the dried-out bread.
Cook over medium heat, until transparent:
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, shredded
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
Mix vegetables and breadcrumbs with:
  • 5 - 6 Tablespoons fresh sage, chopped (1¾ teaspoons dried)
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup milk or broth
  • Salt to taste
Bake at 300° for 1½ hours or until good and hot.



Orange-Cranberry Relish
adapted from Thanksgiving 101 by Rick Rodgers with additions from my Mom.

This relish was the surprise hit of this year's Thanksgiving dinner. 
Good with roasted turkey. 
Great on turkey sandwiches with a little blue cheese
softened with cream cheese the next day.

Cut into quarters and pick out seeds from:
  • 4 - 5 satsumas (or 1 medium orange)
In a food processor, combine one-part satsuma pieces with one-part of
  • 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
until the fruit is evenly chopped.

Mix in:
  • ½ cup walnuts, finely chopped (and the fresher the better, walnuts go rancid dismayingly fast.)
  • 1 cup orange marmalade.

Best Pie Crust + Ginger Pear Pie + Danish Cherry + Ohio Lemon (week of Nov 23-29)

What would Thanksgiving be without pies?

Significantly less festive, if you ask me.  

Pumpkin, of course, is a classic and expected.  

But here are the three pies I most dote on:
Ginger Pear, Danish Cherry and Ohio Lemon.

(The lemon pie is best started
the day before you plan to bake it.)


Best Pie Crust
I used to like the pastry recipe in Joy of Cooking best of all.  That was until my husband bought me Sweety Pies by Patty Pinner for my birthday (clever purchase that) full of womanish wisdom and some of the most delicious pies ever.  I've combined the best of both my best-loved recipes and here is my go-to pie crust recipe.  The secret to pie crust is to be impatient, imprecise and haphazard -- which comes naturally to some of us.  Just move quickly and roughly and not at all thoroughly.  You want to handle the dough as little as possible:



for one 9-inch double crust:

Sift together
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
Measure and combine
  • ¾ cup chilled lard
  • ¼ cup chilled butter (which is the same as 4 Tablespoons, or half a stick)
and then cut the fats into the flour until it all has the texture of a bowl of peas.

Sprinkle in, one tablespoon at a time
  • 2½ - 3 Tablespoons ice-cold heavy cream or evaporated milk
Keep the dough as dry as possible -- tossing until it holds together when lightly pressed.  Gather into a flattened ball and refrigerate, tightly covered in plastic wrap (30 minutes - overnight).

When you're ready to roll it out, divide into two balls (keeping the other ball wrapped and refrigerated until you're ready for it).  Sprinkle a little flour on your pastry cloth and on the cotton sleeve covering your rolling pin.  Press into a small, flat disk and then roll out from the center to the edge, all the way around the disk.  Roll until you have a uniform circle a little larger than the pie pan, about ⅛ - ¼inch thick.

for 5 double crusts (if you're making multiple pies like we do):
11¼ cups flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
2½ teaspoons salt
3¾ cup chilled lard
1¼ cup chilled butter (which is the same as 20 Tablespoons or 2½ sticks)
5-6 Tablespoons ice-cold cream or evaporated milk



***to prebake crust***
 which you'll want to do for many custard pies and meringues

  • Roll out crust and line pie pan.  Flute the edges, then refrigerate for 30 minutes 
  • Preheat oven to 425.  
  • Line the formed crust with parchment paper and sprinkle parchment with pie weights or dry beans.  
  • Bake until the fluted edge begins to turn a very light brown, 8-10 minutes.
  • Reduce oven to 350.
  • Remove weights and parchment.
  • Bake crust another 5-10 minutes until golden brown.  (Depending on whether you'll be putting the crust back in the oven to cook when filled.)
  • Cool pan on a wire rack.  




Ginger Pear Pie
adapted from Epicurious "Pear Pie with Maple and Ginger"

Whenever whenever I make this pie, someone asks for the recipe.  There is just something so perfectly balanced about the lemon with the maple with the ginger with the pear.  If you are using very ripe pears you may want to increase the amount of tapioca to soak up the extra juice.




Prepare pie dough (top & bottom, recipe above). Line pie pan with dough. Position 1 rack in center and 1 rack in bottom ⅓ of oven and preheat to 375°.

Peel, quarter, core, then cut into ⅓”thick wedges:
  • 3 pounds firm but ripe Bosc or Comice pears
Toss in large bowl with:
  • ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca (less if pears are quite firm)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Transfer filling to crust. Place top crust. Cut several slits in top to allow steam to escape during
baking.

Place baking sheet on bottom rack to catch any juices that may bubble over .

Bake pie on center rack until crust is golden brown and juices bubble thickly, tenting pie with foil if crust browns too quickly, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Transfer pie to rack and cool. Serve pie slightly warm or at room temperature.





Danish Cherry Pie

Inspired by recipes for cherry soup and other Danish desserts, I made my own subtly spiced cherry filling to honor family heritage and take the place of the humdrum, over-sweetened canned cherry filling. The varied amounts in flavorings depend on how flavorful the fruit you use - so taste as you go along. You may substitute an undrained bottle of home-canned black cherries for the 2 cans of cherries - in which case you would not add any additional sugar.

Line pie pan with dough (recipe above).

Combine in medium saucepan - DO NOT DRAIN:
  • 1 can Oregon Pitted Red Tart Pie Cherries
  • 1 can Oregon Pitted Bing Dark Sweet Cherries
  • 1½ Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • ½ - 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 2 drops - ½ teaspoon almond flavoring
  • sugar to taste, if necessary (less than 1 cup - I use none)
Let sit 10 - 15 minutes.
Bring to a simmer and cook until fruit begins to thicken.
Transfer filling to crust. Dot with:
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
Cover with lattice. Bake 10 minutes at 450°, then reduce heat to 350° and bake about 40 minutes longer or until golden brown



Ohio Lemon Pie
from Joy of Cooking, "A very tart Shaker favorite."

I love this pie! 
But do use the whole amount of sugar - 
speaking from experience - it's still very tart!

Grate and reserve the yellow peel from:
  • 2 large lemons
With very sharp knife remove the white inner peel from the lemons and cut them into paper-thin slices. Remove seeds.
Combine in a bowl the lemon slices, grated peel, and:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
let stand 2 to 24 hours—the longer the better.

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a pie pan with dough (recipe above), brush lightly with butter or give a light sprinkling of flour.

Add to the lemon-and-sugar mixture:
  • 4 well-beaten eggs
Stir well. Pour into pastry-lined pan and cover with top crust.
Bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325° and bake about 45 minutes longer.
Cool pie before serving.



Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Creamy Cabbage and Potato Soup (week of Nov 16-22)

Creamy Cabbage and Potato Soup
adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, by Mollie Katzen


Scrub and cut into chunks:

  • 2 - 3 good-sized potatoes

Boil in plenty of water. Drain when tender. Save the water to use as stock.


Meanwhile, in a large kettle cook:

  • 5 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups onion, chopped

After a few minutes add:

  • 2 teaspoons caraway seed
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Cover and let cook over medium-low for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add:

  • 8 packed cups shredded cabbage (1 medium head)
  • 6 cups potato water

Cover and simmer 25-35 minutes.

Whip potatoes, blending in:

  • 1 cup heavy cream (or 1 cup half-and-half or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup sour cream)

and add to the soup. Simmer a few minutes more and serve!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Poverty Soup (week of November 9 - 15)

Rich Poverty Soup

Made from often overlooked trimmings - and other vegetables - the fresher, the better. The beet greens and carrots are both sweet and the Kluski noodles have heft and a soft texture -- all of which makes this soup especially satisfying. The ambitious could substitute homemade noodles, of course.

Heat:
  • 1 - 2 Tablespoons of olive oil

Saute until soft:
  • one medium onion, chopped
  • 2 - 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 - 3 medium carrots, chopped

Stir in:
  • 1 lb. beet greens, chopped thin

Once greens are wilted, transfer to large stockpot with:
  • 2 - 3 cups beef broth
  • water to taste
  • 16 oz. package of Kluski noodles
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook until noodles are soft (timed according to instructions on package). This soup is even better warmed up the next day for a quick Saturday lunch.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

BEEF AND STOUT STEW

This is dee-licious. I used bleu cheese and apple juice.

This hearty beef stew is slowly simmered on the stovetop, then topped with Stilton pastry and finished in a hot oven.

Ingredients:
7 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. white button mushrooms, quartered
2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 1/2 lb. beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. tomato paste
2 1/2 cups Irish stout
1 cup beef broth
1 lb. carrots, cut into chunks
1 lb. red potatoes, cut into chunks
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh thyme
One 16-inch round Stilton pastry (see related recipe at left)
1 egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water

Directions:
In a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the mushrooms, onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Dredge the beef in the flour, shaking off the excess. In the Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add one-third of the beef and brown on all sides, about 7 minutes total. Transfer to a separate bowl. Add 1/2 cup water to the pot, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Pour the liquid into a separate bowl. Repeat the process 2 more times, using 2 Tbs. oil to brown each batch of beef and deglazing the pot with 1/2 cup water after each batch. Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the beef, stout, broth and reserved liquid, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Add the mushrooms, onions, carrots, potatoes and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef and vegetables are tender, about 3 hours. Preheat an oven to 400°F. Brush the rim of the pot with water. Lay the pastry round on top, allowing it to droop onto the filling. Trim the dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang, and crimp to seal. Brush the pastry with the egg mixture, then cut 4 slits in the top of the dough. Bake for 30 minutes. Let the potpie rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 8 to 10. Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Mom's Hamburger Soup (week of Nov 2 - 8)

My Mom's Hamburger Stew
Soul satisfying for the end of a rainy day.
Brown in a medium skillet:
  • 1 lb organic ground beef
  • 2 onions, chopped
In stockpot, heat:
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
Add and saute:
  • 4 good-sized carrots, sliced into coins or half-coins
  • 8 small to medium potatoes, scrubbed and in small chunks
  • 4 stalks of celery, sliced across stalk into C-shaped curves
Combine browned meat with veggies in stockpot. Add:
  • 1 qt bottled tomatoes
  • 2-3 qts water
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Add more water as necessary. Cook until potatoes are soft about 1 hour.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Quick and Cheesy Macaroni (week of Oct 26 - Nov 1)

Quick and Cheesy Macaroni
adapted from Sam Stern's "Cauliflower Cheese" in Cooking up a Storm: "This is great comfort food. The sauce has to be thick and creamy with punchy seasoning and a really strong-tasting Cheddar. You want it smooth, so measure out the ingredients as exactly as you can."

Rather than baking the sauce over steamed cauliflower, we simply poured it over leftover pasta spirals that had been reheated in a buttered dish in the oven at about 250 degrees. Very quick and very tasty. (We used whole milk - yes, organic - because we're weird that way.)

Boil:

  • macaroni or other mid-sized pasta

in

  • salted water

for 12 minutes. Drain.


On low heat, melt in a saucepan:

  • 4 Tablespoons butter

Gradually stir in:

  • 1/4 cup flour

Continue stirring until the mix bubbles. Don't let it brown

Remove from heat. Whisk in:

  • 2 cups milk

beating constantly so that the milk and flour mix together smoothly without lumps.

Return pan to heat. Continue cooking, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens, then simmer 2 to 3 more minutes, continuing to stir so it doesn't burn.

Add:

  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and pepper

Return to the heat and stir for 1 minute. Pour over cooked pasta and mix together. (If you want, you may bake at 450 for 30 minutes.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Stir Fry Salad


Stir Fry Salad
inspired by Mollie Katzen's "Warm Salad" in Moosewood Cookbook
" . . . featuring an assortment of ultranutritious leafy greens, lightly cooked and delicately marinated. This can be a main dish unto itself, or a prelude or accompaniment to a simple pasta supper. However you serve it, be sure to include some fresh crusty bread to mop up the juices."


We substituted radicchio for escarole and used local chanterelle mushrooms. Amazingly delicious and wonderfully satisfying - you need to try this! Delicious with cornbread.


Heat
1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a deep skillet
Add to the pan, a little at a time, the following greens, adding more greens as soon as the ones in the pot cook down enough to make room, salting lightly after each addition:
1 small head radicchio, chopped1 medium bunch red chard, choppedabout 10 large leaves Napa cabbage, chopped2 cups (packed) chopped mustard greens1 to 2 teaspoons salt, optional

Use a fairly intense heat under the pot, stirring as you cook.

When all the greens are wilted and tender, stir in
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Cook and stir just 1 or 2 minutes more.  Remove greens from heat and transfer to a platter.
Heat in the skillet
2 Tablespoons olive oil
and when it is hot, add
2 medium leeks, chopped2 cups chopped red onion3/4 lbs. mushrooms, sliced1 stalk celery, sliced1/2 small cauliflower, chopped
Salt lightly and stir-fry quickly over medium-high heat until just tender (about 5-8 minutes).
Add to the platter, mix gently to incorporate the greens, and sprinkle while still hot with
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar6 Tablespoons Parmesan, freshly grated
Grind
Black pepper
over the top, and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, with pieces of cornbread to mop up the juices.





Friday, October 24, 2008

Bosc Pear, Blue Cheese, Lettuce + Cinnamon Apple Mesclun (week of Oct 12-18)

Bosc Pear, Blue Cheese, Sweet Lettuce
A classic combination. Simple. Simply delicious.
(makes 5 individual salads)

Wash and spin dry:
  • 1 small head of mild lettuce, tinged red,

laying a leaf or two on each salad plate.

Slice thinly:

  • 1 perfectly ripe, firm, golden brown Bosc pear,

so that there are 5 slices per salad, and fan slices out on the lettuce leaf.

Divide among the salad plates and sprinkle over the lettuce and pear:

  • 1 - 2 oz. blue cheese, in 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 scallion (I used the tender green sprouting tips of a yellow onion from my pantry cupboard), minced fine
  • 1 Tablespoon walnut oil
  • salt
  • plenty of freshly ground pepper


Cinnamon Apple and Mixed Greens
Crowd pleaser. The cinnamon is surprisingly subtle and warm.
(makes a large bowl of salad)

Wash and spin dry:
  • mixed greens including red and green lettuce, raddichio, mizuna, etc.

Toss with:

  • 1 - 2 Tablespoons walnut oil
  • 1 or 2 Gala apples, chopped small
  • 1 scallion (or the tender green sprouting tips of a yellow onion), minced fine
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cinnamon, to taste

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Italian Mushroom and Eggplant Sauce + Assorted Fruit and Berry Gratin (week of Oct 5-11)

BEST Italian Mushroom and Eggplant Sauce

adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook: "With its meaty texture, eggplant makes a wonderful vegetarian pasta sauce, which pairs well with ziti."

We used whole wheat penne.

Cut in half lengthwise and sprinkle with salt:

  • 1-2 lbs. eggplant (globe or Japanese)

Drain in colander for 1/2 hour. Rinse. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange eggplant and:

  • 3-4 cloves of garlic

on an oiled baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and bake until tender (20 minutes). Let cool, then remove skin from eggplant and coarsley chop the pulp. Smash the garlic to squeeze cloves out of their skins.

In a mid-size skillet over medium heat, heat:

  • 1/4 olive oil

Add and cook:

  • 1 large onion (sweet or yellow), chopped fine

stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes.

In a slow cooker, combine all the above with:

  • 4 cups roma tomatoes, peeled and seeded (or one 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes)
  • 1 tomato paste ball *(recipe below) (or one 6 oz. can tomato paste)
  • 12 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 Tablespoons red cooking wine (or 2 T. grape juice & 1 T red wine vinegar)
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 & 1/2 teaspoons dried)

Stir. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 8 hours (HIGH for 3-1/2 to 4 hours).

During the last hour add:

  • 3 Tablespoons fresh flat-leap parsley, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The sauce will hold on LOW for a few hours.

Italian Tomato Paste

adapted from The Joy of Cooking: "This flavorful paste is diluted in a little boiling water or stock and added to sauces and soups. Fine in spaghetti and noodle dishes, as a dressing for cooked vegetables or salads, and as an addition to salad dressings."

Hmm . . . at any rate it adds a delicious & savory depth when used in place of canned paste.

Wash and cut into slices:

  • 1 & 1/2 pecks ripe Italian tomatoes (6 quarts)

Add:

  • 1 large celery rib, cut up with some leaves
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh herbs: basil, thyme, sweet marjoram, or oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 12 cloves
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 two-inch stick cinnamon
  • 1 minced clove of garlic

Simmer these ingredients until the tomatoes are soft. Stir frequently. Put the vegetables through a fine sieve.

Simmer the pulp in an uncovered slow cooker. Stir frequently. When the pulp is thick and reduced by half, spread the paste to a depth of 1/2 inch on moist plates.

Cut into the paste to let air penetrate. Place the paste in a 200 degree oven to dry.

When the paste is dry enough, roll it into balls and dip in olive oil. Store refrigerated in airtight sterile jars--taking care to remove one at a time with a clean utensil as needed.

Berry & Autumn Fruit Gratin

adapted from True Blueberry: "This light and lovely gratin, a traditional French baked dish with a golden crust, is prepared with fromage blanc, the versative low-fat or fat-free creamy French-style fresh cheese that visually resembles a cross between sour cream and yogurt. The fluffy gratin topping is a cross between a meringue and a souffle."

What is fromage blanc? it sounds like a close cousin to yogurt cheese (directions below). This gratin is also good with a full 7 cups of fresh blueberries instead of the assortment of fruit.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly butter an 8- or 9-inch square or oval baking dish with:

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened

and set aside.

In a large bowl, lightly whip with a whisk, until it is aerated and smooth (~1 minute):

  • 1 & 1/2 cups yogurt cheese

Add, whisking until the mixture is smooth and fluffy:

  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg yolk
  • 2 Tablespoons white flour

Set aside.

In glass bowl, combine:

  • 2 large egg whites
  • Pinch of salt

Beat with rotary beater until the mixture holds soft peaks. Do not overbeat. Gradually and gently fold the egg whites into the yogurt cheese until smoothly blended but still very airy. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine:

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (or 1 cup raspberries & 1 cup chopped peaches or pears)
  • 2 cups fresh black berries (frozen are too bland)

Place 2/3 cup of the fruit in a small bowl and set aside. To the remaining fruit, add:

  • 3 Tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

and stir to combine.

Transfer the fruit mixture to the baking dish. Spoon on the egg and cheese mixture, spreading it smoothly and evenly over the fruit. Bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the egg & cheese topping is puffy and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with

  • 1 & 1/2 Tablespoon powdered sugar

Garnish with the reserved barries, placing them in the cracks of the crust. Dust with additional powderd sugar if desired and serve immediately.

Yogurt Cream Cheese

adapted from Nourishing Traditions: "Makes 5 cups of whey and 2 cups cream cheese. . . . .[Whey can be used] as a starter culture for lacto-fermented vegetables and fruits, for soaking grains and as a starter for many [mild] beverages."

Our neighbor Delbert Powell who passed away last winter showed me how to make this cheese to serve with a Lebanese bean recipe called facula. This tangy cheese is also good spread on a chewy slice of sourdough with a fresh salsa or pico de gallo spooned over the top.

Line a large strainer set over a bowl with a square of clean cheesecloth.

Pour in:

  • 2 quarts of yogurt

and cover with a clean dishcloth and let stand at room temperature for several hours. The whey will run into the bowl and the milk solids will stay in the strainer.

Tie up the cheesecloth with the milk solids inside, being careful not to squeeze. (I use a clean rubber band.) Tie the sack to a wooden spoon placed across the top of a pitcher or bowl so that more whey can drip out. (I slide the handle of a wooden spoon through the rubber band.)

When the bag stops dripping, the cheese is ready. Store whey in an airtight and sterile mason jar and cream cheese in a covered glass container. Refrigerated, the cream cheese keeps for about 1 month and the whey for about 6 months.