Thursday, December 20, 2012

Eggs Braised with Kale and Tomatoes

More vegetables for breakfast, I say!! This recipe is inspired by a couple of different ones from Yotam Ottolenghi's amazing cookbook, Plenty. I love this cookbook because the combinations of ingredients are surprising, yet actually quite adaptable.

For example, in this recipe he uses kirmizi biber, a Turkish spice blend that I've never seen, but suggests you could use sweet paprika and some cayenne. I use spinach or kale instead of arugula, marjoram instead of sage, and I've added some tomatoes. Also, I just cook it on the stovetop instead of baking it, which makes it easier. Even with all these changes, it still tastes unusual and wonderful. See what I mean? Inspiring.

1 bunch kale or spinach
3 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper
1 t. sweet or hot paprika, or aleppo pepper
1 t. dried marjoram
1 cup canned tomatoes or some Roasted Tomatoes and a little water
3 or 4 eggs, depending on how many you want to eat

Remove stems from kale and slice into 1-inch ribbons. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a skillet over medium flame. Add kale/spinach and garlic, and cook until the leaves are wilted (if you're using kale, it's extra-tasty if you let it brown a bit.) Season with salt and pepper as desired, add paprika/aleppo pepper and marjoram. Stir in tomatoes, then make little wells to crack the eggs into, so they form little islands. Cover the pan and cook until egg whites are solid but yolks are still a bit soft. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Serves 2.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chard with Oranges and Red Chile

Oranges give this dish a sweet, tangy flavor that’s mellower than the vinegar used in many greens recipes. Although, if your oranges aren't very tart, you may want to add a splash of balsamic or any other good vinegar (just not that harsh white vinegar you can buy by the gallon!) Chard has a natural saltiness, so don't add too much salt, or it tastes a bit funny. Enjoy hot or cold as a side dish, or combine with a grain such as quinoa or farro for a hearty salad.

2 oranges
1 bunch chard
2 T. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t. red chile or pequin flakes
Salt and black pepper

Using a sharp knife, cut thick slices off the ends of each orange. Stand them on flat ends, then slice the rest of the peel off. Cut sections free by slicing downward along the membranes, and remove seeds. Set orange sections aside with all their juice.

Wash chard thoroughly and tear leaves into 1 to 2 inch pieces. Chop the stems crosswise into 1/4 inch slices.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium flame. Add chard, garlic and chile, toss to coat with oil, and cook until tender. Add oranges, and cook another minute to warm them and reduce the juice a bit. Season with a little salt and lots of pepper. Serves 4.

Honey-Braised Turnips and Greens with Ginger Crème Fraiche

Baby spring turnips are tender and mild, and can be eaten whole with their greens, like radishes. Turnips get a bad rap, but they are really fantastic when braised with honey and ginger! Ginger crème fraiche makes this dish especially nice. You can also use larger turnips and bunches of turnip greens. Just cut large turnips in 1-inch wedges, and if they are the really huge purple ones, you might want to blanch them for a few minutes and drain off the cooking water to remove bitterness.

1 T. butter
1 bunch baby turnips with greens
1 C. chicken or vegetable broth
1 t. ground ginger, divided
2 T. honey, divided
1/4 C. crème fraiche or sour cream
Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Thoroughly wash the turnips, leaving the greens attached, and lay them in the pan. Add the broth, half the ginger and half the honey. Cover tightly and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until the turnips are tender. The sauce should be reduced to a nice glaze - if it is not, remove the turnips and turn the heat up to reduce. Season as needed with salt and drizzle over turnips.

Mix crème fraiche with remaining honey and ginger, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over turnips or serve on the side. Serves 2.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Photo by Sergio Salvador
Here's a great recipe I forgot to post from my soup article last fall in Edible Santa Fe!

This Moroccan soup is traditionally served during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. I made a delicious stock by cooking lamb shanks in a crock pot all day, but it would probably still be good if you take shortcuts like using stew meat and canned stock, and even canned chickpeas. Many families add rice or vermicelli as well. Some like it thick, while others leave it more brothy. Recipes vary widely, so feel free to experiment.

2 T. olive oil
2 lamb shanks (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
2 celery stalks with leaves, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 T. tomato paste
1/2 t. turmeric
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. red chile powder
1 T. ground ginger
2 t. kosher salt
2 t. pepper
2 quarts water
2 large tomatoes, chopped, or 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1/4 C. green lentils, washed and picked over
1 C. dry chickpeas (garbanzo beans), washed and picked over
1/2 C. flour + 1 cup water, or 2 eggs
1 bunch cilantro or parsley, finely chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Heat the oil in a large stock pot. Brown the lamb shanks on all sides. Add the celery, onion, tomato paste, and spices. Fry for a few minutes, until the tomato paste is bubbling and the onions have begun to soften. Add the water and tomatoes to deglaze the pot. Transfer to a crock pot and add the chickpeas and lentils. Cook on low heat for about 8 hours, until everything is tender and the stock is flavorful.

Remove the meat from the lamb shanks, chop coarsely, and return to the pot. Shake flour with water and add to the soup in a thin stream, stirring constantly, until the soup is thickened to your liking. (You may not need to use it all.) If you prefer to use eggs for thickening, beat them and add in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Add the cilantro or parsley and cook 5 to 10 minutes more. Garnish with lemon wedges. Serves 6 to 8.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Maxine's Marvelous Relish

This recipe holds a lot of sweet memories of my mom and my stepfather, Cam, who passed away several years ago. He was a kind and wonderful man, and a passionate math teacher. One year they made dozens of jars of this relish as Christmas gifts, and it is one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. It is particularly tasty with pork chops. It's one of those recipes that is more than the sum of its parts.

The recipe comes from Cam's mother, Maxine, who was a truly marvelous wild woman. My mom dated Cam in high school and college, but they broke up because as she puts it, "he joined a fraternity and turned into a jerk." Immediately thereafter, my mom transferred to the University of Hawaii and spent the next semester having tons of fun hanging out at Maxine's place in Waikiki! My mom and Cam finally got back together many years later and were marvelously happy together.

Late summer is the only time you can find this combination of fruits and vegetables all at once. There are still tons of peaches, peppers, and tomatoes at the market, and early apples and Bartlett pears are just arriving.

5 peaches
5 pears
5 tomatoes
5 onions
2 red peppers
3 green peppers
6 C. sugar
1 quart vinegar
1 T. ground allspice
1 T. mustard seeds

Chop all fruits and vegetables into about 1/2-inch dice. Bring to a boil in a large pot with sugar and vinegar. Simmer 45 minutes. Add allspice and mustard, and simmer another 45 minutes. Seal in sterilized pint or half-pint jars with hot 2-piece lids, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes (adding 10 more minutes at 5000ft, 15 more at 7000ft). Makes about 12 pints.

Monday, August 27, 2012


This year, I swear we're going to get it right. Pears are really tricky to ripen properly, unless you grow Bartletts, which can actually ripen on the tree. That's what most people have, so I've never actually met anyone who could tell me how this all works.

Finally, I read this great article from Oregon State University about the cold storage requirements of different varieties.

We have an heirloom variety called White Doyenne. It was once a major commercial variety, but it is very susceptible to fire blight, so when varieties with improved resistance came out, its popularity declined. We don't get much fire blight here in New Mexico, so I thought we'd try it out.

I knew that these pears had to be picked green, otherwise they will rot on the tree. It turns out that most varieties, such as Bosc, D'Anjou, Comice and many others, also need to be stored for a period of time in cold temperatures before they even develop the capacity to ripen. The cold stimulates the development of certain compounds that cause ripening. In fact, if you have a period of cold weather toward the end of the season, it can cause premature ripening, which is a problem for commercial pear growers.

Commercially grown pears are stored at 31F for a period of one to four months before distribution, after which they can be ripened on the counter the way we're all used to doing. This article from Washington State University actually describes the results of storage at temperatures of 40F and higher on ripening, and it turns out the optimum temperature for quickest development of ripening capacity is 50F. Pears that need a month at 31F only need a couple weeks at 50F. Of course, being ready to ripen earlier means you actually can't hold them as long. Fascinating stuff! I actually kind of wish that was my job, to study pear ripening.

So, I checked the temperature of the drawer at the bottom of my fridge, and it is actually just about 35F, so I should be able to hold them for probably three months. The plan is to take a few out and try ripening them on the counter after about a month, see how it goes, then maybe wait another month and try another few, to determine how long this particular variety needs for cold storage. And it's important to check them periodically to make sure they're not going bad, because we've had that happen too - open up a bag of pears that's been in the fridge only to find they've all rotted.

Wish us luck!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pickled Peaches

I've been doing lots of fun canning projects with my friends Laura and Amy! They both have peach trees with these beautiful tiny, thin-skinned peaches, which are perfect for making pickled peaches...

My aunt Laura has fond memories of a recipe my great aunt Lois used to make, so I thought it would be neat to try. They are spicy, tangy, sweet, and gorgeous in the jar, almost luminous. They would be great with roasted meats, or as a small dessert.

We used the recipe from Linda Ziedrich's Joy of Pickling, but she actually uses the open-kettle method, which I don't trust and Cooperative Extension no longer considers safe. We peeled the peaches by blanching them briefly, which cooks them slightly, and it's true that a boiling water bath after that would probably cook them too much. But it's tricky to keep everything hot enough to really seal, and sure enough - my lids popped up and the top fruit started to turn a bit brown, so I just put them in the fridge. Next time I think I'll just leave the skins on, and do the boiling water bath. Here's the modified recipe.

1 cinnamon stick, broken
1 tsp. mace or nutmeg
10 thin slices fresh ginger
1 tsp. allspice berries
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
3 c. sugar
2 1/2 cups water
3 1/2 cups white vinegar
7 pounds small, firm peaches

Combine all but the peaches in a large nonreactive pot, and bring to a boil. Wash peaches very thoroughly, and pack into sterilized quart jars (or, I found these cool pint-and-a-half jars at Lowe's). Pour boiling syrup over, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims with a clean cloth and put on hot two-piece lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (don't forget to add 10 minutes at 5000 feet, 15 minutes at 7000 feet). Makes 4 quarts.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Zucchini, Leek and Tomato Quiche

I've got to admit, zucchini is not at the top of my list of favorite vegetables. But it sure is abundant, all summer long. I'm always trying to think of good ways to use it - zucchini feta pancakes and raw zucchini salad are pretty great, but this quiche may be the best yet. 

There are infinite variations of quiche, but my absolute favorite will always be my mom's salmon quiche. In fact, we loved it so much that I really can't remember her making any other kind of quiche! It was just cheddar cheese, leftover cooked salmon, tomato slices and dill on the top. The recipe was based on Mollie Katzen's Quiche Formula from the Enchanted Broccoli Forest. This zucchini version might actually give my favorite a run for its money, thanks to an unusual twist.

I had a fridge full of zucchini and eggs (our two new chickens have started laying and the elder biddies have kicked into high gear for the summer) but no milk. So as I was looking at the Quiche Formula, I suddenly noticed she says buttermilk or yogurt works just as well. And somehow we had two opened quart containers of yogurt hanging around... well, it turns out that the tanginess of the yogurt is exactly what zucchini needs to be spectacular in this quiche!

1 medium zucchini
2 leeks
2 T. olive oil
1 pre-made pie crust
1 cup grated aged/sharp cheddar
Fresh basil, thinly sliced (optional)
3 eggs1 cup plain yogurt
Salt and pepper
1 large tomato or a few small ones

Preheat oven to 375F. Cut zucchini and leeks in thin slices, crosswise. Wash leeks very thoroughly to get all the dirt out. Heat olive oil in a wide skillet, add leeks and zucchini, and cook until tender. Lay crust in a pie dish and spread cheese, then vegetables evenly over the bottom. Whisk together eggs and yogurt, season with salt and pepper, and pour over the filling. Arrange tomato slices over the top and sprinkle with basil. Bake 35-40 minutes, until custard is just set, and cool 10 minutes before serving.

Apricot/Peach and Purslane Salad

Purslane, also known as verdolagas, is an incredibly nutritious, tangy and crunchy, leafy green. It's high in omega-3 fatty acids, and lots of vitamins and minerals. It's also a weed that is fairly likely to be growing in your garden right now! It's abundant in June, but I find that in July it's usually fading after a solid month of long, hot days.

I originally made this salad with fresh apricots and queso fresco, but it's also great with peaches and blue cheese or feta later in the season. The Greek ladolemono dressing, with a one-to-one ratio of lemon juice and olive oil, complements the purslane's tangy flavor.

2 T. lemon juice
2 T. olive oil
1/4 t. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4-5 fresh apricots or small peaches (or one big peach)
2 ounces queso fresco, feta, or blue cheese
1 pound purslane (large whole sprigs, preferably a few whole plants)
Oil for grilling

Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Chop the apricots, crumble the queso fresco or blue cheese, and add them to the bowl. Wash the purslane very thoroughly, keeping it in big pieces for grilling (if you've pulled whole plants, keep the roots on – they're easier to handle that way). Dry it gently and rub or brush with oil. Grill over medium heat, turning several times, until the stems are soft and droopy. Using scissors, snip into 2-inch pieces over the bowl, discarding the roots. Toss with dressing and serve hot or cold. Serves 4 as a side.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Peach Old-Fashioned

More fruit from my friend Margarita! I usually think of peaches as an August fruit, but some varieties are already ripe now. We picked three big grocery sacks of these gorgeous little peaches from a little peach tree her nephew planted. I've been doing an unbelievable amount of canning - first all those apricots, and now 6 pints of peach jam and 3 pints of peach barbecue sauce. And while I'm slaving over the the hot stove, I'm drinking one of these lovely Peach Old-Fashioned cocktails.

1 small peach, or a couple slices of a grocery store-sized one
2 dashes bitters
A splash of simple syrup, or 1 tsp sugar and a splash of water
2 oz. whiskey
Lots of ice

Muddle peach with bitters and sugar in the bottom of a glass. Add 2 cubes of ice and 1 oz. whiskey, and stir vigorously, until the ice is somewhat dissolved. Add 2 more cubes of ice and remaining whiskey, and stir vigorously again. Add more ice and garnish with a peach slice (or a whole tiny peach!)

Apricot Jam

It's been an amazing year for apricots!!  For once, we didn't have our usual May 1 frost, so every tree in town is absolutely loaded.

We've got apricots coming out our ears, littering sidewalks with a slippery orange mess, and apparently sending everyone into a canning frenzy. I went to three different stores that were out of canning jars the other day before buying the last two cases at the grocery store near our house.

Apricot jam is so much easier to make than many people think! You do need the special jars though, and you definitely need the jar lifter.

I love picking apricots with my friend Margarita, because her tree always ripens right around my birthday. We picked bags and bags, and I made a case of apricot jam.

The next week, my friend Lorna called to see if I wanted to pick apricots at her magical place out in Placitas. She has about 5 trees. How could I say no? You can always give away apricot jam. So I made another two cases of jam and canned a few quarts of apricots in syrup. Guess now I've got my Christmas presents squared away for this year!

I know apricot jam is not an original recipe by any means (the recipe comes with the pectin packet) but there are a couple of variants I love: 
  • Apricot and Lavender is a great combination, especially because the lavender blooms right around the same time apricots ripen, so eating it in the winter reminds me of those warm June days. 
  • Apricot and Habanero is another winner - the fruity hotness of habaneros goes perfectly with apricots, and it's not overwhelming if you scrape out the seeds and veins.

You can make jam without pectin, just by cooking it down until it thickens, but when you make it with pectin you get a fresher flavor than with the long-cooking method. I like to use the Ball Low or No Sugar Needed pectin that comes in a jar because the batch size is flexible, so I can make just the right amount to fill up my canning pot.

But... the recipe on the jar calls for fruit juice, which I don't want to bother with, and doesn't specify the amount of sugar to use. The amount of sugar to use depends on your taste and how sweet the fruit is - you don't have to use ANY with this kind of pectin. I'm happy with the level of sweetness my recipe produces with my apricots. Another thing the Ball jar doesn't say is that the amount of pectin to use also depends on the fruit (apricots have a lot of natural pectin, whereas many other fruits do not). So my recipe is actually a modification of the one from the Sure-Jell pectin box, and it produces a very firm set with my apricots.

Here's my recipe for 8 pints:
6 cups coarsely chopped apricots (I pulse them in batches in the food processor)
4 cups (or less) white sugar
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
2 Tbs lavender blossoms OR finely minced habanero peppers
3 Tbs Ball low-sugar pectin

Fill canning pot half-full with water and bring to boil on a back burner. Wash jars thoroughly with hot, soapy water.  Heat lids in a skillet of water on another burner until it comes to a simmer, then turn off the heat. You'll need a pair of tongs to pull them out of the hot water.

Stir together apricots, lemon juice and lavender or habanero in a large pot. Gradually stir in pectin, then bring to a rolling boil (hard enough that it keeps bubbling when you stir it) for 1 minute.  Be sure to stir often while it's heating, otherwise when you finally do stir, it may bubble up suddenly and splash you with burning hot goo. Add the sugar and bring to a rolling boil again. Cook for 1 minute more, stirring constantly, then turn off heat.

Ladle jam into clean jars, wipe the rims with a clean cloth, put hot lids on, and screw the bands down finger-tight. Lower sealed jars into the canning pot, and simmer 15 minutes (25 minutes in Albuquerque at 5000ft, 30 minutes in Santa Fe at 7000ft). Lift straight up, and set on a kitchen towel to cool overnight. Don't worry about wiping off the water pooled on the tops of the jars, it will just evaporate as they cool, and you don't want to do anything to disturb the lid. Sometimes the lids will ping as they vacuum-seal to the tops of the jars - a very satisfying sound!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Spruce Tips and Salmon

A few weeks ago, I had a bad case of cabin fever. I work at home, and it's been too hot to go outside for the entire month of June anyway. So one night I got the wild idea to ride the tram up to the Sandia Crest just for the evening - they run really late! It's always nice and cool up there, easily 15 degrees colder than down here in the valley. Spruce trees actually grow up there, and while we were sitting on some rocks enjoying the view I looked over and saw... spruce tips!

© Copyright Dave Dunford and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Isn't this photo fantastic? I didn't take it - I somehow forgot to take any photos of my spruce tips before I used them all up. But this is a much better photo than mine would have been. If you look closely, there is the most beautiful ladybug on the branch.

I remember being fascinated as a kid by these bright green little bundles of new leaves that grow on evergreen trees each spring. I never knew they were considered edible, though I may have nibbled a few out of curiosity. They have a marvelous, tangy (though astringent) flavor.

I made some spruce salt - just chop a few tablespoons of spruce tips very finely and mix with a cup of salt. The spruce tips have enough moisture in them to make the salt clump, so I added a few grains of rice to absorb the moisture.  I also made some spruce sugar... more on that later.

And then I got a flash of genius! Salmon and spruce tips. Two great tastes that absolutely have to taste great together. Wild-caught Alaskan sockeye is in season now. This was about a pound of fish, and I rubbed it with about a half teaspoon of the spruce salt, a clove of garlic finely minced, and some freshly ground pepper.

I let it sit for a few minutes while I took some photos. I seared the skin side in a cast iron skillet until it looked like it was cooked halfway through, then flipped it over and cooked it for a few minutes more to an internal temperature of 140F.

Wow! This may be the best way I've ever had salmon (and I've eaten a LOT of salmon, growing up in the Pacific Northwest).

With a glass of rose, and a shaved zucchini salad, it was a perfect summer dinner.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Lemon Verbena Panna Cotta with Mulberries

This was a triumph! And possibly the world's easiest dessert to make.

Lemon verbena is the best of all the lemon-scented herbs. If you have any room left at all in your garden, you really should plant it.  It grows into a medium-size shrub and its heavenly scent brushes off whenever you walk by.  It smells more lemony than lemons - clean, fresh and floral, with none of that citronella tang that some other lemon herbs have. It's not easy to find in stores, but it's so easy to grow! And it's not invasive like lemon balm.

Mulberries are a fantastic fruit - they grow wild all over city streets, but are somehow overlooked by most people. They taste a lot like blackberries (and I grew up eating a lot of blackberries) but chewier, and less tangy. In fact, I like to add a little lime juice to balance out their sweetness. They ripen around the same time the lemon verbena is leafing out, and the two taste amazing together!

1 packet gelatine
3 T. cold water
Grapeseed oil or other neutral-tasting oil
2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half (I used 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream)
1/4 cup sugar
A handful of lemon verbena leaves (you could substitute lemon balm or other lemon herbs, or chopped lemongrass)
2 cups mulberries
Juice of 1 lime
1 T. sugar

Combine gelatine and water in a bowl big enough to hold all the cream. Lightly oil several small ramekins or little condiment bowls of any sort. Heat the cream, sugar and lemon verbena leaves, stirring constantly over medium flame until almost boiling. Pour through a strainer into the bowl with the gelatine. Whisk thoroughly to combine the gelatine. Pour into the ramekins and chill anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days.

About ten minutes before serving, combine mulberries, lime juice and sugar to macerate. Run an oiled knife around the edge of the ramekins and invert each panna cotta onto a plate. Top with mulberries and garnish with lemon verbena leaves.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chickpea and Tuna Salad

This is so much tastier and better for you than a normal tuna salad sandwich, I love it! Chickpeas, green onions and olives count as veggies, right? I had this for lunch on a slice of soft whole-wheat french bread... a nice refreshing cold meal for a hot day. The recipe is adapted from an old issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. It's tasty enough to serve on a bed of greens for a hearty salad. It also keeps really well in the fridge, so you'll have lunches for days.

2 cans tuna
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2 green onions, sliced
2 Tbs capers or chopped green olives
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and serve on crusty bread. You can also make this into a classy tuna melt by adding parmesan cheese into the salad and sprinkling some over the top, then toasting or broiling it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sweet Potato and Tomato Salad with Caper Vinaigrette

This is my new favorite salad. It's adapted from a recipe for roasted vegetables in my new favorite cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty. I like the crunch of cool romaine tossed with the warm veggies. The combination of sweet potatoes and tomatoes is hearty and filling, but the caper dressing really makes it fabulous.

1 lb. sweet potatoes
A few cloves of garlic
Olive oil
A few handfuls of cherry tomatoes
2 T. capers
Juice of one lemon
Black pepper
Several leaves of romaine lettuce

Preheat the oven to 400F. Scrub the sweet potatoes and cut into ~1 inch chunks. Toss with whole garlic cloves, garlic and salt. Spread in a single layer on a baking pan and roast ~20 minutes, until tender and slightly browned. Slice the tomatoes in half and toss with the sweet potatoes to coat with oil. Roast about 10 minutes longer. Mix capers, lemon juice with about 3 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mash garlic cloves and mix into the dressing. Tear romaine leaves into bite size chunks. Toss warm vegetables with dressing. Pile them on a bed of romaine or just toss it all together. Serves 2.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Broccoli with Sesame-Miso Dressing

I'm so excited, I finally succeeded in growing broccoli in my garden! The trick to growing broccoli is consistently cool weather, which doesn't happen often in Albuquerque – it's either hot or cold. The seed packets always say to wait until after frost to plant, but that's not quite right for our climate. Cole crops are quite frost-hardy, so I planted some healthy starts in February, and the main heads are ready to eat now. They are not very tightly packed, which is what happens in warm weather, so I thought I'd better pick them before they bolt. And they are delicious!

This is an adaptation of a Japanese recipe which typically uses green beans. It looks cool when you use black sesame seeds, but it takes some effort to grind them finely enough.

1 pound broccoli, broccolini, or broccoli raab
2 T. tahini, or 2 T. finely ground black sesame seeds
1 t. toasted sesame oil
1 t. miso
1 t. cider vinegar
1 t. honey
1 t. soy sauce
2 T. mirin

Cut broccoli into large chunks; steam until tender. Whisk all other ingredients together. Toss warm broccoli with dressing. Serves 2 to 4.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cider-Braised Lamb and Turnips

Lamb and turnips are a classic combination. Both are available year-round, but we associate them especially with spring. Braising them in apple cider adds a tangy sweetness. I used a dry hard cider; you could use a non-alcoholic cider, but it would be a much sweeter dish. I like to use the cheapest, toughest cuts of lamb on the bone for stews, because they are very flavorful and become perfectly tender after a long braise.

Large fall turnips, such as the purple-topped variety usually found in grocery stores, are some of the longest-keeping vegetables that would have sustained our ancestors well into spring. They can be bitter, but blanching them for a few minutes helps. Spring turnips are delicate and sweet, and can be used whole in this recipe. It would be great to use the turnip greens as well, but the turnips I had on hand this week came without greens.

1 pound lamb ribs or neck bones
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion or 2 leeks, minced
1 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 t. marjoram or thyme
6 whole cloves
2 C. dry hard cider
2 C. water or chicken stock
1 T. cider vinegar
1/2 lb. carrots
2 lbs. turnips with greens

Rinse meat and pat dry. Heat oil in a wide skillet. Brown well on all sides. Remove meat; add onion, salt, pepper, marjoram and cloves. Cook until onions are lightly browned. Add meat back into the pan with cider, vinegar, and water or stock. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer 3-4 hours, until meat is falling off the bone (or transfer to a crockpot and cook all day). Cut carrots, turnips and turnip greens into 1-inch pieces. Add to the pot and simmer 30 minutes more, until tender. Meanwhile, remove the meat, chop it coarsely and return it to the pan, discarding the bones. Serve with crusty bread to sop up the delicious sauce. Serves 4.

Slow-Cooked Beef Tacos with Radish Slaw

Mmm, tacos. They're pretty much the perfect food. Growing up, I loved Mom's ground beef, cheese, lettuce and tomato variety. But as an adult I discovered the infinite variety of tacos, far beyond anything I'd previously imagined. The use of cabbage in tacos was a revelation to me – it's really refreshing, crunchier and more satisfying than lettuce. 

We have lots of grassfed beef in the freezer from Mesteno Draw Ranch, and the chuck roast was calling to me. This is a really nice spring recipe, adapted from one in RealSimple magazine last year. It's warm and filling on a cold night, but not too heavy, and it makes excellent use of some of my favorite spring veggies. The radish and cabbage slaw really steals the show here!

2 lbs. chuck roast
Salt and pepper
2 C. water
1 small onion, quartered
1 can chipotle in adobo sauce, or a few dried chipotles
1 t. dried marjoram or oregano
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 small head of cabbage, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lime
A few slices pickled jalapeno (optional)
1/4 C. cilantro leaves, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
Corn tortillas (2 per taco)
Sour cream

Season the meat with salt and pepper, and sear on all sides. Place in a crockpot with water, onion, chipotle, marjoram and salt. Cook all day on low (or about 3 hours on high) until meat is falling off the bone. Shred with two forks in the pot, so that the meat is mixed with the cooking liquid.

Toss radishes, carrot and cabbage with lime juice, jalapeno and half the cilantro; season with salt and pepper. Mix sour cream with green onion and remaining cilantro. Warm tortillas on a burner until they get nice little charred spots. Top with shredded meat, slaw, and sour cream. Serves 4.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Collard Greens Braised with Bacon, Tomato and Rice

This is hearty, healthy comfort food - yeah, I just said bacon and healthy in the same breath. It only takes a tiny bit of bacon to get that delicious flavor; tomatoes and a little chicken broth add to the umami. I used oven-roasted tomatoes in had in the freezer from last year's garden. Collard greens are great tasting and great for you. I don't think they're bitter at all, but maybe it's one of those genetic things where people have different tastebuds. Rice soaks up the flavor and makes this a full meal. It's fast, too!

1 or 2 strips bacon, chopped
1 bunch collard greens
1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 can (14 oz.) tomatoes or 1/2 C. roasted tomatoes
1 can (14 oz.) chicken broth
1 C. rice
Salt and pepper

Brown bacon in a large skillet on medium heat. Remove stems from collards and chop into 1-inch pieces. Add olive oil, onions and collards to the skillet, and cook until softened. Add tomatoes, broth and rice, and simmer for 20 minutes, until rice is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Serves 2.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Savory Stuffed Apples

Baked apples don't have to be limited to dessert! When I saw a recipe for savory baked apples in Cooking Light, I knew I had to try it. The original recipe called for brown rice, but I substituted farro for a nuttier taste; quinoa would also be delicious. These unusual grains may seem exotic, but I've seen them at more and more stores, even at Costco recently. If you want to use brown rice, just start it cooking when you start preheating the oven. For a vegetarian version, leave out the sausage and substitute mushrooms, or more walnuts. Use the biggest apples you can find, and search out some of the tangier varieties like Pink Lady or Honeycrisp.

1 C. chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 C. farro or quinoa
1/2 t. dried sage
2 T. olive oil
1/4 lb. sweet Italian sausage
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1/8 t. red chile powder
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1/4 C. chopped walnuts, toasted
4 large apples (or 8 small to medium apples)
1/2 C. shredded Swiss or cheddar cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Carve out the center of each apple, leaving a shell about 1/2 inch thick (be sure to leave the bottom so the stuffing doesn't fall out). Chop the apple flesh finely and reserve it. Bake apple shells about 25 minutes, until just tender.

Meanwhile, combine broth, grain and sage in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer about 10 minutes, until grain is tender. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium flame. Add sausage and brown, breaking up into very small pieces with a spatula. Add reserved apple flesh, garlic, onion, carrot, red chile, and cinnamon. Cook until tender, then season with salt as desired. Mix with cooked grain and toasted walnuts. Fill apples with grain mixture. If desired, top with cheese and broil 5 minutes to melt. Serves 4.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Green Chile Biscuits and Gravy

This is great comfort food for a cold February morning, and easy to whip up if you still have some green chile in your freezer – our supply always seems to be getting low this time of year.

The gravy is just a traditional sausage cream gravy, with a New Mexico twist. With the addition of cheddar, it's a lot like the Flying Star's Southwest Bennie - one of my favorite breakfasts around town. The biscuit recipe is adjusted for high altitude, so they come out nice and fluffy.

2 C. all purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
6 T. cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces (or 1/3 C. shortening)
1 C. buttermilk (or milk with juice of half a lemon)

1/4 lb. sausage
2 T. flour
2 C. milk
1/2 C. chopped green chile
1/4 C. grated cheddar
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450F. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles cornmeal, with a few pea-sized chunks remaining. (If you don't have a food processor, just cut the fat into the flour mixture with a fork.) Add buttermilk and pulse until the dough comes together in one large piece. Do not overmix. On a floured surface, fold dough over 2 or 3 times to bring it together. Gently flatten to about 3/4 inch thick. Cut dough into circles with a can, or 9 even squares. Place biscuits onto a cookie sheet and bake 15-17 minutes, or until well-risen and golden brown.

Meanwhile, fry the sausage in a large skillet, breaking it up into small pieces with a spatula. (Many locally produced sausages are quite lean – you may need to add a little oil to keep it from sticking.) Add flour and stir to coat the sausage. Whisk in milk and cook until just thickened. Stir in green chile and cheese, season with salt and pepper, and remove from heat.

Split biscuits in half and top with gravy. Enjoy the rest of the biscuits with butter and jam. Serves 2-4.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lemony Parsnip Soup with Rosemary and Crispy Leeks

Parsnips seem to have something of a bad reputation and I can't imagine why. They are sweet and delicious, like a white carrot. I picked up a few pounds of them, along with a few rutabagas, from Root Cellar Farm at the Los Ranchos winter growers' market. 

Not many farmers grow them, because they take all season to mature, but the great thing is that they can be stored in the ground all winter. They become sweeter after the frost, so you just leave them where they grew until you're ready to dig some up and eat them.

This delicate soup is dairy-free and takes only 20 minutes to prepare. Lately I've come to believe that garnishes are the key to a really great soup experience. The soup is very tasty on its own, but with the garnish it's truly delightful – don't skip the leeks.

2 T. olive oil
1/2 C. diced onion
3 C. diced parsnips
1 sprig rosemary
1/4 t. black pepper
4 C. chicken or vegetable stock
1 leek, thinly sliced white and green parts only
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium flame. Add onion and cook until just softened. Add parsnips, rosemary, pepper and stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 15 minutes, until parsnips are tender. Meanwhile, heat remaining oil on medium flame. Add sliced leeks, season with salt and fry, stirring often, until bits begin to brown. Remove from heat and reserve. Remove the rosemary and puree the soup. Add the lemon zest, then add lemon juice and salt to taste. Garnish with leeks. Serves 2 to 4.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Beet Salad with Fennel and Lemon Relish

I just recently realized that beets and fennel are a great combination, and beets also go well with lots of the other anise-flavored herbs like tarragon and caraway. The lemon-fennel relish is especially nice with Meyer lemons, which taste like a cross between orange and lemon. The recipe makes more relish than you need for the salad, so save it to serve with fish or chicken for another meal.

1 lb. beets
2 T. olive oil

1 fennel bulb
1 lemon, preferably Meyer variety
1 onion
1/2 t. fennel seeds

1 T. honey
1/2 C. water

1/2 t. salt
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400F. Scrub beets well, and trim off tops and tails. Cut small beets into quarters or halves, or larger beets into 1-inch chunks. Toss with 1 tablespoon oil and a little salt on a baking sheet. Roast about 45 minutes, until the beets are tender.

Meanwhile, chop lemon and onion into about 1/4 inch dice. Trim the bottom and the stems from the fennel bulb, slice it in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise into thin strips. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet on medium flame. Cook onions, lemon and fennel slices with fennel seeds until soft, about 5 minutes. Add honey, water and salt, and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, another 5 minutes or so. Adjust the amount of salt and honey as desired.

Set a handful of beets on each plate, top with some of the fennel mixture, and sprinkle with parsley. Serves 2 to 4 as a side.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Carrot, Spinach and Chickpea Saute

This is a deceptively fabulous winter dish. Chickpeas and spinach just don't sound that exciting, even with a few carrots thrown in, but somehow it turns out to be incredibly tasty!  I love it when I find a recipe that is more than the sum of its parts - this one is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's wildly popular vegetarian cookbook, Plenty. It's super quick, and makes great use of some of the most common winter vegetables.

1/4 cup olive oil
4 medium carrots, diced
1 t. caraway seeds
1 can (14 oz.) chickpeas
1 garlic clove, minced
1 t. dried mint
1/2 t. ground coriander
1 T. lemon juice
Salt and black pepper
1/2 C. Greek yogurt
1 T. olive oil 

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add carrots and caraway seeds, and cook 5 minutes or so. Add chickpeas and spinach and cook about 5 minutes more, until carrots are tender. Stir in garlic, mint, coriander, and lemon juice. Cook for a few more seconds, then season with salt and pepper. Mix yogurt and olive oil with a little salt and pepper. Pile vegetables on plates, and top with yogurt. Serves 2 as a main dish, or 4 as a side dish.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Buddha's Hand Citron

The first time I ever saw one of these, on a tree outside a hotel in New Zealand, I thought - what the heck is that, a mutated lemon??  Basically, yes... but it wasn't just that one tree. It turns out this is a very old type of citron called Buddha's Hand, native to China or northeastern India.

We picked these up at a citrus farm stand outside of Bakersfield on our way home from California last month, for super cheap. They are huge, compared to the ones I'd seen before - more than a pound each. They have almost no pulp or seeds, they're just all pith and rind. The taste and smell of the rind is just incredible, more fragrant and floral than regular lemon. They're just so wacky - like a squid crossed with a lemon - I had to have them!

After admiring them for a couple of weeks, I made them into citron vodka and candied citron. I know, I've been making a lot of candied citrus lately, but they're all different!

Buddha's Hand Vodka or Limoncello
1/2 lb citron
750 ml of decent vodka
2 cups sugar (if making limoncello)
2.5 cups water

Chop citron coarsely, or slice fingers in half lengthwise for a prettier presentation. Combine citron and vodka in a quart jar and leave to infuse in a dark place for 2 weeks. If you just want infused vodka, you're done! For limoncello, combine sugar and water, stirring to dissolve. Remove citron and add syrup until it's sweet enough for you. Age for 2 more weeks, until silky-smooth.

Candied Buddha's Hand
This is like the candied citron you'd use for fruitcake, but better! The corn syrup is important because it keeps the sugar from crystallizing, so the pieces come out soft and chewy.

2 lbs citron
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Cut the citron into 1/2-inch cubes and put them in a large pot. (A 2-quart saucepan is not big enough, because when you boil them with the syrup it bubbles up a lot.) Add water to cover, and bring to a boil. Simmer 30 minutes or so, until the pith is translucent, to remove bitterness. Some say the pith of citrons is not bitter like orange pith, and maybe sometimes it's not, but... when I tasted it uncooked, it was not bitter; after I boiled it a bit, it was definitely bitter. When I boiled it longer, the bitterness went out of the pith and into the water.

Drain the citrons, then put them back in the pan with 2 cups water, sugar and corn syrup. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently especially toward the end, until the temperature of the syrup reaches 230ºF. The syrup should be very thick; almost all the liquid must evaporate for it to reach this temperature. (It can take a really long time if you have the heat too low, and I think this is why mine have a slightly caramelly-burnt taste, so next time I'd let it bubble a lot so that it reduces quicker. I think for fruitcake or similar purposes, it wouldn't be a disaster if it wasn't quite up to 230ºF, the finished pieces would just be softer and stickier.) Don't worry if they still have some white color to them at this point. Turn off the heat and let the pieces sit in the syrup for another hour. Drain the citron pieces thoroughly in a colander, then spread on a cookie sheet to cool.

Lamb Stew with Winter Squash and Preserved Lemons

This sweet, tangy, spicy stew is great winter comfort food, made with lots of preserved and long-keeping ingredients. Our ancestors probably ate more meat in the winter, when it could be preserved by the cold, and fresh vegetables were limited. Local lamb is often available at winter farmers' markets; lamb neck bones are one of the cheapest and most flavorful cuts, perfect for stew.

The secret ingredient in the rich, fruity sauce is... prunes! Preserved lemons and harissa (a North African chile paste) add kick at the end. If you can't find preserved lemons, you can just use fresh lemon juice and zest, but they are worth seeking out at Spanish or Middle Eastern specialty stores. Or, you can easily make them at home... recipes for both harissa and preserved lemons are on my blog, Parsley is such an underrated herb; a big handful of parsley adds a really nice flavor and a fresh note to rich stews like this.

2 T. oil
2 lbs lamb neck bones
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. freshly grated ginger
2 t. cinnamon
Pinch of saffron
1 C. dried plums (prunes)
4 C. winter squash (either raw or cooked), peeled and cubed
1 preserved lemon (or juice and zest of one fresh lemon)
2 T. harissa
1 T. honey
Salt and black pepper
1 C. minced parsley
A few green onions, sliced (optional)

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium flame. Add the neck bones and brown on all sides. Wait to add salt until the very end, because both harissa and preserved lemons are fairly salty. Add onion and cook a few minutes more, until translucent. Add the garlic, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, prunes. Stir and cook for a few seconds, then add water to just cover everything. Simmer for 2 hours, until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.

If using raw squash, add it to the pot and cook uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. If using leftover cooked squash, first reduce the sauce until it is as thick as you like it, then add the squash at the end. Stir in harissa until the stew is spicy enough for your taste. Stir in honey until the stew is as sweet as you like it. Chop preserved lemon finely and stir in. If using fresh lemon instead, turn off heat before stirring in juice and zest. Add salt and pepper as needed. Serve with crusty bread, and lots of parsley. Serves 6.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Candied Limequats

When we were out in California for the holidays, we couldn't resist buying all kinds of wonderful produce at the farmers' markets there (since we were driving and could take stuff home.)  We got persimmons, Meyer lemons, berries, Brussels sprouts, chanterelles, and a few odder items... Buddha's Hand citron, and limequats!

The limequats looked basically like tiny greenish lemons, and the tart juice had a lovely lemon-lime flavor. The rind was a bit sweet, but not as sweet as a kumquat's. They were kind of enjoyable raw, but pretty puckery.

I read a few recipes for candying whole kumquats, and decided to try this method. It's taken me a while to get around to posting it, but they turned out fantastic!

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups whole limequats
4 half-pint canning jars

Make 4 small slashes, lengthwise, in each limequat. Use a toothpick or the tip of a small knife to pop the seeds out through these slits. Don't worry if you don't get them all - the rest will slip out during cooking.

Bring the water, sugar and salt to a boil in a large pot (a 2-quart saucepan will not do) because the syrup bubbles a lot during cooking. Cover with a lid left slightly ajar. Simmer on medium-low heat until the rinds of the limequats are mostly translucent, 20 minutes or so.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the fruits from the syrup and pack them gently into 4 sterilized half-pint canning jars. Pour syrup over, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace at the top of the jar. Save any remaining syrup for drinks or something else. Put on hot lids, and process the jars in boiling water for 20 minutes (this is for 5000ft - if you're at sea level it's 5 minutes less, at 7000ft it's 5 minutes more).

Now I just have to think of a use for these little beauties!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Poached Egg with Roasted Tomatoes and Tarragon Butter

Roasted tomatoes are a bright spot in winter - if you grow tomatoes, this is one of the nicest ways to put them up. Their intense umami flavor adds richness to any dish, but this is a great way to enjoy them, and it's become one of my favorite breakfasts. I've recently rekindled my love for tarragon, which is easy to grow, perennial, and even somewhat frost hardy so that I sometimes have fresh tarragon even in January. I dried the leaves on my kitchen counter, and I've been using this compound butter on everything. Local eggs may be hard to find this time of year, but with a little extra light early in the morning, hens can lay throughout the winter, although not as much as in the summer.

2 eggs
1 English muffin or 2 slices of any good bread
1/4 t. dried tarragon
1/2 T. butter, softened
1 T. roasted tomatoes

Place two small ramekins or round cookie cutters in the bottom of a medium sized saucepan. Fill the pan halfway with water, cover and bring to a boil. Crack eggs carefully into the ramekins and turn heat to medium-low. Cover and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until the whites are set.

Meanwhile, put your bread in the toaster. Mix tarragon and butter. When toast is ready, spread with tarragon butter, then with tomatoes. Set poached eggs on toast, and top with a dab of tarragon butter. Serves 1 or 2.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Roasted Sunchokes with Orange-Pecan Gremolata

Sunchokes are abundant at winter growers' markets, and they're so funny looking, I always have to get some. They are the root of a sunflower, often called Jerusalem artichokes, but it's thought that this name is a corruption of the Italian word girasole, for sunflower. But I never really figured out what to do with them - a creamy soup seems like cheating somehow, because anything tastes great when slathered in cream.

Roasting is a reliable technique for bringing out great flavor in any vegetable, and sunchokes are no exception. They take on a really sweet, caramelized flavor much like sweet potatoes. Don't eat too many, though, if you've never tried them before - they contain a starch called inulin, which doesn't agree with some people. For a touch of freshness, I added a little gremolata made with fresh parsley, pecans and orange zest. Parsley is a very hardy herb, but also pretty easy to grow indoors, so it's a wonderful winter flavor.

1/2 pound sunchokes
2 T. olive oil
4 T. minced parsley
2 T. finely chopped pecans
1 clove garlic, minced
Zest of 1 orange
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450F. Scrub sunchokes thoroughly, and slice about 1/4 inch thick. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and spread in a single layer on a sheet pan. Roast about 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Mix remaining ingredients thoroughly in a small bowl. Arrange sunchokes atop a pile of gremolata and sprinkle more over the top. Serves 2 to 4 as an appetizer or side.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hopi Squash with Green Chile and Pine Nut Stuffing

We grew a gigantic Hopi squash plant this summer, and it ended up producing about a dozen lovely round, pinkish-orange pumpkins. They each have a cute little turban at the blossom end, and weigh 2 to 7 pounds. I don't usually bother growing squash because of the squash bugs, but this plant was incredibly vigorous! So I've been looking for ways to eat more winter squash (or give it away). Stuffed squash is great because you can easily make it so many different ways, you might not even get tired of it before spring! This stuffing, with green chile, pine nuts, apples and cloves, is tasty with either corn bread or regular bread. It's a perfect vegetarian main dish, but you could add meat, such as browned sausage or shredded chicken as well.

2 small winter squashes (about 2 pounds each)
3 T. olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 large apple, coarsely chopped
1/2 C. chopped green chile
4 cups dried bread (or cornbread) cubes

1/4 C. pine nuts
1/4 to 1 C. vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper 

Preheat oven to 375F. Cut squash in half through the stem end, and scoop out the seeds. Rub the insides with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Place the halves cut side down, in a baking pan. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the stuffing.

Heat olive oil on medium flame in a large skillet or saucepan. Cook onion, carrot, and celery until very soft and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add apple, green chile and cloves. Cook, stirring often, for a few minutes longer, until apple is soft. Toss this mixture with the bread cubes and pine nuts. Add stock, a little at a time, until the bread is moist but not soggy. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

Turn over the squash halves, and drain any liquid from the pan. Fill each half with stuffing, and bake about 15 minutes more, until the top of the stuffing is lightly browned. Serves 4.