Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Plum Galette

I make quiches often. They're relatively easy, I can add whatever I have in the garden, and we usually have fresh eggs. It's a good fall back meal. Though while trimming the access pastry away from the crust, I end up with a small dilemma. There is often too much to throw away, but not enough to make another normal sized crust. So, I usually take the excess, form it into a small disk, wrap it up, and throw it in the freezer. Out of sight out of mind. Then I end up with a heap of mini pastry dough disks floating around aimlessly in the freezer.
This time I did something very unusual. I stepped out of my painfully predictable routine and restrained myself from adding another little disk to the heap. Here we have arrived at galettes.
The French use the term to describe a free form, flat, flaky pastry. They are a joy to eat, a tad disheveled, and at the same time, impressive. A wonderful use for extra pastry dough. You can fill them with almost anything you desire, savory or sweet.
I happened to have a handful of ripe organic plums, which thankfully offered their services. Apples, figs, peaches, pears or persimmons could have easily taken up the same role. Either way, it's difficult to go wrong.
Here is a link to Chez Pim, a blog I enjoy, with a brief video on making a galette with almond butter. I kept things even simpler by adding little more than a touch of butter, cinnamon, honey and pecans.

Plum Galette:
*Excess pastry dough from one quiche (see recipe below)
*1 organic plum, sliced in thin sections
*pinch of cinnamon
*1 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, divided into small pieces
*1 tsp. honey
*2 Tbsp pecan pieces

Basic pastry crust: (makes enough for one quiche, and one small galette, or one large galette)
*1 1/4 cups organic flour
*8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
*1/2 tsp sea salt
*3-4 Tbsp ice water

Place flour and salt in a food processor fitted with a blade. Blend. Add the cold butter and blend to a course meal. With blade running, slowly add the ice water one tablespoon at a time until dough forms. Transfer dough onto a floured work surface. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap or parchment and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Remove from freezer and unwrap. Return to floured work surface. Roll dough to desired thickness, about 1/4 inch. Place in a pie dish if making a pie or quiche and trim away edges. Use trimmings for a small galette or use entire pastry recipe for a larger version.

Preheat oven to 350. Reform dough into a disk (if using trimmings). Roll out to 1/4 thickness. Transfer to a small baking sheet. Sprinkle the dough with cinnamon. Arrange plum slices in center of dough circle.

Fold edges inward toward the plums to create an outer crust. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon and bits of the tablespoon of butter. Drizzle with honey and top with pecan pieces.

Bake until fruit bubbles and crust is golden, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Easy as. . .




*Save the bones, heads, and any stray meat to make stock. Makes a beautiful base for chowders and bouillabaisse.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Savory Corn Pudding

I thought I was putting our corn up as a nice surprise for winter months to come, but I have already succumb to temptation, and dipped into the stash. It was worth it.

Savory Corn Pudding: (Adapted from my sister-in-law Chirsty's original recipe. Feeds a crowd)
*4 cups sweet corn kernels, fresh or frozen
*2 cups raw milk
*6 Tbsp high quality unsalted butter, melted
*1/3 cup raw honey
*3 fresh eggs
*3 Tbsp AP flour
*1 tsp sea salt
*black pepper to taste
*1-2 Tbsp. fresh chopped sage
*1 sweet onion, chopped
*2 cloves garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. Place corn in dish. Set aside.
Blend remaining ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Pour over corn. Bake until top is golden, about 35-40 minutes. Serve warm.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nut Butter Thumbprints

An image of a soft, chewy chocolate chip cookie hijacked my brain today, and I couldn't shake it. Occasionally when this happens, I throw a dog a bone. Or in this case, throw a gal a cookie. It keeps the thought from breeding itself into a massive beast with sharp claws and foam oozing from its mouth. Scary things lurk in the shadows of the subconscious.
I checked out some "natural" boxed cookies at the store, but seemed to run into an ingredient on every box that didn't sit well. So I went home and made a batch of something that would shrink the beast back into its cave. It worked. I have my brain back, and now I can think about what to make for dinner. . .

Nut Butter Thumbprints: (Makes 2 dozen)
*1 1/2 cups high quality flour
*1/2 tsp aluminum free baking powder
*1/2 tsp sea salt
*1 stick organic butter, room temp
*1/2 cup organic peanut, almond or sunflower seed butter
*1 tsp vanilla extract
*1 fresh egg
*2/3 cup raw cane sugar
*1/4 cup molasses

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Preheat oven to 375.
Mix dry ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, sugar, nut butter and molasses together with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Add the egg followed by the vanilla. Slowly add the dry mixture, and mix until just incorporated.

Roll a tablespoon of the dough into a ball. Place on cookie sheet, and repeat spacing three cookies to a row. Place thumb in the center of dough ball, and press firmly downward to create a small well for the chocolate filling.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Cool completely before piping in the filling.

For Dark Chocolate Filling:
*1 cup cocoa powder
*1/2 cup raw cane sugar
*1 tsp vanilla
*1 tsp. unsalted butter
*1/2 cup boiling water

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Allow to cool. Transfer to a Ziploc bag. Encourage chocolate to one side of the bag. Cut off the tip of this side of the bag, and pipe a small amount into the thumbprint of each cookie.

*Savor a couple and the rest can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer. Oh and. . . bid the dirty beast farewell.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Carolina Bison Stuffed Green Peppers

One of the easiest, and tastiest summer meals. You can stuff a variety of garden fresh peppers with an equal variety of garden fresh ingredients. My friend April is known for her roasted sausage and cheese stuffed green chillies; hot, smoky and incredible. From Mexico to the Middle East, you can find variations of this dish, highlighting the culture's regional abundance.
The WNC region happens to have more variety than I often know what to do with. Local grass fed beef, lamb, pork, goat, rabbit, hand crafted cheeses, locally grown grains, herbs, vegetables of all colors, flavors and sizes, and for this dish, locally raised bison.
The best part about stuffed peppers? You can mess with the filling until the cows come home, and then you can use the cow to stuff the next batch. Whatever you have a taste for, this is an incredibly versatile dish. Have fun.

Carolina Bison Stuffed Green Peppers:
*4 fresh green bell peppers, cored, seeds removed
*1 Tbsp. butter
*1 small onion, chopped
*2 garlic cloves, minced
*1 celery stalk, chopped
*sea salt and pepper
*1/3-1/2 pound local ground bison
*1 1/2 Tbsp. ground cumin
*2 tsp. tamari or high quality soy sauce
*1 Tbsp. grainy mustard
*1 1/2 cups cooked brown or wild rice
*1 small tomato, chopped. *optional
*1/2 cup shredded raw milk cheddar

Preheat oven to 350. Line a small baking dish with parchment.
Heat butter in a cast iron skillet. Saute the onion, garlic and celery until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the ground bison. Brown, stirring often. Add the cumin, tamari and mustard and chopped tomato. Gently incorporate. Add the rice, stir and remove from heat. Bison should be medium rare. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Stir half of the shredded cheddar into the meat/rice mixture.
Using a large spoon, begin stuffing each pepper with the filling, gently packing as you go. Top each pepper with the remaining cheddar. Bake until top of peppers are golden and bubbly, and pepper is just tender, about 20 minutes.
Top with chopped parsley and serve.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan

If you are a fan of the eggplant parm at your local pizza dive, clear your mind of it's former associations, and think of this as a different dish entirely. Reminiscent yes, but lighter and tangier. Using the marinara sauce made from all the extra tomatoes in your garden, (see earlier post), and the eggplants passed on to you by your wonderful friend, (who is a member of a thriving CSA, but has never developed a taste for the nightshade), you may find an even deeper love for the combination.
Grab a block of high quality parmesan, some artisan cornmeal, and your practically there.

Eggplant Parmesan:
*4 small eggplants, sliced 1/2 inch thick, lengthwise
*3 cups prepared marinara
*2 cups cornmeal and whole wheat flour for breading
*2 eggs, beaten
*sea salt and pepper
*olive oil
*parmesan for topping
*fresh basil for garnish

Place eggplant slices in a bowl of cool, salty water for 10 minutes.

Remove, rinse thoroughly and allow to dry on a dish cloth.

Spoon 1/2 cup of the marinara over the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Drizzle with olive oil to coat parchment.
Mix together the cornmeal, flour and a pinch of sea salt and pepper in a rimmed plate or shallow bowl.

Whisk the 2 eggs and a splash of water in a shallow dish. Working with one slice at a time, dip the eggplant into the egg and dredge in the cornmeal mixture, coating each side. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining slices.

Generously drizzle the breaded slices with olive oil. The key is to add enough oil to make the slices crispy, but not too much to turn the breading soggy. Bake until golden and crispy.

Arrange golden slices over the bottom of baking dish. Spoon marinara over top and sprinkle with shaved parmesan. Repeat creating as many layers as you have enough eggplant for, finishing with marinara and shredded parmesan.

Reduce oven to 350. Bake until top is golden and sauce bubbles. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving. Sprinkle with chopped basil.

*The Institute of Biology of São Paulo State University, in Brazil released a study showing eggplants effectiveness in treating high blood cholesterol levels. It is also a good source of folic acid and potassium, while proving to block the formation of free radicals in the body.
Botanically a close relative to tobacco, eggplant contains nicotinoid alkaloids concentrated in the seeds, creating a bitter taste. Thus the salt soak, which helps to draw out this flavor before cooking.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Sense of Place

After returning home from a trip out West, I thought I would share some images of the Longmont Farmer's Market, in Boulder County, Colorado. I do believe there is no better way to experience the true substance of a place than by walking through it's local markets. Among my purchases: locally roasted coffee and handmade ravioli, filled with local "haystack mountain" chevre. Indescribably flavorful.
Grass fed chicken and beef, squashes and fruits, bread, cheese, the most beautiful broccoli you've ever seen, honey, handmade tamales, live music, brick oven pizza, and yes, even organic donuts, fried to order.
A delight for the senses!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Garden Marinara

I love tomatoes, though there comes a point in the season when they start to overwhelm. You've already made a few too many BLT's, had thick slices of them every morning with your eggs, pawned them off on visitors, eaten the cherry variety while standing in the garden, and all of the sudden, an army of them come forth from the shadows, ripening together in one unified formation.
Time for marinara.
This recipe is simple, and can be adapted using whatever tomato variety is most abundant, or a combination of many. If tomatoes are not in your garden, they can be found in thrift at farmer's markets this time of the year.
This preparation freezes beautifully as well. One little, or should I say, one large tidbit: A jar of store bought Gardenstyle Ragu pasta sauce contains about as much sugar as a jar of Smucker's hot fudge sauce.
This recipe requires no added sweetener. The sweetness of tomatoes ripened by the sun is just right.

Garden Marinara: (amounts are easily adaptable)
*1/3 cup high quality olive oil
*2 medium onions, chopped
*2 carrots, diced
*2 celery stalks, diced
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*2-3 bay leaves
*5-7 cups chopped tomatoes
*sea salt and pepper to taste

Place the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium/low heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Saute until onions are translucent and aromatic, about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add garlic. Saute. Season with salt and pepper before adding the chopped tomatoes and bay leaves. Reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered until tomatoes are cooked down, about 40 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from heat and discard bay leaves.
Cool completely before ladling into freezer bags and freezing, or storing in a glass container fitted with a lid and placed in refrigerator.

Variations: You can easily add fresh chopped herbs, such as basil and parsley immediately after sauce is removed from heat.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I am posting this as a method rather than a recipe, because pesto is simply any herb(s), crushed with garlic, olive oil, and perhaps toasted nuts, salt, pepper and occasionally a hard cheese. I also like to add lemon zest to brighten the flavor.

Photographed is just basil and olive oil. I freeze it this way, and add the other ingredients when thawed and used in a dish.
You can prepare pesto traditionally and freeze it, or just blend the basil with oil. Either way, having summer's savory herbs preserved for cooler months is a welcome treat.

Basil Pesto:

Harvest as much basil as you like. If possible, throw in a small bunch of flat leaf Italian parsley. Rinse leaves and air dry thoroughly.
Toast a handful of whatever nut you like. Pine nuts are most common, but pecans, or walnuts work well too. Allow to cool.

Blend the basil and parsley in a food processor with a couple cloves of peeled garlic, the nuts, shredded parmesan, sea salt and pepper.

With blade running, slowly add enough olive oil to create a paste. Transfer to a bowl, and blend in the zest of a lemon. Adjust seasonings.

*Enjoy fresh as a dip, sauce or dressing. Pairs exceptionally well with grilled meats and vegetables.
Toss into earthy winter soups, or melt over roasted root vegetables or smashed potatoes.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Roasted Balsamic Okra and Tomatoes

Can you stomach another post on okra? Okay, this is the easiest, and most eye catching way to prepare it. Just slice the tender pods in half lengthwise, spread them out on a lined baking sheet, toss with balsamic vinegar, a bit of olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Arrange a handful of halved cherry tomatoes on the same pan. Roast at 425 for about 10-15 minutes. Squeeze a wedge of fresh lemon over top, and serve. You can also sprinkle with fresh, chopped basil. So good!

I just learned that acidity, (like vinegar or citrus), keeps the classic okra slime at bay. If you are not a fan of okra because of this quality, try this preparation. Zero slime factor!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Watermelon Fresca

The line between Mexico and the US has never been such a broad one, and without getting too political, I am grateful for many of the influences provided by Mexico's vibrant culture here in the States. Agua frescas, (fresh waters), or aguas de frutas, (fruit waters) are such a fine, cooling Mexican tradition, worth adopting immediately. Fruits blended with water and citrus are served over ice to bring the internal temperature down to peaceful levels. Salud!

Watermelon Fresca:
*3 cups ripe watermelon, seeds and rind removed, cut into cubes
*2 cups fresh water
*squeeze of fresh lime
*a sprig of fresh mountain mint for each glass

Blend the watermelon, water and lime in blender. Fill glasses with ice. Pour liquid over ice and garnish with mint. Find some shade and drink up!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Insalata Caprese

Thanks to the Italians, once again, for a combination which remains classic for good reason. We owe tribute to the region of Campania, where sliced, sun ripened tomato, buffalo mozzarella, and basil leaves, were first layered with one another to create an antipasto unwavering in flavor and simplicity. A nod to the colors of the Italian flag, I think of this dish as a gift to any gardener.
This moment in the season, when tomatoes are at their best, and the heat of the stove is less attractive, this salad doubles as superhero. Truly impossible to improve upon.

Insalata Caprese:
*2 medium, ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced
*1 ball buffalo mozzarella, sliced
*fresh genovese basil leaves for layering
*your best quality olive oil
*sea salt and pepper

Layer tomato slices with the mozzarella and basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve on an attractive platter at room temperature.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chilled Garden Carrot and Ginger Soup

After harvesting all of our carrots yesterday in the lovely 94 degree heat, I began having visions of cold soup. Jumping into cold soup. Splashing around in cold soup. Pouring cold soup over my head.
Things didn't go that far, but the soup was indeed born, indeed cold, and highly refreshing. With some lamb stock waiting in the freezer, the rest was truly a breeze. An icy, carroty, gingery, breeze.

Chilled Garden Carrot and Ginger Soup:
*Approximately 1 pound (7-8) freshly dug carrots
*4-5 cups high quality lamb or chicken stock
*1 small/medium sweet onion, chopped
*2 celery stalks, plus the celery heart and leaves, chopped
*2 bay leaves
*sea salt and pepper
*1 inch by 1 inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
*2 cups whole raw milk
*fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Place carrots in sink, filled partially with cold water. Rinse well. Chop each carrot into thirds.
Bring stock to a simmer in a large
soup pot over
medium/high heat. Add the carrots, onion, celery, bay leaves, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to med/low. Cover and simmer until carrots are tender, about 30-40 minutes.

Allow to cool. Remove bay leaves and discard. Place all contents of pot in a food processor. Work in batches if need be. Puree with the ginger until smooth. Return to the soup pot. Whisk in the milk. Chill and serve with chopped parsley.