Baked Kale & Artichoke Dip

This dip is inspired by the spinach-artichoke dip that I think many people have probably had at some restaurant or another.   It’s not anything new or trendy but let’s pretend it is since I’m using kale instead of spinach. I was thinking about making it the other day and realized I didn’t see any recipes for it on the internet that looked very good.  Most involved a lot of mayonnaise.  Sorry, but no.  It is weird that the idea of baking a mayonaissey dip sounds disgusting to me? Cheese is for baking, not mayonaisse.  Melty cheese = amazing.  Melty mayo = um…. dino kale This dip would be perfectly at home on a holiday appetizer table and is best paired a sparkly cocktail or three.  It’s also great for convincing people who hate kale that they actually love kale (what vegetable isn’t delicious drowned in cheese?)kale and artichoke dipBAKED KALE AND ARTICHOKE DIP

Cook Time: 45 min.

Makes: a large batch, enough for 5-10 people depending on portion size

Ingredients:

  • 1 14 oz. can artichokes, roughly chopped
  • 1 c. chopped cooked kale leaves
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 + 1/4 c. shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • a pinch of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  If you have a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients except 1/4 c. of the monterey jack cheese in the bowl and mix for a minute or two to combine everything.  You can do it by hand, too, but you really need to make sure that the cream cheese is fully softened.  Transfer the dip to a small oven-safe dish, sprinkle with the rest of the cheese, and bake for 30 minutes.  Turn the oven to broil for the last 3-4 minutes to get the cheese on top properly brown and bubbly.  (Keep a close eye at this point…. things go from bubbly to black and burned really quickly).

Serve hot, with tortilla chips, pita chips or raw vegetables.

Advertisements

Cranberry Quince Preserves That Can Go With Turkey But Also Just Toast

So, I was gonna post this last week but my internet connection hasn’t been cooperating.  I am very thankful that it is working again.  I am also thankful to be sitting on couch being generally lazy, watching the Macy’s Parade and cuddling with my dogs while pumpkin pie bakes in the oven.   I’m so, so thankful that my husband and I can stay at home all day and not do any work and eat lots of turkey and watch football.  It’s basically the best thing ever.   cranberry preservesThis cranberry-quince-orange preserve is going to be on our table in a few hours.   I actually love cranberries and think they shouldn’t just be for the holiday season, so I actually like it as an every day winter preserve on whole grain toast.   It would be a fantastic part of a holiday cheese plate with some chevre and prosciutto.quinceCRANBERRY QUINCE PRESERVES

This recipe is inspired and adapted from the Hungry Tigress’ recipe for Holiday Preserves.  I actually had planned to follow her recipe exactly, but then I realized that I didn’t have any candied ginger but that I did have some nice looking navel oranges.

Cook Time: 2 hrs, but barely any of it is active cooking time

Makes: 9 half pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 5 c. sugar
  • 5 c. water
  • 1 1/2 lbs. quince, cored and diced*
  • 2 1/4 lbs. fresh cranberries (3 of the 12 oz. bags that are commonly sold in grocery stores. I wish we had a local source for cranberries, but we really just don’t.)
  • 2 c. fresh orange juice
  • 1 tbs. orange zest

In a large, nonreactive pot, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil.  Add the diced quince and reduce the heat to medium.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about an hour, until the quince have turned from a pale yellow to a rosy color and the sugar water has thickened into more of a syrup.

Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids while the quince simmers in the sugar water.

Add the cranberries, orange juice and zest and cook on high, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Cook until the preserves set, which will happen fairly quickly.  (Click here for more info if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

Ladle the hot jam into the prepared jars leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Process for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as needed.

*I left the skins on my quinces, but most recipes call to peel them. They really don’t bother me, though.cranberry preserves spoon

Happy Thanksgiving!

Potato-Leek Pancakes with Pear Sauce

On nights that I’m just cooking for myself, I have huge problems motivating to cook anything remotely resembling a coherent dinner. Lots of times I just make scrambled eggs. Sometimes I make popcorn.  These potato pancakes are my attempt at cooking a meal that’s a little more like real food, but still is cheap (really cheap) and lightning fast to throw together.  potato pancakesYou probably already know how to make potato pancakes, but sometimes I write stuff here more to remind people that it’s a good idea.  Instead of having them with the traditional applesauce accompaniment, I used bartlett pear sauce that I made earlier this fall and it was totally delicious.  My friend Jen from Salt Hollow Flower Farm turned me on to canning pear sauce instead of applesauce, and I have to agree, it really is divine.  (I used this pear sauce recipe here.)

POTATO LEEK PANCAKES

Makes: 4 medium pancakes or 8 small pancakes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. of shredded potato, tightly packed (about 2 large potatoes)
  • 1/4 c. thinly sliced leeks
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbs. wheat flour
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tbs. safflower or other neutral flavored oil
  • for serving: pear sauce, sour cream and sliced scallions

Combine the potato, leeks, egg and flour in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix together everything thoroughly. Heat the oil in a frying pan on high heat. Form the potato mixture into patties and set them in the pan. Cook for about three minutes, then flip them with a spatula to cook the other side for a few minutes.  The pancakes are done with each side is a nice shade of golden brown.  Serve immediately, topped with sour cream, pear sauce, and scallions.

Queensland Blue Pumpkin Butter

I’m not always a fan of using the freezer for food preservation.  Maybe one day, if I have a chest freezer and some more space, but for now there’s just not enough room to really make much use of it.  Right now I use it for meat and fish, frozen bags of cooked greens, a few jars of pie filling and this pumpkin butter.

Pumpkin butter is epic.

Pumpkin butter deserves as much space in the freezer as it needs.  It is totally worth it.  If you’ve made pumpkin butter before, I’m probably preaching to the choir, but if you haven’t ….  you need to go get a pumpkin.  It’s like pumpkin pie in a jar.  I usually use it instead of plain pumpkin puree to make pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin lattes that are about a million times better than anything from Starbucks. (Did you know that most “pumpkin spice lattes” are just lattes with nutmeg and cinnamon? There’s really no pumpkin involved in most of them.  Try something like this instead.)queensland blue pumpkinMaking this made me really think about how ridiculous it is to measure out  specific amounts of ingredients for recipes since no two vegetables taste exactly the same.  With the wide range of varieties available from seed catalogues and at farmers markets, it makes so much more sense to learn the general method for a recipe, taste it as you go and adjust accordingly.   Last fall, I made pumpkin butter with sugar pie pumpkins and it took about four times as long to reduce down to the correct thickness and had a stringy, mushy texture that needed a lot of pureeing and reducing.   Not only did this year’s batch cook much faster since the flesh of this variety is very firm and dry, but the pumpkins also had so much flavor on their own that I really didn’t need to do much of anything to get the rich, luscious pumpkin taste that the finished product should have.

My favorite winter squash varieties have very firm, dry flesh that is dark yellow or orange, very flavorful and great for both savory and sweet recipes.  Buttercup, kabocha, jarradhale, and queensland blue are my current standbys, but if you look at winter squash section of the Baker Creek Seed catalogue, you’ll see there are about another ninety varieties and by no means have I tried them all. pumpkin butterHere’s the deal:  this is an easy recipe because it’s just going in the freezer.  You might find some pumpkin butter recipes in older cookbooks that say it’s safe for water bath canning, but it’s a lies.  I guess the USDA used to say it was okay but changed their minds.  The current guidelines say that pumpkin butter isn’t safe for water bath canning OR pressure canning.   (Did you really catch that if you’re skimming this?)

PUMPKIN BUTTER IS NEVER SAFE FOR CANNING. NOT IN A WATER BATH AND NOT IN A PRESSURE CANNER EITHER.

As much as I love to question authority, I’m not a scientist so I’m just going to follow the rules.  Marisa from Food In Jars has a thorough explanation over on her website here.  If you don’t have a freezer and are desperate for something that can go in a jar, SB Canning has a recipe for faux pumpkin butter that’s safe for water bath canning.

Step 1: Roast a pumpkin

To do this, poke a couple holes in it with a knife or a toothpick.  Put it on a cookie sheet. Put it in the oven at 350 degrees.  (You’ll know it’s cooked when a knife slides into the flesh easily – OR- if you press on the skin with your finger and it feels soft and gives to pressure – OR – you see little bubbles of caramelized sugar coming out of those holes you poked earlier.  Or all of those things. Maybe that’s obvious, but at my first kitchen job, it took me about three months to get the hang of properly baking potatoes.  Just so they were cooked through, like a normal baked potato, and not raw in the middle. Don’t make fun of me, it’s true.)

Step 2:

Wait for the pumpkin to cool off.  Then cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and set them aside for other projects.  The cooked flesh should come apart from the skin pretty easily at this point.  Put the flesh into a large, nonreactive pot and discard the skin.

Step 3:

Add the seasonings, puree, and cook on low heat until the mixture has thickened.  This variety of pumpkin is going to make a puree that’s already quite thick, so it won’t take all that long, about 45 minutes. Since this flesh is so dry, I found that it worked well to use a cup or two of apple juice as part of the sweetener.  It enhances the flavor and adds enough liquid to make it possible to puree everything with an immersion blender.

Ingredients to add:

  • apple or pear juice
  • brown sugar, honey or molasses
  • white sugar to taste
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, fresh, powdered or candied ginger, cardamom, whatever you want really…

I added apple juice, molasses, white sugar and some cinnamon and cooked the puree for another hour on very low heat, stirring it more often as it got really thick.   It ended up tasting perfect, just like eating pumpkin pie.  If you’re unsure about the seasonings, just add a little at a time and keep tasting it.  I added more white sugar than I originally thought I’d need, but if you just keep adding a little and tasting it eventually the flavors will lock in just right and really sing.  At this point, you should step away and stop messing with it or the everything can get muddled and weird.

Step 4:

Transfer the pumpkin butter to tupperware or jars and store in the freezer. Remember to leave about 3/4″ headspace on your jars and not to screw the lids down too tight or they’ll crack as they freeze solid.  pumpkin pieDON’T FORGET: Now that you have pumpkin butter made, you can whip up a pumpkin pie in about three minutes. The instructions are in this post from last year. 

Wild Grape Jelly

This month was really stressful.  We had a bunch of stuff going on that’s not really worth going into. The only reason I bring it up is to say how it really is so nice when life is being overly complicated and then you find an absolutely gigantic patch of wild grapes that have set the most beautiful, luscious, deep purple  clusters of fruit, and then you can be like:

HEY! Instead of stressing out about all this other stuff, I’m gonna spend the afternoon picking grapes and making jelly. If I wanna blow off the everything that I’m supposed to be doing and make jelly instead then DAMMIT I’m going to because I’m a grown woman and who can stop me SO THERE.

Anyway.

I still can’t believe that these grapes are wild.  Most of the ones I’ve seen in the past wouldn’t really set fruit in bunches; it would just be a few random grapes here and there on the vines.  wild grapeswild grape jellyThe main difference between wild and cultivated grapes are the size of the seeds. Wild grapes’ skins slip off the same way concord grape skins do, but the seed inside is huge and there’s not much to the fruit. The flavor is intense, though, and perfect for making jelly.  The color of the finished preserve is gorgeous and the taste is dark, tart and wonderful.  (Actually, it really reminds me of the tiny, tart wild blackberries that grow in the exact same area earlier in the summer.) grape jelly

Wild grapes have lots of pectin on their own and are a good candidate for a no-added pectin jelly.  The set on those jellies really is nicer than jellies with added commercial pectin, but you really need to add a lot of sugar to make the no pectin  batches gel.  I prefer adding low-sugar commercial pectin to the grape juice so that I can use less sugar and have a shorter cooking time (which often preserves the flavor of the fresh fruit a little better).  I made some wild blackberry-plum jelly earlier this year without any added commercial pectin, and it’s good, but it’s just so sweet.

WILD GRAPE JELLY, adapted from the Sure-Gel low sugar pectin insert that comes in the box

Makes: 6 half pint jars

Cook Time: 1 hr. plus overnight

STEP ONE:

First, make the grape juice.  Wash the grapes and remove them from the stems.  Put them in a large, nonreactive pot and add just enough water to cover them.  Simmer the grapes for about half an hour.  Once they start softening up, mash them with a potato masher to release their juice. After 30-45 minutes, pour them into a jelly bag to drain overnight. (Or, use cheesecloth.  or a clean pillowcase. I like this description of using a pillowcase instead of a proper jelly bag. I just slip mine over the top of a pot and tie off the excess fabric underneath the pot, if that makes any sense.)

I had 16 cups of grapes and cooked them in 8 cups of water, which ended up yielding about 5 cups of juice.

STEP TWO: making the jelly

Ingredients:

  • 5 c. prepared wild grape juice
  • 3 cups plus 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 box of sure-gel low sugar pectin

Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.

Whisk together the pectin with 1/4 c. of sugar.  In a large, nonreactive pot, whisk together the grape juice and the pectin/sugar mixture.  Cook on high heat until the grape juice comes to a full, rolling boil.  Stir in the rest of the sugar and bring the jelly back to a full boil.  Boil hard for 1 minute.

Ladle hot jelly into prepared jars leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Wipe rims and attach lids, then process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as necessary. tattler lidsThis happens to be the first time I’ve tried out tattler lids… and I love them.  They’re BPA free and reusable, which is great.  Throwing away all those metal lids always seems like a bummer, and really, I haven’t seen any pinterest projects for repurposing them that actually look like anything work making.

Check out the Tattler website for more information. 

Roasted Eggplant Sandwiches with Tomato Jam and Tzatziki

I almost like this sandwich better than BLTs with fresh tomatoes from the garden. (Almost). Last winter I found myself craving one often, wishing it were eggplant season.  Wishing it were eggplant season.  Who even does that?

You really need to try this, though.  If you have still have eggplant hanging out in the garden or your CSA box, you should make this. roasted eggplant sandwichThese ingredients don’t really have to be a sandwich.  I like putting them in wraps too, and they’re also nice as part of a middle-eastern-mediterranean-ish salad plate with some olives, tabouleh or falafels.

The important parts of this combination are:

1. roasted or grilled eggplant

2. tomato jam: you can’t skip it. I tried earlier in the summer and it wasn’t the same at all.  My recipe is here but there are lots of others floating around the internet. 

3. tzatziki sauce -or- crumbled goat or feta cheese

4. some baby salad greens and fresh herbs (a few mint leaves are by far the best, but parsley or basil will work too)

Once you have all of these things, just combine them into a sandwich or whatever makes you happy.  I added some sliced red onions and tomatoes this time, but you don’t have to. roasted eggplant plateROASTED EGGPLANT

Ingredients:

  • eggplant
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Slice the eggplant into rounds and place them on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle them liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast them in the oven until they’re nicely golden brown and cooked through.  You may need to flip the slices midway through cooking, but it kind of depends how thick you want to make them.

TZATZIKI

Cook Time: a couple minutes

Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1  c. plain yogurt
  • 1 c. chopped cucumber
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 4 oz.  soft chevre or feta cheese
  • 1 small shallot, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processer. Puree just until everything is chunky, not completely smooth.  Taste it and season accordingly with salt and pepper.

Fall Projects

This is a monster post with lots of projects because I’ve been awful about keeping up with things here. Unfortunately, life’s been too busy for blogging.  It hasn’t been too busy for canning, though.  (That would be awful. A nightmare! Can you imagine?)fall preservesfrom left to right: fig preserves, stewed heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomato jam, wild elderberry preserves, barlett pears in red wine syrup, barlett pears in maple syrup, roasted sweet peppers, oven dried figs, and stewed tomatoes with fresh herbs

Depending on where you live, you might be able to do some of these projects still.  If not, there’s always next fall …

TOMATOEStomatoesMy revelation this year is that I don’t actually care much about canning tomato sauce; plain stewed tomatoes prove to be much more versatile.  During the rest of the year, I use them in all kinds of soups, stews, curries, braises and sauces.  This year I canned as many heirloom tomatoes as I could using this method (which also happens to be really, really simple).

STEWED HEIRLOOM TOMATOES

Ingredients:

  • heirloom tomatoes: my favorites varieties are yellow and pink marbled, such as old german, hillbilly, and pineapple
  • lemon juice
  • salt (optional)

Wash the tomatoes. Remove the core with a pairing knife.  Slice them in half, or quarters if they’re really huge. Put the tomato halves in a large, nonreactive pot with a cup of water.  Cook them on medium low, stirring occasionally, until they’ve reduced in volume by about half.  You’ll be able to see that they reduce their juices during the beginning of cooking and everything looks very watery, but after an hour …or two or three (it depends on the batch size), most of the water cooks off, leaving just stewed tomatoes. Season with salt if you want.

Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.

Add 1 tbs. of bottled lemon juice to each pint jar and 2 tbs. of bottled lemon juice to each pint jar (you can use whichever size you prefer), and then ladle the hot tomatoes into the jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Process pints for 40 minutes and quarts for 45 minutes.  Remember to adjust for altitude if necessary.cherry tomatoesAlso, I’ve been making tomato jam using this recipe from last year, just swapping out those yellow plum tomatoes with cherry tomatoes. I added some curry powder to one of the batches and it was lovely.  Cherry tomatoes make fantastic jam. You should do it. Seriously.

PEPPERS

I swore that this year I wouldn’t just turn all my peppers into hot pepper jelly, like I usually do. Instead, I used a bunch of them to make these marinated roasted peppers from Hitchhiking to Heaven.  They’re absolutely going to be a new pantry stale for me.  It’s a lot of work to roast and peel all those peppers, but it’s well worth it.  peppers for roastingI didn’t really do much to the recipe except omit the smoked paprika because I didn’t have any and I was too lazy to go get some. One note, though: roasting peppers indoors under the broiler will make your house smell really weird and funky.  Or at least, I thought so.  Next time I’m doing it on the grill, outside.

FIGS

I made fig preserves, but they really didn’t turn out quite as good as I was hoping they would.  I’m way more excited about the oven-dried figs that I made after that.  They’re delicious on their own, but I’m trying to save them for the holidays so I can put them in fruit cakes.  figs

ELDERBERRIES

I made wild elderberry preserves for the first time this year.  They’re …  weird.  Elderberries have a very unique flavor.  There’s an earthiness to them that I haven’t quite wrapped my taste buds around yet, but I think it might grow on me.elderberriesI’ve read that elderberries have immune-boosting properties and can shorten the duration of the flu, so I cooked them with honey, lemon juice and spices to make a loose preserve that I’m planning to mix into green smoothies during the winter time.  I can’t decide if I love my recipe or not, so instead of sharing it let me point you to a great Mother Earth News article that includes several recipes for elderberries.

and last but not least….

PEARS

Local bartlett pears are hands down my favorite fruit to preserve of the year.  They’re divine.  I made pear sauce, oven dried pears, canned pears in maple syrup, pear cardamom jam, pears in spiced red wine syrup, and a new one for this year – spiced maple pear jam, which I think deserves its own post, so stay tuned. bartlett pear