Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Root Vegetable Latkes

Our CSA from Open Oak Farm provided us with a great selection of root vegetables. Inspired by my friend Elly's cabbage fritters and various Hanukkah recipes, I decided to experiment with root vegetable latkes.

The key to successful latkes is removing as much liquid from the potatoes as possible, which I did by squeezing them in a kitchen towel. The addition of grated carrots and parsnips helped offset the sogginess, and I used panko to bind the batter together with a little extra crunch. 

You need to be patient with these so that they have a chance to cook through. It's best to distract yourself with other tasks like emptying the dishwasher or preparing other dishes. It's worth the wait. The final pancakes were crispy and flavorful with hints of sweet onion, carrot and parsnip among the potatoes. And they tasted delicous with the last batch of this apple sauce.

Root Vegetable Latkes

4 medium sized potatoes, peeled
1 carrot, peeled
1 parsnip, peeled
1 small onion, peeled
2 eggs
1/4 cup panko or bread crumbs
plenty of salt and pepper
canola oil for frying

1. In a food processor with a grater attachment or using a box grater, grate the potatoes. Transfer the grated potato to a dishtowel over a strainer.

2. Grate the onion, carrot and parsnip.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with salt and pepper. Fold in the onions, carrots, and parsnips. Wrap the grated potato in the dish towel and twist to remove as much liquid as possible. Stir the potatoes and panko into the batter.

4. Heat a griddle over medium low heat and coat well with canola oil. When the oil is hot enough that a test teaspoon of batter sizzles upon contact, spoon out pancakes of batter with a soup spoon and flatten with a spatula. Cook thoroughly until the first side is crispy and brown, about five minutes. Flip and cook until the second side is also brown and crispy. Eat at once with apple sauce, or keep the latkes warm on a platter in a low oven while you prepare the next batch.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Swedish Rye Knäckebröd

Every Christmas season we prepare a Swedish Smörgasbrod, a tradition from my husband's family. This year, with a fresh supply of rye flour from Lonesome Whistle Farm, I was inspired to make our own knäckebröd or rye crackers for our Swedish feast.

I found a wide variety of recipes for knäckebröd on the web, and put together a version with a buttermilk starter sweetened with honey and lightened with a bit of yeast. To make the round crackers, we shaped the dough into a log, sliced it into disks, and rolled them flat.

Then my son cut out the centers, which we read were for cooling the crackers on a wooden spoon,

and my daughter made a pattern of fork pricks designed for breaking the crackers into radial sections.

The spoon cooling process required some precarious balancing, but the final crackers were a delicious component of our Swedish Smörgasbord of:

Knäckebröd (rye crackers)
Fyllda ägg (stuffed eggs)
Köttbullar (Swedish meatballs)
Inlagd Sill (pickled herring)
Inlagda Gurkor (pickled cucumbers)
smoked salmon and smoked trout
Bruna Bönor (brown beans, delicious prepared with Lonesome Whistle Farm's cranberry beans. Cook beans in water until tender. Mix in salt to taste, 1 tsp mustard, 3 Tbsp molasses, and 3 Tbsp cider vinegar and simmer for another half hour for the flavors to meld.)

Swedish Rye Knäckebröd
1 cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
2 cup rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour, and more for rolling out dough

1. In a glass measuring cup, microwave the butter until it melts. Add the buttermilk and microwave a little longer until the mixture is warm but not scalding. Stir in the honey and yeast. Let sit for about 5 minutes until frothy.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the salt and a cup of wheat flour. Pour in the milk mixture and stir to combine. Now stir in the rye flour in several stages until you have a firm dough. Gather together the dough and knead gently into ball. Put into an oiled bowl, cover, and let sit for at least an hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a cylinder and then cut into eight disks. Roll each disk into a thin circle. Use a shot glass or cookie cutter to cut out a hole in the center (you can bake the holes as little crackers). Transfer the disk to a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Use a fork to prick all over including radial spokes along which the crackers can break.

4. Bake the crackers in batches for about ten minutes until they brown up along the edges. Cool on a wooden spoon threaded through the center holes.

Other recipes for locally grown grains

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday Gift Ideas

If you are looking for last minute holiday gift ideas, I can recommend this Dakota black popcorn from Lonesome Whistle Farm.

The beautiful black kernels pop up into bright white puffs, and even the ones that don't pop are tender enough to nibble on. My favorite way to eat these black and white treats is with melted butter, salt, and a drizzle of blackstrap molasses.

This year Santa also brought me these beautiful heirloom bean earrings created by Lonesome Whistle Farm farmer Kasey White (thanks Dan!). She has a selection of bean jewelry for sale, perfect for any bean enthusiast on your list.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Swedish Rye Cookies

My son, born four years ago on Winter Solstice, is the antithesis of winter. From the moment he arrived, he has been a fiery ball of energy with the sunniest of personalities. Defying the laws of Mendel, he seems to have inherited only his father's Swedish genes, and has a head of white blond hair the color of a field of grain in the height of summer. With a new supply of rye flour from Lonesome Whistle Farm, I recruited my little Swede to help me test out this recipe for Swedish rye cookies from 101 Cookbooks.

The recipe calls for a combination of butter and cream cheese, which gives the final cookies a pleasantly tart flavor. The dough was quite easy to work with, and in no time we had a herd of reindeers.

The poor things never knew what hit them when they encountered my son's blizzard of colored sugars. Luckily, the cookies themselves are not too sweet and could stand the heavy drifts of decoration. We all liked the subtle rye flavor and we think Santa will too. These will definitely become part of our regular holiday baking repertoire.

Swedish Rye Cookies

1 cup (106 g) rye flour (from Lonesome Whistle Farm)
1 cup (120 g) pastry flour (such as soft white winter wheat flour from Camas Country Mill)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (113 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 g) fine sugar

1. Sift together the flours and salt.

2. In a mixer or food processor, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and sugar until very smooth. Then combine in the flour mixture, but avoid over-mixing. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut into shapes. Place on parchment paper-covered cookie sheets and dust with colored sugar. Bake for about 10 minutes until just golden around the edges. At this point you can dust them with powdered sugar, if they haven't already been thoroughly sugared.

Other recipes for locally grown grains
Barley Risotto with Grilled Vegetables
Buckwheat Blini
Buckwheat Crepes
Gluten-Free Waffles
Quinoa Salad with Roasted Beets and Kale
Teff Grain and Ricotta Pancakes with Apple Topping
Wheatberry Tabbouleh with Green Beans and Feta
Wheatberries with Snap Peas

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cranberry Beans and Collard Greens

I was excited that the first installment of this year's Lonesome Whistle Farm CSA included these heirloom Vermont cranberry beans, which I hadn't had a chance to sample last year. As a native New Englander, I wanted to honor these beans' heritage with a simple but enlightened preparation. 

We also had some collard leaves from our Open Oak Farm CSA, which seemed like the kind of substantial green that Alcott or Emerson would have espoused. I started a bean pot with some sauteed leeks and jalapeno, and then simmered the beans until just tender.

Then I sauteed sliced collard greens with plenty of garlic in a shallow pan, to which I added the beans and their liquid. Another twenty minutes on the stove simmered off most of the bean juice, melded the flavors, and rendered the greens silky but not too soft. These beans were a delicious accompaniment to roast ham for dinner, and the leftovers were even more scrumptious the next day topped with a fried egg in a New England take on huevos rancheros. 

Cranberry Beans and Collard Greens

2 cup cranberry beans, sorted, rinsed and soaked while you prepare the other ingredients
4 Tbsp olive oil (divided use)
1 large or 2 small leeks
1 jalapeno pepper
5 cups water
1 bunch collard greens
3 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut off the root and green part of the leeks, slice the white part lengthwise, and rinse thoroughly. slice lengthwise again and then cut into 1/4 inch slices. Seed and chop the jalapeno pepper finely.

2. Heat a Dutch oven and add 2 Tbsp olive oil. Over medium low heat, saute the leeks and jalapenos until they become nicely caramelized, about 6 minutes, but avoid letting them brown. 

3. Drain the beans and add to the pot along with 5 cups of water and a generous pinch of salt. If you like, you can presoak the beans for a longer period of time, but I find it unnecessary, especially with this newly dried beans. Bring the pot to a very gentle simmer and cook for about an hour (longer for older beans) with the lid cracked. Keep an eye on the liquid level. You want the beans to have some broth, but if they seem too soupy, simmer with the top off. Turn off the beans when they are just tender and add more salt and pepper as needed.

4. Rinse the collard greens, cut the center stem from the leaves, and chop them into 1/2 inch strips. Peel the garlic cloves and mince them.

5. Heat a large, shallow pan that can hold all of the beans. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil and briefly saute the garlic. Then add the collard greens and a generous pinch of salt and saute until they turn bright green and fragrant. Now add the beans and their liquid, mix, and let the collard greens simmer in the bean juices for about twenty minutes. Once the greens are the desired degree of tenderness and the beans have thickened, serve warm. These are delicious topped with a fried egg. 

Other recipes for heirloom beans

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Paprika Chickpea, Delicata and Kale Salad

This week from our Open Oak Farm CSA we received a bonanza of delicata squash. In the past I've roasted these squash with spices and scooped them into soup. But recently I learned from Heidi Swanson's blog 101 Cookbooks that you can eat the delicatas' thin skin, eliminating the need for scooping or peeling. Inspired by this recipe, I roasted up a dish of delicata pieces, tossed with sweet smoked paprika and fennel seeds, which my daughter found so tasty that she dubbed them "squash candy".  

Another new smoked paprika recipe in my repertoire is this one for Smoky Fried Chickpeas by Aliwaks of food52, flavored with lemon peel, thyme, and garlic.

It occurred to me that the paprika-spiced meaty chickpeas and soft sweet squash would pair nicely in a winter salad. I had some remaining Open Oak Farm kale leaves, which I chopped and tossed with lemon juice and olive oil. For an extra kick of heat, saltiness, and crunch, I topped the salad with a dollop of my new favorite condiment, harissa, and some roasted delicata seeds. It proved to be a delicious combination, and I looked forward to packing some for lunch, but my daughter had polished off the supply of squash candy.

Paprkia Chickpea, Delicata and Kale Salad

Roasted Delicata Squash Pieces
1 delicata squash
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim off the stem and blossom ends of the squash and halve lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds (an ice cream scoop works well for this), reserving the seed for toasting. Cut lengthwise again and then cut the quarters into 3/4 inch wide pieces. Transfer to a baking dish and toss with the olive oil and spices. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. 

Toasted Delicata Squash Seeds
Separate the seeds from the pulp, but don't be too careful about it because the toasted seeds taste best with a little sweet, caramelized squash goop. On a baking sheet, toss the seeds with a tablespoon of olive oil and generous sprinkle of salt. Toast them in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes until they start to brown, but be careful not to let them burn. You can also toast them in a toaster oven.

Smoky Fried Chickpeas, adapted closely from Aliwaks from food52
1 cup dried chickpeas (or two cans of cooked chickpeas)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp smoked paprika (sweet, or a combination of sweet and spicy to taste)
peel from 1 lemon, cut into thin slivers
4 sprigs thyme
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
salt to taste

1. If using dried chickpeas, rinse and add them to a pot with a couple of thyme sprigs and enough water to cover them by an inch. Simmer on very low heat until they are soft, 1-3 hours depending on the dehydration of the beans. Remove the thyme sprigs and salt to taste. Drain and dry on a kitchen towel spread out in a baking dish.

2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. The oil is hot enough if a tester chickpea sizzles when it is added to the pan. Add enough chickpeas such that the bottom of the pan is just covered and they are not crowded. Add a similar proportion of lemon slivers and thyme leaves to portion of chickpeas being fried at the time. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas have crisped up and turned a toasty color, and transfer to a bowl. Cook the remaining batches of chickpeas as you did the first. Finally, fry the garlic slices until crisp and toasty brown.

3. When all the chickpeas and garlic have been fried, toss them with the smoked paprika and salt to taste.

This recipe makes more than enough chickpeas for the salad below, but these are also a great snack on their own.

Kale Salad (2 main meal salads or 4 sides)
~4 kale leaves
juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup roasted delicata squash pieces (above)
1/2 cup smoky fried chickpeas (above)
1/4 cup toasted delicata squash seeds (above)
harissa to taste

Cut the green parts of the kale from the stem running through the leaves and slice into thin slices. Toss the kale leaves with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Layer on the chickpeas, delicata squash pieces, and a sprinkle of toasted squash seeds. Serve with harissa.

Other salad variants:
Top kale or other greens with the chickpeas and cubed avocado
Top kale or other greens with roasted squash pieces and fresh pomegranate seeds
Top kale or other greens with roasted squash pieces and crumbled stilton cheese

Monday, December 5, 2011

Two Chilis for a Crowd

With the holiday season in full force you may find yourself, as I did recently, with a crowd of guests to feed. My strategy was to cook up a couple pots of chili. One, a vegetarian bean chili, used up the last of my supply of heirloom beans from Lonesome Whistle Farm just in time for the start of their new CSA season (you can admire the variegated hues of Calypsos, Rio Zapes, Jacob's cattle, and Ireland Creek Annies above and read an interview with farmers Kasey and Jeff here). The other chili, for the carnivores in the crowd, was inspired by a recipe from the Homesick Texan

The first step was to make a chile paste. This might seem like a lot of work, but it's actually quite easy and one gets to savor the fragrance of toasted spices while transforming a prosaic pile of dried chiles into a thick, exotic concoction. I followed a similar recipe to this one, with toasted garlic cloves, cumin and fennel seeds, cinnamon, cocoa powder, sun dried tomatoes, and a selection of dried chiles including milder anchos and negros, and spicier guajillos.

For the beef chili, I cooked up 4 slices of bacon and then browned 4 pounds of cubed beef chuck (from Long's) in the drippings. Then I sauteed some onions and red pepper, combined in half of my chile paste, the beef, I bottle of dark beer, and 1 cup of coffee, and cooked the whole pot, covered, in a low oven for 5 hours. I must admit to a moment of panic when I tasted the chili at the end of the day and found that it was extremely spicy (I'd used a lot of guajillos), but thankfully, the heat mellowed overnight and the chili was delicious the next day with a cool and crunchy slaw (sort of like this one, but with a buttermilk dressing).

For the bean chili, I combined the remaining chile paste with a can of tomatoes and simmered the bean pot along side the meat. This chili also had a hefty kick to it, but was tempered with a generous dollop of sour cream. We had plenty of food for a crowd and more to enjoy for family meals during the week. 

Toasted chile paste
(enough for one of these chili recipes)

12 dried chiles (for medium spiciness use 4 anchos, 4 negros, and 4 guajillos; for more heat increase the proportion of guajillos)
12 sun dried tomato halves
6 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt

Heat a skillet and toast the chiles about one minute on each side until they puff up and become fragrant. Also heat the garlic cloves, still in their skins, until they start to blacken. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the stems and seeds from the chiles and immerse them in 2 cups hot water, along with the sun dried tomatoes. When the garlic cloves are done, peel them and put them in a blender. Toast the cumin and fennel seeds in the skillet until fragrant for about half a minute and add these to the blender, along with the cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt. Spoon in the softened chiles and tomatoes. Add the soaking liquid, strained. Blend until you have a smooth paste.

Beef Chili
(Adapted from Homesick Texan, served 10-12)
4 thick slices of bacon
4 pounds cubed beef chuck
fresh ground pepper
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1 recipe toasted chile paste (above)
1 cup coffee
1 bottle dark beer
2 Tbsp brown sugar

1. Heat a large Dutch oven and cook the bacon slices until the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon slices, dice and reserve.

2. Generously salt and pepper the cubed beef. Over medium heat, brown the cubed beef in the rendered bacon fat, working in batches so that you do not crowd the meat. Remove each batch to a plate.

3. Add a little canola oil if necessary and saute the onion until glassy. Add the diced pepper and saute another few minutes. Now add the chile paste and fry for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Then add back the beef with any accumulated juices, the diced bacon, and the coffee, beer, and sugar. Bring the pot to a simmer, cover, and transfer to a 250 degree oven.

4. Cook the chili for about 5 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat has melted into buttery softness and the flavors have blended. if it looks dry at any time, add a little water. Toward the end, taste and add more brown sugar and salt if necessary. This is even better cooked a day ahead.

Vegetarian Bean Chili
(serves 10-12)

6 cups assorted dried beans, sorted and rinsed
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 recipe toasted chile paste (above)
1 32 ounce can tomatoes
1 Tbsp brown sugar
salt to taste

1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the canola oil. Add the chile paste and fry for a couple of minutes until fragrant. In the meantime, add the canned tomatoes to the blender jar and blend into a puree (and to make sure to dislodge all of the chile paste).

2. Add the blended tomato puree to the pot along with the beans and enough water to cover the beans by about an inch. Bring to a simmer.

3. Transfer to a 250 degree over and cook for about 4 to 5 hours until the beans are soft. While cooking stir occasionally and add a little more water if the bean pot is getting too dry. Toward the end of the cooking time, taste and add more brown sugar and salt if necessary.

Serve either chili with sour cream, diced avocado, chopped green onions, and cilantro. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Turkey Pozole

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, the media is full of military-style plans for tackling the big meal, but I feel that the real need is for a strategy to manage the leftovers. I'm game for one repeat of the turkey and trimmings, and there's nothing better than a turkey and cranberry relish sandwich picnic on an unexpectedly sunny post-holiday weekend, but after that I want a respite from all the rich and bland food. Turkey pozole is one approach to finishing off the bird with a meal full of spice and crunch.

We've joined Open Oak Farm's winter CSA, so we had plenty of fresh vegetables for a flavorful turkey broth, including carrots, onions, and kale and chard stalks that I simmered with the turkey remains.

For a spicy base, I used an easy recipe for Smoky Chipotle Salsa with Pan-Roasted Tomatillos from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday. You sear halved tomatillos and garlic cloves and then blend them together with a chipotle pepper in adobe sauce (a tip on storing chipotle peppers: when you open a can, lay out the individual peppers with dollops of sauce onto a saran wrap covered cookie sheet, freeze them, and store them in a freezer bag for individual use). 

In a big soup pot, I combined this salsa with a couple of cans of cooked hominy, a diced roasted poblano pepper, and the strained turkey stock. The resulting soup made a fiery backdrop for lots of tasty toppings. Because I was feeling a little tired of turkey, I kept this on the side, to be added at one's discretion, along with strips of fried corn tortillas, sour cream, radishes, avocado cubes, cilantro, and plenty of fresh escarole from Open Oak Farm. A virtue of this soup is that it makes for excellent leftovers (not that you need any), since the broth improves in flavor and you add fresh toppings every time.

Turkey Pozole

Turkey stock
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
stalks from greens such as kale or chard, chopped
carcass of one roast turkey (meat removed)
6 sprigs fresh oregano
about 12 cups water
salt to taste

Chipotle salsa
1 pound tomatillos
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 chipotle chili in adobe sauce
salt to taste

2 15 ounce cans hominy, drained and rinsed (or cook your own from dried hominy)
chipotle salsa (above)
about 8 cups turkey stock (above)
1 poblano pepper (optional)

shredded roast turkey
corn tortillas, fried and sliced
sour cream
slice escarole or cabbage
sliced radishes
cubed avocado
cilantro leaves

1. In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onions until glassy, Add the carrots, celery, and green stalks and continue cooking until soft. Add the turkey bones and fill the pot with water. Add fresh oregano and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for about an hour. Adjust seasoning. Cool and strain. You can make this a day ahead, refrigerate the stock, and then degrease by removing the hardened fat from the surface.

2. Remove the husks from the tomatillos, rinse and halve. Heat a large skillet, add a thin layer of canola oil, and place the tomatillos cut side down along with the garlic cloves. Cook until the tomatillos are charred, then flip and cook a few more minutes until they are soft throughout. Cook the garlic cloves until they are soft and slightly charred. Scoop everything into a blender jar and add a chipotle pepper and generous pinch of salt. Blend into a smooth salsa.

3. Sear the poblano pepper over a flame until the skin is charred. Put in a bowl and cover with a plate so that the skin buckles off. When it is cool enough to handle, scrape off the charred skin, deseed, and cut into a 1/4 inch dice.

4. Heat a large soup pot, add the salsa and the rinsed hominy and cook for a few minutes. Add the diced poblano pepper and about 8 cups of the turkey stock. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

5. Serve warm in shallow soup bowls with the assorted toppings.