Archive for the 'Recipes' Category

Amazing Corn and Mushrooms

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Thank you to everyone who stopped by the Slow Foods tent at Farmers@Firehouse today!  I had a great time cooking.  Two of the dishes I made were featured in the Farm Stand Project recipe booklet; this dish was not.  One of the samplers asked me what I call it.  “I call it onions, garlic, mushrooms, and corn,” I said, “but you’re welcome to help me give it a better name.”

“I think you should just call it Amazing,” she said.

So, without further ado…

Amazing Corn and Mushrooms

♦ 1 onion, diced
♦ about 8 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
♦ 4 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
♦ about 3 oz. chicken of the woods, diced (or substitute other wild mushroom; or crimini)
♦ 4 ears’ worth of corn, sliced from cobs
♦ canola oil for sauteeing (about 3-4 Tbl)
♦ salt, pepper, and ginger
♦ fresh oregano and rosemary to taste, minced

  1. Heat a pan over medium-high heat.  Add the oil, let it get hot.  Add pepper, ginger, and onions.  Stir onions to coat with oil and spices, then add a pinch of salt.
  2. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes or until they start to brown.
  3. Add garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes, or until it softens and starts to brown slightly.
  4. Add mushrooms.  Turn heat down slightly to medium-low to medium.  Cook mushrooms, stirring occasionally, for about 7-10 minutes or until they look like they’re about done.  Don’t hurry them, but don’t burn them either.  When it comes down to it, getting the most out of your fungus is more art than science; but here is my current best advice for cooking mushrooms.
  5. When the mushrooms hit their stride, add the corn.  Turn the heat up a bit.  Cook it for 2-3 minutes, stir in fresh herbs, and serve.

Pierogies

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Pierogies are a prime example of classical Pittsburghian cuisine.  Pierogies are little pasta pockets, generally containing mashed potatoes plus something else.

Flavors that have a place in the local canon are: potato and cheese; potato and onion; and potato and sauerkraut.  A ‘modern classic’ is potato and jalapeno.  These 4 flavors are represented in the “Great Pittsburgh Pierogi Race N’At” during every Pirates home game by the mascot characters Cheese Chester, Oliver Onion, Sauerkraut Saul, and Jalapeno Hannah.  Basically, pierogies are a part of being a Pittsburgher.

Everybody’s grandmother makes them around here, whether at home or as a fundraiser for their church (going price at one local congregation: ~$8/dozen).  I think it’s the long tradition behind these fried potato raviolis that made me hesitant to try my hand at making them before now.  But, with a college reunion approaching for which attendees are supposed to bring a food that represents their current region of residence, I decided that the time had come to make my version of this local delicacy, and I’ve got to say, I was quite pleased with the results.

I made 2 versions–potato and cheddar, and my own twist on the theme: sweet potato with sauteed mushrooms, kale, and prosciutto.  The pictures are from the potato and cheddar pierogies, but the technique is the same no matter what type of filling you use.

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Peach-Blueberry Crumb Cake

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Crumb cake has long been one of my favorite breakfast items.  The recipe my mom makes is fantastic, and I have used it for many years to consistent results.  I’ve toyed around with it some: adding spices to the crumb mix, for instance.  But it wasn’t until this past weekend, when I was staring at mountains of peaches and blueberries whilst pondering breakfast that I tried adding fruit into the mix.

Wow!  So good I ate nearly half of it myself.

My mother sometimes doesn’t like it when I monkey around with her recipes.  This particular edit to her recipe seems so intuitive that I don’t know why I never tried it sooner.

Peach-Blueberry Crumb Cake

♦ 3 cups flour
♦ 1 Tbl baking powder
♦ 1 tsp salt
♦ 1/2 tsp cinnamon
♦ 1/2 tsp ginger
♦ 1/4 tsp nutmeg
♦ pinch cardamom
♦ 1 1/2 cups sugar (split between white and brown)
♦ 1 stick butter
♦ 3 large eggs
♦ 1 cup milk
♦ 2 tsp rum
♦ 2 cups sliced fresh or frozen peaches
♦ 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease 2 x 9-inch pie plates or 1 x 12″ cast iron skiklet
2. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
3. Use fingers or dough cutter to blend butter into flour mixture, like you would to start a pie crust or biscuits.
4. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of this mix and set to the side. This will become the crumb topping.
5. Beat eggs in a small bowl. Blend in milk and rum.
6. Stir liquid into dry until just combined. There should be lumps.
7. Fold blueberries into batter.
8. Spread half of the batter into the pie plates or skillet. Spread peaches across the batter evenly, then top with the rest of the batter.
9. Spread crumbs across top. They will be thickly spread. This is good.
10. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Serve warm. Leftovers are best wihin 24 hours. They get somewhat sticky after that. Leftovers best heated briefly in toaster oven.

Naturally Colored Icing

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

One of the things that consistently annoys me about foods marketed toward children are the ridiculous amounts of artificial coloring in them.  This is especially offensive in light of research pointing to ways in which artificial colors exacerbate hyperactivity in children and can even be a contributing factor in the severity of symptoms in autistic children.  Artificial colors are coal tar byproducts (as is saccharine, by the way), and really have no resemblance to actual foods.  So what then to do about providing children with fun and interesting colors to eat?  Why not take advantage of the wide range of fruits and vegetables that have natural colorants to produce colorful foods that are also more flavorful as a result of drawing their colors from real foods?

The cake pictured above has no artificial colors in its icing.  It is iced with blueberry-flavored purple icing; black-currant flavored pink icing; and cocoa-flavored brown icing.

The easiest way to make naturally colored icing is to build the color into your butter.  Follow my instructions for the black currant beurre blanc and let the resulting butter cool to room temperature, then use it to start the icing.  The general formula for icing will be 4 cups of confectioners sugar per 1/2 lb of butter.  1/2 lb of butter is enough to ice a 10 x 15 layer cake.  Make smaller quantities of icing for accent colors.

Here is a partial list of fruit-based colors that could be made this way:

Purple—blueberries and red wine

Pink—black currants and white wine; or strawberries and white wine, mixed with some plain butter

Red—strawberries and white wine

Green—kiwis and white wine

Yellow—saffron-infused white wine or turmeric whipped into the butter

Orange—combine red and yellow butters; or for a paler shade, use peaches.

Blue— This is not a natural color in food.  It can, however, be achieved through chemistry: cook beets down with a base (such as baking soda).  They (and the water they are cooked in) will turn blue.  Reduce this water to almost nothing, refresh it with a half cup of white wine, then reduce again.  Whip the butter into it per the beurre blanc instructions.  It will not be a royal blue, but the hue can be adjusted by combining the resulting colored butter with other butter when making the icing.

The best part about using naturally-colored icing is the flavor that goes along with it.  The purple icing was not just a visual component of this cake, but added a vibrant blueberry flavor that really was a fantastic addition to the final result.

Zucchini Aurora

Friday, July 20th, 2012

I started making this zucchini preparation last summer, but named it this year, inspired by 1) the fact that my wife (Aurora) enjoys it so much and 2) a fantastic novel I recently finished which revolves around the fact that Escoffier failed to name a single culinary creation after his wife.

You can make this with yellow squash as easily as with Zucchini, but “squash Aurora” sounds like a command to do her bodily harm….

Zucchini Aurora

♦ 1-2 zucchini

salt

pepper

olive oil

♦ ~1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

♦ minced fresh herbs to taste (basil, rosemary, and/or thyme)

  1. Combine the minced fresh herbs with the parmesan cheese and set aside.
  2. Cut the zucchini into approximately 1/3-inch slabs, on the bias (aka at an angle).  Accomplish this by leaving the squash flat on the cutting board and cutting it in diagonal pieces.
  3. Season the squash with salt and pepper and drizzle it with olive oil.
  4. Either sear it in a small amount of oil in a hot pan (seared zucchini Aurora) or grill it over medium-hot flame (grilled Zucchini Aurora).  In either case, flip it when the one side is golden brown.
  5. Remove from your chosen heat source when the second side is golden brown.  Plate it with the second side to cook up.  Sprinkle it immediately with the herb & cheese mixture.  The cheese will melt on the hot surface.
  6. Serve.

The result of this simple preparation is complex in flavor, and deserves to be a timeless classic firmly ensconced in every household’s repertoire.  Make it this weekend, and you will be hooked and continue to prepare it every zucchini season until your dying days.  It’s just that good.

Building a Better Waffle through Science

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

I made some of the best peach waffles I’ve ever had the other evening.

Ok, so that boast isn’t that tough to back up (peach waffles rarely show up on menus), but these waffles were good, and in large part I credit that to putting science to work for me.  I followed my basic waffle recipe for the most part, but with these alterations:

  1. I added the zest of 1 lime to the egg whites when they were frothy.  Acid helps egg whites to hold their peaks (that’s why many meringue recipes call for cream of tartar).  The lime flavor was also a nice touch.
  2. Instead of adding the spices into the flour mixture, I melted them with the butter.  The fat-soluble flavanoids infused the butter, resulting in better flavor.
  3. I drizzled the butter into the egg yolks while whisking constantly.  The yolks emulsified the fat, so that it did not rise to the top when the milk was added.
  4. I diced a peach and added it into the batter.  I recommend getting lots of peaches as they enter peak season, slicing them, freezing them, and using them all year round so that your family can experience the taste sensation that is these waffles even in the dead of winter.

Make my waffles.  They’re f-bombingly delicious.

Black Currant Infused Beurre Blanc

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Perhaps it would be more accurate to call this stunningly bright sauce a “Beurre Pourpre” as it most certainly is not white, but it’s made with white wine, so call it what you will.

  • 2 ounces brandy
  • 1 pint black currants
  • white wine to cover the currants
  • 1/2 cup white wine (in addition to the white wine already listed)
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter cut into chunks and kept cold
  1. Heat a small saucepan.  Add the brandy and flame it.
  2. When the flames die off, add the currants and the first dose of wine (enough to cover them).
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until almost dry (will be fairly syrupy).  Refresh with the 1/2 cup of wine, being certain to use it to get all syrup stuck to the sides of the pan.
  4. Strain through cheesecloth.
  5. Return to a boil, then let simmer until syrupy.
  6. Whisk in the butter over low heat.  Add only a few small cubes at a time, whisk until they are melted and incorporated, then add a few more.  Repeat until the entire half pound of butter has been incorporated and the sauce has a luxurious texture and flavor.
  7. Remove from heat and keep in a warm (not hot) place until service.  Whisk occasionally as it sits.  If transferring to a different container for service, make sure that the receiving vessel is warm lest the sauce break.
  8. Leftovers of this sauce are best used as a spread—it is very difficult to successfully reheat this sauce without it breaking.

Here is the sauce, in context, as served with steamed Maine lobster.  It would also match well with many other types of fish; french toast, pancakes, or waffles; muffins or popovers; poultry cooked with a cinnamon spice rub; etc.

Burgers Worth Grilling

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

For a very long time, I have resisted the idea of grilling hamburgers.  It seemed like ground meat was a waste of my charcoal.  A visit from my parents gave me the nudge I needed to make grilling burgers a worthwhile experience.

My father told me about how he and my mother have been grilling onions to go along with their meat patties.  I figured, why not give it a shot? and added onions into my normal grilling repertoire.  That, plus making some homemade buns (recipe follows the photos) was all the nudge I needed to grill some very worthwhile beef patties.

Then, I stacked it all up on a homemade hamburger bun.

And, believe me, the final product was definitely worth my charcoal!

Here’s the recipe for the buns:

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Cooking with Angstrom/ Savory French Toast

Monday, November 28th, 2011

So, Angstrom has a new favorite word: “Spice.”

He says it when he gets home from daycare and sees the spice rack on the wall by the back door, “Spice!” Sometimes he says it when he gets up in the morning and we’re trying to get him ready to leave the house, “spice, spice!”

We’ve brought it on ourselves, and far from discouraging him, we encourage him to explore flavors. Maybe not on weekday mornings as we’re trying to get ready for work, but in the evenings and on the weekends, we’ll pull out several (3-5, typically) while I’m cooking and give him a chance to smell them and taste them. Often, we’ll follow that up with a chance for Angstrom to help me stir.

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Baby Mexican

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

The stretch of time between a baby reaches 6 months and when he hits 9 months tends to be a boring culinary scene. We were encouraged by pretty much every expert we read to introduce ingredients slowly, especially at first, giving Angstrom one ingredient at a time, both to acquaint him with the taste and to make certain he wouldn’t have an allergic reaction.

So we went through days of nothing but avocado, nothing but sweet potato, nothing but butternut squash, nothing but peas, nothing but applesauce, nothing but peaches… you get the point. Tedium in action. We were excited when Å’s culinary vocabulary was finally large enough we could mix some of the ingredients.

One of the first combinations I tried was ‘baby guacamole,’ consisting of a mix of avocados and peas. It was a success, enjoyed not only by its intended audience, but his daycare teacher, who sampled a bite when she got some on her thumb and asked that night what was in it because it was so good.

That simple combination was nothing compared to what we could start making him when he hit 9 months. With the introduction of chicken and black beans, a veritable Mexican fiesta was doable.

Baby Mexican Fiesta

  • 3 ice cubes frozen avocado
  • 2 ice cubes frozen black bean puree
  • 2 ice cubes frozen chicken puree

Combine all ingredients in a glass mason jar and heat on power level 6 for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Heat another 1-2 minutes on power level 6 if not completely thawed at the end of 3 minutes.

Yield: approximately one lunch or dinner for a 9-10 month old baby