27 September 2012

Eggplant Caponata

It's been eggplant season at our CSA farm and I was very much in a rut for recipes. There are only so many times one can do eggplant parmesan and baba ganoush. Fortunately, I stumbled upon a lovely  recipe called eggplant caponata. Now, it's not vastly different from other eggplant recipes, but the olives and vinegar offer a nice touch in what can either be used as a dip or a sandwich topping.

Eggplant Caponata
makes about 5 cups
adapted from The Kitchn

1/3 cup olive oil
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into small cubes, about 4 cups total
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
4 ounces white mushrooms, chopped (optional, I just used more eggplant)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and sliced
1 or 2 medium tomatoes, according to personal preference
3 tablespoons red wine or imitation balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc. as desired

1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot (use a dutch oven if you can) over medium-high heat

2. Add the eggplant, pepper, onion, mushrooms and garlic, stir to coat with oil, and cook until everything is soft (about 10 minutes)

3. Bring down to a low heat,  add the olives, tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and whichever spices you desire (about 1/2 teaspoon if dried, 1/2 tablespoon if fresh), cover and simmer for half an hour, stirring every 5-10 minutes

4. Serve warm as a dip or on an open-faced sandwich and cover with some mozzarella


For Labor Day weekend, Chris, Neil and I went for a lovely hike in Ansel Adams Wilderness. As that's in the Sierra Nevadas and we live around SF Bay, we had to go across the Central Valley. And my, even growing up in farmland in the Midwest doesn't prepare you for the farms of Central Valley. Fields and orchards and orchards and fields! So vastly many different crops that you'd never expect to be able to grow right next to each other!

Among other things, we picked up a bag full of roasted pistachios. Seeing as it's been so long since I've had baklava, I knew just what to do with my largess of pistachios, too. After sifting through a few recipes, I found the perfect one for me. I got the oranges fresh from my orange tree, shelled all those pistachios (a bit of an undertaking, best done a cup at a time or with more than one person), and set to. It was heavenly!

Pistachio Baklava with Orange-Cardamom Syrup
adapted from Molly Wizenburg via Bon Appétit

1 1/4 cups plus 1/4 cup sugar, divided
1 1/4 cups fresh orange juice
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
12 ounces shelled pistachios, toasted (scant 3 cups)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
30-40 13x9-inch sheets phyllo dough (2/3 pound, give or take)

1. If your pistachios aren't already roasted and shelled, it will likely take you about 3 hours to do both

2. Chop your toasted and shelled pistachios until you like the texture (for me, it's rather fine, but some people like a larger nut to bite into in their baklava)

3. Mix the nuts with 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F

5. Melt the butter a half stick at a time during this next step, otherwise the last of it will end up quite milky (alternatively, use ghee)

6. Lay out the phyllo dough according to the instructions on the box (usually this entails laying it out flat and covering it with a damp cloth inbetween pulling off sheets) and trim if necessary (I don't as I like a little extra phyllo up the sides of my pan)

7. Butter the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking pan and layer the phyllo dough in, buttering each (or every other) sheet until you have 8 to 14 layers

8. Spread out one half of the nut mixture, then repeat layering in phyllo (be very gentle with the first layer above the nuts as it's easy to poke through)

9. Repeat step 8

10. As you can't cut phyllo after it's baked without crushing it, you'll cut the triangles now, leaving a thin layer on bottom uncut

11. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown

12. During the latter half hour while the baklava bakes, you'll make the syrup. Bring the juice, 1 1/4 cups sugar and cardamom to a boil and reduce to 1 1/2 cups total liquid (if you add much more than that to the baklava, it will be soggy)

13. Once you pull the baklava from the oven, you'll pour the syrup over it (it will bubble a lot!), then let the baklava cool

Store baklava at room temperature at least overnight so that it can finish soaking up all the syrup. Then put it in an air-tight container and store either at room temperature (can last at least a week I'm told, though mine has never made it that long) or in the fridge.

12 June 2012

Massaman Curry, or something like it...

A little while ago, we went out to eat at a Tibetan place and they had a dish called Massaman Curry. Now, I know that the following recipe is definitely different from what they had, and it's not been perfected yet, but it's a start--a delicious one.

The ways that it definitely differs from the one we had in the restaurant are that ours wasn't as creamy (which is why I proposed coconut milk instead of the cashew milk), it had distinctly fewer Maillard reaction byproducts (I needed to brown the lamb rather more than I did, and I think toasting the nuts will also help), and I know the spice ratio was different (but that's mostly personal preference anyway). The first two are easy fixes, though the last is definitely going to be a work in progress. The extra cinnamon and cardamom were certainly in the right direction, but there was something else going on to help the complexity that I couldn't quite figure out.

Nonetheless, the recipe is lovely as it is, and I'll update this as I work on making it more exact, particularly the spices.

Massaman Curry
serves 4-6

1 cup cashews, roasted and then soaked at least 2 hours or overnight
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
2 inches ginger finger
2-3 potatoes, diced
4-5 dried chiles
garam masala, with extra cinnamon and cardamom, to taste
1 pound chopped lamb
~1 cup chicken broth
juice of 1 lime
salt to taste

1a. Roast the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet in the oven at 350°F until golden brown. I do not know how long this might take, but if it takes more than 15 minutes, stir them every so often.

1b. Soak the cashews in enough water to cover by at least 1/2 inch for at least 2 hours and up to overnight

2. Puree the nuts, then drain AND reserve the resulting "milk" (the water that the nuts soaked in)

3. Chop the onions, garlic, ginger

4. Brown the meat, then reserve

5. Sauté the onions, garlic, ginger (in either the lamb fat or in oil) until translucent and tender

6. Add the spices and fry until aromatic

7. Add the chicken broth and chiles, then let simmer until the broth is about gone

8. Add the cashew milk (or a can of coconut milk), then puree until smooth

9. Add the potatoes, nut meat, and put the lamb back in, simmer until potatoes are tender and nuts are soft

10. Serve with rice and naan

25 February 2012

Apple Cake

A couple of weeks ago, Chris and I bought a bushel of winter apples, which I must say is a fair few apples. However, being not in the mood for apple pie or crisp (sacrilegious, isn't it?) and having accidently made up too much of the dries for a carrot cake a week or so before I thought, why not?

And so I made an apple cake. The wet ingredients are a bit made up (though I did reference a couple of actual apple cake recipes: 1 & 2, neither of which upon baking them I like quite so much as the cobbled together recipe I first made) so the apple sauce and egg amounts are adjustable to your preferred batter consistency (read: I don't remember how much I added as I didn't measure and it was awhile ago).

Apple Cake
makes 1 single-layer cake

Apple Mix:
4 medium apples
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Dry ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup sugar

Wet ingredients:
1/4 to 1/2 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup brandy or rum
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup melted butter
2 to 3 medium eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350°F, grease a 9" cake pan and dust the cake pan with flour

2. Peel and core apples, then cut them into chunks

3. Toss the apples with 1/4 cup sugar and 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon and let sit for 15 minutes

4. Mix all the dry ingredients together

5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add all wet ingredients except eggs (starting with 1/4 cup apple sauce)

6. Stir that together, adding first two eggs one at a time, and the extra apple sauce and egg as necessary to make a pourable but somewhat thick batter

7. Pour half the batter into the cake pan and smooth to cover the entire bottom

8. Distribute half the apple chunks over the batter, then do a second layer of batter and apples, pouring the juice from the apples over the top layer

9. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean from the middle of the cake

06 February 2012

Cakes of the Pan, using a variety of flours

This past Christmas, Chris and I received a wonderful, beautiful grain mill. It is a hand-crank grain mill, and I know they're not for everyone as they can be perceived as slow, tedious, and uneven. But I'm in love with mine, so there! But seriously, as long as you're not milling more than a pound of fine flour or a couple pounds of cracked groats, sitting there for a few minutes and reading a magazine while you turn the crank is simple as anything. And freshly milled flour is completely worth it. Period. Full stop. Worth it.

That said, some flours are more worth it than others. Oat flour has had me in raptures, and I've just this morning milled my first batch of buckwheat flour. Buckwheat is such a smooth milling flour, I hardly felt the exertion of turning the crank! It was so beautiful, I knew I had to write about it, though I don't know quite what to say to people that don't know the beauty of a softly simmering cauld--...oh wait, wrong line...a softly turning mill crank. But I think it's totally magical.

Anyway, the pancake recipe, is of course, very typical except for substituting in the different flours. What you will want to do, however, is to reserve half the milk (or buttermilk or yogurt) and add it slowly until you reach your desired consistency.

    Buckwheat Pancakes
makes 12 4-inch cakes

3-1/2 ounces (~3/4 cup) buckwheat flour
3-1/2 ounces (~3/4 cup) ap flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg
8 oz (1 cup) yogurt
4 oz (1/2 cup) milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Heat your griddle to 350°F or medium high

2. Mix the flours, sugar, salt and baking soda (mind, this is soda in this recipe because the yogurt is acidic) together

3. Thin your yogurt with the milk, and reserve half

4. Mix the egg with one half the liquid

5. Pour the melted butter over the flour mixture and start stirring

6. Stir in the egg mixture, then slowly add the rest of your milk and yogurt, as well as the vanilla

7. Cook as you would any other pancake, i.e. pour 1/4 cup (or more for fewer, larger pancakes) of batter over the griddle, wait 'til you can see that the edges are done, flip and let cook for another couple of minutes

    Oat Pancakes
makes 12 4-inch cakes

3-3/4 ounces (~7/8 cup) oat flour
3-3/4 ounces (~7/8 cup) ap flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg
12 ounces (1-1/2 cups) milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Work as above, making sure to note that it is baking powder (not soda) in this recipe because the milk is not acidic. (Also, you can obviously skip the first half of direction 3 as there is nothing to thin.)