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. . . 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Cream" of Celery Soup (Vegan)

I love fall--the rainy days, falling leaves, pumpkins, hearty greens and root vegetables. It's also soup season, and last week I read this blog post and immediately wanted Cream of Celery soup. That's the thing about a good food blog--you never run out of ideas. The cream is made with cashew cream and celery's root cousin--celeriac--also plays a staring role.

Celeriac is not exactly out of season yet, but apparently it's getting a little late for celeriac here in the Northwest. I found some at Rent's Due Ranch.  

Sometimes you have to search out celery this time of year, too.  If you can't find either celeriac or celery check natural food stores because organic is way better tasting than non-organic. And if you're still having trouble finding celeriac, just add another white potato.

Celeriac is knobby and sometimes hard to cut all the gnarly brown hairs that grow up inside the root. The creamy color also turns brown when exposed to light, so if you need to leave it for more than a few minutes, toss it with lemon juice after cutting it, so it doesn't change colors.

Every fall soup needs garlic and you should get it now, while it's still in season.  River Farm is using the remainder of their garlic for seed next year. I hope they saved enough for the wonderful garlic powder they sell in the winter.

I'd asked for 5 heads a few weeks ago and when Liz brought 5 pounds, I decided to get it all.  Store it in a dark place where air circulates, and check it every so often to use heads that begin to soften.

Potatoes help thicken the soup.  Often when you leave leftovers overnight, the soup gets so thick you need to add more water the next day.

I added an apple on impulse because I had so many apples.  The flavors blend together well and you can't tell an apple was added to the mix.  Peel it first so the colors don't detract from the celery.

Upstairs, downstairs--together these two vegetables make a delicious team.

The cashews pureed with apple cider and added to the soup in the end, give the soup a decadent feel.

"Cream" of Celery Soup
(Serves 4)
If you don't already love celery, you will after this soup. A little of everything goes into this savory stock-free seasonal soup.

1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup apple cider
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed if large and sliced
1 small red pepper, seeds and stem removed, small dice
1 cup sliced carrots
1 small onion or 2 shallots, small dice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 heads of celeriac, carefully peeled and diced
3 to 4 cups chopped celery
1 white potato, peeled and diced
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic (pressed)
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's Peppers (or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
4 cups water
Lemon juice to taste
Chopped parsley for garnish

1. Soak the cashews in apple cider for at least 2 hours.  Puree until smooth and set aside.

2. Dry fry the mushrooms until they soften.   Add red pepper, carrots, onion and olive oil.  Stir, cover and reduce heat so vegetables sweat and soften.

3. Place celeriac, celery, potato, apple, garlic Mama Lil's, sea salt lemon zest, agave nectar and water in a soup pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables soften.  

4. Puree celeriac-celery mixture a little at a time until creamy.  Add the mushrooms and vegetables.  Balance the flavors with salt and lemon juice.  Stir in the cashew cream. 

5. Serve garnished with parsley.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Orange-Walnut Sweet Rolls

Sometimes I escape into baking and I'd been on a spree lately, making dog biscuits, muffins and most recently these sweet rolls. I'd wanted to use my favorte walnuts from Grouse Mountain, I usually splurge with these local treasures at least once evey fall. 

I said "been on a baking spree"because shortly after I made these rolls (the next day), I gave up bread products. For just 14 days, but still.  It all started as a conversation, "what would it be like to give up candy, ice cream--something you like." I mean really like.

Okay, after I said, I'm in for 14 days, I ate my share of the rolls first. 

I used a recipe from this old pamphlet Mom gave me decades ago.  It's actually one of the first things I ever baked on my own.

I'm not exactly sure of the year, but the winning recipe in this one was from Mrs. Henry Jorgenson from Portland, Oregon. Is she anyone's grandmother?  Is she still around? She won $25,000 and she said was for her son's college education. Today $25,000 might only buy a year's tuition. In the 50s that money would have paid for the entire 4 years of college and you'd probably have some money left over.  I used her recipe called "Ring-a-Lings."

I didn't exactly follow her recipe. I left out the eggs.  The nut filling was with hazelnuts. (Go figure, Portland, right).  I prefer walnuts, but the orange flavoring could really enhance hazelnuts. 

But recipes are for changing.  For bread, all you really need are yeast, warm liquid, flour, salt and oil. The rest is optional. The rest is tweaking.  I could have also made them pumpkin by adding some pureed pumpkin. Maybe next time.

Don't omit the salt, or it will seriously taste flat.

Local flour with yeast bread can be tricky. I don't really bake much, so I don't have a scale for accuracy.

Fourteen days without bread?  Just in case you decide to go without, do it after you've eaten your share.
A big thank you to Mrs. Henry Jorgenson.

Orange-Walnut Sweet Rolls
(Makes 1 dozen rolls)
These rolls are for days when you have some time at home to let them rise.  I generally let them rise three times, with the last rise as shaped rolls, but the original recipe had only two rises. Before you start, it's est to heat the almond milk in a microwave for 30 seconds at a time until it is hot.  The yeast needs the liquid to be 105F to activate.

1 package yeast
1/2 cup hot almond milk
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons honey or 1 tablespoon agave nectar
3 to 4 cups unbleached flour (or use a 50/50 mixture of hard wheat and unbleached flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablesoon fresly grated orange zest
1/4 cup melted butter or Earth Balance
1/2 cup Earth Balance or softened butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped tart cherries or currants
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoon sugar for glaze

1. Dissolve yeast in milk and orange juice.  Let it sit for 5 minutes.  Mix in the honey.  Stir in flour, salt orange zest.  Stir until a dough begins to form.  Add the butter or Earth Balance and continue to mix until a thick dough forms, adding flour to make dough very thick. Continue to mix until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is thick enough to handle.

2. Knead dough until it becomes smooth and elastic.  Shape it into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl to rise for 1 hour.  Let it rise in a warm place.  Make sure no drafts hit the dough while it is rising.  When it is doubled in bulk, push the dough down.  Knead again and let it rise once more for about 30 minutes.  (Test the dough with the poke method.  If the dough fills in right away after poking it, it still needs to rise.  If the indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

3. Combine the ingredients for the filling while dough is rising the second time.

4. Turn dough out onto a floured board after the second rise.  Let it sit 5 minutes, then pull or roll the dough to a rectangle--about 22 by 12-inches.  Spread the filling over half the wide side of the dough.  Fold the other half over the dough, so you have a sandwich with the filling in the center.

5. Slice 12 strips.  Take each filled strip and twist it around.  Form the twists into a circle, pinching the dough together.

6. Place on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel or an oiled piece of plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.  Make glaze from orange juice and sugar.

7. Preheat oven to 350F.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Rolls will be lightly browned.  Remove from oven and brush with glaze.  Bake 5 minutes more.  Tops should be golden brown.

I nearly didn't take this picture because it shows my primitive baking skills.  I was a little worried about the thin sections.

And try to spead the filling evenly.  You can see the challenges of too much filling when it comes to twisting the dough.
Just when I was sure they wouldn't turn out, it all came together.

I wasn't the only one impressed with how easily they came together.

The last rise takes about an hour.  Salt and fat slow down the rise.  I added little currants to the filling.  My Cooking Assistant can only dream. Currants like raisins aren't good for dogs, so he had to settle for a dog biscuit for his modeling fee.