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Apr 27, 2012

RECIPE: roasted sweet potato apple soup

During a global warming induced late April summer, the last thing you're craving is a big warm bowl of soup. To those cynical bouts I say, "open your mouth and swallow".

But don't be fooled, as the irony is not lost on me that in fact, I was craving a vegetable dish without having to see my vegetables front and center. So what's a girl to do but revert back to her ignorant childhood bliss and purée the damn thing until it resembled a saturated luminescent puddle of mush. Ahhh, baby food. Actually, that's how simple this dish is. As simple as baby food (say it enough and it might catch on). A little chopping here, little sprinkling there, shove it in the oven, play hide and seek with your fine china, and serve. Easy peasy. Well, unless of course you're like me and hate the art of washing, peeling, chopping, and altogether struggling with a knife the size of a femur bone. But that's why God invented snazzy kitchen tools. Or at least he invented the man that invented the kitchen tool. Whatever your belief, with a little help, this can be ready in no time. Needless to say I got a healthy dose of beta carotene, fiber, and other unpronounceable nutrients without ever having to acknowledge I was devouring veggies. Surprisingly, it was quite filling too, with no oversized Olive Garden bread bowl in sight. And while sweet potato's autumn cousin, butternut squash, is delicately more sweet and revered, my summer version of this soup is worth its weight in gold. And whatdya know, it looks like it too. That's what I call an accomplished lunch hour.

ROASTED SWEET POTATO APPLE SOUP

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 leeks, sliced thinly
  • 1 large carrot, sliced thinly
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 2 large apples, peeled and diced
  • 5 cups broth
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup light cream
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh chives or cilantro, to garnish

METHOD

  1. Preheat an oven to 400ºF.
  2. In a bowl, combine the carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, olive oil, salt and pepper then toss to coat. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until the carrots are tender and golden around the edges, 35 to 40 minutes.
  3. In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and sauté, stirring, until tender 5 to 10 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables, broth, nutmeg and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Puree the soup mixture and strain. Return the soup to the pot add cream and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish to your liking. Serve immediately. Top with sour cream or yogurt if you like. I did!
2 comments

Apr 23, 2012

RECIPE: carrot soufflé

So I'll start my Blackberry Farm Cookbook week with the most underwhelming recipe of the bunch. I know a few of you are dying for the sweet stuff (cough, AJ, cough...) and bare with me, the cakes and crumbles are coming. But I feel less guilty eating three heaping servings of sugar coated apples after I've had a spoonful or two of some nutrient rich carrots and the like. Now don't storm down my front door, I did of course enjoy this light and fluffy dish, if for no other reason than it gave a simple, rather untalented, wannabe home chef such as my self the right to tout around her alleged souffle success. No one has to know the ingredient culprit was farm fresh carrots instead of the more notorious and beloved silky smooth French chocolate. Give a girl a break. I made my first souffle and I rocked it! The only problem? Well, even a whopping one pound of carrots makes enough for only four people (at least in a gluttonous house like this one) so I much prefer individual ramekins to give off an air of sophisticated presentation and slow savoring. And also, I was frowning like a two year old who dropped her ice cream cone when I found out the red onions I added stayed crisp even after baking. I would have preferred a smoother texture throughout, so perhaps I might butter them up in a saucepan quickly next time. All in all, it was a pleasant dish, not too much trouble (hmmm, if you don't mind peeling and tedious work like that!) and I hear that its a great way to trick kids into eating veggies. Nothing beats a quick dish that mom can use to blindly bribe her children, am I right?

BLACKBERRY FARM'S CARROT SOUFFLÉ

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for baking dish
  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup saltine cracker crumbs
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup very finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 large eggs

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish; set aside.
  2. Place carrots in a large pot and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Generously salt water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender and easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 10 minutes.
  3. Strain carrots and transfer to the bowl of a food processor; process until pureed. Transfer carrot puree to a large bowl; stir in milk, cracker crumbs, cheese, onion, butter, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk eggs until foamy. Whisk eggs into carrot mixture until just combined.
  5. Transfer carrot mixture to prepared baking dish and bake until puffed and light golden brown on top, 40 to 45 minutes; serve warm.
5 comments

Apr 22, 2012

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: an earth day photo story

Want to know a secret? I've been journaling lately. A habit that's had a decade long hiatus since my teenage years. But not just any kind of journal, a gratitude journal. I couldn't pass up the chance to support a small artist that did a limited edition collection of hand-bound journals for Squam. The collection featured one serene beachfront view, a starry galaxy, and baby mushrooms poking their fuzzy heads from the soil. Needless to say I bought all three and saved two for gifts later on. So there I sit, each night before bed, journaling about all that I am grateful for. It doesn't take religion, or rebellion, or even political policy to sometimes feel grateful for so much that the ground and sky provides us. So what have you been feeling grateful for lately? Is it that perfectly shady tree you call your secret spot, or campfires under the warm summer sun, or the clean taste of grass-fed beefy hamburgers that your dad grills just for you? Don't be shy, a lucky commenter might just receive one beautiful journal I have as a giveaway. Happy Earth Day.















To enter my humble little Earth Day giveaway, simply comment below. To see the prize, click the link above.

images here, here, here, here, here, here, and here
9 comments

RECIPE: blackberry cobbler

Just dropping in quickly to share this recipe from the Blackberry Farm Cookbook that I blogged about below. This is one I haven't tried or don't plan on trying anytime soon (but starting tomorrow I will be posting a handful of the insanely scrumptious recipes I did try) because I can't get farm fresh berries and the ones at the grocery store look diseased to say the least. But sharing is caring right! No reason why you can't try it and let me know how it goes. And seriously, it has a southern-style biscuit crust. Do you really need more motivation than that?

Blackberry Farm’s Blackberry Cobbler
Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the blackberries, 1 cup of the sugar and the lime zest. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and cornstarch until smooth. Drizzle the lime juice mixture over the blackberry mixture and toss to combine. Scrape the blackberry mixture into a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Use you fingertips to rub the butter into the flour mixture until it is the texture of coarse meal. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour the buttermilk into the well and stir with a fork until the mixture comes together. Crumble the dough evenly over the top of the blackberry mixture in the skillet.
  4. Bake the cobbler until the blackberry filling is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let the cobbler rest for 10 minutes before serving. 
image courtesy of  beall+thomas for Blackberry Farm Cookbook
4 comments

Apr 21, 2012

COOK THE BOOK: blackberry farm cookbook

You know, there are a few times in life I've found myself envious. I believe once there was a tangible evil glare I'd always give one particular "fashionista" in new York because she was inexplicably and without fail always dawned in the hottest designers while on a Ramen noodle budget (I would later learn this was called runway renting, who knew). And there possibly may have been an incident where I might have allegedly instigated a cheeky rumor back in high school about a girl who would always arrive to school in a limo (I had to take two trains and a bus, what gives!). But I'm older and wiser now and have let such frivolous source of envy fall to the wayside. Instead you can find me vehemently envying Sam Beall. Why? Oh, I'll tell you why. Sam's father started Ruby Tuesdays, but that is just a minute detail in comparison. It was this now famous restaurant chain that led Sam's father to pack up his family and move every few months or so. While most kids would find this sorely inconvenient for their social life, boy would I have reveled in the chance to see the many facets of an entire country at such a young age. I imagine I'd be quite the hippie actually. Well, finally Sam settled down and did the typical traditional course of attending culinary school, working for gastronomic giants like Thomas Keller of French Laundry in California, then onto renowned vineyards and even a creamery for godsakes. But even after such a jealousy-inducing journey, nothing comes close to the fact that all the while, Sam had this miraculous and other-worldly gem called Blackberry Farm that would be awaiting his return. What a gift it must be to come home, or call home rather, a place where the seasons are as vivid as a Matisse canvas, the harvest more bountiful than any chemical crop could produce, and the region like a patchwork of kindred spirits all engaging in a like-minded hub of artistry, reverence and tradition. So can you blame a girl for being a teensy weensy bit envious?

The Blackberry Farm Cookbook is a monster of a book. I'm not being facetious, I literally mean this book is bigger and heavier than my imaginary Japanese knife drawer (seriously have you seen the prices at Williams-Sonoma? It's like a car down payment for one knife! I thought Japan was a land of child labor, hmm). But as they say, the bigger...the more to love right. If you can get over the grief of dealing with this massive book that's suffering a coffee table identity crisis, the seasonal recipes, anecdotes, and extremely warm tone of Sam's thoughts on what makes for a desirable food system and lifestyle are sure to have you captivated by the inevitable magic that is Blackberry Farm.


In an effort to embrace what it must be like to be a stay at home mom (a current political controversy if you can believe it) I decided to cook two meals a day for one week that was enough to feed this mansion-like abode that's currently housing me. The Blackberry Farm cookbook was the perfect aid. I set out to answer whether the average family could maintain a seasonal, produce-heavy diet (diet here simply meaning chosen foods) and the answer is a resounding yes. While the cookbook itself offers no more false encouragement than Animal, Vegetable Miracle where Barbara Kingsolver takes a year off to start a farm with her monetary riches, what it does do beautifully is highlight the simplicity of dishes that prosper purely from the farm fresh ingredients that go into it with a sprinkling of ignited passion for cooking and eating that everyone should be equipped with.

In the end, do I think this lofty sixty dollar tome is worth the dough? No, not entirely sorry to say. The photographs, while brilliant, are not the modern over-styled pieces of art so many gourmands are spoiled with today. The size is severely inconvenient as a functioning cookbook. I found myself thinking the glossy pages were too precious to have near my dirty bustling kitchen but then not useful enough when all the way on my coffee table sitting pretty. And who really wants to photocopy their own cookbook just to prep a meal? That's hardly kosher (read eco-friendly). But make no mistake, while I originally was going to tell you that you'd be hard pressed not to find another clean food, farm-to-table, 365 seasonality inspired cookbook that did a better job than Sam Beall's...the truth is that as I sit here even now, ravaged by my late-night dessert cravings as always, the aroma of crisp tart apples baking up in a delectable casserole downstairs, the truth is that when you need a flawless recipe that delivers, this cookbook is quite the charmer. But seriously, enjoy it at a library, bookstore aisle or borrow from a richer, more enviable friend!


PS- Let that friend be me. I'll be posting tons of recipes from my experiment of cooking the book for the rest of the week. Roasted pineapple upside down cake, carrot souffle, and sweet corn pudding anyone?

Blackberry Farm image by the lovely Coco of Roost
2 comments

Apr 11, 2012

RECIPE: poached pear rice pudding

I hate pears. I hate peaches. I hate fruits that aren't pink and red, which leaves me with just enough worthy candidates to have four fruits per year. Ruby red grapefruit in all its glory sprinkled liberally with sugar and salt. Perky grapes fresh from the vine. Cherries sunken to the bottom of my Shirley Temple cocktail. Now that is what I call fruity. So what is with this pear business? Why are they dangling from trees over my head and rearing their ugly stem at the farmer's market? I had no idea, but it was about time I found out. Last night, while tossing and turning in bed, treating my cookbooks as a soothing lullaby to aid in coaxing me into a restful sleep, I came across a recipe for rice pudding with a pear purée. The culprit? Miss Sophie Dahl herself, teasing me with British inspired seasonal concoctions in her inaugural cookbook, Miss Dahls Voluptuous Delights. Another model turned alleged chef, Sophie who is undoubtedly beautiful, was trying to convince me with peachy words that rice and pears go together like chocolate and my tummy, or cheese and macaroni if you will. Just one problem. I've never had rice pudding in my entire life (please don't gasp so audibly, I'm aware this fact is offensive) and the one time I did have pears it was clear I hated them and condemned them along with olives and anchovies (things I later would fall in love with, go figure). What was a experimental girl to do but dim the lights, sleep like a baby, and wake up bright an early at 1:30pm to make a fabulous brunch I was sure to hate! Sounds like an ideal humpday to me.



Do I really need to say it? Okay, yes....pears....are....orgasmic! I was salivating while actually eating. Just like a rich and creamy slowly churned ice cream, I couldn't wait for each next bite to reach my mouth, so naturally I inhaled the bowl. Which was second best to an IV drip being set up. I urge you to try this if you are either a) yet to experience rice pudding for yourself b) love rice pudding and never considered it for breakfast or c) pretty much despised pears or fruits in general, never getting your daily serving, and refuse to believe that things grown on trees could ever equate to sinful deliciousness. And as for the cookbook that coaxed me to sleep, its a beautiful tome of wonders, but the recipe below is all my own. Just the way I like it!
SOY RICE PUDDING & POACHED PEAR SYRUP 
serves 4  

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pears, peeled & cored
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cup organic sugar (I used brown, but you can use palm or cane)
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 4 cups soymilk
  • 1 ts cardamom
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • honey or maple syrup to taste
  • crème fraîche (optional)

METHOD

  1. In a saucepan big enough to fit 2 pear halves, place one cinnamon stick and the sugar in 4 cups of water. Heat, stirring, over high heat until all the sugar is dissolved, then bring the heat down to low. 
  2. Place the pear halves into the simmering liquid, cover and poach until tender, about 15 minutes. 
  3. Once the pears are done, remove from the liquid and bring the heat back up to high; reduce the liquid until it starts to get all syrupy and amazing-looking. Also, your kitchen should smell beautiful right about now, but keep a look out and don't let it burn!
  4. Meanwhile, bring milk and rice to a boil in a saucepan placed over high heat. Give it a good stir, and reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for about 25-30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Once it’s ready the rice will be tender and the liquid will have thickened somewhat so that it’s silky in texture.
  5. In another small pan, boil the apple juice and then add the remaining pears (be sure to slice them beforehand). Sprinkle with cardamom, add the cinnamon stick, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until tender. Once ready, throw in a blender and puree.
  6. Serve the rice pudding hot, topped with a poached pear half and plenty of syrup or topped with peach puree and creme fraiche. Amazing!
THE VERDICT: Oh, how I miss this little section from recipes past. I shall bring it back as this recipe marked a life changing landmark for me, one where learning and pleasure where a perfect marriage. So what did I think of this masterful creation? Well, pretty much that rice pudding is all that the hype claims it to be. When cooked to the precise timing necessary, the frothy and creamy texture is like oatmeal's little sister, beating it out slightly thanks to the array of rice options one can use from Japanese black to Indian basmati. Yum!

WHAT I LEARNED: First things first, that syrup will burn to a stinky mess if you don't keep an eye on it. Which is what happened to me. Buggers. So I scraped some toffee off the bottom of the pan to top my bowl, redeeming my failure. Second, more milk means a creamier texture so adjust to your own liking. Be sure that any leftovers are heated up with more milk, whether in a pan or microwave, because I went back for seconds and was sad to see a dry clumpy rice bowl looking up at me. Moo.
6 comments

Apr 6, 2012

LUSTING: apolis market bag

Sometimes you grab any old bag and just head to the nearest market. But sometimes, you lust after a bag so beautiful in its simplicity, that it makes you desperate to find a market where you can wander aimlessly looking for that perfect loaf of fresh French bread, juicy grapes, and straight-from-the-oven apple pie. Ah, and farm fresh eggs of course. This market bag beauty from Apolis will do just the trick. And don't worry, the $58 price tag is for the pure authenticity, handmade craftsmanship, and cost of bringing fair trade to the world. The again, you could of course blow that pretty penny at the supermarket instead, where food isn't really food so much as it's a chemical orgy that makes you ugly and fat, and they give you polluting, sea life suffocating, oil industry addicted plastic bags to take that fake food home with as the cherry on top. Yeah, a pretty market bag is much better...that's what I thought.
images courtesy Apolis Global
3 comments

Apr 4, 2012

RECIPE: browned butter dulce s'more brownies

browned butter dulce de leche s'more brownies

I made these unforgettable brownies last week and now I feel almost ashamed that it took me so long to blog about them. Do you think they feel unappreciated, unimpressive, or even....gasp, forgettable? I can't even lie and say I remember their silky creamy texture as if it were yesterday, because honestly, I barely even remember yesterday at all (though I'm sure it involved eating, sleeping and going to the potty). One thing that is without question, though, was my motives.

Oh yes. Ever since I've been on this quest to learn where my food comes from before I open my gluttonous American-trained mouth, I've been eating less and less because this house I'm staying in has nothing but pure garbage when you really think about it. Take for example, the late breakfast I just helped myself to upstairs. "Come get some food!" I hear from up above in a shrill being disguised as an angelic voice by the audible hunger rumble in my tummy. Knowing I won't have to think my way through my first meal for today makes me happy to find it already prepared.

But what I find is less than appetizing. Super dense pancakes made from the whitest, tasteless flour mix I ever did see or smell. Oh and let's not forget even though they stripped that flour to death, its probably "enriched" with vitamins and other great synthetic chemicals to make us big and strong. I reluctantly place one on my plate and heat it up. I usually down pancakes like a champ, so instead I decide to boil an egg and and brew some tea to fill me up adequately. I sit down to my breakfast of champions, or rather, the breakfast most of us eat on weekends without any thought, and find some syrup on the table. Fantastic! I don't even have to go looking for it, such convenience. I douse my single pancake with the amber goodness and dig in.

Yikes. While my fork is, well, fork deep in my last drenched piece of flour cake, I turn the syrup bottle casually to see the label. It simply read "Syrup" and underneath, "Kroger" the store from which it was bought. I almost vomited in my mouth a little. No quicker than another celebrity announcing a voluntary check into rehab, did I turn that damn bottle around only to read ingredients that say "high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup (isn't one type enough!?) sugar, water, xantham gum, caramel color, and a couple illegible items I was not interested in. To my horror, I had just consumed absolutely nothing even resembling MAPLE SYRUP. I was eating corn, yet again. And you already know my distaste with this crop. So, all I could do was finish my tea, wash my dishes, and head back downstairs more defeated than ever. 'What the hell did I just put in my stomach', I wondered.

It should come as no surprise, then, why I've been holding back on binge eating of late. I feel completely betrayed by my pantry and fridge now that I know nothing inside of them is actual food. Everything from the ice cream with anti freeze and arsenic to the cheese that one would think contains just cheese, is making me literally sick. I feel tired, sluggish, depressed sometimes just all around malnutritioned. So until I totally revamp my grocery habits and join a CSA, it was time to cheer myself up with some delicious brownies. Why brownies? Well, its like having a birthday cake in bite size form. And what's better cheering up than birthday cake! I'll tell you what. A gooey chocolatey cake with a rich layer of Argentina's version of the best caramel on the planet. That's right folks, dulce de leche. Oh and of course I was forced to test out recipes with just a handful of ingredients that were pure and wholesome, but still made a brownie that packed a punch. So one night last week, with no other non-corn dessert option in sight, I set out to execute dessert made to order. Yes it was almost midnight. Yes I had the munchies. But no, I do not regret it one bit. Now how's that for redemption?

BROWNED BUTTER SMORE BROWNIES
adapted from Alice Medrich
makes 8 brownies (don't over indulge, c'mon!) 

Browning the butter, a secret trick that's all the rage these days, give this brownie recipe a leg up on all the other crappy ones you've probably been subjected to. Its beautiful in its simplicity yet complex enough to make you reach for another. Just remember portion control, mmkay!

INGREDIENTS

  • 10 tbsp organic butter
  • 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup gooood cocoa
  • 1/3 cup gooood semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 organic free-range eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup organic flour
  • organic or artisanal dulce de leche 
  • walnuts (optional)
  • marshmallows (optional)

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium low heat. Continue cooking until butter has turned a golden-brown color. It should smell caramel-y. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate, sugar and cocoa. Add vanilla. Let cool for a moment. Stir in eggs on at a time, until well-incorporated. Stir in salt and flour until just combined.
  3. Line an 8 x 8″ baking dish with parchment paper or just grease it up real good. Pour in half the brownie batter and smooth the surface. Pour in enough dulce de leche to create a thick enough middle layer to your liking (I like mine real thick so each bite has that wonderful salty, buttery contrast to the deep chocolate flavor). Pour remaining batter and then sprinkle with walnuts. 
  4. Bake brownies for 20-25 minutes, or until brownies are set. (A toothpick inserted will still come out with a few crumbs). Immediately douse that bad boy with a heaping handful of marshmallows and put under the broiler to toast for a few minutes with a watchful eye so your house doesn't burn down.
  5. Slice brownies into 8 large squares. (To make slicing easier, run knife under warm water after each row)
pictured: my stack of brownies after a week of baking
6 comments
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