Caprese Salad

One of my all time favorite summer flavor combinations is tomato & basil! There is nothing quite like a garden fresh, homegrown tomato and gorgeous, fresh basil leaves – add some fresh mozzarella and you have an amazing salad! We have had the nicest basil I have ever seen through our CSA and we have been thoroughly enjoying it.

I generally make my caprese salad fairly structured on a plate but you can make it however you like! The amount of ingredients are completely up to you – I used 4 small tomatoes and 3-4 ounces of cheese with about 12 large basil leaves on the salad below.

You can serve this with some sliced and toasted Italian bread rubbed with fresh garlic for a nod to bruschetta. Totally delicious!

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CAPRESE SALAD

Tomato
Basil
Fresh Mozzarella (usually available in the deli area)
Salt & Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar

Thinly slice the tomato(es) and fresh mozzarella. Chiffonade the basil (to do this: stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them together from the long side to the other long side and then thinly slice). Arrange the tomato and cheese in an alternating pattern on a plate. Sprinkle with the basil chiffonade. Freshly grind Salt & Pepper to taste. Drizzle with a good quality Balsamic Vinegar (I have some general use vinegar and then I have  some amazing vinegar that I reserve for uses such as this). Let stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to allow flavors to mingle. Enjoy!

Compote, Cake, and Custard

A trip to the farmer’s market this morning yielded strawberries, asparagus, and rhubarb all sure signs of spring and the coming summer! I’ve been an anti-rhubarb girl for as long as I can remember, but I decided this year to give it a try. Spring is a wonderful time to try something new as fresh fruits and veggies are once again making their seasonal appearances so they are at their peak flavor.

And so, after a long work week, I decided to spend my Saturday afternoon in the kitchen. Inspired by the fresh produce, as well as several blogs I follow, I got busy.

First up was a gluten-free lemon sponge cake recipe courtesy of Cannelle et Vanille. The ingredient list was simple and I thought it would be perfect with some lightly sweetened, sliced strawberries. The end result wasn’t as lemony as I’d expected, but it is still delicious.

Next, I tackled my rhubarb, making a simple compote that I figured I could spoon over the sponge cake, eat with yogurt or vanilla pudding. I used the basic recipe from Simple Bites. While I’m not yet in love with rhubarb, I did enjoy this easy dish and I hope to try out a few other rhubarb recipes.

Finally, I decided since I didn’t have any whipping cream on hand, that a nice vanilla pudding would the perfect conclusion to my afternoon kitchen dabbling. I followed the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, though sadly I didn’t have any vanilla beans, so vanilla extract it was for me. How can you go wrong with pudding? It will be delicious with any of my other creations.

I hope you too are being inspired by fresh, spring produce.

Roasted Radishes

I would not characterize myself as a big fan of radishes. Sometimes I enjoy them, sometimes I find them too strong. I have mostly (maybe always?!) eaten them raw. Radishes grow best in cooler weather (early spring or fall) and the tops are edible also. They are easy to store and there are a number of varieties. We’ve grown them in our garden and I have used them in salads or on a crudites tray with dip.

When I saw a recipe for roasted radishes, I knew I had to try them. It was easy and best of all, I really couldn’t stop eating them. They were delicious! I tried them with and without a squeeze of lemon juice and never did decide which I preferred. They were good hot from the oven and still good at room temperature. These would be such a unique addition to your holiday table. The colors are gorgeous and so festive!

ROASTED RADISHES
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1 bunch of radishes
1 Tb. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. salt
fresh ground pepper
fresh parsley, chopped
fresh lemon juice (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 1/4 or 1/8th the radishes depending on their size. Toss the radishes with the butter, salt, and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh parsley. Squeeze lemon over all if desired.

Market Fresh: Eggs

Eggs are always in season and a wonderfully versatile ingredient. I am blessed to have access to local, organic eggs at $2.25/dz. I could eat eggs for breakfast and supper in the same day; I don’t, of course, but I could.

Today I want to share with you two great egg recipes that just might be out of your normal scope of egg cooking and eating.

Sometime ago, while flipping through an issue of Everyday Food, I came across several recipes that involved baking in parchment paper packets. The salmon recipe is amazing (will have to share another time). The egg recipe, equally superb. Combining eggs with seasonal veggies, you’ll have a balanced, semi-fancy meal within 20 minutes. It’s perfect for breakfast, brunch, or supper.

Parchment paper is a little pricey, but I find having a roll on hand is indispensable.

EGGS WITH ASPARAGUS AND MUSHROOMS
(adapted slightly from Everyday Food, issue unknown)
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2 teaspoons, extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/2 pound of fresh asparagus spears, woody ends broken off
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare two 24-inch long pieces of parchment by folding each in half and then cutting into a half-heart shape. Place both pieces on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush half of each heart with olive oil. Place mushrooms and asparagus spears on oiled half. Carefully crack two eggs over each. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pleat tightly around the edge to seal. (I’m not very adept at the pleating, so just do your best!)

Bake until the egg whites are set and asparagus is tender crisp, 8-10 minutes. Top with shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.

(Note: If you make more than two servings, you will need to place baking racks in the upper and lower thirds and then rotate two baking sheets halfway through baking.)

Egg Drop Soup is a super easy and yummy first course for a home-cooked Asian meal. If you’re making this gluten-free be sure to use gluten-free soy sauce.

BETTER-THAN-TAKEOUT EGG DROP SOUP
(from The Cleaner Plate Club)
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1 Tbsp canola oil
2 scallions, chopped, white and green parts separated
4 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp sherry (I used a splash of white wine)
1/2 tsp soy sauce (La Choy or San-J for gf)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp white pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
3 drops sesame oil
2 eggs

Heat the canola oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the white parts of the scallions and sweat for five minutes.

Pour 3 1/2 cups of broth into the pan, reserving 1/2 cup. Add the sherry, soy sauce, salt, ginger, and white pepper. Bring to a boil and let cook for 5 minutes.

Mix the cornstarch with the reserved broth in a small bowl, and add to the pan. Add the sesame oil. Turn the heat to low. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then add to the broth while stirring rapidly in a clockwise motion. Stir for 1 minute, until the eggs have cooked and look like shreds.

Sprinkle the soup with the scallion greens. Serve hot. Serves 4.

Market Fresh: Russian Zucchini Dill Casserole

This is another Kazakh/Russian dish. My husband didn’t love this one as much as I did. I liked the flavors and textures together a lot! It is healthy and hearty. Dill is such a big part of many of the Kazakh dishes I’ve enjoyed. I will be growing it in my garden this year for sure!

RUSSIAN ZUCCHINI DILL CASSEROLE
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
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6 zucchini, sliced
3 med. carrots, peeled & chopped
2 c. onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 Tb. tomato paste
 3 T. fresh parsley, chopped
 2 Tb. fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c. tomato juice
¾ tsp. sugar
1 ½ Tb. cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet or dutch oven, sauté carrots in water or vegetable stock over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the onion, celery, and zucchini and sauté, stirring, until all the vegetables are starting to tenderize.

Stir in the tomato paste and sauté for 3-4 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley and dill. Mix the tomato juice with the sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir this mixture in as well and just bring to a boil. Pour the mixture into a flat-bottomed heatproof casserole that will accommodate the entire amount. Bake in the oven until tender – about 40 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley before serving if desired.

Market Fresh: Pearl Onions

Generally speaking, I have not been a recent fan of Taste of Home but the March issue had surprising number of recipes I was interested in trying (and so I must give them a little credit!). It featured several onion recipes and I tried the glazed pearl onions with great success. they were very easy, a little high in sugar & fat, and very good. 🙂 They are a wonderful side dish and wold be especially good served with steak.

 

GLAZED PEARL ONIONS – adapted very slightly from Taste of Home, March 2011
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1 package (16 ounces) frozen pearl onions, thawed
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

In a large skillet, saute onions in butter until tender. Add brown sugar and mustard; cook 2 minutes longer. Sprinkle with parsley. 6 servings.

Market Fresh: Marinated Mozzarella

Antipasti Platters are a beautiful and easy appetizer or snack or simple supper. With a little forethought and an attractive platter, you can quickly put on together. I include cooked and chilled cheese tortellini seasoned with salt, pepper  oil, & vinegar, marinated green olives (the jar salso included pepperoncinis & garlic), crispy breadsticks, salami, and marinated mozzarella. I wish I had a good picture of the platter but alas, the lighting was horrible and we were expecting company at any minute. Hopefully I will have the occasion to make another one soon and take a proper picture.

The marinated mozzarrella cheese is easy to make and absolutely delicious!

MARINATED MOZZARELLA
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1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tb. dried parsley
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp. dried Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 lb. cubed part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine all ingredients. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes turning occasionally.

Take out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature 20-30 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Market Fresh: Rutabaga

In an attempt to eat more seasonal food, I occasionally pick up a new vegetable or fruit at the grocery store or the farmer’s market and try out a new recipe. A couple of weeks ago after perusing some cookbooks with winter vegetable recipes, I chose a rutabaga. I just finally got around to using it.

This unusual vegetable is a cross between the cabbage and turnip. Although I’ve read it’s more closely related to the turnip. It has a thick skin (mine was also waxed, which I guess is common) that needs completely cut away with knife before cooking.

Like most root vegetables, rutabagas can be roasted and added into other vegetable mixes. Most recipes I’ve found combine the rutabaga with other vegetables. But I do plan to try Rutabaga Chips some time.

For this recipe, I took a pureed butternut squash soup recipe I loved (I’ll let you in on a little secret, I really don’t like butternut squash all that much, so for me to love this recipe, it means it’s really good!) and adapted it to include rutabaga. It has a smooth, slightly spicy taste, with a gentle sweet edge. It would be great served along a nice green salad.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND RUTABAGA SOUP
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1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1-2 cloves garlic minced
3 c. chicken stock
2 Tbsp butter
water
1/2- 3/4 tsp curry powder
1/8-1/4 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and cut squash, rutabaga, onion and apple. Place all in large pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken broth and water to just reach top of veggies. Add garlic. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until squash and rutabaga are tender.

Remove pot from heat and using an immersion blender, puree soup (alternatively, remove veggies with a slotted spoon and puree in a blender before returning to pot). Add liquid to desired consistency. Add spices, salt and pepper to taste. Heat through.

Before serving, garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Note: The spice measurements are just a guess. Use your palate and adjust spices to taste. Just be sure to go heavier on the curry powder, the cumin is intended to be more of a subtle side-kick.

Market Fresh: Persimmons

For the first Thanksgiving that I lived in Indiana, a friend made persimmon pudding for us. I had never heard of persimmons before, but immediately fell in love with the moist, fruity dessert.

Persimmons are native to Indiana. Last year a friend let us pick some from her tree and I found myself imagining pioneer times and the women picking up persimmons to feed their families.

Once I got my persimmons home, I rinsed them off and threw them, skin and all, into a sieve. I pushed them around the sieve until most of the yellow flesh fell through and only the brown seeds were left.

Here’s my persimmon  pulp:

If you don’t have a source of fresh persimmons and you live in the Midwest, you can check the grocery store frozen section for persimmon pulp, or your local orchard store. I even came across a sign in the front yard of a house in my area advertising persimmon pulp.

Persimmon cake is just a bit more sophisticated than persimmon pudding and perfect for the holiday season. Don’t be surprised if your cake sinks a little. That’s just characteristic of cooking with persimmons.

PERSIMMON CAKE
(Cooks.com)
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2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
4 eggs
1 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. canola oil
3 c. persimmon pulp (I only had 2 cup bags so I used 2 cups persimmon and 1 cup applesauce)
3/4 c. black walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. In small bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In large mixer bowl, combine eggs, sugars and vanilla; beat until smooth. With mixer at slow speed, gradually add oil in steady stream. Add flour mixture and beat until just blended. Fold in persimmon pulp and nuts.

Spoon into prepared pans and bake 40-45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans; invert onto wire racks. This cake is delicious frosted with cream cheese icing made with 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel and 3 cups confectioners’ sugar. Beat until light and fluffy and garnish with 1/2 cup finely chopped black walnuts. This cake is even better after it is aged for a couple of days.

NOTES: I baked my cake in a bundt pan — just one layer, but thick. I also just served it with plenty of whipped cream rather than making icing.

Market Fresh: Sweet Potatoes

Well, this post will kick-off a week full of Thanksgiving recipes. We will be providing a couple of new recipes each day as well as linking back to other great ideas from last year! All of the posts will be collaborative. We are so excited!

Sweet Potatoes are so versatile. They have good nutritional value and our whole family enjoys them! We eat them all fall and winter but we especially like them around the holidays. Today we are offering three different types of recipes.

Both of my (Alaina) recipes are from this month’s Bon Appetit. They were both fabulous. The first is Sweet Potato Biscuits. These were only sweetened with maple syrup and the recipe is actually gluten free. I did not have gluten free flour so I used regular which worked just fine. The pecans were a wonderful addition – the texture and the flavor.

GLUTEN-FREE SWEET POTATO BISCUITS
(Bon Appetit, November 2010)
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1 large red-skinned sweet potato (yam; about 1 1/4 pounds), pierced with fork
1 1/3 cups gluten-free flour plus additional
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup Grade B maple syrup
1/2 cup pecans, toasted, chopped

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line baking sheet with parchment. Microwave potato until tender, about 6 minutes per side. Halve; scoop out 1 cup flesh. Cool. Blend 1 1/3 cups flour and next 3 ingredients in processor. Add butter; pulse to coarse meal. Add potato, buttermilk, and syrup; process to blend. Add nuts; pulse to blend.

Sprinkle dough with flour. Pat into 8 1/2-inch square. Cut into 16 biscuits. Transfer to baking sheet. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes.

This next recipe is a Sweet Potato Pudding – perfect for your Thanksgiving celebration! The gingersnap, pecan topping provides a wonderful balance of crunch and sweet. I would have added just a little more half and half or milk to make this slightly creamier. Overall, we loved this!

SWEET POTATO PUDDING w/GINGERSNAP & PECAN TOPPING
(Bon Appetit, November 2010)
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Topping:
3/4 cup coarsely chopped gingersnaps
1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

Pudding:
3 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams; about 3 large), scrubbed
3/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
4 large egg yolks
5 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Toss first 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Add butter; using fingertips, rub in until well blended. Cover; chill. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.Preheat oven to 400°F. Roast potatoes on baking sheet until tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Cool. Cut in half lengthwise. Scoop flesh into bowl; mash. Transfer 4 cups potatoes to large bowl. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before continuing.Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Add half and half and next 5 ingredients to potatoes. Using mixer, beat on low speed until blended. Season with salt and pepper. Add yolks 1 at a time, blending after each addition. Using clean dry beaters, beat whites in another large bowl until foamy. Add salt and cream of tartar. Beat until peaks form. Fold whites into potatoes; spoon into dish. Sprinkle with topping.

Bake pudding until puffed and brown, about 45 minutes. Serve immediately.

The other evening I (Stephanie) realized I needed to make something for Jeremy to take to work the next day and I need to use ingredients I had on hand, chicken and sweet potatoes.  Browsing online I found a chicken and sweet potato stew recipe from a blog.  I adapted the recipe significantly, but the result was a deliciously spiced and warming stew.  Jeremy, not always a sweet potato lover, happily ate leftovers the following day.

CHICKEN SWEET POTATO STEW
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1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-in. cubes
2 slices bacon
1 Tbsp butter
olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1 bay leaf
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-in cubes
3 carrots sliced in 1/4-in rounds
2 ribs of celery, diced
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
3 c. chicken broth
1 c. milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat and brown the chicken with the bacon. Remove the chicken and set aside. Remove the bacon and dice.

Add a little more olive oil along with the onion, celery, thyme, sage, and diced bacon. Saute until the onion and celery are tender. Add garlic and saute until fragrant.

Add the chicken, sweet potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, chicken broth, milk, bay leaf, salt and pepper.

Simmer for 20-25 minutes until vegetables are cooked and fork tender. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed. Remove the bay leaf. Enjoy.