Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Autumn Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash

A meal salad, because sometimes you really need one of those.
Not necessarily flimsy, but with a bit of body to it- along with texture, tooth, variety, interest, and flavor.

Of course, depending on portion size, the salad CAN be as a meal, or more of a colorful starter.

I tend to prefer making and serving composed salads rather than the tossed variety- I think they look prettier, and you can also be sure that everyone has the same amount of everything on their dish.

Delicata squash is tender, so there's no need to peel it- one very nice benefit of this squash.
I don't see it often, so I'm pretty sure there's a "when it's gone, it's gone" aspect to this bit of produce.
So: get it while you can.
It brings a slightly earthy and sweet pumpkin flavor, boosted a bit with the maple syrup added prior to roasting.
Obviously it's very likely you'll have extra squash, unless you're making salad for a crowd. The good news is that it makes a nice leftover- in my opinion.

Crisp, sweet and tart come from sliced apple, and some tart chewiness from the dried cherries or cranberries.
Other flavors in the salad include a bit of requisite sharpess and funk from the onion and bleu cheese, while the nuts add a bit of toasty crunch.

Everything is placed on top of a portion of hearty spinach, drizzled with olive oil and aged balsamic, then finished with pinches of flaky salt and freshly ground pepper.

Autumn Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash

2 Delicata squash
1 1/2-2 T (23-30 ml) pure maple syrup
3 T (45 ml) olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
a nice pinch of dried red pepper flakes (optional)

To roast the squash:
Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C) with a rack placed in the center of the oven.
Cut the ends off the squash, halve crosswise, then lengthwise so that you have quarters. Scoop out the seeds and pulp, then slice into pieces between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick. Toss the half rounds of squash on a sheet pan with sides along with the maple syrup, olive oil, a large pinch of salt, black pepper to taste, and red pepper if desired.
Roast the squash 20-30 minutes, until cooked, shaking the pan a few times and rotating the pan after about 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool completely.

For the salad:
baby spinach (as an idea, 5 oz/140 or so grams could serve 2-5)
sliced green onion 
roasted Delicata squash (above)
dried cherries or cranberries
crisp apple, sweet and tart (Jazz, Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp)

aged balsamic, thick and syrupy
extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt (Maldon or fleur de sel, for example)
freshly cracked/ground black pepper
toasted chopped nuts: hazelnuts, pecans, or walnuts
bleu cheese, one you like, albeit a bit more delicate than strong so as not to overpower

Place a portion of spinach on each plate, and sprinkle with green onion. Top with several slices of roasted squash, followed by cherries or cranberries, sliced and "cubed" apple. Drizzle a spoon of olive oil (2t-1T/10-15ml) and a spoon of balsamic vinegar (1t -1 1/2t or 5-8ml) over each of the salads, then sprinkle each with a bit of salt and pepper. Add a shower of nuts, and finally crown with bleu cheese, either a small slice or crumbled, and serve. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Crème Fraîche Ice Cream

The flavor of cream can be quiet and delicate, perhaps more supportive and background than others may be, but it's still there.  Crème fraîche on the other hand may not be quite so subtle as far as cream goes.  It certainly holds another place in the cream continuum, and can have it's own purposes and preferred matches with other flavors.

Another simple summer dessert, this one almost no-cook, crème fraîche ice cream is a nice warm weather option.
(Start a day ahead and you can make your own crème fraîche.)
Great when paired with fresh strawberries or peaches since that fresh, ripe and sweet fruit can benefit from just a touch of cream and tang.

Or, might I recommend broiled or grilled peaches?
(Especially smart if the grill is already hot.)

If you want to do a little extra, splash halved peaches cut side up (and placed in a cast iron pan or heavy and slightly curved foil) with amaretto and sprinkle with a good layer of sugar. Place the pan outdoors on a hot (covered) grill or inside under a broiler until done (softer, juicier, warm with maybe a bit of char from the heat)... Brandy or bourbon and perhaps rum could be other options.
Maybe you could forego the amaretto to go the Peach Melba route and add some raspberry sauce (maybe a splash of Chambord if you've got it).

All in all, a slightly different take on peaches and cream.

Crème Fraîche Ice Cream
serves 6 or so (makes less than 1 qt)

1 1/2 c (375 ml) whole milk
1 c (225 g) sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 c (180 ml) heavy cream
3/4 c (180 ml) crème fraîche

Whisk milk, sugar, and salt together in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low to almost a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved completely. Remove from the heat and pour the sweetened milk into a large glass measuring cup or bowl. Whisk in the heavy cream and crème fraîche until fully combined. Refrigerate at least an hour until cold.

Freeze the ice cream base in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.
Remove the soft ice cream from the ice cream maker to a lidded container, and place in the freezer to stiffen several hours before serving.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Raspberry-Rose Sorbet

As far as this recipe goes, I wanted something summer-appropriate and good to go while berries are plentiful, nice, and ripe. Thankfully, there's also no cooking involved, no heat per se whatsoever.
Fruit macerates with the sugar, everything is blended and strained, and finally frozen.

It's a deep shade of red-pink with an intense fruit flavor. To me, a bit goes further than perhaps another option, as it can be savored in small scoops.

The rose component may be a little different yes, but I have a bottle of rosewater that I don't use all too often. I wanted another function for the ingredient- no matter how small that may be.

Rosewater is certainly not one of those "more is better" things. Subtlety is better with rosewater, and that balance is not always easy. As with many things, it can completely be a personal preference, too. A bit of it may be enough for one, but not enough for another. A touch more may be much too much for the first person, and just enough for the second.
I'd rather go the conservative route.
And yes, I have accidentally gone the opposite way.

Raspberries smell very "green" to me. Not green as in unripe, but green as in grassy, fresh. Strawberries, for example, do not.
Rose can enhance that fresh raspberry flavor, which can at times be "rose-y" itself (in fact, they're botanically related- and sometimes things can go together that way). There's just a bit of that floral essence the finish of the sorbet, I don't find it to be a rose perfume flavor through and through.

Depending on your berries, you may want to add a bit more sugar, or more lemon juice (and perhaps a few more drops rosewater) The berries I started with were somewhat tart this time, and I ended up adding about two more tablespoons of sugar, whisked through to combine after being strained. And still, it is a bit tart, but I think that's how it should be. However, I still think that bit of lemon is important for brightness.

The finished sorbet is kind of nice with a tiny meringue crumbled over the top.

And so...

Raspberry-Rose Sorbet
makes about 1 quart

30 oz (850 g) raspberries

3/4 c (170 g) sugar (extra as necessary depending on your berries)
zest of 1 small lemon
1 T (15 ml) fresh lemon juice (extra as necessary, to taste)
1/2 t (about 3 ml) rosewater - plus a few drops more to taste

Combine raspberries and sugar in a large bowl and cover. Let macerate a couple hours, stirring and smashing the berries a couple times so that the sugar dissolves and the berries give up their juice.  Add the lemon zest and stir it through the mixture. Pour the bits of berries and juice into a blender and blend to break up the last bits. Strain to remove most of the seeds (some really don't bother me- at least you know it's real).

Add the lemon juice and rosewater, and whisk through to blend. Taste and add a bit more sugar or lemon juice, and/or a few drops more rosewater as you think necessary.

Refrigerate an hour or two until cold.

Chill in the bowl of an ice cream maker per manufacturers instructions.

Remove the slushy, cold sorbet to a container, cover, and place in the freezer to stiffen until it reaches the appropriate and scoopable texture.
(If the sorbet has been in the freezer a while and is very hard, obviously leave out to stiffen a bit.)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Rhubarb Strawberry Jam

When rhubarb season rolls around, I just can't resist.
At the very least I have to make ONE batch of jam to put away (for at least a little while). This way rhubarb can be savored much later in the year (or early the next). And the nice thing about jam is that you can get a bit of that great flavor, but doesn't disappear all at once. A jar of jam theoretically lasts longer than, say, a pie or tart might.
(And yes, I like to reuse certain jam jars for their shape and style.)

I think it's my all-time favorite confiture.
There are just a few ingredients, simple and perfect.
When I make a batch I don't really want to share, but I know its better for several reasons that I do so.

This is an updated version of a rhubarb berry jam I posted years ago.
I have this habit of making lists and notes on Post-its and misplacing them, so it behooves me to write recipes elsewhere ASAP so I don't have to do a frantic search or take the time to figure something out all over again.
Some concepts here are based on The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders- but there is no actual rhubarb strawberry jam listed in the book.

It's a two-day project (or maybe some prep the afternoon or night before, not too much work on Day 1), and I would totally recommend the use of a kitchen scale for a recipe like this that utilizes larger amounts.

I agree that you need to let the rhubarb shine, making it the greater portion of the fruit in the recipe. Rhubarb certainly has it's own flavor, tart and distinctive. As I write, I'm trying to think of ways to describe the flavor, but am having a hard time coming up with anything...
I don't know. To me, there's something amazing about that flavor.


Obviously, as the jam cooks the fruit will break down, so it's a personal preference to have larger pieces of fruit to retain texture and so you really see and taste what's in the finished jam.

But, the jam is nice on plain yogurt, with pound cake, on good vanilla ice cream, as a filling for a tart, crostata, or cookies, and of course toast.

Rhubarb Strawberry Jam
makes about 8, 12 oz jars

Day 1
2 3/4 lbs. (about 1 kg and 247 g) rhubarb (*after being trimmed and sliced)
1 3/4 lbs. (about 794 g) cane sugar
2 oz (1/4 c or 60 ml) lemon juice

To add on Day 2
1 1/2 lbs. (about 680 g) strawberries, sliced if large
1 3/4 lbs. (about 794 g) cane sugar
3 oz (1/4 c plus 2 T or 90 ml) lemon juice, separated

Clean the pieces of rhubarb, cut off the top and bottom ends, and slice into 1-2 inch pieces. Weigh out 2 3/4 lbs. of the rhubarb, place in a glass container, add the sugar and lemon juice and stir to combine.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave in a relatively warm place to macerate for at least 12 hours and up to 24.

When ready to make the jam, place a small plate with several spoons in the freezer (for later, to check the consistency of the jam).

Place the rhubarb along with any juices in an 11-12 qt. copper preserving pan or a nonreactive kettle. Add the strawberries, sugar, and 2 oz of the lemon juice and stir until the sugar is thoroughly combined.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally with a heatproof rubber spatula about 10 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and continue to stir occasionally.  As the jam thickens, stir more frequently, relatively constantly near the end, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan so it does not scorch. If the jam seems to get too sticky on the sides of the pan, perhaps reduce the heat a bit. Cooking time at the higher heat will take about 20 minutes depending on juiciness of the fruit and evaporation. Add the rest of the lemon juice, stir through, and continue to cook the jam for 2-3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat (if it seems a little thin remember that it will continue to thicken as it cools), and place a spoonful of the jam on the frozen plate. Put the plate with the spoon back in the freezer for a few minutes. When the time is up, take the plate and spoon back out of the freezer and lift the spoon to see if the jam is runny. If it's watery and easily falls off the spoon, you'll need to cook it a few minutes longer and re-test the consistency. If the jam is instead thick and wrinkles a bit when you nudge it with your finger, it's finished and ready to place in glass jars.

Lids should be clean and jars should be HOT and sterilized. You can use an empty dishwasher on a hot cycle, but you can boil the jars or use your oven.  If using your oven, place clean jars on a pan in a 250 F (120 C) oven for 30 minutes. Place a little jam in one of these jars and see if it bubbles or boils. If so, the jar is a little too hot and should cool off a bit before continuing.

Fill the hot jars with the finished jam, leaving about 1/4 inch space. Wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth, and screw lids on the jars. 

Jam can be left as is, to cool, or placed in that 250 F (120 C) oven for 15 minutes. 
If the oven method is used, the filled jars should be left to cool on a wire rack overnight before storing them.

Jars that have NOT been finished in the oven should be refrigerated.
Any jars that have been finished in the oven which are not completely sealed and whose centers are not convex should also be placed in the refrigerator.

Properly canned jars can last a year or two in a pantry.
Mine don't last that long (I give some away and those I keep, I usually just leave in the fridge). 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


I had to put this one up as soon as I could because all potential options are not available year-round.

It's pretty much the soft shelled crab that I do this for- I don't spend time year-round battering and frying food.
But soft shelled crab is a once-a-year thing, and that's it.

Tempura is light-ish, as far as fried foods go, and nice appetizer idea.
Shrimp, vegetables.... and, as above, really nice with soft-shelled crab for a meal if you can get your hands on some.

Vegetable options include green beans, carrots, sweet potato, squash or zucchini, squash blossoms,  asparagus, broccoli/broccolini, sliced onions or whole green onions, eggplant...

Obviously, you'll need fry in rounds, and you certainly won't want to be making it for a huge crowd. AND, you'll want to give the oil a chance to come back up to heat between rounds as necessary. I can be personally guilty of not doing this, as I want to hurry up and get it done, but it can lead to oil-logged tempura (not quite so nice).

For me, all it needs is a squeeze of lemon and maybe a sprinkle of salt right after it's removed from the hot oil... Maybe some chili sauce if you need a little heat.
Wow. Especially that crab. So good. 
And of course, it's all best right off the heat.

Tempura Batter
(coats about 12 soft shelled crabs)

3/4 c plus 3 T (144 g) white rice flour, plus more to dredge
3/4 c (104 g) cornstarch
3/4 t (6 g) salt
1/2 t (4 g) baking soda
1 large egg, cold
1 1/2 c (360 ml) sparkling water, cold

soft shelled crabs (*gills removed by you or your fishmonger), shrimp, vegetables (onion, broccoli, zucchini, etc.) to fry
neutral vegetable oil (canola, sunflower, etc.) for frying

Whisk together the rice flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to use.

When ready, heat a dutch oven over medium heat with about 2 inches or so of oil.  Dust the crab (or the onion rings, or broccoli, etc.) with rice flour and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200-225 F (94-107 C) and place a paper towel lined sheet pan inside.
When the oil reaches 350-375 F (175-190 C) finish the tempura batter.
Whisk the egg and sparkling water together and pour into the cold flour mixture. Whisk the batter together until combined.
Quickly coat a crab with the batter and place it in the hot oil. Repeat with 1-2 more crabs, however many fit comfortably in the pot. Let the crab fry a couple minutes, until a pale golden, then flip it so the other side cooks about the same amount of time.
Remove crabs to the paper towel lined sheet pan in the oven to stay warm and drain a bit.
Repeat with the remaining crabs and/or vegetables, perhaps giving it a minute between batches to come back up to heat (too cool and your batter soaks up extra oil).
Perhaps sprinkle with salt and serve with lemon wedges, chili sauce, or as desired.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Oat and Buckwheat Crepes

I love crepes, and this particular version was initially a bit experimental, partially meant as a way to help use up buttermilk.
Am I the only one who buys a quart- since most of the time that's all I can find- only to use 1/2 cup or so? I'm thinking not...
The rest was using some of the things on hand.
Buckwheat, one thing I have but not something that I happen to use religiously, is somewhat earthy and a crepe (galette) classic.
Oat flour (a favorite flour of mine, actually) add slightly sweet nuttiness.
The overall flavor seems especially nice when paired with strawberries

The results aren't bad at all, I think, so here you go.
(And basically, yes, it has so far assisted in reducing buttermilk supply, and will continue to do so when I have an excess of buttermilk. Then again, maybe I'll be purchasing buttermilk solely for this purpose.)

Crepes are initially delicate while they're cooking- so a well seasoned pan is paramount.
And a steel crepe pan is certainly nice, but not entirely necessary.
Note for a crepe pan: don't let anyone scrub the finish (seasoning) off your pan that you worked to put there in the first place- it's what keeps the pan nonstick and is so much more convenient than dealing with the alternative.

If you're not used to pan swirling, you'll get a little practice here. It's a timing thing, you'll be using both hands, and you have to keep moving. But once you get into the swing of things it'll be fine.
And remember, the first crepe or two can often be duds. No big deal. They're still edible though.

My  favorite is eating the crepes right off the heat, "failed" and torn or not, tender with crispy edges.

Folded with fresh berries and topped with whipped cream is always a good option, rolled into cigars with a bit of cinnamon sugar or a very thin layer of jam, chocolate, or lemon curd is another possibility.
The sliced banana and Nutella combination is pretty classic, too.

Crepes Suzette is a bit more involved than the more basic crepe I'm offering today, but also very nice.
A high-stacked crepe cake layered with chocolate or a cream between crepes would also be an idea.

OR, maybe omit the sugar, add a pinch more salt, and fill with cheese, sauteed mushrooms (or maybe this version instead), ham, eggs, ham and eggs... or whatever other savory things you might like.

Oat and Buckwheat Crepes
(makes 15-20, 6 inch crepes)

1/2 c (55 g) oat flour
3/4 c (115 g) buckwheat flour
1/4 t (2 g) salt
1 T (16 g) sugar
3 large eggs
2 T (30 g) butter, melted
1/2 c (125 ml) buttermilk
3/4 c (180 ml) whole milk
1/2 c (125 ml) water, plus extra as necessary
Butter, to cook the crepes

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, and sugar until well blended. Add the eggs and butter, and whisk, breaking up any lumps, until a smooth paste forms. Add the buttermilk and whisk the mixture together until incorporated. Finish by adding the milk and water into the mixture, and carefully blend to a nice pour-able batter. 
Cover and refrigerate to rest and let the flours absorb the liquid at least an hour and up to a day.

When ready to cook the crepes, remove the batter from the fridge and place a well-seasoned pan over medium heat to warm.
While the pan heats, check the consistency of your batter, stir and then pour a bit back into the bowl. You want it to be about like a nice heavy cream- NOT glue. Add water, maybe 1 T (15 ml) at a time or so until you reach the correct consistency.

To the now-hot pan, add a bit of butter. After the butter melts and foams, swirl the pan to coat the bottom with a thin layer.

Remove the pan from the heat with your non-dominant hand and pour batter into the pan using your dominant hand, aiming for somewhere between 3 T and 1/4 c range (45-60 ml). Quickly swirl the pan to evenly distribute the batter. Place the pan back on the heat and cook a couple minutes. The top of the crepe will appear more matte and tacky, while the edges will crisp a little and possibly pull away from the sides. Carefully slide a rubber spatula around the edge and under the center, pick the crepe up off the pan, and flip it so the cooked side is up. Cook a further minute or two until the second side is slightly browned and the crepe slides around on the pan easily.
(If you've found that the batter is a bit thick and doesn't flow and "swirl" properly, you'll likely need to thin the batter with a bit of water- or potentially add a bit more flour if it's too thin so it behaves appropriately.)

Slide the crepe out of the pan and onto a plate, stack the crepes as you go, or serving them as they are made.
Continue in the same manner to cook the remaining crepe batter, adding a little butter to the pan, etc., and stirring the batter a bit between crepes to make sure the batter remains fairly uniform throughout.
Serve as desired.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Salmon Cakes

I wanted a more "fresh" salmon cake, something somewhat simple in flavor, a version that also didn't require a garden's worth of vegetable dicing.
So, this recipe ends up working for me, and I think the flavors are quite nice.
You'll get some freshness from the lemon and parsley. The cooked shallot adds one type of allium note, while the more raw green onion adds a greener, more delicate tone.

Sure, I bet you could use canned salmon if you like, and reduce the steps and time a bit. But most of the time I prefer to do things ALL the way myself- in some ways it can be a skill and practice thing, and in others it's the fact that I know as much as possible about how things are accomplished and cooked- and that's why I start from as scratch as possible. Plus, I have the idea that your salmon cakes will be a bit more tender when you start with raw salmon. Then again, I can't say I've tried it with canned salmon.

If you're cooking salmon anyway, great. Maybe make a little extra and extend that meal a bit into salmon cakes the next day.
And if you'll just be cooking the salmon to flake for salmon cakes, know that the cut doesn't have to be the center- the initial shape certainly won't be there for presentation.

The nice thing is that it's not much extra work to double the recipe, and really, the cakes don't take awfully long to cook. And perhaps to speed the process (if you can handle it for a larger batch), you could have two pans going at once.

The type of salmon is up to you. For example, Sockeye, King, and Coho vary among themselves, but would all have a stonger flavor and deeper color than the more neutral Keta salmon (Sockeye is especially red). Strength of flavor, oil content, and color of salmon vary. All salmon are not the same. If you have a choice and are unsure, talk to the fishmonger before making a decision and then go with what you like.
If I'm making a larger batch, I prefer mix a couple different types to keep things interesting.

I like to serve these with greens alongside, with lemon wedges and sriracha (*please note the ever-important life skill of writing with condiments), though the "unadorned" version certainly works, too.

Salmon Cakes
makes 5

1 lb. (500 g will work) fresh salmon
1/2 c (55 g) shallot, minced
1 T (15 ml) olive oil, plus extra if needed
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 green onions, 4 if small, thinly sliced
2 T (7 g) fresh minced parsley
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c (50 g- though weight may vary by type/brand) breadcrumbs (gluten free if preferred)

To cook the salmon cakes:
1 T (14 g) butter
1 T (15 ml) olive oil

Cook the salmon: Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C) Place the salmon skin side down on a foil covered pan and season it with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
Bake the salmon 20 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and let the salmon rest 10 minutes. Cover the pan with foil and refrigerate the salmon until cold- at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile saute the salmon in a pan with the tablespoon of olive oil, just until translucent. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Flake the salmon into a large bowl. Add the cooked and cooled shallot, lemon zest, green onion, parsley, eggs, breadcrumbs, and 1 t (5 g) salt and 1/2 t (1.3 g on a sensitive scale- or add to taste) freshly ground black pepper. Mix gently until everything is fully incorporated, cover, and refrigerate 1 hour (the chilled/rested mixture is easier to form).

At this point you can divide the salmon mixture into 5 portions (a generous 1/2 cup each) and shape into cakes. Place on a tray, cover, and refrigerate if not cooking immediately.

Heat a heavy frying pan over medium heat. Add the butter and olive oil. When melted, swirl the pan to distribute evenly. Depending on your pan size and comfort level, carefully add the salmon cakes one at a time, cooking 2 or 3 to begin with (or all 5). Cook about 4 minutes on each side or until deep golden brown.
Keep the cooked salmon cakes warm on a paper towel lined sheetpan in a 250 F (120 C) oven- especially important if you're doubling the recipe.
(And if doubling, you will likely want to remove the oil/butter mixture from the pan and replenish it after a round or two of cooking)