Citrus-Quince Marmalade with Fresh Rosemary

I’ve been having a bit of trouble finding inspiration for preserves this winter.  I went a whole month without canning a single thing, which I think has to be a record since I started canning.  I realized that the reason this had happened is that I started getting my fruit sourcing really dialed in last summer; I used mostly wild berries and plums, stone fruit from our own farm, the fall apples and quince from abandoned orchards were right on the hill where I live, I was gifted a bounty of ripe, juicy bartlett pears right from Redwood Valley.  When it came to citrus season, the idea of actually having to buy fruit seemed so unappealing. In past years, I’ve gone to big farmers markets in San Francisco and bought fruit directly from the growers. I know I would have fun making the trip, and I still think this is a great way to support local farms, but…. I kept hoping some lemons would just fall into my lap.

And they did.

I’m so happy I waited.  Some friends from the city brought us up a lovely shopping bag filled with meyer lemons from their tree on their last visit, and after a record breaking canning dry spell, I was back in the kitchen slicing fruit.  citrus-quince-rosemary marmaladeOver the past few years, I’ve really fallen in love with the whole process of making marmalades.  For my summer fruit jams, I’ve been wanting to keep them really simple: just ripe fruit, sugar, a touch of lemon juice, nothing else.  Good marmalades are often the polar opposite, with ridiculously complicated multi-day instructions (if you want to read more… check out Shae’s post about Why Good Marmalade Takes Time).  The thing is, it seems complicated at first, if you’re not experienced making marmalades, but the process is actually really straightforward and once you get the hang of it, I find it almost meditative — the tedious knife work to get perfectly sliced rinds, the patience involved in waiting for everything. Winter can be dark and dreary, but having the house smell like fresh citrus for several days does wonders.

This marmalade takes two days: day one is for making the quince juice and slicing the grapefruits, day two is for slicing the meyer lemons and cooking off the marmalade. Since the process might be complicated for less experienced jammers, I’m including some detailed instructions first, but scroll down to the bottom for the quick recipe with the measurements included.

Day 1:

Step 1: Make Quince Juice

quinceI was lucky to still have a case of quince in my pantry that I picked all the way back in October.  If you don’t have access to fresh quince or any frozen quince juice, you could substitute apple juice in its place (good quality juice, not the cheap stuff from concentrate).

To make the quince juice, first run the quince under water and scrub the gray fuzz off the outside with a clean sponge. Then remove the leaves and slice each quince into quarters. (Don’t remove the cores). Put the sliced fruit in a large pot with 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice, cover with water, and simmer for an hour or two. Drain the cooked fruit through a jelly bag for eight hours or so.  The juice will freeze very well, or can be used fresh for a variety of recipes.

Step 2:  Slice grapefruit for marmalade
I had a few organic grapefruits that I’d bought at the store that were so sweet, I couldn’t help throwing a few into this recpe.  Oranges would work equally well, or a combination of the two.

In case you don’t know how to slice fruit for marmalade, here’s a little reminder on the method I think most people are using… (again, I have to credit Shae from Hitchhiking to Heaven for teaching me this. She is the marmalade goddess).  You may notice that I’m cheating and using a serrated knife- I couldn’t find my steel for my chef’s knife, and this really doesn’t work with a dull knife. You really have to have a sharp knife to get the proper slices and not just squish everything.  Serrated is a decent backup, althought it makes the process take even longer. grapefruitcut off the blossom endsnotch out the white pithy centerslice the fruit into eighthtsslice each eighth into thin wedges

and then you cover the slices with water to soak overnight.grapefruit slices soaking
Day 2: You’ll slice the meyer lemons the same way as the grapefruit and then cook off the marmalade, then it’s into the jars…

Citrus-Quince Marmalade with Fresh Rosemary

The finished marmalade is pleasantly bitter, perfect spread on a crusty slice of whole wheat sourdough bread.

Cook Time: 2 days

Makes: about 12 1/2 pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 5 c. prepared grapefruit slices (from 5 medium grapefruits)
  • 6 c. water (or quince juice)
  • 3 c. prepared meyer lemon slices (from 9 meyer lemons)
  • 4 c. quince juice
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 9 c. sugar

Day 1: Combine grapefruit slices and water in a nonreactive container.  Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.  At the same time, make quince juice using instructions above.

Day 2: Bring boiling water canner to a boil.  Prepare jars and lids.

Combine meyer lemon slices with quince juice in a medium nonreactive pot.  Transfer the grapefruit slices to a large, nonreactive pot. Cook both mixtures until the slices are tender, about 15 minutes (the grapefruit slices may take a little bit longer than the lemon slices).  Once both batches are tender, combine them.  Add the sugar, lemon juice and rosemary sprigs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer or passes whatever gel test you like…. I still just use the spoon test, shown here.

 

Skim any foam off the top of the marmalade, remove the rosemary sprigs, and then ladle the hot marmalade into hot jars using 1/4″ headspace, then process for 10 minutes, remembering to adjust for altitude as necessary.

Oh, and one note: While I was cooking this batch of marmalade, I actually ended up splitting it back into two pots. I was afraid that the cooking time would be too long with this larger batch size and that the finished product would taste caramelized. You might want to do this too.

marmalade

 

Pomegranates Are Pretty

I really like pomegranates.pomegranates_MG_1995

They make me feel like I’m eating a bowl of rubies for breakfast.
pomegranatesI’ve made pomegranate jelly and pomegranate syrup in the past, but there’s something so lovely about the juicy crunch of fresh pomegranate seeds that I’ve just been using them fresh this year.

Winter Squash Bisque with Gorgonzola and Toasted Walnuts

This is the best soup that I know how to make. Since I like you guys so much I wanted to share the recipe with you since it’s perfect for the holidays.butternutsquashbisqueMy mom has been making a version of this to serve on Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember.  I think she got it from either Sunset Magazine or Bon Appetit (an educated guess based on on the huge stacks of Sunset magazines she has in the front closet, years of subscriptions from a time before the internet). I never saw the original recipe, and it’s evolved a lot over the years as I tinkered around with it. This version that I’m sharing with you today is what I’ve settled on and have been making for quite awhile now.squashWinter squash always is a staple in our house since it’s so easy to preserve. We’ll grow a rainbow of different varieties during the summer and then keep them in bins in the pantry for the cold months. My favorites types are butternut, kabocha, and buttercup, although there are so many different varieties that it’s hard to really narrow it down to just those. This soup will work with any combination of what you have, though I have noticed that it doesn’t come out quite as good with pumpkin. Try to stick with varieties with drier, solid flesh, like butternuts. Sweet potatoes or yams will work just as well if you happen to have those.

Oh, and a note to any gardeners who were unsure about this: To preserve winter squash, just cut it off the vine when it’s ripe, leaving the stem attached, and store in a cool, dark place.  Ideally you’ll get them before they’ve gotten frosted on and left out in the rain for days, but I’ve also found some hidden out in the December garden that are still just fine.  Usually they’ll keep for months, but it’s a good idea to check your stash every so often to see if there are any that have soft spots or tiny bits of mold popping up.  That’s all you have to do. They really just preserve themselves.snowy trees

This recipe would be a wonderful light lunch for Christmas or New Year’s, a great for a weeknight supper when it’s freezing outside, or, if you’re busy and haven’t got a lot of time for cooking, make it in advance by a day or two when you have time and then reheat it. It may thicken a bit in the fridge but just add some water to thin it out and check the seasonings again.

Winter Squash Bisque with Gorgonzola Cheese and Toasted Walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 or 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 12 c. cubed winter squash (peeled and seeded first*)
  • 8 c. water or stock
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1/2 c. crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese
  • 1/2 c. toasted walnuts or pecans
  • 1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots, and sage, and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the winter squash and water (it should be enough to cover the cubed squash, but feel free add more. Turn the heat to low and simmer everything for an hour or two. Remove from the heat and puree with your tool of choice (blender, immersion blender, etc.). Put the pot back on the stove on medium heat and stir in the heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve, topping each bowl with a few tablespoons of blue cheese, a sprinkle of nuts, and some fresh parsley.

Note: The gorgonzola cheese sounds weird if you haven’t tried it before but it’s vital. Don’t skip it or switch to a different cheese unless you’re allergic to moldy cheese or something. I’ve tried it with goat cheese and it’s not the same at all.

*I feel like there are already a million places on the internet that explain how to prepare winter squash. If you need help, just google. The main thing is to have a sharp chef’s knife and just to go for it — it really only takes a minute.

Happy Holidays!

Jam Vinaigrette from the Redwood Valley Farmers Market Chef Demo

I’m pretty excited about this.

So, a couple weeks ago at the Redwood Valley Farmers Market, my friend Amanda from Fairall’s Farm Fresh Eggs & Produce did a chef demo using some of the wonderful items available at the farmers market that morning.  She set up a delicious taco bar with chipotle sausage hash, a zesty salmon taco filling, and a big veggie and egg scramble, which you can find the recipes for here. She also made a huge farmers market salad with a jam vinaigrette that was so damn good I knew I had to write about it here and try to convince everyone on the internet to make too.

I’d never actually bothered making salad dressing with jam before, and it was so tasty that I went home and promptly made huge batch.  I guess  that when I thought about jam for salads, it sounded like it would be too sweet and overpowering.  I still think if you were having a really delicate salad of baby lettuces and sliced radishes, it would be a questionable idea at best.  Amanda’s salad was killer, though, and it’s because she didn’t just use lettuce, but also incorporated sliced cabbage, raw kale and chard leaves, summer squash and salad turnips.   These big, hearty vegetables stood up so well to the flavor of the jam.

Floodgate Farms grew the salad mix used as a base for everything, which in itself was outstanding.  It has more fresh produce than I’ve ever seen in any salad mix, ever, with fresh mint leaves, onion blossoms, sprigs of dill, nasturtium blossoms, purslane leaves, and more.  I’m not always much of a salad girl- I usually would rather have a big bowl of vegetable stew, like a ratatouille or the braised kale and white beans, but this salad mix is so beautiful and full of flavors that…. well, it makes me want to go buy more from them, even though I have a huge garden with plenty of my own vegetables.

Jam Vinaigrette

Cook Time: lightning fast

Ingredients:

  • jam:  I really like the flavor of dark berry or plum jams with the kale and cabbage, especially if they happen to be tart or low-sugar jams, but really, anything you want to use up will be good.
  • oil: I used hazelnut oil when I made it at home,  but anything you have will work.
  • vinegar: apple cider, champagne, sherry– again, whatever ya got.

In a half pint jar, combine two parts jam with two parts oil and one part vinegar. Shake it up. Pour over your salad. Eat.

Amanda’s Farmers Market Salad

In a big bowl, combine as many good salad things as you can find:

  • Salad Mix: different kinds of lettuce, diced onion blossoms, sprigs of fresh dill fronds and dill flowers, edible flowers, roughly chopped mint leaves, cilantro, parsley…. and any other things you can think of.Dark Leafy Greens: like shredded green cabbage, roughly chopped kale leaves and roughly chopped swiss chard leaves.  The more the merrier.  The key to growing really nice greens is to keep them well picked, so go out to the garden and pick any random leaves you can find.
  • Chopped Vegetables: summer squash, salad turnips, and cucumbers, etc.

Dress with jam vinaigrette, top with crumbled chevre or feta to make it even better, and serve.  My little brother ate a huge plate of it and said: “this salad is awesome, and I hate salad.”  So, it’s that kind of recipe, where you get to eat a really good meal, but then you get the added bonus of laughing when your family members who claim to hate kale end up eating a whole bunch of it — and liking it.

Amanda, thanks so much for sharing your wonderful cooking with everyone.  It was delicious!

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… )

Cook it! 2012 March Resolution: Make Butter – Part 1

We’re into the third month of cook it 2012, and I’m pretty excited about the most recent undertaking.  So far I’ve tackled pasta-making and bread-baking, and now… butter.  I’ve been wanting to make butter ever since I read this great post here from the Hungry Tigress.  I’m all about DIY, and my olive tree is still really small and not looking very promising in the olive oil department, so making my own butter can fill the void for right now.

So one of the reasons that I’m so excited about this is that butter is such a fundamental ingredient in every day cooking.  (Most DIY food projects are really tasty, but …  those jars of marmalade that ended up too sweet and then didn’t set, that I could certainly use as a pancake or ice cream topping? They’re still in the pantry).  Butter isn’t an ingredient that you have to make an effort to use.  It’s butter.  You don’t really need to brainstorm ideas.  I don’t really think there’s such a thing as having “too much butter.”  It just disappears, like toilet paper or beer. One of the reasons I hadn’t bothered with this project yet is that I didn’t have a good source for milk.  I found some very high quality raw, organic cream at the local natural food store, but I’m hoping to find a producer in Mendocino County if I keep searching.  (…. hello?… crossing my fingers for a barrage of e-mails from local dairy producers proving me wrong about availability…)

The little pints of cream that I bought weren’t cheap at all.  The flavor is absolutely amazing, though.  I remember the first time I ate an heirloom tomato, the first time I tried foie gras, and now, the first time I tried real cream.  It has officially joined the ranks of formative culinary experiences that will forever change how and what I want to be cooking.  It makes coffee taste a million times more delicious, and I can’t wait until berry season – I need to have blueberries and cream in my life, all the time.

So not only did I discover fresh, raw cream, I also got to make butter with it. Making butter is ridiculously, joyfully easy, absolutely a beginner project that involves very little time or equipment.  So here’s the deal: You know how to make whipped cream, right? Probably in a stand mixer? Make whipped cream, but then just keep going.  There’s  a moment in the middle of the project where you might think:

Wait, I really like whipped cream.  I should just make whipped cream right now, not butter.  Lemme go bake a pie real quick to go with this.

But if you persevere and vow to buy other cream for making whipped cream on another day, this whipped cream will quickly turn clumpy and then start to separate into butter and buttermilk.  This is the part of the project where my plan totally derailed.  I have a thing that I’m making with the butter that I’m very excited about, but I got totally distracted by the fresh buttermilk and ended up making buttermilk fried chicken before I made the other, butter-showcasing recipe.  Hence the “part 1.” I have more thoughts about butter that will be coming soon….Fried chicken is extra delicious when you marinade it in this wonderful fresh buttermilk.  The little sparkles of butter that get left behind in the buttermilk will make your fried chicken taste extra special.Also that I put bacon fat in the frying oil…  that doesn’t hurt.Go big or go home, right?*

and now, some recipes:

Butter

cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • the best cream  you can find: raw is good, pasteurized is also good, but not ultra-pasteurized.  (the amount is flexible, you can buy a little bit or a lot, and you end up with either a little bit of butter or a lot)

Put the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on high speed for awhile.  The cream will turn to whipped cream, and then separate into butter and buttermilk.  Drain the buttermilk into a bowl and reserve it for the fried chicken (or whatever you want to make).  Use a wooden spoon to smoosh all the butter into one big clump.  Take the bowl off the stand mixer and go over to the sink with it…  Run cold water over the butter and press down with the spoon to get out any remaining buttermilk (just dump it down the sink, there won’t be much at this point).  Pack the butter into jars. They last for about a week in the fridge and freeze very well.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Cook Time: an hour or so

Serves: oh, 4? It depends who’s eating and how much they like chicken

Ingredients:

  • 2- 2.5 lbs. skin-on chicken pieces**

For the marinade:

  • 2 or 3 cups of fresh buttermilk (this is what I got from turning three pints of cream into butter)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbs. fresh herbs, minced- any combination of thyme, oregano, rosemary sage, whatever you have….
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

For the breading:

  • 3 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 tbs. poultry seasoning (a dried mix of the herbs mentioned above)
  • 1 tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 tbs. paprika
  • 1 tbs. chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 3 tsp. sea salt

For frying:

  • 6 c. canola or other high temperature cooking oil
  • 1/4 c. bacon fat (I save the fat when we cook bacon… that’s good stuff, no need to throw it away)

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a large container.  Add the chicken pieces.  Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or so.

Heat up the oils in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I use my jam pot for frying as well).  If you have a thermometer, heat the oil to 350 degrees.  If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test that the oil is hot by putting a drop of water into the oil. If it’s hot, the water will sizzle like crazy.  Once the oil gets hot, you can probably turn the heat down to medium high or medium.  Important: Don’t rush the oil.  Make sure it’s hot. If you put the chicken into lukewarm oil it will be gross and turn out all greasy and soggy.  At this point you should also preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

While the oil is heating, combine the ingredients for the breading in a large dish.  Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade.  Try to give them a good slosh around to make sure that you get lots of marinade on the chicken as you remove each piece. Roll around the chicken pieces in the breading, making sure to thoroughly cover each piece.

Once the chicken is breaded and the oil is hot, put the chicken pieces in the oil to fry.  Work in batches so that each piece is surrounded by plenty of oil- you don’t really want the pieces to touch each other while they’re frying.  Cook the pieces for about 10 minutes, until they’re looking nice and golden brown.  Transfer the pieces to a pan with a rack and put them in the oven to finish (The rack is important! If you put them right on a pan the breading will get soggy).  The chicken will probably need about 10 minutes in the oven to finish all the way, but the time will vary depending on the size of the pieces.  Check for doneness with a thermometer; it should read about 165 degrees.

______________________________________________________

For anyone cooking along with the cook it! 2012 resolutions:

To be included in the butter round-up, e-mail me (the jamgirl@gmail.com)

with a link to your post by April 15, 2012 at 12 PM (PST).

_______________________________________________________

*J. saw me putting bacon grease in the cooking oil and was skeptical, I believe based on health reasons.  It’s fried chicken though. It’s inherently not a healthy dinner choice.  Save healthy for a different night.  I usually advocate a diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and very little meat, but if you’re going to do fried chicken, you might as well just go for it.

**I used to cringe at the price of organic chicken, but then I tried it and realized it’s far superior to the conventional equivalent.  The meat is richer and… my friend Paula from Mendocino Organics described it as “more chickeny.”  They have a chicken CSA where you can get humanely raised delicious organic chicken, perfect for this recipe.

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.

How To Use Up A Whole Bunch Of Jam At Once: Spiked Peach Bread Pudding

Every once in awhile, the kitchen kind of gets out of control with my projects: Eggs everywhere. A million jars of jam.  The counter cluttered with stale ends of experiments in bread-baking.It’s rainy and cold today, but I didn’t make this dessert because I wanted to have something sweet and warm;  I made it because I had to figure out something to do with all the crap lying around in the kitchen.The only sweetener in this bread pudding is jam, so you might need to adjust it for your taste a little bit.  I used a peach jam that was a standard high-sugar recipe for this, so if you want to use a low sugar or no sugar jam, you might want to add more (or add some honey).Spiked Peach Bread Pudding

Cook Time: 1 1/2 hrs.

Serves: a lot

Ingredients:

  • 8 c. bread, cubed, from assorted odds and ends of stale bread
  • 5 c. milk
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1/3 c. whiskey
  • 1 pint jar of peach jam plus more for serving
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. amaretto liqueur
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • garnish: powdered sugar, jam and mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10″ cast iron skillet.  Spread cubed bread evenly in the skillet.  In a pot on medium heat, combine the milk, sour cream, whiskey, jam, lemon juice, nutmeg, amaretto, and vanilla.  Bring to a low simmer for a few minutes and whisk everything together.  Once the sour cream and the jam have melted into the milk, turn off the heat and let the milk mixture cool for a few minutes.  Put the beaten eggs in a large mixing bowl.  This part is important: you can’t just combine the beaten eggs and the hot milk mixture together or the eggs will cook wrong and ruin the consistency of the custard.  Make sure that you follow these instructions here: Slowly pour the milk mixture into the mixing bowl with the eggs in a thin stream and whisk everything constantly while you pour. This is the custard for the pudding.

Pour the custard over the cubed bread and let it sit for 20 minutes to soak, then bake the bread pudding at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until the custard is cooked through.

Serve topped with powdered sugar and a spoonful of jam.

Note: All the important numbers (350, 375, 400, 450) have rubbed off the dial on my oven, and it doesn’t cook evenly or at the correct temperature anyway, so my cooking time might be off.  When I smelled the faintest bit or burning only twenty minutes into cooking, I realized that I had the dial set on, oh, 460? No good.  I caught it in time, though. I majorly need to buy an oven thermometer.

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.