Archive | October 2010

Lavender-Honey Roasted Apples and Beets (with Bonus Leftover Recipe!)

I’ve been growing lavender for months and have heretofore been a bit perplexed about how to cook with it. I think it might work in scones or biscuits, but I haven’t tried that yet. Maybe infused oils? (I welcome your suggestions if you have ideas for its use.) I know it should be cooked with some balance of light sweetness, but the last thing you want is for your food to taste like perfume. I ended up throwing it into this roasted concoction on a whim, and it was lovely. It filled my entire apartment with wonderful, earthy smells–nothing perfumey about them. This makes a great side dish.

I had plenty of leftovers, so I turned them into a frittata with gorgonzola the next day. Bonus leftover recipe below!

Lavender-Honey Roasted Apples and Beets

3 golden beets, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 apples, chopped into chunks
1 onion, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 c. hazelnuts
3-4 sprigs lavender
2 tbsp. honey
olive oil
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. chili powder
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine veggies and nuts in a baking pan with herbs and spices. Drizzle the olive oil and honey over the entire thing and mix thoroughly. Place in the oven until the beets are soft, about 35 minutes.

Dinner #1

Dinner #2


Roasted Veggie Frittata
6 eggs
salt and pepper
1/2 c. milk
olive oil
leftover roasted veggies
2 oz. gorgonzola

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Warm a few tablespoons of olive oil in an oven-safe pan over medium heat. Add the leftover veggies and lightly warm. You don’t want to cook them, just bring up their internal temperature (assuming they’ve been sitting in the fridge overnight and you are making leftover magic).

In a small bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and salt, and pepper until thoroughly combined. Pour over the veggies in the pan and let cook gently. Don’t stir.

When the bottom looks as if it’s solidifying, add the crumbled gorgonzola. Put the entire pan in the oven and let it cook for about 25 minutes or so, until the eggs are set.

Creamy Artichoke Pesto

OK. This is not pesto. Let’s get this straight. Genova would kick me out of the city for calling this pesto. For lack of appropriate vocabulary in the cooking lexicon, I have called it pesto, but it’s not. I just want to clear my name with Italy before it calls me up and reams me out.

What this IS is a raw green sauce based on greens, nuts, cheese, and raw garlic that goes wonderfully with pasta. So, it’s a spinoff. Like Joanie Loves Chachi. It’s pesto with its sassypants on. Also, what it is is delicious.

The secret of this recipe is that I use the oil from the marinated artichokes in place of regular olive oil. So the sauce becomes infused with the fantastic slow-developed flavors of artichokes and herbs.

Creamy Artichoke Pesto
6.5 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 c. spinach
1/4 c. walnuts
2–3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. ricotta
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
1 lemon, zest and juice
salt and pepper

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the artichokes plus the oil in the jar with all other ingredients. Pulse until creamy and combined thoroughly. Can be served over pasta, pizza, as a veggie dip, etc.

Gorgonzola Polenta and Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I have sort of fallen into a Buffy hole lately, brought about by my discovery of Netflix on demand (I know, I’m behind the times on so many fronts). Matt, who’s succumbed to the Buffy vortex numerous times before, told me last night that I could be excused from cooking until my obsession subsides a bit. But I realize I must fight this urge, especially for you, my readers! Luckily, I have quite a backlog of recipes to present you with. And I still have pizza dough to make by the end of the month. It was my plan last night to go home and make a dough, but, you know…vampires called.

This recipe, for instance, is a great one for a fall night when you want to pack in a lot of Buffy QT. It’s not labor intensive, but certainly is full of flavor and autumn goodness. The leaves right now are in various stages of blush before they leave the trees nude for the winter, and giant squashes, sweet potatoes, and golden beets abound at the markets. One of the best things about fall is giving into what the vegetables of the season really want from you–that is, sweet, slow, roasting.

Polenta was a long-time Italian peasant food staple, especially in the north of Italy. It’s been eaten as far back as the Roman Empire. The reason that it never became as popular in Italian-American cuisine is that polenta reminded immigrants too much of their poorer lives back home, when it was often the only food available for weeks on end. America, especially post-Industrial Age, represented access to cheap meat and vegetables, so Italians in America dismissed polenta for quite some time. It’s increasingly popular these days, and is still as cheap, delicious, and filling as it was when it was filling the pots of the northern Italian contadini.

Gorgonzola Polenta and Roasted Sweet Potatoes
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/4″ rounds, or thereabouts
4-5 cloves of garlic, skin on
2-3 springs of rosemary
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 c. polenta
2-3 oz. gorgonzola
1 c. hazelnuts, crushed and skins removed

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a baking pan, arrange the discs of sweet potatoes in a single layer and throw in the garlic and rosemary. Toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for about 30 minutes or until soft and cooked through.

In a medium-sized sauce pot, bring 4 c. of salted water to a boil. Whisk in the polenta and lower to a simmer. Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally for the next 20 minutes or so, until the water is absorbed and it’s creamy. Add the gorgonzola and stir it until combined.

In a dry pan, preferably something heavy-bottomed like a cast iron, toast the hazelnuts over high heat until they begin to brown and release their aroma.

To serve, remove the skins from the roasted garlic and smash the garlic into the polenta. Dollop polenta on a plate, cover with the sweet potatoes, and top with the hazelnuts. Then go watch Buffy!

The Baketrix: Pucker-Up Lemony Cookies

Pauline the Baketrix is back! I love, love, love, love, love lemony desserts. I wish I could teleport Pauline from LA to Chicago to make me these puppies!!

The Baketrix:

Pucker-Up Lemony Cookies
adapted from my friend Sarah Cifarelli’s mother-in-law’s recipe, “Sam’s Glazed Lavish Lemon Cookies” which I think came from Carole Walter Cookies

Something about its sunny disposition just makes me smile from ear to ear. I love how its skin, when zested, adds amazing flavor to dishes and how its juice makes my mouth pucker–it can be such a tart! I am speaking of the beloved lemon, of course. So beloved in fact that the City of Goleta, outside of Santa Barbara, is celebrating its 19th Annual Lemon Festival.

I especially lemon curd, but when I don’t feel like using so many egg yolks nor have the time to make it, I can satisfy my lemon craving by baking these quick and easy lemon cookies. This recipe was given to me by Sarah Cifarelli’s mother-in-law who made these for Sarah and Gabriel’s engagement party. I couldn’t get enough of these babies and I hung out by the cookie tray and kept gobbling them up. They are lemony with that sweet and tart combo that just makes me go gaga!

Here’s the recipe, slightly adapted to get them quicker into my tummy: I cut out the refrigeration time for the first batch to go into the oven. What can I say, I’m impatient and I don’t mind a flat cookie! For these cookies, I do not substitute “healthier choice” anything–these need the all-purpose flour, refined sugar, and powdered sugar…and of course, the buttah!

The batter stuck to the mixer is all going into my tummy – I love dough!

Sam’s Glazed Lavish Lemon Cookies

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. strained cake flour (I ran out of cake flour and used all-purpose and it was still delicious)
1 tsp .cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
2 tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest (I added even more!!!)
1 1/2 c. sugar (I used baker’s sugar for this recipe)
4 large egg yolks (I scramble up the egg whites for breakfast the next day with tomatoes and cheese = cancels out all the calories from the cookies I ate, maybe?!)
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice (again, I squeezed way more juice)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Here’s where I simplify the recipe in the mixing! If you want the full instructions, google the recipe as I have streamlined it here:

Mix butter with lemon zest til creamy and light in color with electric mixer – about 2 minutes. Blend in the egg yolks while mixing til incorporated and fluffy. Pour in lemon juice and vanilla and mix, mix, mix

Shift dry ingredients directly into the wet ingredients by pouring all the dry stuff into your handy-dandy large strainer and lightly tapping the strainer so the contents filter into the bowl below. This method saves on cleanup of a bowl and, heck, it’s using less water to clean it! Mix all until well incorporated.

This is a super soft dough so the actual recipe calls for refrigeration…chill the dough covered with plastic wrap for an hour (or not, up to you). Take it out and form it into a disk and then cut into 8 wedge shape pieces, bake for 18-20 minutes.

Now, here’s where I really cheat…I can’t wait an hour! I immediately spoon out my first batch onto the cookie sheet and pop in the oven for about 18-20 minutes (check to make sure it doesn’t burn). I then refrigerate the rest as directed (or most times not!). My method forms super flat cookies, think Murakami, while the one hour refrigeration will produce nice thick cookies!

Lemon cookies with another of my favorite mugs by artist Kristen K. Swanson

But we are not done yet. We need the glaze:

2 c. strained confectioner’s sugar
3 tbsp. hot fresh lemon juice or lime (I use more for more tartness, I am such a tart!)
1 tbsp. light corn syrup (I am usually against corn syrup but for this glaze it adds the glue to keep it together and not slide off the cookie face)
pinch of salt

Mix together until smooth and drizzle onto the still warm cookies!

Take a bite and enjoy, pucker up baby, pucker up!

Detail of cookies…notice the mint = “no green is obscene” mentality is from my days waitressing at TGIFs in DC.

Carrot Soup

The Soupista is on hiatus this week due to an extreme thumb-gouging-while-pumpkin carving incident. She has discovered that one really must have a semi-functional thumb to make soup. In her stead, I offer the recipe to one of my all-time favorite soups, which I made last week and ate rhapsodically for many consecutive lunches.

A few years ago, there was a little flower stand on my way home from the F train in Brooklyn that also happened to carry amazing soups. For four bucks, you could get a hearty portion of soup and a roll. Needless to say, I stopped by there A LOT. My favorite was their lime-carrot soup. This soup is inspired by that, though instead of lime I used orange juice. A girl’s gotta make do. It has the sweetness from the carrots and coconut, zing from the ginger and orange juice, and kick from the chili powder.

I picked up these giant, gorgeous carrots from a cute farmer who promised me they would be delicious (cute farmer did not lie) when Rachel and I were caught in a maelstrom of rain and wind at Green City Market a few weeks ago. Of course, the sun came out as soon as we gave up and left the market, but these carrots–and the ensuing soup–were worth battling the elements. I left them a little too long in the fridge for them to be eaten raw, but they were perfect for this creamy, zingy melodious concoction.

Carrot Soup

olive oil
1/2 yellow onion
3-4 cloves garlic
1 bunch carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp. butter
salt and pepper
1 tbsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. chili powder
1 c. orange juice
1 bay leaf
16 oz. veggie stock
4 oz. coconut milk
cilantro for garnish

Coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil and heat it over medium, then add the onions and garlic. Saute for a few minutes, until soft. Add the carrots, butter, ginger, salt, pepper, and chili powder and continue to cook for a good 5 minutes, until the carrots begin to soften.

Add the orange juice and let it simmer for a little while. Add the bay leaf and then the stock. Allow to simmer on low for about 30 minutes. Add the coconut milk and simmer for another 15 minutes, depending on softness of carrots. Adjust salt to taste.

With an immersion blender, puree the soup.

Serve warm and garnish with cilantro.

The Soupista, Week 2: Pappa al Pomodoro

I’ve been home sick for the last four days, and I missed most of the stunningly gorgeous, unseasonable weather that Chicago experienced while I was hiding out in my sick cave. I was greeted on my first day back at work with thunderstorms. Sigh. At least I should have my taste buds back soon, and can move on from PB&J and oatmeal. Anyways, the weather reference is a bit outdated in Jen’s post here, but this is my fault, not hers. Just use this as an excuse to close your eyes and transport yourself back to the mild, sunny weekend (maybe with a cup of this lovely soup in hand!).

The Soupista:

I’m not really sure what is going on outside. This so called “Fall” is really throwing a wrench in my warm, cozy soup plans. Seriously, weather. Who wants to eat a thick vegetable slurry when the kitchen is a sweaty, unseasonably warm sauna ?

As a compromise between the offerings of summer and the heartiness of fall, I decided to make my Pappa al Pomodoro, which is just a fancy way of saying “tomato soup with bread mush.” It’s a perfect dish to make if you’ve got tons of tomatoes—fresh or canned—and stale or crusty bread. Really, you can’t mess it up. I usually make big batches of this, because I can’t get enough of it–it’s like a warm tomato hug.

This soup/stew is made a ton of different ways. My twist is that I like to put garlic bread in it, instead of just plain bread. And I like to keep the baguette slices whole instead of crushing them up. The best thing about cooking garlic bread and tomato soup at the same time is that that apartment smells like a back rub given by a jacuzzi; in a word, heavenly.

The secret to terrific Pomodoro(s?) is obviously fresh herbs, tomatoes, and shredded cheese. The secret to terrific garlic bread is to mash all the fresh garlic and herbs into the butter and spread it wholesale on the bread. The secret to a great mixed-green salad is to make it colorful and not drop it on the way to the table.

I also made a banana-y bread. Although tomatoes do not necessarily pair well with bananas, one of my roommates used some of our (seemingly bottomless) orchard apples to make some killer applesauce last week. Sadly, the poor sauce just has been sitting in the fridge. I mixed it with some cheap, brown bananas (19 cents/lb, baby!) for something I creatively named “Banana Applesauce Bread.” Behold my naming prowess! Anyway, the result was a delicious butter-less, oil-less quick bread that is moist and (sort of) healthy.

Regardless of the odd assortment of food, the whole “family” enjoyed the food and the entire meal came in under $15.

Editor’s note: Dear Soupista, Please provide us with the recipe for your banana-applesauce bread. We want to make it, too, and it sounds divine! So does this soup, by the way.

Jen’s Pappa al Pomodoro
Serves 4-6

3 lbs. tomatoes, seeded and cut into pieces
¼ c. olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½ c. onion, chopped
¼ c. fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/8 c. fresh sage, chopped
5 c. chicken stock
ssalt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste
shredded cheese to top (Parmesan, Asiago, Romano, etc)

For the garlic bread:
1 medium baguette, sliced
½ stick butter, softened
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
shredded parmesan cheese

In a soup pot, saute garlic and onion in oil for 1-2 minutes. Add sage and basil. Stir until fragrant. Add chopped tomatoes and about a cup of chicken stock. Cover and stew for 10 min. Add the remaining stock and simmer, occasionally smashing with spoon, for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and blend slightly with immersion blender until mostly smooth with some chunks.

For bread: Mix softened butter with garlic and herbs in a small bowl. Put bread slices on baking sheet and spread garlic butter on top. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 300 F for 20 minutes.

To serve: Place 2-3 pieces of garlic bread in a shallow bowl. Top with soup and cheese. Garnish with basil or sage leaves. Enjoy.

The Soupista, Week 1: Pumpkin Soup

My friend Jen is a world-traveling, ethnography-studying, Chinese-speaking, event-planning guru. She helps out in my office and helps keep me sane. She also happens to be an amazing cook who is good at feeding hordes of hungry grad students. I’m often lucky enough to be the recipient of her baking prowess (e.g., spice bread, a peanut butter-chocolate concoction called something like gobbeldy gook). But her skills extend far beyond baking: combining her master-level organizing ability with her love of cooking, she’s put together a rotating dinner club that has been feeding hungry grad students for over a year. This autumn, she’s given herself the challenge of creating a soup a week. We’ll be lucky enough to read about the process, and acquire some delicious recipes perfectly suited for the crisper weather that’s approaching.

The Soupista:
Even though we Chicagoans fought so hard for summer this year, the leaves are turning. The air is crisping up. Hats are emerging from their closet hibernation. It seems Old Humbug Autumn has finally picked his front and center seat at bingo and is staying there, dammit. As much as the autumn makes us Windy City wayfarers wary of the crippling weather to come, along with the begrudgingly conceding sigh of fall also comes the best of the season’s edible bounty.

Tart, orchard-fresh apples. Lumpy little pumpkins. Squash, gourds, the beginning of winter greens. Soup. Ah, soup. There are so many reasons for loving soup. And if you, reader, are a frequenter of this or any food blog, then there is no reason for me to stew about this oh-so-beloved food form. But do let me, in my best Campbell’s impression, condense it for you: Soup can be reasonably healthy, seasonal, filling, and cheap.

I live in an apartment with four other people. We’re graduate students, so naturally we’re poor and starving. We originally met when I organized a dinner club with about ten other people. After some very humble beginnings and a nightly charge of making enough food for a hungry dozen, we’re now down to five in an off-campus apartment. We’ve cooked together almost every day for a year now. Aw. Since our group’s inception, friendships and an even deeper love of food have blossomed. And the stakes, I admit it, have been raised. We take turns cooking each night. I do Mondays and have decided to throw down my gazpacho soaked gauntlet (aka my oven mitt) and challenge myself to a quarter-long weekly souping; that is ten weeks of creating one concoction that is made with fresh, inexpensive ingredients; stands alone as the main part of a complete meal; and doesn’t make roommates so ticked off at “Soup? AGAIN?” that they bludgeon this aspiring soupista to death with her own ladle.

My main goals are to keep the quality up and the price down—under $20 for the total meal per week. This really isn’t too hard to do. Thankfully, I live near an (amazing and) cheap produce store and luckily don’t have a taste for things like truffle oil or diamond paste, or whatever the kids are rubbing on their solid gold lobsters these days.

In honor of fall and leaves and all that crap, I decided to start this week with Pumpkin Soup. We all went to an orchard over the weekend and hand-picked apples—one of which is used in this recipe. We also got, like, literally two dozen pumpkin donuts—only one of which is still hanging around.

Anyway. This simple soup is pulverized with an immersion blender until smooth and is only made more delicious with the addition of heavy cream. Yum. It was great because I got to throw in the orchard apple and bought the most adorable little pumpkin that I had ever seen…which I then hacked into bits.

I served this with crusty sourdough and a herb/green salad. Everyone liked it. And if not, they were good friends and kept their mouths shut.

Pumpkin Soup
Adapted from an post 2

1 lb. baking pumpkin, peeled seeded and cubed *don’t forget to save, clean, and roast the seeds for snacks and garnish!
1.5 c. coarsely chopped carrots
1 lg. onion, cut into large pieces
1 lg. or 2 sm. tart apples
1 lg. potato, peeled and cut into bit-sized pieces
3 lg. garlic cloves, rougly chopped
4 c. chicken or veggie stock
1 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg or allspice salt, garam masala, black pepper, and/or cayenne to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cut up vegetables in baking dish. Sprinkle with garam masala or allspice. Pour in about ¼ C chicken stock and stir with spoon to evenly coat vegetables with spices. Roast, covered, for 20-30 minutes until carrot and potato are tender, but not blackened.

Transfer vegetables to dutch oven or large soup pot. Pour in remainder of chicken stock. Pulverzie with an immersion hand blender (or food processor) until thick and smooth. Stir in spices to taste. Let simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes. Add cream, stir, and let simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve with a dollop of extra cream and roasted seeds for garnish. Enjoy!