Fermented Things

As you might remember, the May Cook It 2012 Project was to ferment something.  I made traditional napa cabbage kimchi, which was delicious and gone already (I need to fork over the big money for a crock, so I can make a huge batch!) So, before I post the recipe for these amazing canned brandied cherries that I can’t stop eating, I wanted to share these other projects from my fellow bloggers:

The Kitchen Ninja made these beautiful lacto-fermented dill pickles.  I’m so happy she made them since this is such a classic and delicious fermentation project.  The remoulade recipe included also looks pretty epic, and since I’m a fiend for a good po’boy I’m sure we’ll give this a try once the cucumbers come in.

There really is nothing quite as beautiful as a jar of pickles, right? (or a jar of canned apricots… or dilly beans.  Yes. Not only do I spend huge amounts of time photographing canned goods, I’m also actively aware of which canned goods I think are the most beautiful and interesting to photograph.)

Speaking of beautiful… that brings me to the lovely glowing bottles of fizzy homemade ginger beer from Homemade Trade. What a brilliant idea!

I basically read Aimee’s post and then ran to the store as fast as I could to buy a big huge piece of ginger so I could make the project myself.  Because, you know, one of the main things I’ve learned from the fermentation challenge was that it is so, so easy, so you might as well give it a try. There’s so little work involved, so few ingredients, and so little equipment.  Time is the only thing you really need…

(I really did go get ginger. My starter is just starting to fizz = so exciting I can barely deal with it)

Aimee and Ninj: always inspiring to read what you’re up to! such beautiful projects…

and to everyone else: Don’t forget, the June Cook it 2012 resolution is to make jam, so if you haven’t yet, go get yourself some fruit and get jamming.

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To be included in the jam round-up post, e-mail me a link to your post by July 15, 2012.  My e-mail is thejamgirl@gmail.com

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How To Preserve Radishes

I love spring salads with baby greens with thinly sliced radishes and mustard vinaigrette, and radishes are lovely roasted in the oven and tossed with brown butter.  Every spring, though, we always end up with a bit too much and I end up needing to preserve some for later to keep them from going in the compost.

Over the years, I’ve managed to find a few ways to preserve radishes, even though they’re not usually a vegetable that screams out for preservation.  Radishes are so delicate that one heat wave can ruin them – leave them in the garden a few days too long and they turn tough and spicy.  We try to pick them at their peak, when they’re small, crisp and sweet, and turn them into something tasty while they’re still perfect.  These preservation methods will help extend the season a little bit, so that you don’t have to figure out how to do crazy things like eat a whole bed of radishes in four days.

REFRIGERATOR PICKLES
Radishes make perfect pickles.  They’re so crunchy already, and when you put them in a brine in the fridge they’ll stay crisp for weeks.  Spiced with white wine, green garlic and fresh herbs from the spring garden, these pickles are savory and delicious.

PICKLED RADISHES

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Makes: 1 quart

Ingredients:

  • about 2 bunches of radishes
  • 1 c. pinot grigio
  • 1 c. white vinegar
  • 1 c. water
  • 3″ section of stem from green garlic  (or fresh garlic tops, or scapes would work too)
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 small sprig of fennel
  • 1 sprig marjoram
  • 1 sprig oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tbs. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tbs. sugar

In a nonreactive pot, combine all of the ingredients except the radishes.  Bring everything to a boil and then let it simmer for a five minutes to infuse the brine with the fresh herbs.  Turn off the heat and let cool until lukewarm.  Meanwhile, cut the radishes into smaller pieces.  Depending on the size and shape, you can cut them into halves, quarters, wedges or rounds (whatever makes you happy).  Pack the radishes into a clean quart jar.*  Remove the cooked herbs from the brine and discard.  Pour the brine over them.  Screw on the lid and store in the fridge for up to 1 month.  The radishes take about three days to taste properly pickled.As the radishes sit in the vinegar, the red from the outside of the roots will dye the whole thing a vibrant shade of hot pink.

NOTE: The fresh herbs that I used are entirely optional based on what I had in my garden. Feel free to switch things around based on what you have.

*Sterilize the jar to make the pickles last longer in the fridge.

RADISH BUTTER
This radish butter is so wonderful, such an elegant way to use ugly radishes that are split, cracked or were forgotten in the garden a few days too long.The technique is simple: Grate the radishes in a food processor and then mix them together with softened butter and fresh herbs.  The result is essentially the flavor of the whole spring garden in a compound butter, perfect for spreading on toasted sourdough bread.  This lasts for a week in the fridge, and we’ve had success freezing it for 1-2 months.

RADISH BUTTER

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Makes: 3 half pint jars

Ingredients:

  • about 16 radishes
  • 1 1/2 c. salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tbs. chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 tbs. thinly sliced garlic greens (from the growing tops of the garlic in the garden)
  • 2 tbs. chopped fennel fronds
  • fresh cracked black pepper

Grate the radishes in a food processor or on a manual grater.  Blot the mixture dry with a clean kitchen towel.  Add in the softened butter and the fresh herbs and mix until everything is thoroughly combined.  Season with fresh cracked black pepper to taste.

Paula Deen Would Be Proud Of Us

The time sure flies when you’re having fun…

So far, Cook it! 2012 has brought us all shapes and sizes of handmade pastas, a beautiful assortment of breads, and the most recent undertaking, fresh sweet butter.

Truly, nothing really says luxury like warm bread slathered with butter made from the best grass-fed cream.   I still haven’t found a local source for dairy other than the natural food store, but hopefully something will appear soon.

Or…

Maybe I need to get a cow?

Or a goat?

As usual, I loved reading the collection of everyone’s projects.  It is a constant inspiration to see the great things that other people are cooking.

Belated Bread and Butter, from Snowflake Kitchen: a touching post about making bread and butter as kitchen therapy during sad times.

Butter, and Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes with Garlic Shrimp, from Homemade Trade:  Aimee, you had me at mashed yukon gold potatoes with fresh buttermilk.  That should be a food group all to itself.

Buttermaking, from Oh Briggsy: green garlic compound butter sounds like something I could eat on pretty much everything.  More importantly, this post managed to find the theme song for the March challenge: C.R.E.A.M., from the Wu Tang Clan.  (In case you don’t have it on your iPod already, it stands for “Cash Rules Everything Around Me,” which is perfect since making good butter requires the best quality cream, which really does involve shelling out the big money.  Nice song choice, Briggsy…)

Calendula Butter, from Bunchberry Farm and Dogwood Designs:  Lots of nice ideas for using calendula in this post, including a charming calendula butter.   (Scones + calendula butter + jam =  sure sounds good to me)

Homemade Butter and Buttermilk Rum Pound Cake, from Adventures of the Kitchen Ninja: that pound cake looks divine, and that stoneware bundt pan that you scored for free at the dump? I’m jealous.

(On How Not To) Make Butter, from Grow and Resist: My favorite part of this post is that me and Meg’s four year old had the exact same thought process.  Shaking the cream in a jar = boring.  KitchenAid mixer = powerful superior technology.  You could have had the exact same shot of me dumping the jar of cream into the mixer….
And with that, we move on to the April project: cheese!

Happy cooking, everyone…

Cook it! 2012 April Resolution: Make Fresh Cheese

A lot of people already know how to do this.  A lot of people have also blogged about it too.  I don’t really care, though, because this is the very first time ever that I made this, and I bet there are a lot of people out there reading this that haven’t done this project either.

This month’s cook it 2012 project is fast, easy, and cheap, and aren’t those really the ideal qualities in a good cooking project? (I suppose they can also be the ideal qualities in several other situations, like dates and dentist appointments).

It really is exciting to do a project that only takes about fifteen minutes, costs under $5, turns out completely delicious and makes you feel like some kind of magical food wizard while you’re at it.  

APRIL COOK IT! 2012 RESOLUTION: MAKE FRESH CHEESE

So, I’m calling this fresh ricotta cheese, but that’s not quite accurate.  If I understand correctly, there are a whole family of cheeses that are made by heating up milk, adding acid to separate the curds and whey and then draining off the whey to leave behind the curds (the cheese!).  Technically, real ricotta isn’t made using milk, it’s made using whey.  I’ll be giving that process a try this month too, but since they don’t sell whey at the farmers market or the grocery store I had to start with this.  The cheese that this recipe makes can be used as cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, queso fresco, paneer, and probably some other ones that I don’t know about since I’m no cheese expert….  Whatever you want to call it, this cheese is wonderful used as ricotta in Italian dishes, served with sliced fruit and honey for breakfast, mixed with fresh herbs, pepper and fancy olive oil and eaten on crackers, and a whole realm of other sweet and savory applications.  All you need to get started is milk, cheesecloth and acid.  For the acid you can either use white vinegar, lemon juice or buttermilk.   I used lemon juice, which works great but does leave a lemony flavor behind, so I’ll probably use vinegar next time.  Use the best milk you can find/afford, making sure that it’s not ultra-pasteurized.  I tried a batch with goat milk and another batch with Strauss Organic cow milk.  Both batches turned out great, but I actually preferred the flavor of the goat milk version (because I am a major fiend for goat cheese). Goat milk is always a nice option for people who don’t do well with lactose, and  I’ve also heard that if you  consume goat milk from goats who have been eating poison oak leaves in their diet, it can improve your immune response to poison oak (note: you have to consume the goat products first, before you’re exposed, not after you’ve already gotten the rash).  To make the cheese, heat up the milk to 180 degrees.  Serious Eats has a recipe for five minute microwave ricotta, but I did it the old-school way on the stove.  If you have an instant read thermometer, it helps, but you’ll know it’s time to add the acid when the milk comes to a simmer and starts looking frothy.  Pour in a couple tablespoons of your acid, either lemon juice or vinegar, cook the milk for another minute or two and keep stirring, and you’ll see the curds and whey magically separate. At this point, you pour the separated milk through cheesecloth to strain out the curds.  Different recipes have different times for how long to leave everything draining, but it really depends on your preference and what you’re using it for.  I only left mine to drain for a couple minutes because I wanted it to stay fairly spreadable.  If you were making something like paneer, an Indian cheese used similarly to tofu in lots of different curries, you drain it longer and then press it so that it can be sliced into pieces.  (Can you imagine? Homemade paneer tikka masala? Oh my goodness…)Fresh Ricotta Cheese

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Makes: about a cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart of whole milk
  • about 2 tbs. lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Heat up the milk in a pot on the stove.  Add the salt.  When the milk is simmering or reads 180 on a thermometer, stir in the lemon juice or vinegar.  (I didn’t really measure so much as pour a few splashes of lemon juice into the pot while the milk was simmering.  If you stir for a minute and let the milk keep simmering, the curds will separate.)  Pour into a colander lined with a couple layers of cheesecloth to drain.  I thought the cheese came out the best when I let it drain for about five minutes.  You can eat the cheese warm or chill it for later.  The cheese will firm up more in the fridge, where it can be stored for about two days.

I highly recommend mixing the warm cheese with the best olive oil you have, fresh herbs, sliced scallions, salt and pepper and eating it on crackers (especially if you’re tired after a long day of work and want to sit down, have a cocktail and a small bite to eat, then it’s really great).

If you don’t want to eat it right away, though, you can always do something crazy like make lasagna:I never use a recipe for lasagna since it’s more fun to raid the garden, the pantry and the freezer for whatever things you want to be in the layers.  Yesterday we happened to have some good looking spinach and spring onions in the garden…so that turned into one layer, and then I had a pack of ground veal from Owen Family Farms — humanely raised, pastured veal! — that was in the freezer, so I threw together a veal ragu for another layer.  I cooked the veal in some of the leftover whey along with red wine, canned tomatoes, onions, carrots, fresh oregano and parsley.  And then, this is a trick that j. taught me when I complained that I hate ricotta cheese long ago, you gotta fancy up that cheese a bit before it goes in the lasagna. I used the batch of cow milk ricotta for the lasagna, which was the yield from one half gallon of milk, and it was just enough to do a medium sized casserole dish.  If you want to have a big casserole or a really thick layer, you should definitely use a whole gallon of milk so you get more ricotta cheese.  To make your ricotta layer tasty and packed with flavor, throw the ricotta into the food processor with an egg or two, some garlic powder, chopped parsley or scallions and a pinch of salt and pepper.  It will be far superior to those bland lasagnas with a layer of mushy, flavorless grocery store ricotta cheese.

and then, you know, you just do the lasagna thing: and then pop that baby in the oven until it’s bubbly and delicious looking.

(Yeah, I know that I usually preach the gospel of fresh pasta with 100% local semolina flour, and those are obviously not fresh pasta noodles, but fresh pasta is not usually a project to do after you’ve already been up for many hours and worked the farmers market and your feet are so sore.  Gotta be realistic here).

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If you want to cook along, e-mail me, thejamgirl@gmail.com, a link to the url of your post by May 15, 2012 to be included in the round-up post.

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I can’t believe I made cheese and it was that easy.  I hope you give it a try too!

Coconut Chana Masala

One of my friends makes the most fantastic Indian food.  I usually like to be the one cooking  for other people, but I would beg her to puhleeeezeeeee please please make Indian food again, pleeeeeze or I might actually keel over and die!  Then she moved to Los Angeles and I haven’t seen her in years now, let alone tasted any of her cooking.  It’s really tragic.   When I win the lottery, I’m going to buy a jet so that I can fly around the country visiting all my friends that have moved away.  This curry is my version of something my friend cooked a long time ago that I might not even be remembering accurately, but I think I’ve got it pretty close here.

This isn’t really an authentic chana masala at all, since chana masala doesn’t usually have coconut milk in it.  Coconut milk  ranks up there with butter, bacon and heavy cream, though, which means that you should put in everything and it will only make it better.  This also has some other spices in it that I think taste awesome but have nothing to do with authentic chana masala.

Oh, and anyone who talks smack about vegan cooking has never tasted this recipe.  The curry is wonderfully rich and creamy with a solid spicy kick from the cayenne pepper.  Serve it with basmati rice, some warm flatbread or tortillas and your favorite chutney for a seriously delicious meal.

Coconut Chana Masala 

Cook Time: 5 minutes plus 1-2 hours simmering on the stove.  This recipe is really, really, really easy and comes together super quickly.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans of garbanzo beans, drained
  • 2 small potatoes, diced into 1/2”cubes
  •  1 can coconut milk
  • 1”section of ginger, peeled
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 c. loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 3 tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 dried cayenne chili pepper (or less, depending on your spice preference)
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a blender, combine all the ingredients except the garbanzo beans and potatoes.*  Blend until smooth. ( This is not the way you’re supposed to make chana masala but it doesn’t matter because this way tastes amazing.)

In a large cast iron skillet (or a pot works fine too), combine the garbanzo beans, potatoes and the coconut milk-spice mixture from the blender.  Simmer on low heat for an hour or two.  (If you make it too spicy, you can add yogurt and some honey to cool it back down, although it won’t be vegan then.)   Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over basmati rice with a few sprigs of fresh cilantro.   This is one of those dishes that only gets tastier if you let it sit in the fridge for a day or two, so you’ll be happy if you end up with any leftovers, which you probably won’t.

*(and the salt and pepper…. that’s always last).

There’s Flour Everywhere

Check off another resolution: the February Cook it 2012 challenge is done! Bread has been baked and our kitchens have been redecorated with flour.

I’m pretty sure you folks are better bakers than I am.   I made a bunch of edible loaves, but nothing was really stellar.  I got pretty close with a loaf of whole wheat bread with flaxseeds and herbs de provence, but the recipe’s not quite there yet.   I think I need to stop baking bread on cold, rainy days  – it doesn’t rise – and I need to get an oven thermometer since all the numbers are all rubbed off my oven dial and estimating isn’t really the best plan for bread-baking.

Look at all this beautiful stuff:

and the links to everyone’s bread posts:

Brioche from Homemade Trade: Aimee, your brioche looks perfect and that cardamom-rose french toast looks divine!

Gluten-Free Bread from Vonnie The Happy Hippie : these loaves look great… can we get a recipe? I’d love to give them a try.

No-Knead Bread & Slow-Roasted Tomato Bruschetta from Adventures of the Kitchen Ninja: Instead of buying an oven thermometer and baking it myself, can you just send me a loaf? It looks so crusty and wonderful.

Rosemary Bread from The Wholesome Epicure: I bet the kitchen smelled pretty wonderful while this was baking…

Rye Bread from My Pantry Shelf:  Reubens on homemade rye bread sound like something we need to be eating, asap.  That watercress soup sounds pretty elegant, too.  Basically, I need to make rye bread.

Sourdough Bread from Grow and Resist: Those pancakes sound really good. I admire your tenacity and I will be coming to your house for bread during the apocalypse.

Sourdough Bread from Oh Briggsy: This post has great information about getting a sourdough starter going. Also this post is hysterical.  I tried making a starter and it very much did not work (though I do have a really wonderful sludgy mess of flour, that’s always charming) so I’m trying again with this method.

Thank you all for cooking along. As usual, it’s really inspiring to see what other people are making.  I can’t wait to see what you guys do with the butter challenge! 

(Stay tuned for Butter Part 2…. post coming soon… )

Butternut Squash Bisque with Coconut Milk and Lemongrass

It’s looking like spring…It seems like it’s been spring for months now, though.The chickens are certainly happy about the mild weather, since they’d rather chase butterflies and eat grass than hang out in the frozen mud pit that is the Winter Chicken Coop.  Winter is such an important time of the year on a farm, though.  Without winter, when would I have time to watch all six seasons of Lost? To completely clean out the pantry and rearrange my canned goods in rainbow order? As much as it might seem like I enjoy hard work, there’s something to be said for sleeping in and doing nothing (which never, ever happens in the summer).  There’s nothing quite like a rainy winter day when all there is to do is keep a fire going in the wood stove and, you know, spend all afternoon experimenting with winter squash recipes. The great thing: the weather forecast this week looks horrible! I was just about to  fully embrace spring, but it seems like we’ll still have a chance to do the whole winter thing for atleast a little while.  I have a bunch of recipes I haven’t gotten around to making yet, cold weather stuff, with ingredients like pork sausage, maple syrup, duck, butternut squash, pumpkins…. recipes like creamed winter greens, maple-chevre-cheesecake, roasted pumpkin with blue cheese and pecans. This soup is one of my absolute favorite – best of the best – butternut squash recipes.  Before the winter squash is all gone and I get completely distracted by things like peas and radishes, I had to make it atleast once.  Butternut Squash Bisque with Coconut Milk and Lemongrass This is an adaptation of the Winter Squash Soup from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (p. 216).  Her recipe is more complicated and uses more ingredients (you need to make the Stock for Curried Dishes before you can do the main soup recipe).  I’ve followed the recipe out of the cookbook before, but this is my faster, easier version.

  • 1 1/2 tbs. unrefined peanut oil
  • 1/4 tsp. coriander
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tbs. ginger, minced
  • 4 2” sections of fresh lemongrass
  • 2 small thai chilis, seeds and all, minced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • cilantro stems (the leaves are used as a garnish, the stems go in the soup)
  • 2 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
  • water (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • juice from 2 limes
  • salt & pepper to taste, and an optional splash of hot sauce if the peppers don’t do it for you
  • garnish: chopped mint and cilantro leaves

Heat the peanut oil in a soup pot on medium heat.  Add the coriander, turmeric, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and lemongrass.  Saute the spices alone for a minute or two.  Then, add the ginger, onion, carrots and celery and saute for 5-6 minutes, until the onions start to look translucent.  Add the butternut squash and cilantro stems into the pot and then cover everything with water or stock (Not too much water, just enough to cover the vegetables.  You can always add more later, but it’s hard to fix a soup that’s too thin).   Simmer for an hour or two on low heat, adding water occasionally to keep the squash covered. Remove the tough lemongrass stalks and the cinnamon stick and discard them.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender (or whatever appliance you use to puree things…) Stir in the can of coconut milk and the lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  If it’s not spicy enough for you, feel free to put a splash of tabasco sauce to give it a bit more kick.  Garnish with chopped mint and cilantro leaves.  In the past I’ve also garnished with chopped peanuts, sliced cabbage, sesame seeds, fried tofu even…. whatever makes you happy.

Cabbages are Pretty

This post is really just an excuse to photograph cabbages.

Now that that’s out of the way:

I made sauerkraut using the recipe from Food In Jars and it’s finally ready.

When my schedule is rolling along correctly, I like to do a batch of preserving every week, the day after the farmers market.  Ideally, every scrap of unsold produce – those last few tomatoes, extra zucchini, that one little cabbage that no one wanted-  gets turned into something.  (I know, sorry chickens, there’s plenty of grass for you girls).  This keeps the pantry stocked and also makes sure that the garden stays completely picked so that it keeps producing at maximum capacity.  I can all kinds of things, make jams, dehydrate some stuff in the oven, infuse the occasional liqueur.  I’ve been trying to incorporate more ferments into the mix since they’re so easy and require so few supplies. These cabbages I have in my garden right now are a variety called Deadon, and the seeds are available from Johnny’s Seeds here.  I love the shades of deep purple to the palest green on their leaves; they’re really quite stunning. The general idea of this recipe is that you cut up cabbage, put it in a jar with salt and fennel seeds, and then wait. …. and wait some more….When you think the sauerkraut is, well, sauerkraut, taste it.  If it tastes lackluster, just let it sit for awhile longer.  It’ll get to a point that you’ll taste it and it’ll be super tangy and wonderful and you’ll want to keep taking more tastes and then eat the whole jar …. and that means it’s done. I think it’s pretty crazy that I can cut up some vegetables and put them on a shelf in a jar with some salt and then come back later and they’re not only edible, they’re delicious! There’s something about fermenting….  I really don’t know anything about the chemistry of it, or why it works (I should probably read up on that, though…)  I do know that when I ferment stuff it makes me feel like I have magic superpowers over produce.  You should try it.

Cook it! 2012: The Great Pasta Round-Up

The first resolution of the new year is officially complete: pasta has been made, cross that baby off the list. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was absolutely blown away by the food that everyone made.

I know that making pasta can be one of those projects that, midway through, you start swearing and wondering why you thought it would be a good idea to attempt something so labor intensive.  I am so happy that all of you kept at it and made such delicious looking food!  I want to say some kind of cheesy food bloggy thing, something like “oooh that lasagna looks so good I can practically taste it through the computer screen” but that’s total crap. Looking at it doesn’t cut it at all, I wanna eat it!

Here are a few of the highlights, gathered together from all of the posts:

Here are the links to all the posts:

Lasagna, from Grow and Resist: reading this post made me upset, because it just made me really want lasagna, but not my stupid lasagna — I want Meg’s lasagna with those beautiful homemade noodles. Save me a plate, please.

Orecchiette al Sugo con le Polpetine, from The Wholesome Epicure: that sauce, oh my goodness….  This post also has the internet’s cutest picture of a sweet little kid making playdoh orecchiette.  Future chefs in training!

Orecchiette Bolognese, from the Kitchen Ninja: at this point, I’m basically just drooling all over my laptop.  Who doesn’t love a good bolognese sauce?

Ramen Noodles, from Oh, Briggsy: a dream bowl of ramen with all the toppings, all from scratch, all at home, no epic culinary pilgrimage to Momofuku required.  So impressive!

Rosemary Linguini with Caramelized Onions, Walnuts & Blue Cheese, from My Pantry Shelf: proves that you don’t need a pasta machine to make your own pasta from scratch.  Sage, rosemary, bay leaves, white wine, blue cheese = my kind of dish, for sure.

Ravioli, from Snowflake Kitchen: Kate, I am 100% sold on the ravioli mold, those look absolutely perfect. Also, I love the emphasis on fresh eggs, I completely agree.

Spaghetti & Meatballs, from Grow it Cook it Can it

Spätzle, from Homemade Trade: this post made me really want to visit Germany again…. or maybe just make the journey down to San Francisco and beg Aimee to make me some of her delicious-looking spätzle.  (When do we get the recipe for your mom’s goulasch? I want it! I am a junky for Recipes That Someone’s Mom Has Been Making For Their Birthday Forever.)

Stuffed Shells, from Homesprout: brilliant! with fresh eggs from backyard chickens and homemade fresh ricotta cheese.  Fancy restaurants wish they had stuff this good on the menu.

(Writing this post meant putting in nine billion links and pictures from different sites, actually reading e-mails and checking my inbox, and a bunch more… so please, if for some reason I’ve forgotten someone or messed up a link, or messed up giving someone credit somewhere, please tell me right away and I’ll fix it.)

Thanks everyone for cooking along.  Don’t forget, the February Cook it Resolution is all about bread making…. I made a couple loaves of sandwich bread but I’ve gotten my hands on a sourdough starter that one of my baker friends gave me, and there are all sorts of cookbooks spread out in the kitchen with different recipes I’m looking at and working on.  (Pinterest is all well and good, but what’s the point of bookmarking cool stuff if you can’t trash your house while you do it?)

If you’re just reading about Cook it! 2012 and want to join in the fun…. send me an e-mail at thejamgirl@gmail.com.

Happy baking!

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! I hope that all of you are happy and warm, celebrating whatever holiday you like in whatever way makes you happy, even if it’s just a big party to keep December from getting too dark and cold.

Black Dog Farm Christmas Dinner Menu

Baked Crab Dip

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Roast Ham with peach jam & mustard glaze

Scalloped Rainbow Potatoes

Baby lettuces with blue cheese and walnuts

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Pumpkin Pie

Cookies & Candy

Peanut Brittle

Chocolate Jam Thumbprints

Almond-Scented Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Pecan Toffee

UPDATE 12/26:

The scalloped potatoes were so epic and delicious yesterday that I had to come back here and share the recipe.  When I was making them, I was thinking to myself, “this much heavy cream? should i really do this? and cheese and butter too? um…. gross” but then when I ate a bite of that brown, bubbly potato masterpiece…. the stars aligned and I had a revelation.  The clouds parted, and  Paula Deen came and spoke to me and told me to spread the gospel of saturated fats.

Make this right now, before New Year’s Resolutions, because it is definitely not low fat or anything along those lines.  The potatoes will not cleanse out your system and you will not feel recharged.

If you have a bunch of friends and family with you, though, maybe for a really special occasion, you’re guaranteed to have a table full of grinning, happy people reaching for more potatoes.

The Best Scalloped Potatoes In The Whole Entire Universe

Serves: 10

Cook Time: 2 hrs., add 1/2 an hour if you’re drinking wine with friends in the kitchen while you cook

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. of assorted potatoes: russets, red-skinned, yukon gold, etc.
  • 4 large shallots
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 tbs. butter
  • optional: 1 slice of bacon
  • 4 big sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh sage
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 2 pints of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 c. shaved parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz. swiss cheese, grated or cut into very thin slices
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the potatoes into very thin rounds.  Cut the shallots and the red onion in half, then cut each half into very thin slices. Mince the rosemary and sage leaves.

Heat 2 tbs. butter in a saute pan on medium heat, and add in the shallots, onion, rosemary, sage, and nutmeg.*  Saute the onions and shallots for about 10 minutes, or until they’re nicely softened and starting to caramelize.  Season the onion mixture with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Grease a casserole dish with the remaining butter.  Make one layer of potato slices, slightly overlapping each other.  On top of this first layer, sprinkle some sea salt, black pepper, swiss cheese, fresh thyme leaves (removed from the stems), and shaved parmesan.  Spread about 1/3 of the onion mixture over the top of the potatoes.  Continue this process, alternating the layer of potato slices with the herbs, cheese, onions, salt and pepper, to make two more layers of potatoes.  Make sure that the very top of the casserole has a layer of the herbs and cheese.  Pour the heavy cream over the top of the casserole.  Wrap the dish in tin foil and put it in the oven for about 1 hours and 15 minutes.  After about 50 minutes, lift the foil and check the casserole: once the cream is mostly absorbed, remove the foil and let it cook for another 20-30 minutes, or until it’s bubbly and golden brown on top.

Note:  My cooking times are vague because, well, my oven is a piece of junk and I’m bad at checking a clock.  The casserole is done when it’s bubbly, you’ll know when you look at it.

*At this point, if you really want to have a heart attack, you could add in some chopped up raw bacon. You don’t necessarily have to, though.

Instead of a picture of the finished scalloped potatoes, here’s a picture of our friend’s dog looking all sweet by the fire, because we ate the casserole long before I could think about photographing it.