Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Plum Torte

On Monday I met the CSA farm van that delivers to my area. I never know what they will have for sale. This week, I was able to get multi grain bread, goat milk, goat cheese, feta and a bag of various organically grown fruit. Within my bag of fruit were about 10 plums, something I don't normally buy. Pedro likes them, so he will sometimes buy them. But I always just walk past them. They are not my favorite.

Fearing the plums wouldn't all get eaten while they are perfectly ripe, I decided to find a way to use them in a baked good. I looked around various websites for recipes, and Orangette had a link to the recipe that finally inspired me. It was a very easy and fast recipe and had the added benefit of using six of my ripe plums. I figured that if I didn't enjoy this plum torte, I would freeze it into individual pieces for Pedro to enjoy as snacks. But, I think this recipe may just have converted me to seeing the merits of plums! The minute I put it into the oven, the house filled with such a heavenly aroma. I'm having a very hard time resisting the urge to cut a piece and give it a try. But, I shall wait until after dinner.

Update: Wow! I actually like cooked plums! The torte turned out fantastic! It is moist and flavorful, and it was great with coffee. No slices will make it to the freezer!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Green Eggs and Beans

This is a very hearty breakfast, but it also would be great for lunch or dinner. Pedro came up with this dish as a great way to use leftover tomatillo salsa. It is sunny side eggs on millet toast with refried black beans, roasted tomatillo salsa, and Pecorino Romano cheese. Lettuce on the side gives a pleasant crispiness to balance the softness of the beans and eggs. If using canned refried black beans, liven them up by adding some fresh lime juice, cilantro and a dash of cayenne pepper. Pedro recommends frying the eggs in a little olive oil and seasoning them with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pear and Cheese Pizza

I grew up eating homemade pizza, which my mother would make on our birthdays. Since I have seven brothers and sisters, we had homemade pizza relatively often. And there is just nothing like it. So, it was overdue for me to make some. Of course, growing up, we never had pizzas like these. I am quite sure I never had goat cheese growing up, probably no sheep cheese either. I'm sure I would have hated it anyway! My how our taste buds change as we grow! We had a pear tree in the back yard, but we never had pears on our pizzas either. So, I suppose this is an adult version of a childhood favorite.

I made two small pizzas. The crust is a recipe from Peter Reinhart's pizza cookbook, American Pie. Instead of tomato sauce, I brushed on olive oil that had simmered with minced garlic and fresh herbs. Then I arranged slices of roasted pears, goat cheese and Pecorino Romano (sheep cheese). I attempted to make a balsamic fig reduction to drizzle on the pies after they came out of the oven. However, I reduced it too much, and it wouldn't drizzle. We still put some glops of the resulting reduction on our pieces as we ate them, but I didn't photograph it, as it wasn't very pretty! The flavor combo was wonderful, in any event.

It's not illustrated well in the photos [added later: photo below illustrates], but the crust in the middle is super thin. When we held up the pieces of pizza to the light, there were areas that the light actually passed through, even after it baked! We used a pizza stone, and heated our oven to 550 degrees. Using our oven's option for Speed Bake convection, the top pie baked for 6, almost 7, minutes. The bottom pie baked for 5 minutes.

You can find the complete recipe for the crust here.

Above, a pizza is held to the light to show the light filtering through the bottom of the crust. The pizza toppings on this pizza are cubes of sauteed butternut squash and caramelized red onions with a bit of Manchego cheese.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

This week I was able to purchase some fresh yogurt, straight off a farmer's van, made from the milk of grass-fed cows. I wanted to do something special with it. I found this recipe for Vanilla Frozen Yogurt, and everyone was raving about it, so I decided to give it a try. In the picture above, I took a photo of the inside of my ice cream machine while it was churning the yogurt mixture. Below is a serving of the resulting frozen yogurt. All I can say is that it was the very best success we've ever had with our ice cream machine (my machine is nothing fancy, it's a VillaWare from Target.) The frozen yogurt was as creamy as ice cream. You have to ask my pets if it tasted any good, because according to Florida law, the yogurt I bought was for pet use only. My cats look very happy, so let's say it was super delicious.

By the way, here are some great
posted by David Lebovitz, author of The Perfect Scoop.

Guacamole Tacos

A few days ago, I posted how Pedro and I made homemade corn tortillas, but I didn't show any of the tacos we ate using them. So, here is a taco of refried black beans and chunky guacamole. Mmmm. Very good! This is simple, fresh food with bright flavors. Perfect for the summer.

Chunky Guacamole

One large, diced, ripe green avocado (not the Has black bumpy avocados, the shiny green larger ones)
1/4 cup minced red onion, blanched briefly in scalding water
1 large ripe tomato, diced (optionally also seeded)
1 chopped, seeded Serrano chile (optional)
juice of 1/2 a lime (or up to a whole lime, as needed)
a handful of cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
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Monday, July 23, 2007

Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms have sprung up all across the country. Until recently, there wasn't one that serviced my own geographic area. But now there is! I am quite excited. Demand is already exceeding the amount the small farm can produce. This is heart warming. Maybe there is still hope for the small farmer. Organic, locally grown produce, dairy, eggs and even meat are more in demand than ever.

When people stop and really think about where their food comes from, the majority would not be able to answer. Most food travels over 1500 miles before it reaches the average table. In the past, people ate food that was grown near them. But that has changed so quickly. We've become disconnected from our food. It is great to be able to eat strawberries all year, due to the shipments from California, etc. But, as nice as that is, it is also a bit sad when we lose sight of the natural seasons of crops. My husband, who grew up in Mexico, always knew when, for instance, which fruit would be in season and would anticipate the dishes his mom would make when they became available. Maybe that hasn't completely been lost in this country, but it feels like we're coming close.

Now starting this Fall, thanks to CSA, I will have access to food that I know is fresh and local. If I were able to grow my own food, I would. I have tried many years without much success. Now I will know the farmers, the fields where my food is growing, even the hens that are producing my eggs. And pictured above is delicious farm fresh yogurt, feta and goat cheese from the farm. CSA farms are each organized a bit differently. The farm near me calls the participants members, and we buy shares in the farm. Then we are provided weekly with baskets of freshly picked produce and/or eggs and/or cheese, etc. The members shoulder some of the risk that farmers face, so there is no guarantee in the variety and portion. .

The farm provided me with a hand-drawn produce wheel to show what will be available when. As an artist, I love how the format ties with a color wheel. It's a circle divided into pie pieces that represent the months of the year and which crops will be prime. It also shows the two Rebirth periods where they refurbish the soil and take a break and replant. They also show when the baby animals get first dibs on the milk, so no cheese will be available to the members, etc. I think it's really interesting living in Florida and having two big growing seasons.

I will be visiting the farm in a couple of weeks, so I hope to be able to provide more photos then!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Watermelon Lime Spritzer

I have been looking for recipes that use watermelons, as I can get them so cheaply in Florida, sometimes two for a dollar at the farmer's market. So, flipping through the channels this weekend, I stopped when I saw this drink featured on the Food Network. It was a show I had never heard of, Simply Delicioso, where host Ingrid Hoffmann features Miami-style Latin food. The recipe included the use of a soft drink, something I don't buy. So, Pedro and I brainstormed an alternate recipe. To see Ingrid Hoffmann's original recipe, here is the link.

Watermelon Lime Spritzer, adapted for people who don't drink soda pop:

2 cups chopped, seeded watermelon
1/3 liter Perrier
1/2 cup (or more) ice cubes
juice of 1/2 a lime (add more, to taste, if you really love lime)
a couple of squeezes of agave nectar, or to taste, depending on how sweet the watermelon is naturally

Blend ingredients in a blender until ice is crushed. Alter sweetness if needed. Pour into glasses. Garnish with lime slices or wedges if desired.
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Making Corn Tortillas

Tortillas are such an important part of the daily diet of so many people, especially in Mexico. I took the above picture last time we were in Mexico. It shows two women making tortillas on an outdoor patio. They used three cinder blocks to contain a small fire and to support a big comal (griddle). They had a bucket of freshly mixed masa (tortilla dough) which they were constantly patting into balls and then into circles. They were making the tortillas for a party of hundreds of guests.

Below is a close up of a method for forming the balls of masa into the tortilla shape. The photo was taken inside my mother-in-law's kitchen. The masa dough ball is placed on a square piece of strong plastic and is rotated in circles. The green towel stayed in place as a cushion. Both hands are needed to guide the dough. One hand pats the dough to flatten it, and the other hand stays on the edge to push and keep the dough in a circular shape.

Above is another method to make tortillas at home, by using a maricona (tortilla press). It is much easier than forming them by hand. I made the masa and then rolled it into 16 balls. I placed a damp towel over them to keep them from drying out. I form the tortillas by placing a square of wax paper on the open maricona, then placing a ball of dough on the wax paper, then covering the ball with another square of wax paper. Then all I do is close the tortilla press and put a bit of pressure on it, and it does all of the work of flattening the masa into a disc.

I cook the tortillas on a small ungreased griddle. A bigger griddle could be used if you have one. I keep the cooked tortillas warm in a towel. Below is the recipe for masa dough that I used. This is an adaptation from the recipe on the bag of Maseca brand masa harina (instant corn masa flour):

Masa for Tortillas

2 cups of Maseca masa flour, loosely measured
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups water (I use warm water)

For extra flavor, I recommend adding either

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or a few drops of soy sauce to the dough or both

Combine the two cups of masa flour, salt, and water (and optional oil or soy sauce). Mix thoroughly (I use my hands) to form a soft dough. If the dough feels dry, add more water, one tablespoon at a time. I had to add quite a bit of extra water as my flour was very absorbent. Divide dough into 16 equal balls. Cover with damp cloth to keep the dough moist. Flatten the dough using your method of choice.

Tips for cooking the tortillas: we cook them one at a time, because we have an electric stove and find they cook better that way. You will know when to flip them when the edges of the tortilla have lifted up from the pan. The recipe says it takes about 50 seconds per side, although we cooked ours longer than that.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Kathleen's Kitchen

Someone suggested to me that it would be nice to give a bigger glimpse into my kitchen. So, welcome into my kitchen! I have a pot of Marie Belle Dark Chocolate Obsession tea brewing on the counter by the corner windows, and it will be ready shortly. In the meantime, look around and make yourself at home!

I often change the plants in my window garden. Right now I have aloe vera, lavender, basil, thyme, sage, Cuban oregano, African violets and a house plant that I don't know the name of. Under the corner window, where you see the tea pot, is normally where I set the plates of food that I photograph.

You can glimpse my laptop, where I do my blogging. I have plans for a custom island to be built for the middle of the room, but for now, I am using the bistro table from my back patio. On the wall is one of my paintings. I don't think I mentioned it before, but I am also an artist.

You can see some of the things I collect for my kitchen. They include Mexican pottery, Mexican hand blown glasses, Fiesta Ware, and Le Creuset. The back splash is made of a combination of Spanish and Mexican tiles.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cornmeal-Crusted Tempeh

This recipe is so tasty. It is from the Candle Cafe Cookbook by Joy Pierson and Bart Potenza. The Candle Cafe (and its sister restaurant Candle 79) are highly rated vegan restaurants in New York City. The authors of the cookbook are the co-owners. I was very happy to find the book at a local bookseller. This is the first recipe I have tried from it, and if it is any indication of the other recipes, I am looking forward to trying more.

The recipe is for a double batch, using two packages of tempeh. But, I halved the recipe in making the plate above. And I cut the tempeh in smaller pieces than the recipe suggested, but it still worked fine. I give the recipe in the amounts stated in the book.

Cornmeal-Crusted Tempeh

For marinating the tempeh:
2 8-ounce packages tempeh, each cut into thirds
1/2 cup shoyu or tamari soy sauce
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 slices fresh ginger

For the cornmeal coating mixture:
1/2 cup medium-to fine-ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of sea salt

For frying:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the marinating ingredients. Coat tempeh with the marinade and place in a baking dish. Pour any remaining marinade over tempeh. Cover and bake for about 1 hour. Remove from oven and set aside. Drain and cut the tempeh into halves or triangles or slices.
3. In a large shallow bowl, mix together the cornmeal coating ingredients. Dip the tempeh pieces to coat with the cornmeal mixture.
4. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and until very hot. Cook the coated tempeh until golden, about one minute per side.
5. Remove from heat and serve at once.
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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Hearty Italian Dipping Sauce

Take a crusty piece of bread and dig in!

Pedro and I improvised this dish last night. We wanted something like a marinara sauce, but a bit heartier. And rather than serving it over pasta, we wanted to use it as a dip for bread. We think this would be a great appetizer or party dish, served with a platter of various breads, slices of toast or maybe bread sticks. But it's also hearty enough to be a meal if served with a nice salad. Since we weren't following any recipe and were making it up as we went along, I don't have exact measures to share, but here's the main idea:

Hearty Italian Dipping Sauce

generous amount of extra virgin olive oil
half a medium Head of garlic, minced (or about 6 cloves)
1 (28 ounce) can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 roasted red bell pepper (we roasted it on our stove top the same way we roast for Mexican salsas)
chopped fresh basil and oregano
1/2 pound of organic cottage cheese
shredded blend of cheeses of choice (we used a mix of Mozzarella and Monterrey Jack, as that's what we had, but Parmesan or Fontina or Asiago or other Italian would have been even better)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
optional idea: add some steamed or blanched or otherwise cooked spinach

1. Start Roasting the bell pepper. In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until the flavors have been well released into the oil, but before browning. At this point you can optionally add a dash of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. When the bell pepper is done being roasted, chop it up in 1/2 inch cubes and add it to the sauce. Continue simmering the sauce while preheating your oven to 450 degrees.

2. Stir the cottage cheese and freshly chopped herbs into the sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour into bowl(s) and place on rimmed cookie sheet. Sprinkle each bowl with shredded cheese. Place in oven and bake until bubbly and the cheese is melted and crusty.

3. Serve as a dip for crusty bread, toast... Or of course, instead of using it as a dipping sauce, you could also mix it with pasta...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

At the farmer's market this week, there were many stalls with butternut squash. I decided to use them in a new (to me) soup recipe. Maybe a hot soup seems like a strange thing to eat in the hot summer in Florida. But what makes this soup appropriate for the weather is that it has coconut milk and lime and is spicy. It went very nicely with a Garden and Brazil Nut Salad with a Lime Juice and Olive Oil Dressing.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup, adapted from Cafe Flora Cookbook

2 to 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
1 bay leaf
1 or 2 cans coconut milk (I used one, it was plenty)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
optional: pinch of cayenne pepper or hot sauce
optional garnish: freshly chopped cilantro or parsley

1. Heat oil in a soup pot and saute the onion for 5 to 8 minutes. Add salt and saute a few more minutes, until soft. Add garlic and ginger and cook 2 more minutes. Add the spices and stir, coating the spices with the oil and heating them to release their flavors. Add the water, squash, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Reserve some of the liquid and set aside. Puree the rest of the soup in batches in a blender, filling the blender jar about halfway full each batch. Return the pureed soup into the soup pot. Add a can of coconut milk and stir. If the soup is too thick, either add more coconut milk or add some of the reserved liquid. Bring the soup just to the point where it boils. Take it off the heat and stir in the lime juice. Salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro or parsley, if desired.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Oatmeal with Goji Berries

Goji berries are something I had been meaning to try for some time now, but hadn't as they are quite expensive. The February issue of Vegetarian Times suggested looking for them in smaller Asian markets, rather than natural foods stores, to get them for a cheaper price. In any event, I finally bought some, and I am glad I did! They are considered a super food, jam packed with nutrition. They have anti-aging properties, antioxidants, iron, protein, vitamin C, vitamin A, beta-carotene, fiber... Just look at the package's nutrition label. They are great in dried form, sprinkled on salads or on yogurt or granola, etc. Or you can add them to pancakes or muffins or other baked goods as you would raisins. There are lots of uses.

I used some in my oatmeal by adding 1/4 cup to the water before it came to a boil. This allowed them to become more hydrated by the time the oatmeal was added. It was a delicious touch.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Summer Vegetable Roast

I went to the farmers' market yesterday still thinking about the hash I had eaten at Zingerman's. So, it was no wonder that the first thing I purchased were sweet potatoes. I ended up with a nice, colorful assortment of vegetables which made for a very lively roast.

Vegetable Roast

1. Coat with flavorful olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper:

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
4 small purple potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 medium zucchini, cubed
1 summer squash, cubed
4 to 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large package of small mushrooms, cleaned, uncut

2. Bake in a 400 degree oven in an oiled roasting pan until tender, approximately 30 minutes

3. While vegetables are roasting, steam or boil a bunch of chopped and stemmed kale until tender. Drain well and squeeze out excess water.

4. Melt a pat of butter and/or olive oil in a small skillet and pan fry a sliced Vidalia onion or two large sliced shallots until golden.

5. Stir the cooked kale into the roasted vegetables. Top with the golden onions or shallots. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Breakfast at Zingerman's

Since I mentioned Zingerman's yesterday, now I am sharing photos of what we had there for breakfast. Above is a wheat berry salad, which I can't find the name for on their menu. Below is Stewart's Farmer's Hash. The hash contains sweet potatoes, redskin potatoes, piquillo peppers, spinach and shallots and is served with onion rye toast and sour cream (not pictured). We had them divide a single serving onto two separate plates, so what is shown is a half-serving. Everything made our mouths water with delight.

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Monday, July 9, 2007

Michigan Cherries

Michigan is well known for cherries. This year we were camping at the right time and the right location for them. There were many roadside stands selling them, as seen above. We found that at many restaurants, we were served dried cherries in salads. On our way out of Michigan, we stopped by Ann Arbor, the last Michigan town we lived in, and while there we just had to make a stop at the famous Zingerman's Deli. There we picked up some Michigan-made cherry jam. It is made in Petosky by American Spoon and is sweetened with fruit juices, thickened with arrowroot, and contains no added sugar.

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Cooking While Camping

Rain was our biggest challenge this year during our camping trip. One night we ended up rushing out of our flooding tent and into our car. Since a packed full New Beetle is almost as uncomfortable to sleep in as a cold and wet tent, we ended up going to a hotel. Despite the rain this year, we were quite pleased with what we managed to cook.

Above we started to cook a one-pot dish of rice and garbanzo beans just as we realized it was beginning to thunder. We rushed the best we could, but ended up running with a boiling pot of rice (not the smartest thing to do) to my parent's camping trailer to finish simmering inside on their stove. We intended to accompany the dish with grilled asparagus and a nice salad but were lucky to even have the rice dish with the weather challenges.

Above is the most complete cooked meal we managed, as we were offered the use of my parents' trailer kitchen, making use of all three burners. We made quinoa with sauteed chard and garlic and a curry with coconut milk, tofu, shitake mushrooms, and bell pepper.

Here's an idea for vegan s'mores: place a big chunk of not-too-soft banana on a roasting stick, and roast it over a bonfire until the banana gets nice and hot. Then place it between two graham cracker squares with a piece of chocolate and a bit of peanut butter. The hot banana melts the chocolate and peanut butter just as a hot marshmallow would. It's quite delicious.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Wholegrain Pancakes while camping

We usually bring this one burner stove for cooking while camping. It works great,but it does cook a little hotter than we sometimes would like. Next time we'll bring a flame tamer. For an easy breakfast, Pedro brought a pancake mix that he made himself by placing all of the dry pancake ingredients in a big zipper topped bag. Then all we had to do was add an egg, oil and milk. They tasted like home. We topped them with a bit of peanut butter and fruit.
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Elotes Sancochados

Here is another great summer dish, perfect for camping. It is the way corn is often sold on the street in Mexico. It is simply boiled corn on the cob, covered with Mexican cream, Cotija cheese and ground chile or cayenne pepper. Cotija cheese can be found in Mexican grocery stores, it is a hard very crumbly white cheese.
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Michigan Summer Salad

I am camping in Michigan right now and I am finding it is certainly possible to eat healthy meals, even in the great outdoors. Here is a very easy but delightful salad.

Lettuce of choice
An apple, sliced
Michigan Strawberries, sliced
Michigan blueberries
pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped

Dressing: Juice of half a lemon, a couple of big splashes of olive oil and chopped fresh mint.
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