Friday, March 25, 2011

Honey Roasted Radishes

Photo by Sergio Salvador  www.salvadorphoto.com

Radishes will be coming into season this month - I planted mine around Presidents' Day, along with the peas, but radishes only take about a month to mature! This is a lovely little dish for those who don't like the sharp bite of raw radishes. I never thought to cook them until I started getting tons of them in our CSA box, but it's a nice change. I love the combination of honey and black pepper, and you could also add fresh mint just before serving, a little later in the season.

½ pound radishes
1 T. honey
1 t. butter
1/2 t. cinnamon (optional)
1/4 t. black pepper
1 t. red wine vinegar
Salt 

Preheat oven to 400° F. Trim, scrub and halve each radish (or leave them whole, just for fun). Steam 5 minutes, or until tender. Melt butter and honey with cinnamon and pepper in a small, shallow baking dish. Toss the radishes in this glaze and arrange them in the dish. Bake until glaze is bubbling and radishes are slightly shriveled, 10 to 20 minutes. Toss with vinegar while still hot, and serve immediately. Alternatively, you could saute the radishes in butter for 5 to 10 minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients just before serving. Serves 4 as an appetizer or side.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Warm Lamb Salad with Orzo and Harissa

Photo by Sergio Salvador www.salvadorphoto.com
This is a fantastic, hearty salad that I had on vacation in New Zealand last year in August, which is early spring there. They eat lamb there like we eat beef here - it's practically the default meat choice, on every menu, because they produce so much of it.

Several New Mexico farms raise pastured lambs; see www.localharvest.org for a listing. Los Poblanos Organics is now selling Ranch Line all-natural lamb from Felix River Ranch near Roswell - sometimes lamb has a strong flavor, but this didn't.

I like to make this salad with spicy greens like arugula or cress, which are growing in many New Mexico gardens right now. Last year at this time I had more arugula than I knew what to do with, but this year not so much... probably because it's been a dry winter and I didn't water. I guess I'll have to actually plant some now! Upland cress is an annual, but very cold-hardy. It's sprouting like crazy in my garden already, and it grows so fast that it should be ready in a couple weeks.

Harissa is a blend of red chile and spices, which you can buy at Middle Eastern grocers, or make your own.

½ cup orzo
1 T. harissa
1 t. red wine vinegar
Salt
1 lamb chop (OR ¼ pound chopped leg or shoulder meat, or ground lamb)
1 T. olive oil
1 large bunch arugula or cress

Cook orzo in a large pot of boiling water, according to package directions. Drain and mix the orzo with the harissa and vinegar. Add salt as needed. Brown meat in olive oil; toss with the orzo and greens. Or for a fancier presentation, sear lamb chop in olive oil on high heat, about 4 minutes per side depending on the thickness and desired doneness. As a pretty good rule of thumb, if you cook the first side until you start to see the juices coming out on the top, then flip it immediately and cook 4 minutes more, it will be medium-rare. Slice thinly and serve over the orzo and greens. Serves 2.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Candied Red Pepper Pizza


This is another gem from Anya von Bremzen's The New Spanish Table. This sweet and savory pizza is so bright and sunny it just makes me happy. The flavor is incredible! We enjoyed it last night with a glass or two of champagne.

I love how she has adapted the recipe for speed by using canned roasted red peppers... this also makes it great for wintertime. I cut the recipe in half because I don't have an 11x17-inch baking pan. She used red peppers canned in oil, but the ones I got from Sunflower Market were canned in water, so I adjusted for that by cooking them uncovered, because they release a bit more water.

2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 medium sweet or white onion
1 19-oz jar roasted red peppers (in water)
2 Tbs granulated sugar
1 Tbs sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Salt
1 12-inch pizza dough
Confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 450F. Thinly slice the onions and red peppers. Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a wide skillet on medium-low flame. Add the onion and cook until soft but not browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the peppers and cook about 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add the granulated sugar and vinegar, and cook on medium-low about 10 minutes longer, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced. Season with salt to taste and let cool.

Roll out the pizza dough, brushing the pan and the top of the dough with remaining olive oil. Spread the filling evenly on top. Bake on center rack until the crust is golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Let the pizza cool, and sprinkle lightly with confectioners' sugar. Serves 6 as an appetizer or 2 as a light main course.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Koresht-i-Ghaimeh (Lamb Stew with Dried Limes)


Here is another wonderful Iranian recipe from Sharzad Mohit, my friend Lorna's former mother-in-law. The loomi (dried limes) have a wonderful tangy, slightly bitter, fermented sort of flavor - Lorna raved about how delicious they are. I searched Albuquerque for dried limes, and found them at San Pedro Mart, a truly fantastic middle eastern restaurant housed in an old mini-mart. Seriously, this place is worth checking out. Their falafel is extraordinarily delicious, super-crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

1 ½ lbs lamb or mutton
Oil
2 c water
1 c yellow split peas
1 small onion, diced
4 – 5 loomi (dried limes), or lime juice
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 ½ lbs potatoes
Salt and pepper

Chop the lamb into bite-size pieces and sear it on high heat in a wide skillet (you may have to do two batches to get nice browning). Deglaze the pan with water. Cover and cook the lamb gently with 2 cups water on medium heat for about an hour - just simmer lightly, don't let it boil vigorously. 

After cooking the meat about an hour, lightly fry dried yellow peas in oil. Add these to the stew, then fry the onions until golden brown. Pierce the dried limes or cut them in half. Add onions, tomato puree, and dried limes (or lime juice) to the stew. Cook another hour or so, stirring occasionally, until the meat falls apart easily.

Chop the potatoes into pieces about the same size as the meat, fry them in lots of oil, and season with salt. Serve separately, or add to the stew just before serving. Serve with saffron rice. Serves 6.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Blue Corn Pancakes with Red Chile-Honey Glazed Bacon

Photo by Sergio Salvador
www.salvadorphoto.com
Two of my favorite breakfast treats in Albuquerque are the blue corn pancakes from Sophia's Place, and the red chile-honey glazed bacon from Gold Street Caffe. When you make them at home, you can have both together! Add a few pinon nuts and a dab of local raspberry jam, and this is a spectacular breakfast. 

I got some great blue cornmeal from the Corrales Chile Company at the farmers' market a few weeks ago, but you can often find it in local grocery stores. The pancakes are adapted from a Cook's Illustrated recipe for multigrain pancakes made with ground muesli, and I just substituted the blue cornmeal.

Blue Corn Pancakes
4 t. lemon juice
2 C. whole milk
1 cup blue cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 T. brown sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. sald
2 eggs
3 T. melted butter, cooled
3 T. pine nuts (optional)

Whisk lemon juice and milk together and set aside to thicken. Mix cornmeal, flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk together milk, eggs and melted butter. Gently whisk the milk mixture into the cornmeal mixture, until just combined

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-low flame for 5 minutes, letting the batter rest. Brush the skillet with 1 teaspoon oil or butter. To check whether the skillet is ready, add 1 Tbs batter to the pan and time it for 1 minute - if it is golden brown, the pan is ready. Adjust the heat accordingly. Pour in about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Quickly sprinkle a few pine nuts onto each cake. Cook until the top of each pancake is evenly covered with bubbles and the edges are looking solid, about 2-3 minutes. Flip them over, and cook the other side until golden, about 2 minutes longer. Brush another teaspoon of oil on the pan before each batch.

Red Chile-Honey Glazed Bacon
1 pound bacon
2 t. honey
1 T. warm water
1/2 t. red chile

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place bacon strips on a rack over baking sheet (this lets the fat drip off, so you don't have to drain on paper towels, because the glaze will stick to the paper towels). Mix honey, water and red chile thoroughly in a small dish. Brush with glaze and bake 5 minutes. Brush with more glaze and bake 2-5 minutes longer, watching carefully to make sure it doesn't burn. Thick-cut bacon takes a bit longer.

Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Saffron Coriander Rice Pudding with Orange Zest

Ok, so I'll admit I'm on a bit of a saffron kick these last few months. I have a tiny packet of saffron that's been floating around my kitchen drawers for way too long, and I'm on a mission to use it up. What good has it done me to keep it all this time? I guess the better approach would be to buy a small packet and just go crazy with it until you're tired of it, then wait until you get the craving again. If you've got it, flaunt it, is my saffron revelation.

I have oranges coming out my ears from LPO, and I had this leftover saffron rice, so I came up with this lovely orange-flavored rice pudding. I absolutely love the combination of orange and saffron. It's about the easiest thing in the world to make - the recipe is adapted from the Joy of Cooking. See my earlier post for the saffron rice. If you have regular rice cooked already, just add a pinch of saffron to the milk as it's cooking.

2 cups cooked saffron rice
4 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Zest of half an orange, or more to taste

Bring to a boil - be careful! Milk tends to foam up and boil over very suddenly. Add the coriander and orange zest. Cook uncovered on medium heat, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes, until the milk thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. Cool and serve warm or cold.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sweet Pepper Revueltos with Smoky Bread Hash

Revueltos are scrambled eggs, in Spanish. We have some gorgeous little multicolored mini peppers from last week's LPO box, grown by the Los Cabos cooperative of family farms in Mexico. This combo was inspired by a recipe from The New Spanish Table, which involved bread fried in olive oil with garlic, chorizo, paprika and grapes! We buy great fresh bread from La Quiche or Golden Crown Panaderia, but it dries out pretty quickly, so we always have lots of dry bread on hand - which is not a bad thing. I love all kinds of stale bread concoctions, from Thanksgiving stuffing to ribollita to bread pudding, so I knew I had to try it.

I have come to love scrambled eggs now that we have our own chickens - I've never really liked eggs before, and I know it's not just my imagination, because egg-lovers tell me they can taste the difference between fresh eggs and store-bought. My standard is to cook a sliced green onion in butter, beat the eggs, then cook them gently with the onion on medium-low heat. I've finally learned the technique of cooking fluffy scrambled eggs, by pulling the cooked parts at the edges into the center and turning the pan to let the runny part flow to the edges. This takes about two minutes.

This morning, I wanted to try out a different way of cooking the eggs, from The New Spanish Table, where you just scramble them in the pan. I fried the peppers with a clove of garlic and plenty of olive oil, on medium-low heat. Then I cracked my egg straight into the pan and immediately scrambled it vigorously with a wooden spatula until it was well mixed and fluffy, and turned off the heat before it started to look dry. This took about one minute, and I didn't even have to dirty a bowl for beating the egg. This may be my new standard method!

For two people:
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 large red bell pepper or 6-8 mini sweet peppers
1 clove garlic
2 cups stale or dry bread, broken into very small pieces
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp smoked sweet paprika (or regular paprika)
3 eggs
Salt and pepper

Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a skillet on medium-low flame, add red peppers and garlic, and cook until tender without browning, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs olive oil in another skillet on medium-low flame, and add the bread bits, stirring to coat with oil. Sprinkle the water evenly over the bread to wet it, and cook until the liquid has evaporated and the bread is crispy and golden. Add paprika and season with salt and pepper.

Crack eggs into the skillet with the peppers, let cook 10 seconds so the whites are just turning opaque, then quickly scramble them up with your spatula, turning to mix with the peppers. Remove from the heat just as they are set but still moist. They will continue to cook with the residual heat in the pan. Season with salt and pepper, and serve over the bread.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Chico Stew

Photo by Sergio Salvador
www.salvadorphoto.com
This stew is honestly one of the best things I've ever eaten – I cannot recommend this recipe enough!

Chicos are dried kernels of sweet corn, traditionally roasted in an horno. Once rehydrated, they taste just like the sweetest roasted summer corn you've ever had, intensified. This is serious New Mexican food, completely obscure outside of the state, and even many who grew up here have never tried them. I've never seen them in a restaurant, but they are worth seeking out. They're actually listed on the U.S. Ark of Taste, a catalog of outstandingly delicious traditional foods in danger of extinction.

This weekend (the first Sunday of the month) is your chance to buy some chicos at the Corrales winter farmers' market. I got mine from Clarabelle and Salomon, who come all the way from Tijeras, and they were exceptionally good. You can also find them at a few grocery stores, produced by Casados Farms in San Juan Pueblo.

The recipe is based on one from the PNM cookbook, Cocinas de New Mexico, but I modified it so I could just cook the chicos in a crockpot all day. I used a little bit of local, organic pork from Los Poblanos Organics – the sweet flavor of pork really complements the sweet corn. And I used dried whole green chile pods instead of red. I got a big sack of them from Chile Konnection last year, and I've been trying to find more uses for them. You don't see them as often as red, and you almost never see a recipe using them. They're not quite the same as fresh green, but they add a great green chile flavor in stews.

2 cups chicos
10 cups cold water
2 T. oil
1/2 pound pork, cut in ½ inch cubes
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 t. salt
1/2 t. dried oregano
4-5 dried green or red chiles, crumbled

Soak chicos in cold water overnight, then cook (with the water) in a crockpot all day on low. If you prefer, you can just simmer them on the stove for about 3 hours after soaking. Heat the oil on medium flame, and sear the pork. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until translucent. Add the salt, oregano, chiles, and the chicos with all their water. Cook 20 minutes (or longer, as desired) to blend the flavors and rehydrate the chiles. Serves 4-6 as a main dish.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Seedlings

Aren't they cute? These are Red Acre cabbages I started two or three weeks ago - it's hard to believe they're going to grow into huge things! I've never tried growing cabbage before, so we'll see how it goes. The green ones on the left are Lacinato (Tuscan) kale, which I just can never get enough of, so I started twelve plants for this year.

Here's what else I've got going so far...

Tomatoes, of course:
Brandywine - Very reliable producer of large, great flavor that has won lots of taste tests. They've done really well for us year after year - we even had one volunteer under a fruit tree once.
Black Krim - This is our absolute favorite tomato, but a little difficult to grow, it always seems to succumb to disease more easily than the others
Aunt Ruby's German Green - These been great producers for us, huge tomatoes with wonderful spicy flavor. They stay green, but you can tell when they are ripe because they change from whitish green to a warm golden green. 
Speckled Roman - A new one we're trying this year, after tasting the incredible flavor of one we got from Amyo Farms (it's a paste tomato, for making sauces).
Jelly Bean, Red and Yellow - Super-sweet little grape tomatoes, new for us this year too.
Sun Baby - Very productive sweet yellow cherry tomato, another new one for us but highly recommended by Master Gardeners.
Arkansas Traveler - One more new one, just for fun.

Tomatoes grow incredibly well for us here - the plants get about as tall as me! I'm going to try planting some of them in keg tubs on the patio, since we still don't have enough room to grow all the tomatoes and everything else we want to try, even after expanding to the front yard.

Chiles and Sweet Peppers:
Jimmy Nardello - Super sweet frying peppers that develop the most perfect creamy texture when fried. We'll see how these turn out because they're from seeds saved from Amyo Farms last year, and I know they grow a lot of different peppers. 
Poblano - I just love the intense flavor of these meaty chiles. They're not generally too hot, but it depends on the temperatures and how much you water. The dried form is called ancho.
Pasilla - Rich, slightly smoky flavor, essential for mole sauce. Now I can finally make some of those recipes from the Diana Kennedy cookbooks! These, as well as the poblanos and some of the tomatoes are from Botanical Interests, a seed company I really like, because they have interesting varieties and great detailed info on the inside of the packets.
Chimayo Red - Hopefully the real deal, a prized New Mexico landrace chile with a sweet hot flavor, from www.sandiaseed.com. They seem to be serious about preserving the integrity of the different landraces of New Mexico chile, so I'm very excited about these!

I don't think I'll be able to save seeds if I grow all these varieties, because capsicums tend to cross-pollinate. They come out fine the first year, but they won't breed true for the next year. Who knows, though - what you get might be good too!

I've also started Desert King watermelons, Charentais melons (heirloom canteloupe), and Picklebush cucumbers (although I haven't had much luck with cukes before). I'm even going to try a Loofah this year - yes, the bath scrubby things - they're a type of squash, and my grandma used to grow them against the side of her garage on the farm in Illinois.

Hopefully my seedlings will do especially well this year with my new seed-starting setup - a $10 shop light that takes two 4-foot fluorescent bulbs ($6 for the pair). I hung it right above the trays, really close so they get as much light as possible (intensity varies inversely with distance squared). This way they don't grow too tall and spindly.

The other key to seed starting is to keep them evenly moist - I like these trays that you water from the bottom. This is good if you're using that fine seed-starting mix, because if you flood it with water it will just drain out the bottom! I think I'll also try fertilizing them with fish emulsion once they all have their first set of true leaves (the first two you see are just the seed leaves, or cotyledons). The peppers are slower to germinate than other things, and not all of them have come up quite yet. I plant two seeds in each little pot, for insurance in case some don't germinate, and then just snip off all but the healthiest-looking one.

In another month, I'll take them out to my little hoop houses and let them grow a bit more, then set them out in their permanent homes about May 1!