Monday, December 15, 2014

Cranapple Walnut Cake

This picture was taken about 7 or 8 years ago at the U-District Farmers' Market. This is what the cranberry harvest for farmers' markets looked like the first few seasons farmers started bringing these local treasures to the market.

The tables have more berries now and the price is higher these days. It isn't easy to grow cranberries. They grow on bushes that need bogs, and with all that water, cranberries are susceptible to fungus

Chemical fungicides aren't allowed for organic cranberries, so growing them is more challengine. You might say it's an act of love.  One farm Starvation Alley is doing just that. They are the first certified organic cranberry grower in Washington state. And they sell berries in the U-district market. Check out their story, then support their farm.

For this recipe, apples help balance the sweet tones with the tart cranberries in Cranapple Walnut Cake, a recipe I found in Mollie Katzen's Heart of the Plate

Someone isn't interested unless we're testing actual recipes.
Of course the third ingredient that grabbed my attention was walnuts, another northwest treasure.  I happen to have a significant amount of my walnuts from Grouse Mountain Farm. Once you've eaten the best walnuts, you'll never want the store bought variety again.  I'm hoping this box of local walnuts will last through the winter.  I may have to hide them.

Nash's flour is available and it's worth the extra cost.  How many people can say they've ever really had fresh flour?  Just a ferry ride away in Sequim, Washington, Nash's organic farm has been grinding out flour for eight years now.

Recipe adaptation

I started with Molly Katzen's recipe and I made a few alterations along the way. I increased the flour measurement because Nash's flour has less gluten and seems to have more moisture.  I used darker brown sugar, so the recipe turned out significantly darker than the photo in the book that appears to have been made with very light colored sugar.

I could have used less sugar, but I wasn't sure because the cranberries were very tart and the Granny Smith apples were also tart.  Also I cut down on the amount of apples and I chopped as opposed to slicing them.  I find with Nash's flour, pastries don't always hold together as well, but the flavor makes up for that minor problem.

Cranapple Walnut Cake
(Makes one 9 by 13-inch cake or about 10 servings)

1 3/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup canola or grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten, or flax-seed egg replacer for 2 eggs
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (if using fresh local flour use 2 1/4 cups)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 large apple, peeled and core removed, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 cup toasted walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly oil a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.

2. Beat together eggs, brown sugar, oil and vanilla.

3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, in a separate bowl. Combine wet and dry ingredients, adding the fruit and nuts.  Mixture will be quite thick.  Spread in the prepared baking pan.  

4. Bake for 45 minutes or until lightly browned on top.  Test with toothpick before removing from the oven.  Allow to cool on cooling rack before slicing.  Top with whipped topping, coconut sorbet or ice cream.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sweet Potato-Walnut Biscuits

I meant to post this recipe for sweet potato biscuits last week, but we left for the beach and the truth was it was so relaxing, I never thought about posting anything after we got there.  Guilty of taking too many beach walks.

Washington winter storms chase most everyone away. This makes the beach is so inviting in winter, it's almost like having your own beach.  This lodge is offers three nights for the price of two.  I love the fireplaces in the room and just over the dunes is the beach.

The dogs get to play on the beach.  They don't mind wind or rain.

I like finding colors against the grey winter sky.

On another note, we have also just adopted another basset hound.  Meet Olivia.  She's not quite a poser like my Cooking Assistant but she now likes raw carrots and apples, no big surprise right?  It's baking season again so the homemade dog biscuits just keep coming.

You can buy sweet potatoes locally in the Northwest. These are so good, you may never buy store-bought sweet potatoes again.

They need to be cooked first.  You can bake them or steam them.  Remove the skins before adding the cooked sweet potatoes to the biscuit mix.

I found this biscuit recipe in one of my long-time favorite cookbooks, which as you can probably see has gotten plenty of use since it was published in 1990.

In the stores, I get the variety called Jewel or Red Garnet yams, sweeter varieties with more moisture.  We call some sweet potatoes yams, but true yams are found in Africa and are quite different than these sweet starchy vegetables.

I had a bit of Nash's whole wheat pastry flour (a local farm) left and I used that.  I always end up using more of this flour than store bought varieties, maybe because it's fresh and has more moisture.  If you haven't ever used fresh locally grown flour, you should at least try it once. The flavor is so much better than the bland store bought flour.

Here is my version of this great recipe:

Sweet Potato-Walnut Drop Biscuits
(Makes about 9 large biscuits)
Breakfast, lunch or dinner, these biscuits are good any time.  Thank you Susan Jane Cheney

1 orange
1/3 cup almond, rice or soy milk
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato
3 tablespoons canola oil, melted Earth Balance baking sticks or butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup, plus enough for glazing

Preheat oven to 450F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat with parchment paper.

Grate the orange zest and juice the orange.  Add almond milk to make 2/3 cup of liquid.  

Measure 2 cups sifted flour into a bowl, add baking powder and soda and sift together. Stir in walnuts.  In another bowl combine mashed sweet potato, oil and maple syrup.  Blend the dry and wet ingredients together. Add enough flour for a fairly stiff dough that can still be dropped by spoonful.

Spoon 9 biscuits onto a baking sheet, spaced as far apart as possible.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until biscuits are browned.  Place them on a baking rack and lightly brush the tops with maple syrup.

Meanwhile at the beach, the sun made an appearance.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Brussels Sprouts: Two Ways

The time to buy Brussels sprouts is when the weather turns cold.  And lately it's been cold enough to bring in the hummingbird feeder at night. Buy fresh sprouts, if possible. Frozen sprouts are often bitter and serving frozen Brussels sprouts can turn people off of this great vegetable. 

When the sprouts are on trees, they may be fresher than loose sprouts, but it's hard to tell how much you're paying when you buy a tree, which is discarded in the end. 

The price shown above is last year's price. This year, the price is between $5.99 and $6.99 for a "tree."  I have no idea how much a "tree" weighs but the tree is fairly heavy and compact, so the true price of the sprouts is probably about twice what the tree sells for, or about $10.99 a pound, making this a "special occasion food" for the frugal or $100 a week food shopper (is that really possible in the Northwest?).

Shallots are pricier than onions, so these are also for special dinners at our house. Could be, they'd both be perfect for Thanksgiving.

Brussels Sprouts, Leeks and Red Peppers with Lemon
(Serves 4)

1 large leek, sliced and washed thoroughly
1 tablespoon canola oil or ghee (clarified butter)
1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed and cut in half
1/2 cup diced red pepper
3 or 4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon Mama Lil's Peppers, chopped, or use 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Sea salt to taste
Lemon juice, fresh (use a Meyer lemon, if possible)
Shredded coconut

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add oil and leek.  Stir and cook until leek begins to soften and brown.  

Add Brussels sprouts, stir and cook until sprouts begin to soften.  Add the diced red pepper and Mama Lil's.  Continue to stir and cook until sprouts are fork tender.  Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.  Drizzle with fresh lemon juice. Sprinkle with a small amount of shredded coconut. 

And keep them out of reach from your Cooking Assistant.

I cooked this Brussels sprouts recipe with shiitake mushrooms last year.  Now that I look at it, the simplicity of it is very similar to my Brussels sprouts and leeks and red peppers. I like the colors of this year's Brussels sprouts recipe.  

Use whichever version suits you.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shiitake Mushrooms
(Serves 4)

Brussels Sprouts from one tree (about 2 pounds sprouts)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 1/2  tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon Mama Lil's peppers, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon chopped red peppers
Smoked sea salt to taste
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, tough stems removed and sliced

Preheat oven to 400F. Cut sprouts in half. Toss sprouts and garlic in oil.  Stir in peppers. Layer sprouts in a baking dish. Sprinkle with smoked sea salt. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring once.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add mushrooms.  Stir and cook until they soften. In the last 10 minutes, add them to roasting Brussels sprouts.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Roasted Romanesco

I love autumn--all the squash, chanterelle mushrooms, and romanesco. I'd decided to roast vegetables and when I spotted the chartreuse brassica, I reached for small head.

I decided to roast vegetables in part to talk about a recently published recipe.  I send articles and recipes on a regular basis to Marlene's Market and Deli in Tacoma, which is the best place to shop for organic and vegetarian foods in Tacoma. They publish a monthly newletter called The Sound Outlook.  Check it out, see Marlene. 

The November issue is all recipes.  I love that.  Two of mine were featured, a vegan mushroom gravy and a roasted vegetable medley.

Occasionally mistakes are made when recipes are reprinted, and everybody has a recipe for roasted vegetables.  Really--what's so hard about roasting them.  Spread a pound or two of chopped vegetables in a roasting pan.  Drizzle with a little oil, sprinkle with sea salt and back at 350F to 400F until done.

So I didn't look at the roasted vegetable recipe for awhile, but when I picked it up to read it, I was astonished to see 8 tablespoons of oil and even more shocked to see 2 teaspoons of sea salt and 2 tablespoons of chopped rosemary.

Yikes!  Mistakes were made, but where?  I can't find the original recipe because neither recipe is one I submitted for the November issue. It took awhile to find the gravy recipe, and maybe I'll post that one next week. 

At any rate, the lesson here is to remember, when reading recipes, mistakes could have been made. Use your own discretion. This is obviously too much oil and salt for any roasted vegetable recipe, and when you increase the amount of vegetables in a recipe, never double the salt or pepper.  I'm also not sure I get the plastic bag technique.  Can't you just stir them in the pan?  Anyway, I continue the hunt for this recipe.

Okay, that said, we can move on to romanesco. I hadn't tried roasting it until I found this amazing roasted romanesco recipe.  Then, I wished I'd gotten more. You don't know how good vegetables can be until you've tasted this.

We've had it in soups, stir frys, salads, but from now on I think I'll roast romanesco.

Looking at romaneco is like viewing a work of art. 

My Cooking Assistant has decided that he likes.  He loves broccoli and cauliflower so romanesco is  a magnet for him.

Shortly after this he weakened and gobbled a few pieces.  I knew I should have gotten a bigger head.

Seriously, it's the addition of toasted garlic that makes the flavor amazing.

Roasted Garlic Romanesco

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed
Dash of hot chile powder or cayenne
Romanesco, cut into bite size pieces.
Smoked sea salt or sea salt
Romano or Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F.   Blend olive oil, garlic and chile powder together.  Lay romanesco in a 9 by 13- inch baking dish. Toss with oil mixture.  Place in oven.  Stir occasionally.  Sprinkle with cheese after 20 minutes.  Return to the oven and continue to bake until tender--about 10 minutes. Season with salt.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pear Clafouti

It's all pears and apples at the markets now. I wanted a pear clafouti--can this pass for breakfast fare?  Or is it a dessert?  I think I'd eat it any time it came out of the oven.

Use any kind of pear you want. 

The original recipe listed Bartlett; I like Bosc, and these Seckel pears are a good choice too. Also don't limit yourself to four pears.  Use as many as you want to cover the bottom of the pan.

This recipe came from my book.  Check out my book for more recipes like this one.

This  recipe in my cookbook came from Jenette Herman of Cliffside Orchards. It's like custard. I didn't quite have enough pears to crowd the bottom but the wonderful custard between the pears is to die for.

Seriously, I don't mind giving up bread things for a few weeks if I could have more of these treats.

In my book three eggs is a bit much to replace without losing texture, so I checked to see how vegans handled clafouti. Most used silken tofu as an egg-replacement like this vegan cherry clafouti

Pear Clafouti
(Serves 4)

4 ripe Bartlett pears, or 6 to 8 Seckel pears, cut in half
3 eggs, beaten, or 6 ounces silken tofu, blended
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup milk, soy or almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon brandy
Powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Oil or butter a 9-inch round cake pan.  Lay pears cut side down.

2. Combine the eggs or tofu and sugar using a mixer in a large bowl.  Beat until foamy and thick. Add flour and mix until a soft batter forms, then stir in milk, vanilla extract, and brandy, if desired.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Pour mixture over the pears and bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes.

Recipe from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook, by Debra Daniels-Zeller.

Here is what it looks like with berries added:

Oh those berries. . .