Friday, February 28, 2014

Kumquat Riesling Sauce

I don’t have much to say about this recipe. Not because it’s not an interesting recipe. It is. It’s delicious and not hard to make. I don’t have much to say because I’m tired. I like to pretend I’m not tired because you can’t see me dozing off from where you are, but sometimes I just have to give in.

So here is this recipe, which I adapted from Fine Cooking magazine. I scaled it down a bit because the original called for 12 ounces of kumquats and the package I bought contained 8 ounces. I also used vanilla extract and ground cinnamon where the original called for vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. The substitution seem okay to me, but I suppose a vanilla bean would make it even more delicious.

The ingredient list may make you think this sauce would be excessively sweet, but don’t be too afraid. The tartness and touch of bitterness in the kumquats balances the sugar nicely. In fact, I’d argue that you might just need that much sweetness to make the kumquats into dessert.

And this sauce is great with dessert. I loved it on this simple yogurt cake and it was fabulous on vanilla ice cream as well. It lasts a couple weeks in the refrigerator, so I say, as soon as you can get your hands on the ingredients and as soon as you have the time and energy to slice up a couple handfuls of kumquats, make this sauce. It’ll be waiting to reward you by jazzing up simple desserts on those days when you just get too tired. Good night and good luck!

Kumquat Riesling Sauce

Adapted from Fine Cooking magazine (Feb/Mar 2011)

Serve this sauce on simple vanilla or citrus cakes or on vanilla ice cream.

1 ½ cups Riesling
½ cup honey
1/3 cup sugar
2 ¼ inch slices peeled fresh ginger
¼ cup water
8 ounces kumquats, thinly sliced and seeded
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. In a medium-size saucepan, combine the Riesling, honey, sugar, ginger and water. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil.

2. Stir in the sliced kumquats and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook about 30 minutes or until the kumquat slices are tender and appear translucent.

3. Cool to room temperature. Serve at room temperature or cold.
Makes about 2 ½ cups.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Archive Recipe of the Week: Winter Vegetable Galettes

This is a recipe that goes waaaay back to the first year I spent fiddling around on these pages. I still like to make it at least once every winter, not the least reason being that making it once means making a few meals in one fell swoop. I just feed the two of us, my husband and me, at each supper, so one pie lasts for two meals. But that’s not all. There are two pies in a whole recipe and these happen to freeze quite well to lie ready and waiting for a busy night’s meal.

I’m not sure I really had that in mind when I first posted this recipe. I didn’t have a job and was blogging because I loved trying new recipes and wanted to talk about them. Now, I work full time at a position that kicks my butt sometimes and am blogging because I can’t stop. (Okay, and because I still love it.) And I’m making dishes like Winter Vegetable Galettes partly for the leftovers.

I actually kind of made up this recipe myself, starting with the original version of this Butternut Squash Pie with Feta and Mint. I turned it into a galette instead of a pie, got rid of the phyllo dough (not that there’s anything wrong with phyllo dough) in favor of a whole wheat pie crust, mixed up the vegetables using whatever was in the refrigerator, swapped out the feta for cheddar, added more onion, and put in some mustard, which I really like with some of the stronger root vegetables.

Speaking of those vegetables, I get the best flavor with a mixture of sweet and strong ones. Most recently I used carrots, parsnips and rutabaga, but squash and turnip are good, too. This really isn’t anything to get too fussy about. In my original post, I called this recipe a “Bounty Buster” because I applied it to using up extra vegetables I seemed to accumulate from our winter CSA share. Root vegetables still seem to accumulate in my kitchen somehow, and I still like using this recipe to accumulate some leftovers for busy weeks.


Winter Vegetable Galettes with Cheddar, Mustard and Caramelized Onions
Use a food processor with a shredding blade to make quick work of shredding the vegetables.

I recently made the second galette into four smaller turnovers instead, which I froze for another meal.

Whole Wheat Pastry
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup ice water, or more as needed

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, and salt. Pulse a few times to combine

2. Add the butter pieces. Pulse until all of the butter is in flour-coated chunks no larger than small peas.

3. Add about 1/3 cup ice water. Pulse until all the water is incorporated and the dough just holds together when squeezed, adding more water a little at a time as needed. Try not to over-process the dough, but make sure it will form a ball when pulled together.

4. On a lightly floured surface, gently press the dough together into a ball. Divide the ball in half and form each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. Dough is easiest to handle when chilled at least 15 minutes. (If you freeze the dough, place the wrap disk(s) in a freezer bag. Thoroughly thaw in the refrigerator before using.

Alternatively, the pastry dough can be made by hand: Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or with knives or a fork. Toss the mixture with the ice water, using only enough to allow the dough to come together when squeezed. Proceed as above.

Filling and Baking
4 cups shredded winter vegetables, such as winter squash, parsnips, carrots, rutabagas, turnips, celeriac, sweet potatoes, etc.
¼ cup bulgur
¾ teaspoon salt, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ pound yellow onions (about 2 medium), peeled and thinly sliced
3 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (sharp or extra sharp preferred
2 tablespoons Dijon or coarse-grained mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water (egg wash)

1. Combine the shredded vegetables, bulgur, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper in a large bowl. Let stand at least 30 minutes. (Mixture can be held longer, but cover and refrigerate if you’re going to let it stand more than an hour.)

2. Preheat oven to 375 F. To make the caramelized onions, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat about 20-30 minutes or until very soft and golden brown. Stir occasionally. Add a little water and/or reduce the he heat if the onions seem to be getting too brown before getting soft. Set aside to cool slightly.

3. Add the onions, cheese, mustard and garlic to the vegetable mixture. Mix well.

4. Roll out one disk (1/2 recipe) of the whole wheat pastry into a 12-inch circle. Carefully transfer the dough to a large baking sheet, leaving room for a second one of the same size if possible. Place half of the vegetable mixture into the center of the dough circle leaving a few inches of pastry at the border. Pull the edges of the dough up over the filling, leaving the majority of the filling exposed in the middle of the galette. Repeat with the second half of the pastry dough and the remaining filling and place it on the same pan if there is room. (If not, use a second pan.)

4. Brush the pastry with egg wash. Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes or until the crust is crisp and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes. Cut into wedges to serve.

 You could also fully enclose the filling in the crust if you would like it to remain moister, or make small turnovers. Each kind of pie can be frozen after baked. Wrap in aluminum foil and seal in a freezer bag. Reheat on a pan at 375 F for about 20 minutes.

 Makes 6-8 main-dish servings.

Other recipes like this one: Butternut Squash Pie with Feta and Mint, Pasta with Shredded Winter Vegetables, Winter Squash and Leek Empanadas with Sage

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cinnamon Raisin Biscuits

I know I shouldn’t mess with something great. Take Grandmama’s Biscuits, for instance. What kind of fool would dare to fiddle with this level of perfection. Well, I did. I turned beautiful buttermilk biscuits in to a slightly sweet cinnamon-y breakfast (or afternoon, or whenever) little confection.

This is just a simple variation on basic biscuits. All I did was add the classic combination of cinnamon and raisins, lightly sweetened with just a bit of sugar, to my favorite biscuit recipe. They’re as simple to make as any biscuits and benefit from the same kind of care, such as gentle handling of the dough (you don’t need to really knead), and baking until just a bit golden.

We ate these for breakfast all on their own, but you could slather them with butter (especially while they’re still warm) or top them with jam or honey. They might not even be bad split in half and served with some kind of apple compote, shortcake style. Like any other biscuit, these are best eaten fresh, even still warm from the oven, but I’ve found these to be just dandy out of the freezer and re-warmed in the microwave.

Maybe it is foolish to mess around with a practically perfect recipe, but, since I wasn’t trying to improve, just expand, I granted myself justification to add a little flavor to my buttermilk biscuits. And I didn’t let myself down. These gently spiced and sweetened biscuits are delicious and just different enough to provide a little weekend breakfast novelty. Of course, if I hadn’t had such a good recipe to build on, who knows what might have happened. I shudder to even think about it.

Cinnamon Raisin Buttermilk Biscuits

3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
5 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup cold butter
1 cup raisins
1 ½ cups buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 450 F. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. Sift or whisk together to combine.

2. Cut the butter into small chunks. With a pastry blender or knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is well-distributed and the butter pieces are smaller than peas and coated with flour. (I usually end up using my hands to work in the butter satisfactorily.)

3. Stir in the raisins. Add the buttermilk and stir gently until all of the flour mixture is moistened. Gently knead in the bowl a few times to get the dough to come together and incorporate all the buttermilk. Add a little more buttermilk if the mixture is too dry to come together.

4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently pat it out to about 1 inch thick. Cut the dough into about 12 to 15 biscuits with a round cutter or an inverted glass. (I used a 2 ½-inch biscuit cutter.) Place the cut biscuits on a baking sheet. (I line my baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.)

5. Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Serve as soon as they are cool enough to eat. Leftovers are nice when warmed in the microwave. The biscuits also freeze well.

Makes about 12-15 biscuits.

One year ago: Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Scones (probably not a coincidence)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Archive Recipe of the Week: Tomato Sauce with Root Vegetables

The Archive Recipe of the Week is finally back! No excuses. No explanations. Let’s eat!

When I made this sauce for pasta a couple years ago, I was so impressed by this great, flavorful, healthful use of the late-winter bounty of root vegetables. I used to subscribe to a winter share from a CSA* and had lots and lots of vegetables that needed a delicious home.

And delicious this sauce was and still is. In fact I was surprised all over again by how good it is. What I have found out since that first try of the recipe, however, is that packing finely chopped or shredded vegetables into spaghetti sauce is nothing new. Some moms and grandmas I know have always done this to trick their kids into eating more vegetables. Blanketing extra vegetables in a long-cooking sauce not only makes more palatable vegetables for the faint of heart, but also makes for an even more tasty sauce. One of my friends insists that her grown children have been asking for her secret spaghetti sauce recipe, but she won’t give it to them, fearing their reaction when they learn that they had been tricked throughout their childhood.

I really like the earthy flavors contributed by the carrots, parsnip and rutabaga in this sauce. If you want to hide these particular vegetables on your kids, you might want to try a smaller dose and replace the missing bulk with another can of diced tomatoes. I also like the richness brought in by the red wine, but if you don’t want wine in your sauce, you could replace it with more water.

This winter has been a rough one, and we’re all ready for spring, but I hope you won’t give up on winter vegetables just yet. This sauce is really a fabulous celebration of what might be left from the last of those warm days so long ago. And it will warm and comfort you the way only a rich tomato sauce can.


*While I no longer subscribe to the CSA, I still like to support the farm and can get great vegetables from there as well from other great growers in the area at local markets.



Tomato Sauce with Root Vegetables
Adapted from Recipes from the Root Cellar by Andrea Chesman

The amount of added salt needed will likely depend on the amount already present in the canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Taste the sauce and adjust for salt as you like it.

1 medium carrot, peeled
1 medium parsnip, peeled
1 small to medium rutabaga (or half of a large one), peeled
1 medium yellow onion, peeled
¼ cup olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
1 head garlic, about 10 medium cloves, separated, peeled and left whole
1 ½ cups water
1 cup dry red wine (I used a Cabernet-Merlot blend)
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste if desired
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
cooked pasta of your choice for serving
grated Parmesan cheese for serving

1. Coarsely chop the carrot, parsnip, rutabaga and onion. Place them in a food processor fitted with a chopping blade and pulse until very finely chopped, but not completely pulverized. Remove any larger chunks of vegetables and cut finer by hand if desired.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the finely chopped vegetables and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables have begun to soften. Add the garlic cloves and cook, stirring, one minute more.

3. Stir in the water and scrape up any browned bits that may have formed on the bottom of the pan. Add the wine, tomato paste, tomatoes, bay leaves, basil, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.

4. Cover, reduce the heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, for 2- 2 ½ hours, or until the vegetables are very soft and practically melted into the sauce. Taste for salt and other seasonings and adjust as desired. Seek out, remove, and discard the bay leaves. Serve with hot cooked pasta of your choice and a generous grating of Parmesan cheese.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Pasta with Mushroom Sauce

This pasta dish looks simple, even rustic or humble. Its preparation, however, involves a few tricks that may seem fiddly to busy cooks but which are totally worth the little bit of extra time and talent to create absolutely amazing flavor. Yes, while this photo may make Pasta with Mushroom Sauce look like brownness personified, that brownness has a lovely intensity of flavor that you may not find in any other brownness (without chocolate, that is.)

The sauce for this dish is all familiar, easy-to-find ingredients that just need a little love to get them to sing. Diced onions, carrots and celery (aka mire poix ) are cooked in a touch of butter, then boiled down with some red wine until the liquid is almost gone. Next beef consommé is added to give the sauce a deep beef flavor (I’m guessing that if you’re a veal stock kind of person, this would be the place to use that).

But then, and here’s the most fiddly part of this recipe, the sauce is strained, the vegetables having given all we need from them. The resulting liquid is intensely flavorful, but, wait! There’s more! In the form of sautéed mushrooms that get to absorb some of that beefy sauce even while lending some of their earthy essence to it. Yum.

I used cremini mushrooms, but you could use others that you like. I probably wouldn’t use anything particularly exotic or delicate, but would stick to the sort of “utility” mushrooms like white button mushrooms or portabellos, which are just grown-up creminis anyway. For the wine, I used a Cabernet Sauvignon from California, but any dry red wine that you like is appropriate. Not only is the wine going to add a lot of its own flavor to your final dish, but since the recipe only calls for one cup of it, you might want to drink the rest with your meal, and would, therefore, be better off with one you like. If you don’t know what you like a dry red wine blend from one of the popular (ie, pretty cheap) brands will probably make a good sauce.

I made this dish years ago and have really wanted to try it again. I don’t know what the delay has been. It’s at least as delicious as I remember it, although I think it would be even better with a higher sauce to pasta ratio. Next time I make it, I’ll try using less pasta to make a saucier dish. The range of 6 to 8 ounces of pasta in the recipe below reflects this thought.

While I served this as a main dish, I think it would be fabulous served alongside a steak or roast beef. It’s earthy enough to accompany a casual meal, but fabulously flavorful enough to make that meal a bit special. Because you know there’s one of those mushy holidays coming up that might just call for a special meal made especially for someone special. Just saying.

Pasta with Mushroom Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

If you’re good at timing your recipes, you can begin cooking the pasta while the sauce is cooking. If you’d rather not have dueling burners, simply cook the pasta first and either keep it warm or run hot water over it just before mixing with the sauce.

A sprig or two of fresh thyme would be a good replacement for the dried thyme if you happen to have some.

Since I thought I may like this dish a bit saucier, I adapted the recipe to include the option of using less pasta over which to stretch the sauce.

6-8 ounces uncooked short-cut pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
2 tablespoons butter, divided
½ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup finely chopped carrot
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 (10 ½ ounce) can beef consomme
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon cornstarch

1. Cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and keep warm. (See note above with regard to this step.)

2. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, and salt. Saute 5 minutes or until just beginning to brown, stirring frequently. Stir in the tomato paste and cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly.

3. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture is very thick because most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

4. Stir in the dried thyme, black pepper, and beef consommé. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture is reduced to about 1 cup. This should take 3-5 minutes. Strain the mixture through a sieve, retaining the liquid and discarding the solids.

5. Reduce the burner heat to medium and return the pan to the heat. Melt the remaining tablespoon butter. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the water and cornstarch. Set aside.

7. Add the reserved liquid mixture to the mushrooms in the pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the water-cornstarch mixture and bring just to a boil.

8. Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat.

Makes about 4 servings.