Sunday, June 24, 2018

Purslane-Hazelnut Pesto


Pesto is a sauce that originated in the Ligurian region of northern Italy. Pesto genovese, from Genoa, traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil, and pine nuts blended with olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano. The name derives from the Italian verb pestare which means to pound or to crush, referring to the original way of preparing it - with a mortar and pestle. The ingredients in a traditional pesto are ground with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar. Now I use a blender. It's much easier! And...I use whatever greens and nuts I happen to have on-hand. So, for this version, I was inspired by my farmers' market find of purslane.


Have you ever had purslane? I first encountered purslane in a CSA box years ago. It almost looks like a succulent. Amazingly, its leaves have more omega-3 fatty acids than in some of the fish oils. I think I read somewhere that it's technically a succulent herb. And it definitely has a lot of flavor. Think sour and salty all at the same time. It's the perfect base for pesto. So, you'll see this on R's fundraising dinner menu tossed into pasta and mixed with capers. It'll be a simple, summery dish.


Ingredients makes 1 pint jar

  • 2 C fresh purslane leaves, rinsed, dried, and destemmed
  • 1 C fresh basil, destemmed
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 C whole raw hazelnuts
  • 3/4 C shredded parmesan
  • juice from 1 organic lemon (I used Meyer lemon because my parents have a tree in their backyard)
  • olive oil as needed


Procedure
Place all of the ingredients into the blender or the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times, drizzle in a few glugs of olive oil, and resume pulsing.  Pulse. Oil. Pulse. Oil.

If you want a smoother, sauce-like pesto, add more olive oil and blend longer; if you want a chunkier pesto, use less oil and blend for less time.  So simple. So fresh. So fragrant.

Almond-Fig Cantucci


For the second cantucci combination, R picked up some dried figs and slivered almonds. It's funny, I mentioned cranberries and walnuts or apricots and pecans. And he walked back to the cart with dried figs and almonds. "How about this mixture, Mom?" That'll work.

I actually love the way that the figs looked sliced in there. I don't know why I've never used them before. Also, since these included slivered almonds, I decided to swap out the ground almonds I usually use for some Pinole Azul, a ground hierloom blue corn from Mexico that's mixed with a little bit of piloncillo and ground cinnamon.


Ingredients
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 T Pinole Azul (I get mine from Rancho Gordo)
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 t pure lemon extract
  • 1 C dried figs, destemmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1 C slivered almonds

Procedure
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix together olive oil, sugar, eggs and lemon extract. In another bowl, combine flour, Pinole Azul, and baking powder; mix into egg mixture to form a stiff dough. Fold in figs and almonds.
  

Divide dough in half, and shape each half into a roll the length of the cookie sheet. Place rolls on cookie sheet, and pat down to flatten the dough to 1/2 inch thickness.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool.


Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees F. When cool enough to touch, cut into 1-inch thick diagonal slices. Place sliced cantucci on cookie sheet, and bake an additional 15 minutes on each side, or until toasted and crispy.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Kalamon-Chocolate Cantucci



When R and I were brainstorming about the dessert course for his Mediterranean fundraising dinner, I mentioned cantucci because I knew they were something I could do ahead of time...and easily. We discussed different combinations and he remembered when I made a chocolate-olive version before. "That's unique and interesting, Mom. Can you make that again?" Sure thing!


Just a quick note about 'kalamon' versus 'kalamata.' From what I have read, they are the same thing. But, like Chianti, you cannot call a 'Sangiovese' by 'Chianti' unless it hails from that region. Same thing here. Kalamon refers to the variety of olive tree, but you can only call it a 'kalamata' olive if it comes from Kalamata, the city. So, these olives from Trader Joe's are of the kalamon variety, but not from kalamata.


Ingredients
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 T ground almonds
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 2/3 C olive oil
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 3 T unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 T instant espresso
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 C pitted olives (I used kalamon olives)
  • 2/3 C chopped semisweet chocolate 



Procedure
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix together olive oil, sugar, and eggs. In another bowl, combine flour, ground almonds, baking powder, cocoa powder, and instant espresso; mix into egg mixture to form a stiff dough. Fold in chocolate pieces and olives.
  

Divide dough in half, and shape each half into a roll the length of the cookie sheet. Place rolls on cookie sheet, and pat down to flatten the dough to 1/2 inch thickness.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool.


Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees F. When cool enough to touch, cut into 1-inch thick diagonal slices. Place sliced cantucci on cookie sheet, and bake an additional 15 minutes on each side, or until toasted and crispy.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

'You Feta Be Kidding Me' Burger #GirlCarnivore #BurgeroftheMonth


Welcome to the inaugural Burger of the Month event hosted by Kita of Girl Carnivore. Each month, she will be sending out a list of secret ingredients to inspire a new burger recipe. What delicious, carnivorous fun! You know I was in immediately.


This month's line-up needed to include: radishes, spinach, lemon, and cream. Someone asked, "Do we need to incorporate all the ingredients? Or do you need to include just one of the ingredients?" The answer - yes, the challenge is to use all of them in your recipe, but they can be toppings, or accoutrements to the burger, so you can get all the components in a single bite.

So, I decided to make lamb patties flecked with preserved lemon and stuffed with feta cheese on a bed of butter-braised spinach topped with pickled radishes. Needless to say, I did not have a good name for this crazy creation. So, I posted a photo to social media and asked the hive mind for their opinions. Lots of 'likes' and 'yums', but no one had a good suggestion for me until Christina, who follows my blog page on Facebook, chimed in with "Or You Feta Be Kidding Me burger!" I loved it immediately. So, Christina, thanks for naming this month's Burger of the Month creation. I was completely stumped.

Ingredients makes 4 burgers

Patties
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 T diced caperberries (or regular capers, whole)
  • 2 T diced preserved lemon (my one of my preserved lemon recipes here)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 5 grinds black pepper

Butter-Braised Spinach

Accoutrements
Procedure

Patties
Place all of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and blend it together until well-combined. Let the mixture rest for, at least 10 to 15 minutes so the flavors can meld together. Divide the meat into quarters and form into patties.


Place 2 ounces (it was a generous tablespoon) in the center of the patty, fold up the meat so that it completely encases the cheese. Flatten again into a patty. Set aside until ready to cook or grill.


Butter-Braised Spinach
Melt 2 T butter in a large skillet. Add in the spinach and stir. As moisture releases from the spinach stir again so that it doesn't stick to the pan. Once the spinach is completely softened, Stir in the remaining 1 T butter.


Grate nutmeg into the spinach and stir to combine.


To Serve
Cook patties to desired doneness. Assemble the burgers. Since two of us are eliminating gluten and carbs, burgers were lettuce-wrapped with braised spinach on the bottom and pickled red onions and radishes on the top. The other two had traditional buns with the same accoutrements.


And that's a wrap for my June Burger of the month. Enjoy! And I can't wait to see what July has in store for our secret ingredients.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Stormchasers + Windstorm #FoodieReads


Last month I took part in a virtual dinner party and read The Lost Family by Jenna Blum. And, as always, when I really enjoy an author's work, I jump in grab as many of their books as I can. In this case, I picked up the two that I could find and dug into The Stormchasers* immediately.


On the Page
The Stormchasers was a very quick read; I think I read it in just two sittings. The story centers on fraternal twins Karena and Charles who haven't seen each other in twenty years when a tragedy drives a wedge between them just after their eighteenth birthday. Fast forward two decades and Karena receives a phone call from a hospital that her brother is there. Charles is a storm chaser (think Twister!) who follows tornadoes and relates them to the storms in his head; he has bipolar disorder. So, she drops everything and rushes to the hospital, not knowing what she'll find. By the time she arrives, he has checked himself out.

So, Karena, a seasoned reporter, joins a storm chasing group - under the auspices of doing a piece about them - and heads into the storms herself. I'm not going to spoil the book for you. Let me just say that Jenna Blum has a gift for revealing a character the way that you peel away the leaves of an artichoke. As you delve deeper into her stories and her characters, they get softer until she has revealed their heart. She's a masterful storyteller who draws you in to whatever world she's created.

In this case, I was transported to the world of the storm chasers. 

True story: I lived in Oklahoma for thirteen months. One day, I was finally getting used to living in the Midwest. We had spent the day at a great natural history museum with the boys and I remember speaking these aloud words to my husband: "It's not so bad. I think I can live here."

That very same afternoon, a tornado struck and touched down less than a quarter of a mile from our house. I was in the innermost room of the house with a baby strapped to my chest and a toddler at my hip. All of us were wearing bike helmets listening a tiny, handheld radio. Meanwhile my curious husband was out on the porch taking photos. Needless to say, I was stressed. And though the storm passed without incident to our property, I decided I was not cut out to live in tornado country. We moved back to California a month later.


In the Glass
There wasn't much in the way of food inspiration in the novel. I mean they mention food...

"Karena makes herself a rootbeer float, Charles's favorite drink, and carries it outside to where Fern and Alicia and Marla, and Scout are sitting on the wall of ice-melt bags piled against the convenience store. The women fan themselves and eat candy Marla passes out, Mallo Cups and Nut Goodies and Cherry Mash" (pg. 125).

"She opens the refrigerator to buy time. Besides, she's thirsty. The cigarettes and beer have dried her mouth out. But Siri has drunk all Karena's Diet Pepsi. There's only one half-open can left, and it will be flat. Otherwise the fridge is lettered with mystery dishes, Bakelite bowls containing two carrots, a handful of canned string beans, Jell-O. A moldy stack of olive loaf. Karena slams the door" (pg 175).

But nothing was really compelling me into the kitchen. Then, when I was at a small local deli, I noticed a bottle of wine that I had never seen before - Windstorm Vineyards' Old Vine Zinfandel. I decided to share tasting notes on that instead of making a storm chaser-inspired dish.

Located in Lodi, Windstorm sources Zinfandel from both Lodi and Madera. This wine has a deep garnet hue with big jammy aromas of red berries and licorice. With soft tannins and oak notes, this was a great match for a grilled steak!

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.

Here's what everyone else read in June 2018: here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Finally Getting Around to Making Fideuà #FantasticalFoodFight


Welcome to the June edition of the Fantastical Food Fight. I look forward to this event every single month. It's coordinated by Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes and you can get more information about it here.


This month, we were given the challenge of making something with seafood. I have no dearth of seafood recipes, especially since we are members of a CSF (community-supported fishery) and receive a share of fresh-caught seafood on a regular basis. Just last week I bought a whole halibut from them during a special Saturday sale. You'll see this recipe next month...


But when I came home, my husband had already filleted it. "Did you take photos of the process?!" I asked.

No, I'm not a food blogger, he answered.

"But I am!" I cried.

Next time, he said, but rather unconvincingly.

Back to the event at hand. Seafood, huh? I thought about doing a variation on my Abalone à la Meunière or Pickled Shrimp or fish en papillote.


But, I was organizing my cupboards after school ended and found the package of fideus pasta that our friends had brought back from Spain for me. That settled it: I was finally going to get around to making Fideuà.



Fideuà 
Last year I had a friend from Spain teach me how to make paella. Real paella. And, since then, I've made peace with my paella pan - it was previously collecting dust in the garage - and whipped up some really tasty dinners. When they went back to Spain for a trip, they brought back some fideus pasta for me to try my hand at fideuà. Fideuà, they said, was just like paella but with pasta instead of rice. I am finally getting around to trying it...and without a real recipe, so this may not be authentic. But it was delicious! 

Ingredients serves 8
  • 1/2 pound fresh seafood (I used a mixture of clams, mussels, baby octopus, and shrimp)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 8 T olive oil (Juan told me 1 T per serving)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 to 4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1 bell pepper (I used a red bell pepper)
  • 1 C diced tomatoes
  • 2 C fideus pasta
  • 1 generous pinch saffon
  • 1 Carmencita Paella Spice Mix sachet* 
  • 5 to 6 C fish stock, warmed
*Juan used this and they brought some back from Spain for me, so I use it. But, in a pinch, you can add a blend of paprika, pepper, and clove to the pot. These packets also include a food coloring that makes regular paella a rich golden color.

Procedure

Peel and dice the onions. Deseed and dice the bell pepper. Heat olive oil in the paella pan. Add onions and bell pepper. Sauté until the onion is softened and translucent.

Add the chicken and cook completely. Stir in the garlic. Add in the tomatoes and cook until they have lost their shape slightly, approximately 6 to 7 minutes. Add the seafood, distributing it evenly throughout the pan.

Sprinkle the seasoning packet into the pot and add the saffron to the side so it's not where the heat is most concentrated. Tip in the pasta. Pour in the stock. At this point, do not stir. Gently shake the pan to distribute the pasta and seafood evenly. But do not stir. Ever. As Juan instructed me: "This is not risotto."


Bring the pan to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Watch the pan and keep turning it so that the pasta cooks evenly. As it cooks, the stock will be fully absorbed.


You will see fewer and fewer bubbles popping up through the top. When it is completely dry, it's done. The pasta should also be crackling. It reminds me of rice krispies. Snap, crackle, and pop!

When you no longer see any bubbles, remove the pan from the heat. Tent it with foil and let it steam for 10 minutes. To serve, use a flat spatula to scrape the soccarat from the bottom. Invert the scoop onto the individual plates to show off your soccarat, that delicious, crusty goodness on the bottom of the pan! 

Hand-Pressed Butter


I was looking at ways to churn butter in my food processor, but the boys insisted, "Mom, let us do. We're going to shake it in a jar." Sounds fine. Apparently, they've done this with my mom several times. And while I know there is a more simple - and less messy - way to accomplish turning cream into butter, I never turn down a chance to let the Kitchen Elves do their thing.

Ingredients
  • 2 C whipping cream
  • salt and fresh herbs are optional (I wanted them, they vetoed)
  • Also needed: quart mason jar with lid, mesh strainer, cheesecloth


Procedure
Pour cream into a lidded jar, filling it up about 2/3 full. We repeated the process to finish the entire pint. Next time I'll get a bigger jar. Shake. I'm not kidding. Just shake. We put on some good music and shook that jar like a maraca.


Once the cream is to the point where it's holding peaks, place a mesh strainer and cheesecloth over a mixing bowl and compress the cream with a spoon. Or your hands...


They really enjoyed pressing out the whey, or what they called "buttermilk."


They pressed the liquid out twice before the solids came together and turned a brighter yellow.


After running the cream through the mesh twice, the solids came together and the butter turned a brighter yellow. Reserve the liquid! They drank some of it straight and I added it to our banana pancakes the next morning.


While the butter is still soft, fold in salt and herbs, if desired. They kept theirs plain. Place it in the fridge till desired consistency.


You'll see this in a recipe for a challenge later this week. Stay tuned.

Quick Pickled Red Onions and Radishes


If you've been reading my blog for even a short amount of time, you probably know how much I love to pickle things. I was just telling a friend you can pickle - with vinegar - or you can ferment - with salt - for similar delicious effect. The latter has digestive benefits and I love to do that, but when I need that pop of sour flavor quickly, I whip up quick pickles that are ready in as little as a day or two.



This I did last night for an upcoming recipe challenge that requires I include radishes. Ummmm...of course I'm pickling them!

Ingredients makes 1 quart jar
  • radishes, trimmed and sliced
  • organic red onions, peeled and thinly sliced (I used a mandolin slicer)
  • 3/4 C vinegar (I used white distilled vinegar)
  • 3/4 C water
  • 3 T organic granulated sugar
  • 1 T salt (I used some grey sea salt)
  • 6 to 8 grinds of black pepper

Procedure
Layer your radishes and onions in a sterilized mason jar, packing them in tightly. Place all of the other ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the liquid over the top of the radishes and onions.


Seal the jar and let cool on the counter. Refrigerate until ready to eat, but I try to let them pickle for at least 24 to 48 hours before opening. These will keep for approximately 2 weeks. Let come to room temperature before serving.

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