November 21, 2015 Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs with Delicata Squash, Fennel and Grapes

DSC_5102aHere is another no fuss sheet pan supper, this time from the Epicurious website. The star of the show, bone in chicken thighs, are paired with a different cast of characters, red grapes, fennel and delicata squash.

Fall is prime season for grapes, the fruit that is harvested now has been hanging on the vine all summer. This translates into succulent fruit with high sugar content and complex flavors. Roasted grapes are delicious and I doubled the amount from the original recipe. Crunchy and a little bit sweet, fennel is in season now and through early spring. I love it’s licorice flavor raw in salads and roasting fennel caramelizes it and mellows out it’s sweetness.  Delicata is the smallest of the winter squashes, usually weighing between 1/2 to 1 pound each. They are cylindrical in shape with yellow or cream colored skin with slight ribbing and dark green stripes. Unlike other winter squashes, the skin of the delicata is edible and has fewer seeds, making them easier to prepare.

The recipe starts with a flavorful rub that includes cumin, coriander, (my addition) brown sugar, salt, black and cayenne pepper. Half of the rub is tossed with the vegetables, the other half with the chicken thighs. You can do this step ahead earlier in the day and assemble the ingredients on the sheet pan before you are ready to roast. Space the components evenly on the baking sheet so all the ingredients get nice and brown. For even cooking, rotate  the pan halfway through the cooking time.  Be sure to use skin on bone in chicken thighs, even if you don’t eat the skin, it protects the meat while it is cooking.  As I previously posted, an instant read thermometer will give you the best results.

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Sheet Pan Chicken with Delicata Squash, Fennel and Grapes

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 1T brown sugar
  • 1T ground cumin
  • 1T ground coriander
  • 1T kosher salt
  • 1T freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼t cayenne pepper
  • 1 delicata squash, about 1½lbs, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into ¼” half moons
  • 1 fennel bulb, about ½lb, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and cut into half moons
  • 2c seedless red grapes
  • 1T olive oil
  • 2 lb. bone-in skin on chicken thighs (5-6 pieces)
  • 1/4c torn fresh mint leaves

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Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F with the rack in the lower third of the oven.
  2. Mix the first six ingredients in a small bowl. Toss squash, fennel and grapes with oil and half of the spice mixture. Arrange in a single layer on a sheet pan.
  3. Rub chicken thighs evenly with the remaining spice mixture. You can prepare both components several hours in advance and store in the refrigerator. Bring the chicken out about 20 minutes before proceeding with the recipe.
  4. Arrange the chicken thighs skin side up on top of fruit and vegetables. Roast until skin is browned and an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F, about 25 minutes to one half hour.
  5. Divide chicken, fruit and vegetables between four plates and top with mint.

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November 12, 2015 Okonomiyaki or Japanese Pancake

DSC_5036a“Okimiaki” was the one word message Joe sent me one Tuesday night during his office hours. My response, “huh?” seemed appropriate, poor guy, he has been working too much I thought. His response was “Japanese pancake made w cabbage- I want to make them”.

Okay, that was a new one for me, I thought I knew quite a bit about Japanese cooking so I did what everyone does these days, I Googled it. No appropriate response for the okimiaki spelling but when I googled “Japanese pancake” I started getting some information.

Joe heard about the Japanese pancake from a patient of his who is a chef and a writer. She and some friends were making them for a party. It was something new for both of us. I have quite a few Japanese cookbooks that go beyond the typical sushi and sashimi recipes, none gave any reference to Japanese pancakes or okonomiyaki as they are also called. I even called on a friend who travelled to Japan this past spring to see if she could give me any insight but she was not familiar with this now puzzling dish.

I learned that okonomiyaki is Japanese street food made popular in the cities of Osaka and Hiroshima. Because of it’s shape, it is sometimes referred to as Japanese pizza or pancake in the United States. The ingredients in an Osaka style okonomiyaki are mixed together while the ingredients in a Hiroshima style are layered and topped with noodles and a fried egg. Okonomi is translated “what you like” and “yaki” is grilled or cooked, so okonomiyaki is essentially “cooked as you like it.”  The one thing they all have in common is a pancake like batter and shredded cabbage, the rest is up to the cook to make the pancake “as they like it”. There is special okonomiyaki flour, the only difference I could find in it were the special seasonings and possibly some powdered yamaimo, Japanese yam. Yamaimo’s gelatinous texture gives the pancake added fluffiness.

The “as you like it” aspect can get interesting and I have seen recipes include shrimp, squid, pork belly, cheese and vegetarian options. How you top your pancake is equally important and might include chopped scallions, sesame seeds with a flourish of okonomi or tonkatsu sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise. Bottled tonkatsu with the red bull dog on the label is also labeled “vegetable and fruit sauce” but you have to read down the list of ingredients a bit to find either. I presume the brown color is from the prune paste. There are also recipes on line for tonkatsu sauce. You will find Kewpie mayonnaise on the Asian aisle in larger supermarkets. It has a Kewpie doll with outstretched arms on the package. It differs from our good old fashioned Hellman’s with it’s use of rice vinegar, giving it more tang and MSG to up the umami flavor.

I spent quite a bit of time contemplating what recipe to use. I wanted to stay fairly basic for our first attempt and decided on an Osaka style recipe from Serious Eats. We, or as I should really say, Joe made them on a sashimi night which is a weekend night when we recreate some of our favorite sashimi recipes using salmon, scallops and tuna. His efforts turned out quite good, the first was topped with bacon, then he got a little more creative and topped the second with seared tuna. We finished them off with tonkatsu sauce, mayo (not Kewpie) with sriracha, toasted sesame seeds and pickled ginger. The combination of the crispy exterior and soft interior is quite addictive and very filling. We had enough for a breakfast okonomiyaki for Joe and smaller ones for dinner the next day. Would we try them again? Not every week, but definitely.

Okonomiyaki

Makes 4 large pancakes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups dashi or low-sodium chicken stock
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 8 cups finely chopped cabbage-we used a combination of green and red
  • 2 cups chopped raw shrimp or baby shrimp
  • 8 scallions, sliced, divided
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 8 slices bacon, sliced in half- the second, slices of seared tuna
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Kewpie Mayonnaise or sriracha mayo
  • Okonomiyaki or tonkatsu sauce
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Pickled ginger

Directions

  1. In a large bowl whisk together flour, dashi or stock, and eggs. Add chopped cabbage and mix so that the cabbage is gently folded into the batter. Fold in shrimp and scallion whites then season with salt.
  2. Heat 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat until shimmering. Add 1/4 of the batter, gently pushing the batter down with a spatula until flattened. Cook until underside is browned, about 4 minutes, then place 4 pieces of halved bacon on the top side. Gently flip the pancake so that the side with the bacon is now cooking. Cook until the bacon is crisp and the pancake is cooked through, about 5 more minutes. Serve immediately with mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce, toasted sesame seeds, pickled ginger, and scallion greens. Repeat with remaining pancakes.

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November 8, 2015 Curried Chicken with Cauliflower, Apricots and Olives

DSC_5012aStep aside slow cookers, move over microwaves, there’s  a new method for getting dinner on the table in a hurry, sheet pan suppers. It provides the busy weeknight cook with easy preparation, the convenience of cooking everything on one pan and makes clean up a snap.

The sheet pans I have stood the test of time, they have served me well for over 25 years.  They may have a little more “character” than a new one but they still do the job. As a caterer I used them constantly, for roasting vegetables and meats, baking cookies, rolls and countless hors d’oeurves. Actually the correct name is a half sheet pan, usually 13″x18″ in dimension,  just the right size to fit in most standard ovens. A full sheet pan is18″x26″, the size fits the rack in a commercial oven. Don’t confuse a jelly roll pan with a sheet pan, jelly roll pans are flimsy and you would need to double them up and you still wouldn’t achieve the same sturdiness. A sheet pan is an inexpensive addition to your cooking equipment. You will find them in both restaurant equipment stores or in the catering aisle of any big box store. Choose one that is aluminum or stainless steel, they hold up well under high heat cooking. I would not recommend a non stick sheet pan, the surface will eventually erode and could possibly contaminate the food you are cooking.

Curried Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower, Apricot and Olives is from Molly Gilbert, author of Sheet Pan Suppers. She calls this a riff on the classic eighties Silver Palate recipe for Chicken Marabella. In Ms. Gilbert’s version the flavor profile moves from Meditteranean to Moroccan, the capers in the original recipe are gone, the olives remain and the prunes have been replaced with dried apricots.

Start the recipe by combining the chicken thighs with half of the curry powder and smoked paprika, oil, vinegar, cinnamon, cayenne and salt. I think it’s beneficial for a  recipe that uses an ingredient in two different steps to read, 4 teaspoons curry powder, divided. That would be helpful for the cook, (and we all do it) who maybe isn’t reading the recipe that carefully.

Next is the issue of curry powder, a blend of many spices that can range in flavor from very mild (sweet) to the Madras blend which is quite hot. I think the sweet curry powder is the right choice for most palates making this recipe. The paprika called for in the recipe is smoked, giving another interesting flavor dimension to the dish.

Toss the chicken with the spices, cover and refrigerate for at least eight hours but preferably overnight. The recipe calls for boneless skinless chicken thighs, I used bone-in thighs because I felt they would hold up better to the high heat cooking. When you are ready to cook, place the rack in the center of the oven. The recipe calls for a 450°F oven but I reduced mine to 425°F since I was roasting with convection heat.

A large head of cauliflower translated into about eight cups for me.  I like to cut the head in half and then into quarters through the core. Then I separate the florets from the central stem and break the florets into smaller, relatively equal sized pieces. Toss the cauliflower with the remaining oil, curry powder, paprika and salt to evenly coat. Spread the cauliflower evenly on the sheet pan in a single layer and add the chopped apricots and olives. Soak the apricots for five minutes to soften, anything longer will turn them mushy. I used Castelvetrano olives, my personal favorites and easy to find on the Mediterranean bar of any good supermarket.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and space the pieces evenly over the cauliflower. Add the apricots and olives to the baking sheet. You might want to tuck some of them under the chicken since they get quite brown. Roast, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time. I used an instant read thermometer and my chicken pieces were done in a little less than a half hour. If you are not using a convection oven it may take a little longer but no matter what, the instant read thermometer is always key to getting the best results.

This is a great weeknight supper because everything can be ready in advance, chicken marinated, cauliflower, apricots and olives prepped. At dinnertime get everything ready to cook while your oven preheats. A simple salad will complete the meal.

Curried Chicken with Cauliflower, Apricots and Olives

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs (about 2lbs)
  • ¼c extra virgin olive oil, divided,  2T chicken, 2T cauliflower
  • 1T apple cider vinegar
  • 4t sweet curry powder, divided, 2t chicken, 2t cauliflower
  • 1t smoked paprika, divided, ½t chicken, ½t cauliflower
  • ½t ground cinnamon
  • ¼t cayenne pepper
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
  • ¾c chopped dried apricots, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes and drained
  • 1c pitted green olives, halved
  • ½c chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
  • 1 large lemon cut into wedges
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Toss the cauliflower with curry powder, cinnamon, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and salt.
Everything ready to go on the sheet pan.
Everything ready to go on the sheet pan.

Directions

  1. Combine the chicken thighs with 2T oil, the vinegar, 2t curry powder, cinnamon, cayenne and ¾t salt in a medium bowl, tossing to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to overnight.
  2. Position the oven rack in the center and preheat oven to 450°F (425°F if using convection heat). Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Combine on the pan, the cauliflower with the remaining 2T oil, 2t sweet curry powder, ½t paprika and ¾t salt, tossing to coat. Be sure the cauliflower is spread out evenly.
  3. Add the apricots and olives and spread them evenly on the pan.
  4. Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade and place them evenly spread over the cauliflower. Roast, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time, between 30-35 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and toss the cauliflower with the pan drippings. Serve chicken and cauliflower with a sprinkle of cilantro or parsley  and lemon wedges on the side.

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October 31, 2015 Homemade Hot Pepper Sauces

DSC_4979aLast weeks plunge into the deep freeze meant it was time for one final harvest of hot peppers. With a formula that worked and an abundant source of peppers the challenge was to make a few hot sauces using the same method as the sriracha sauce from a few weeks ago. I first tried the NuMex Suave Orange peppers and several days later using green and red pasilla peppers and green poblano peppers. The jars fermented on the back kitchen countertop for about a week. I wasn’t sure what the results would be so my expectations weren’t very high.

To finish, I followed the same procedure for each variety, transferring the chopped chilis to the food processor, adding enough (1/3 to 1/2cup) white vinegar to puree until smooth. I carefully washed out the processor between peppers to keep each type as pure as possible. I strained the mixture through the medium disc of the food mill to eliminate any seeds. I think it’s easier than the mesh strainer and gives the finished product a little texture.

Now for some taste testing. The Numex Suave Orange has the flavor nuances of the habanero that are usually missed because the heat dominates. The sauce has a citrusy flavor with hints of orange and lemon and finishes with a little heat. The green pasilla flavor reminds me of green bell pepper and has a touch of moderate heat. The green poblano has an initial hint of sweetness and finishes with more heat than the green pasilla. I especially like the red pasilla sauce. The color is a deep dark red and the flavor is rich and full but not too hot. I think it would be the perfect addition to a chili recipe.

Numex Suave Orange Peppers
Numex Suave Orange Peppers
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The habanero peppers on the left measure a tongue burning 100,000 to 300,000 on the Scoville scale while the Numex Suave Orange on the right are a very mild 800!
Adding peppers and garlic to the food processor.
Adding peppers and garlic to the food processor.
Chop the peppers as finely as possible.
Chop the peppers as finely as possible.
The peppers ferment for about a week.
The peppers ferment for about a week.
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The finished product

October 25, 2015 Broccoli Leek Soup with Fresh Ginger

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The fall crop of broccoli is making it’s appearance in our farmers market and I love making broccoli soup now that the cooler weather is upon us. This time I combined it with leeks and shallots from our own harvest and one of the more unique offerings at our local farmers market, freshly harvested ginger.

This ginger is younger than the ginger you buy at the grocery store. The skin is  a yellowish beige with pink and purple markings. The flavor is milder and the flesh is delicate and  juicy, not fibrous. This is the ginger commonly used in pickled ginger. You can substitute fresh ginger in any recipe, but because of it’s milder flavor, you will need to use more.

Ginger from the grocery store that has sprouted can be planted but there is no guarantee if it will be disease and pest free. Our local farm, Blooming Glen Farm buys rhizomes from certified organic farms in Hawaii. They start their plants in the spring and grow them in conditions that are similar to the warm temperatures the plants are accustomed to in Hawaii. The rhizomes are ready for harvest by mid October. A bit pricey, 18.99 a pound, but a nice splurge this time of year.  I’m going to hold a few aside for Joe to plant so we can have our own ginger next fall. This soup comes together very quickly and the frizzled leeks that top it are very easy to do and add a nice textural contrast.

Broccoli Leek Soup with Fresh Ginger

Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • ¼c chopped shallots
  • 1T finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 large leeks, sliced, white and light green parts only
  • 1 large head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 4-5c chicken or vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Frizzled leeks as garnish-see recipe following

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Fresh ginger from the farmers market.
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Part of the fall leek harvest.

Directions

  1. Add olive oil  to a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Stir in the chopped shallots and ginger and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
  2. Add the broccoli florets and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  4. Puree the soup in batches in a blender. Add additional stock if the soup is too thick.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  6. Garnish soup with frizzled leeks.

Frizzled Leeks

Ingredients

  • 1 leek, trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Cut leek in half lengthwise and rinse away any grit. Slice thinly and pat dry to insure the oil will not splatter.
  2. In a small skillet over medium heat, warm ¼ inch olive oil. Add a handful of leeks and fry until golden brown, about a minute or so.  Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat with remaining leeks.

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October 13, 2015 End of Summer Green Gazpacho

DSC_4896aSummer was officially over several weeks ago and the first touch of frost was on our lawn Sunday. That doesn’t mean the garden is giving up yet. There are still some tomatoes, peppers, both sweet and hot, eggplants and herbs ready for the picking.The tomatoes may not be the prettiest, but they are certainly the sweetest.  Joe has planted a large crop of spinach and salad greens in the garden greenhouse that we will enjoy for several months to come. After a week of indulging in Denver’s finest cuisine it was time to get back on the healthy eating track. What better way to use some of  these ingredients than in a cold refreshing green gazpacho?

Gazpacho by definititon is a liquid salad that originated from the southern Spanish region of  Andalusia. The name possibly originated from the Latin word “caspa” meaning fragments, alluding to the small pieces in gazpacho. You can make this as chunky or as smooth as you choose. I love the addition of avocados in our nightly salad with dinner and had a few extra ripe ones to give this soup a creamy texture. I used the bounty of our garden and the addition of a cucumber for it’s crisp sweetness. Give this soup several hours to chill and the flavors to blend.

Substitutions  are permitted, watercress for the spinach, that will bring a spicy kick to the soup.  Cilantro can sub for the basil, add a touch of Tabasco if you don’t have a fresh hot pepper, I would be happy to share.  I always stock up on vinegars at The Tubby Olive and used their Alfoos Mango in my soup, love them in our vinaigrettes too. If you don’t  have a fruit vinegar, use white wine vinegar and a touch of honey. A little chopped cucumber as garnish gives a little crunch and since our nasturtiums are still in bloom I couldn’t resist adding a few for their vibrant color and spiciness.

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A new crop of spinach in the garden greenhouse is ready for harvest.
A new crop of spinach in the garden greenhouse is ready for harvest.

 

End of Summer Green Gazpacho

Makes about 4 cups

  • 2 medium tomatoes or 12-15 small tomatoes
  • 3-4 small cucumbers peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 avocado, flesh cut into large chunks
  • ½c basil leaves
  • ½c flat leafed parsley leaves
  • ½ to 1 whole hot pepper, jalapeno or serrano
  • 1 sweet pepper, seeded, stemmed and cut into chunks
  • 2c packed baby spinach leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2-3T fruity balsamic vinegar (I used Mango from Tubby Olive)
  • Cold water to blend
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Water as needed
  • 1T extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Reserve ½ cup cucumber chunks and chop finely.
  2. Combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, basil, hot pepper and sweet pepper, spinach, garlic and balsamic vinegar with cold water as needed in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until smooth adding more water as necessary to achieve a smooth texture. Taste and season with salt, pepper and more vinegar if desired.
  3. Refrigerate until cold, pour into bowls and garnish with cucumber chunks.

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October 8, 2015 Homemade Sriracha Sauce

DSC_4847aOver the years I have made my share of homemade condiments.  Joe’s ability to produce an abundant harvest from our garden often has me looking for ways to preserve some of that bounty for the fall and winter months.  I have made my own ketchup, chili sauce and tomato paste from the tomatoes in our garden. Not to mention homemade mustard, jams, chutneys and  preserved lemons. In fact the first cookbook that Joe ever bought me, even before we were married was Better Than Store Bought, a classic to this day for the DIY cook.

The latest to be added to my homemade list is sriracha. As long time fans of Thai cuisine, sriracha has been on our food radar since the early eighties. We love the spicy, garlicky, slightly sweet sauce that was a table condiment at our local Thai restaurant. Back then I would have to travel to local Asian markets to find the thick red sauce that came in a squeeze bottle with a green cap and a rooster on the label. We, and obviously many others, were definitely on to something, over the years the popularity of sriracha has grown by leaps and bounds. Now it can be found in supermarkets everywhere and sriracha flavors products as diverse as popcorn, potato chips, beer and lip balm.

It was first produced in the United States by a Vietnamese immigrant, David Tran, who was unable to find a hot sauce he liked.  He developed and named his sauce after one that he tasted in the Thai southern coastal city of Si Racha, where it was made for dishes served at local seafood restaurants. The success of Mr. Tran’s company Huy Fong Foods, named for the boat that brought him to the United States, is legend. Since 1980 sales of sriracha have increased by 20% a year without paid advertising. Unlike other hot sauces, sriracha is made with fresh chilies, Tran says this is what separates sriracha from the competition. So with a large crop of hot peppers in many varieties, I set out to make my own version of sriracha. I looked at quite a few recipes, some promising sriracha in twenty minutes, that might be fine for some, but I knew that fermentation is one of the steps that makes sriracha unique and since I had the time and an abundant supply of peppers, why take any shortcuts? I chose a recipe from Serious Eats, a blog that is dedicated to “definitive recipes, hard core food science, trailblazing techniques and innovative guides to essential food and drink anywhere and everywhere.” Sounds good to me.

My first consideration was the variety of pepper to use. The Serious Eats recipe used red jalapenos but in one of the reader comments I learned that serranos were the original peppers Huy Fong used to make sriracha until the late nineties. The change to jalapenos was due to production costs. Since I had more than enough serranos, I chose them for my recipe. Since the serrano pepper is hotter than the jalapeno you may want to adjust your recipe accordingly, I didn’t. The peppers are left whole with the stems are snipped with the crown remaining. This brings a floral component to the finished product. As with all hot pepper recipes, take the usual precautions, wear rubber gloves when making the recipe, don’t rub your eyes, and so on. The recipe is very simple with very little handling of the product, peppers, peeled garlic cloves, brown sugar and salt are pulsed to a fine texture in a blender or food processor.

The mixture is transferred to a clean jar, covered and sits at room temperature.  I checked the mixture daily to check for little bubbles forming at the bottom of the jar, indicating fermentation. The recipe indicated that the fermentation would begin in 3-5 days, my peppers only began to ferment after 7 days. I will attribute that to the freshness of my peppers. Since my peppers were picked the day I tried the recipe, they were days fresher than any hot pepper purchased in a grocery store.  My fermentation was complete in 10 days. I carefully transfered the chopped chili mixture to the bowl of a food processor, my blender is too small, added the distilled white vinegar and pureed it until smooth. The recipe suggests transferring the mixture to a mesh strainer over a medium saucepan and using a rubber spatula to push the pulp through. I wasn’t getting a thick enough consistency  so I transferred the peppers to the food mill with a medium disc which gave me a product that resembled sriracha, though a bit more chunky.  The mixture is placed in a saucepan, brought to a boil, then simmered until the sauce clings to the back of a spoon, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer sauce to clean jars and store in the refrigerator for up to six months.

I am very pleased with the consistency of my sriracha, the food mill made that part of the process much easier than the strainer. Since we have other varieties of hot peppers I may try the same recipe with different peppers.

Just picked serrano peppers for my sriracha sauce.
Just picked serrano peppers for my sriracha sauce.

 

Sriracha Sauce

Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs red jalapeños (or serranos), stems snipped off, leaving green tops intact
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

Directions

  1. Place peppers, garlic, sugar, and salt in bowl of a food processor fitting with steel blade. Pulse until chilies are very finely chopped, stopping to scrap sides of bowl as necessary. Transfer mixture to a clean jar, cover, and let sit at room temperature.
  2. Check jar each day for fermentation, when little bubbles start forming at bottom of jar, about 3-5 days. Stir contents each day, continuing to let ferment until chilies are no longer rising in volume, an additional 2-3 days.
  3. Transfer chilies to jar of a blender or food processor, add in white vinegar, and puree until completely smooth, 1-3 minutes. Transfer to a mesh strainer set atop of a medium saucepan. Strain mixture into saucepan, using a rubber spatula to push trough as much pulp as possible, only seeded and larger pieces of chilies should remain in strainer. I found that a food mill with the medium disc made this easier.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until sauce thickens and clings to a spoon, 5 or 10 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Pureed peppers, garlic, brown sugar and kosher salt ready to be fermented.
Pureed peppers, garlic, brown sugar and kosher salt ready to be fermented.
The food mill gave me the consistency that I was looking for.
The food mill gave me the consistency that I was looking for.
My finished product was thick even before cooking.
My finished product was thick even before cooking.

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September 23, 2015 End of Summer Eggplant Soup

DSC_4242aEven though the temperatures are still in the eighties, fall is rapidly approaching and  it’s time to say goodbye to our summer vegetables. What better way to use them now and enjoy them later than in an end of summer eggplant soup. Another good reason to have soup on hand was the stomach virus that Joe and I suffered through last week. Nothing tastes better when you are on the road to recovery is a nutritious soothing soup.

I am still picking eggplants, peppers and tomatoes, but not in the same quantities as a few weeks ago. The days are getting shorter and even though the days are warm, the nights are definitely cooler. After an afternoon pick yesterday I came back with quite a nice variety of eggplants, several peppers and a few tomatoes.   This is the type of recipe you could make differently every time, depending on what is still there for the picking. I wanted to make this as easy as possible so I decided to roast the vegetable first before combining them in a soup. Carrying over on the easy concept, I lined the baking trays with parchment to make clean up a snap. I cut the eggplants in half and lightly brushed the cut edge with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  On the second large baking sheet I added several tomatoes, peppers, an onion and some unpeeled garlic cloves, brushed everything with olive oil, and sprinkled on kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

I decided on a 375°F oven, the temperature we use when oven roasting vegetables. I checked the tray with the tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onion first, they were done in about 12-15 minutes, getting a nice toasty brown. The eggplants took a little longer, they are done when the skins start to collapse. Once cooled, it’s easy to separate the flesh from the skin. Squeeze the garlic from the skins and roughly chop the onion. I pureed the vegetables in the food processor in batches. Because some of my eggplants were seedy I put the puree through a food mill with a medium disc. Pour the finished puree into a stockpot. I added ground cumin, coriander, salt, freshly ground black pepper and a touch of cayenne. Add chicken or vegetable stock to thin out the consistency. Make some to enjoy now and freeze some for the cold winter months.

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Late summer harvest of eggplants.
Late summer harvest of eggplants.

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Place vegetables on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Place vegetables on a parchment lined baking sheet.

 

The skin easily peels off the peppers and tomatoes. Roughly chop the onion.
The skin easily peels off the peppers and tomatoes. Roughly chop the onion.
Eggplants are ready when they start to collapse. The flesh separates from the skins.
Eggplants are ready when they start to collapse. The flesh separates from the skins.

 

End of Summer Eggplant Soup
Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 3 ½lb eggplant, any type, halved lengthwise
  • 2 red or yellow bell peppers, or any combination, halved and cored
  • 3-4 tomatoes, halved and cored
  • 1 small onion peeled and halved
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly
  • ½t ground cumin
  • ½t ground coriander
  • 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Basil leaves as garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Line two large baking pans with parchment paper.  Brush cut side of eggplant with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and arrange cut side down in one layer on baking sheet. On the second sheet,  arrange tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic, and onions, cut side down, in a single layer. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake vegetables until eggplant and bell peppers have a slight char on their skins. Check at 15 minutes, as garlic may need to come out earlier so that it doesn’t burn. Let cool until ready to handle. Remove skins as much as possible.
  3. Working in batches, pulse vegetables in a food processor, you can either roughly chop or take them down to a puree. If necessary, put the mix through a food mill.  Transfer vegetables to a large stockpot and add broth and spices. Cook for 15-20 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  4. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  5. Serve garnished with basil leaves

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September 14, 2015 Mixed Beans with Peanuts, Ginger and Lime

DSC_4200aThis is another bean salad from Jerusalem born, London based chef and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi, this time with a decidedly Asian twist. An assortment of fresh green and yellow beans are tossed in a dressing that includes two ingredients that would have seemed exotic and difficult to access ten years ago,  lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Our love for Thai cooking was the reason we started growing them many years ago but with increased demand they have gone mainstream and now are readily available to the home cook.

Lemongrass is a tall tropical grass native to South and Southeastern Asia.  Our lemongrass plant grows happily outdoors from June to late September forming a tall bushy plant, about 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide.  Since it is only hardy in zones 9-10, which translates to south Florida, Joe digs the plant out, cuts it back severely and it winters indoors. There it’s only predator is our Golden Retriever Cody, who likes to nibble on the leaves when he thinks no one is looking.  Lemongrasss has long sharp pale green leaves at the top and a brownish pink bulbous portion at the stem end. It has a mild citrus flavor with a floral aroma. If you don’t grow your own, the best lemongrass (and the cheapest too) is found in Asian markets. To use, cut off the woody tops with a chef’s knife and peel off the first tough layer of the bulb end. Now it is ready to slice into rounds or as in this recipe, grated with a microplane.

Our Kaffir lime trees are also summer visitors to the garden. The leaf of the kaffir lime tree has a sweet citrusy fragrance and is a key ingredient in Thai cooking. Kaffir lime leaves are not to be confused with the leaves from a standard lime tree. The leaf of the kaffir lime looks like a double spade.  It is thick and glossy on top with a matte underside and a tough spine in the middle. When using in recipes they can either be used whole, seasoning a soup or stew or chopped very finely, as in this salad. If you are chopping it up, remove the spine first. Fresh and dried leaves are available, only use fresh leaves in this salad.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a rolling boil. Cook each type of bean you are using separately, the thin filet beans will only take about 2 minutes, larger beans take longer. I use a large chopstick to make sure all the beans are submerged in the water and I removed the beans as the batches were done with a Chinese strainer or spider as it is also known. This allows you to remove more beans with one scoop.  Transfer the cooked beans to a bowl filled with ice water. Cool, drain and pat dry so the beans will absorb more of the dressing.

Next, the shallot is cooked until tender and the aromatics, ginger, lemongrass, garlic and coriander, are added. Transfer the shallot mixture to a large bowl that will be large enough to toss the beans. I wasn’t quite sure why you would need to sauté the already roasted peanuts, but they pick up the residual flavor from the shallot mixture and take on a toasty fragrance. Kaffir lime leaves, lime zest and juice, sugar, salt and oil are whisked into the shallot mixture. The kaffir lime leaves must be fresh and must be sliced as thinly as possible in this salad. If you don’t have access to them, don’t let that stop you from making this recipe, just add a little more regular lime peel and juice. The final step is to add the beans, toasted peanuts and cilantro to the large bowl, toss the beans in the dressing and season everything again with salt and pepper. The final dish is garnished with chopped peanuts and more cilantro.

 

Lemongrass plant does very well in the garden in summer but will be brought in before the first frost.
Lemongrass plant does very well in the garden in summer but will be brought in before the first frost.
Cross section of a lemongrass stalk.
Cross section of a lemongrass stalk.
Kaffir lime tree with double spaded leaves.
Kaffir lime tree with double spaded leaves.

 

Mixed Beans with Peanuts, Ginger and Lime

from Bon Appetit

Serves six

Ingredients

  • 2lb. assorted snap beans, green, wax, filet, Romano etc.
  • ½t kosher salt plus additional
  • 5T olive oil, divided
  • 1/3c finely chopped shallot
  • 1 1″ piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer layers removed, finely grated on a Microplane
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • ½t ground coriander
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3c roasted salted peanuts
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, very finely chopped
  • 1t finely grated lime zest
  • 3T fresh lime juice
  • ¼t sugar
  • 1/3c packed cilantro leaves with tender stems, plus more for serving

Directions

  1. Working in batches by type, cook beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp tender, 4-5 minutes per batch. Transfer with a strainer to a large bowl of ice water. Cool, drain and pat dry.
  2. Heat 1T oil in a small skillet over medium heat and cook shallot, stirring occasionally under tender, about 3 minutes. Add ginger, lemongrass, garlic and coriander and cook until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer  to a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 1T oil in same skillet over medium high. Cook peanuts, tossing often until golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels; let cool, then coarsely chop. Set aside 1T peanut for final presentation.
  4. Whisk kaffir lime leaves, lime zest, lime juice, sugar, ½t salt and remaining 3T oil into shallot mixture. Add beans, remaining peanuts, and 1/3c cilantro and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with more cilantro and reserved peanuts.

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September 1, 2015 Mixed Bean Salad

DSC_4130aString or snap beans are in season from mid summer to early autumn and we have had a steady stream of them since the middle of July. Joe grows both pole and bush varieties.  Pole bean plants fare best when they are given support to grow, like a trellis or a teepee while bush beans grow on their own without added support. The bush beans were the first to produce, followed by the later maturing pole beans and now the bush beans are producing again. The crop this year has been quite successful and at times, overwhelming. I froze quart bags of blanched beans for fall and winter days when I will miss being able to pick them fresh. I even pickled a few jars of the very slim and straight filet beans.

In the cooler months we serve them hot, simply seasoned with garlic and thyme, but in the summer I like to serve them along side grilled vegetables in a cold salad. My latest inspiration, Mixed Bean Salad  came from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s cookbook, Jerusalem. Jerusalem won the IACP cookbook of the year in 2013 and was the 2013 James Beard award winner for the best international cookbook. The recipes are very approachable, not too “cheffy” and introduces the reader to the vibrant multicultural cuisine of that city.

The “mixed” in the mixed bean salad refers to the combination of green and yellow beans paired with red pepper strips. Mr Ottolenghi likes yellow beans for their tenderness and the look they bring to the dish.  This is the best time of year to find them at the farmers markets and we have no shortage here. If you are making this and yellow bean are not available, substitute all green beans.

In his introduction to the recipe, Mr Ottolenghi states that string beans are symbolic of the Jewish New Year but he didn’t indicate how, so I did a little research of my own. Beans are mentioned in the Talmud as “ruviah” and are symbolic because their Hebrew name sounds like the Hebrew “to increase” and indicates a desire for increased blessings in the new year. Reminds me of the symbolism of foods associated with Chinese New Year.

Begin the recipe by blanching the beans until tender crisp. Look for beans that are relatively the same size in diameter so they will cook in the same amount of time. If you are not sure if the beans are ready, test one for doneness before draining the pot. Roast red pepper strips that have been tossed in olive oil until they are tender. They make a beautiful contrast to the green and yellow beans.  Next step are the aromatics, lightly toasted garlic, then capers that bring a salty element and their own unique texture. Rinse the capers well and dry them, careful when you add them to the oil, they will spit, so you might want to use a spatter screen. Cumin and coriander seeds are bloomed in the olive oil to best bring out their aromas and flavor.   Pour the warm dressing over the beans and pepper strips and toss. Green onions, herbs, lemon peel, salt and pepper are the next addition to the dish.

The original recipe calls for 2/3 cup chervil, not an easy or common ingredient for the home chef.  I have never seen it sold in the supermarket or even at our local farmers market for that matter.  We have an abundance of it that comes up from seed in the early spring and bolts as soon as the weather gets hot.  He suggests a substitute combination that everyone has access to, dill and parsley.

I will not mislead you, this is not a salad you can whip together in 15 minutes, but it is certainly worth making. Step one for me is a trip to the garden for beans, peppers and herbs.  It is very important for your ingredients to be “mis en place” ready to go so the warm dressing will thoroughly season the beans and peppers. I have had my cookbook only two weeks and I have made this salad twice and plan on making it again for a Labor Day picnic. I think that constitutes a winning recipe.

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Dill in the garden.
Dill in the garden.

 

Mixed Bean Salad

From the Jerusalem Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 1¼ lbs. mixed green and yellow beans
  • 2 medium sweet red peppers, cut lengthwise into ¼ inch strips
  • 4T olive oil-1T for the peppers, 3T for the salad
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 6T capers, drained, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1t cumin seed
  • 2t coriander seed
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 c each, roughly chopped tarragon, dill and shredded parsley.
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

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Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the beans to the pot and cook for 4-5 minutes, take a bean out at this point to check doneness. It should be cooked through but still be “toothsome”. When done, immediately drain in a colander and refresh the beans with very cold water. Drain well, pat them dry with a towel and place in a large bowl.
  3. Toss the pepper strips with a teaspoon of olive oil, then spread them out on a baking sheet. Bake for five minutes or until tender. Add pepper strips to the bowl of cooked beans.
  4. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds; add the capers (be on guard for spatters) and fry for 15 seconds. Add the cumin and coriander seeds and continue frying for another 15 seconds. The garlic slices should be golden by now. Remove pan from the heat and pour this over the bowl of beans and pepper strips. Toss and add the green onions, herbs, lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. You may serve immediately or refrigerate up to one day. Just remember to bring the salad back to room temperature before serving.

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