Friday, December 31, 2010

Clementine-Ginger Marmalade

I was reading some recipes for orange marmalade when it struck me that clementine marmalade would be a lovely variation, especially since they're so cheap right now. While the proportions are my own, I followed Alton Brown's method for the cooking process. Make a batch and spread some on your English muffin or dab a bit on some grilled pork.

Makes about 2 pints

1 3/4 lbs clementines
2 lemons
3 Tbsp grated ginger
5 C water
1 lb plus 5 oz sugar

Special Equipment:
5-6 qt pot
2-3 pint jars with rings and lids
jar lifter
canner or a large stock pot

Cut each clementine half across
the sections.
Wash and peel the clementines, reserving the peels from about 5 of them. Remove the stringy pith from the center. Chop the clementines into small chunks, reserving any juice (I cut across each half of the peeled clementine, then peeled apart the sections--see the pictures to the left).

Place the chunks and reserved juice into the 5-6 quart pot.  Zest and juice the lemons and add it all to the pot. Add the grated ginger and 5 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce to a rapid simmer and cook for about 45 minutes--the fruit should be very soft.

Peel the sections.
Meanwhile, put the jars, rings, and funnel in the canner or stock pot, cover with water and boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the lids. This will disinfect your equipment and help prevent the jars from shattering because you're going to add hot liquid to them later.

This next bit I learned from Alton: put a small plate in the freezer while you continue making the marmalade. You'll use this to test the consistency.

Bring the clementine mixture back to a full boil and add the sugar. Stir very frequently for about 30 minutes, or until the color darkens a bit and reaches 222 degrees. Spoon a small amount of the marmalade onto the center of the frozen plate and wait about 30 seconds. Tilt the plate; if the marmalade slides easily along the plate, it's not ready yet. If the marmalade very slowly oozes around on the plate, it's ready.

Drain the jars, lids, rings, and funnel onto clean towels. Make sure your jars are completely dry before adding the marmalade (they will dry quickly since they were boiled). Funnel marmalade into the jars, filling them so that only a 1/4 inch of space is left at the top (I was only able to fill 2 jars). Wipe off any extra marmalade form the sides and rings of the jars. Add a lid and screw on the rings tightly. Using your jar lifters, carefully place the jars back in the canner or stock pot of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Lift them out with the jar lifters and let cool completely (about 24 hours).

One a jar is open, it will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. The unopened jars will last for about a year in the pantry.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ginger Beer

I am never drinking commercial ginger ale or ginger beer again.  Not only is homemade ginger beer easy to make, it's incredibly inexpensive and delightfully fresh tasting.  When I decided this tasty project was definitely for me, I started by reading a bunch of recipes online to get an idea of what proportions to use and how long to ferment.  My first batch didn't have nearly enough ginger and didn't ferment how I'd hoped, but the second batch was perfect.  It's wonderful by itself or mixed with your liquor of choice.

Total Time: 3 days
Active Time: 20 minutes
Makes a little over 1.5 L

4 1/2 oz freshly grated ginger (see note below)
1 C sugar
1/4 tsp baker's yeast
juice from 1 lemon
zest from 1 orange
cold, filtered water

Special Equipment:
an empty, clean, 2-liter plastic soda bottle with screw-top
2 empty, clean, 750-mL glass bottles with stoppers or corks

Note: So you don't have to peel and grate all that ginger, cut it into large chunks and put it in the food processor until it's pretty much pulverized. You don't have to worry about the peel because you're going to strain it later.

Place the funnel in the soda bottle.  Funnel the yeast, sugar, lemon juice, and orange zest into the bottle.  Place the grated ginger in a small bowl and enough filtered water to make a paste.  Add the ginger paste to the soda bottle.  Fill the bottle halfway with more filtered water, close the cap, and shake to combine.  Fill up the bottle with more filtered water so that you leave about an inch of room at the top of the bottle. Close the cap again and shake.

Now for the fun part: place the bottle someplace that's dark and not too cold or warm (about 64F) and leave it alone for 2 days. We put it in a large cooler and covered it with the cooler's lid. There's a small chance the bottle could explode a bit due to the pressure building up during the fermentation process. Thankfully, you're using a bottle that's already been subjected to pressure from carbonation and you're left a small amount of air in the bottle so the chance of some spilled ginger beer is small.

After 2 days, put the bottle in the fridge to stop the fermentation. Leave it in there for a day.

When you're ready to drink, set the bottle of ginger beer down in the kitchen sink (there might be spillage). The bottle should feel rock hard. Very, very slowly open the bottle. We loosened the cap the teensiest bit over time, letting the bubbles calm down before each twist of the cap. Be patient or you'll end up with lots of sticky ginger beer in the sink and not so much left in the bottle.

When you've finally unscrewed the cap, place some cheesecloth in the funnel and place the funnel in one of the 750-mL glass bottle. Pour the ginger beer through the strainer, leaving a bit of room at the top of each bottle. You'll have some leftover ginger beer that won't fit into the glass bottles, so strain that into a glass and drink it. Store the strained ginger beer in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (if it lasts that long).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Served With Love's Baigan Bharta

I was looking for another dish to go with my leftover chana masala and remembered reading about Served With Love's version of this great Indian eggplant dish. Though I don't think I've ever eaten or ordered this dish, I've fallen in love with it and will be making it many more times. It's like an Indian ratatouille without the zucchini. I only made very minor changes to the recipe (like skipping the cabbage and using whole canned tomatoes instead of fresh because that's what I had on hand). You can see the original recipe here.

Total time: about 1 hr, 15 min.
Makes 4-6 servings


2 medium eggplants, about 2 1/2 lbs total
vegetable oil
Served with chana masala and basmati rice.
1 Tbsp ghee
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
a pinch of Hing, or Asafoetida powder
2 medium onions, finely diced
1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes, diced, juices reserved
1 1/2 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp grated garlic
1 serrano chili, minced
1/4 C cooked green peas

Dry Masala:
1/2 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 Tbsps chopped scallions, white and pale green parts only

Preheat the broiler. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and smear with vegetable oil, placing the eggplant in a large broiler pan. Broil until skin is charred and the eggplant is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove and let cool for a few minutes, then put the eggplants in a ziploc bag, seal it, and let steam for about 10 minutes (this make the eggplant easier to peel). Peel the eggplant, scrape out any seeds, and mash the eggplant with the back of a wooden spoon.

In a very large skillet, melt the ghee over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. When the crackle, add the hing, garlic, and ginger, and cook until fragrant.  Add the onions and fry until the begin to brown.  Add the tomatoes with juices, chili, and salt to taste.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until the tomatoes have broken down and some liquid has evaporated.  Then add the dry masala and mix.  

Now add the mashed roasted eggplant and stir until the eggplant gets nicely mixed into the masala. Season with some more salt.  Add the green peas and cook the bharta, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the bharta turns a rich brown color.  Test for seasonings and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Finally, add the chopped scallions, turn off the heat and cover. Let the pale green parts of the onions wilt a bit, then serve.

Note: I forgot to add the hing the first time I made this and I still loved it. If you don't have any, just sprinkle a bit of lemon juice over the bharta at the very end of cooking.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Prunes Stuffed with Mascarpone and Wrapped in Bacon

We hosted a small Christmas party on Friday and decided to make it an ingredient-themed potluck.  We chose two special ingredients: cinnamon and bacon.  Guests could bring a dish using one or both of those ingredients and we ended up having a fairly wide range of foods--bacon macaroni and cheese, roasted brussels spouts with bacon, chocolate-bacon cupcakes, chana masala, and almond-milk rice pudding.  I desperately wanted to come up with an appetizer that combined cinnamon and bacon.  These prunes were the end result.  I was originally going to use dates, but the grocery store was complete out and I didn't feel like driving all over town just to pick up dates (ha!).  These little appetizers have a crispy, salty outside with a creamy, slightly sweet interior.

Total Time: about 30 min.
Makes 24 pieces

24 prunes, pitted
2 oz mascarpone cheese
12 slices bacon
ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400F. Spread the bacon in a single layers on a sheet pan, sprinkle some cinnamon over the top of each slice and bake until the slices begin to brown but are still flimsy.

While the bacon is cooking, transfer the mascarpone to a plastic storage bag and cut a 1/4-inch hole in one of the bottom corners. Pipe the cheese into the top of each prune (where the pits were removed).  Set stuffed prunes aside.

Lower the oven temperature to 325F.  Remove the bacon from the oven and transfer the slices to a paper towel-lined plate. Cut each bacon slice in half crosswise.  Wrap a half-slice of bacon around a stuffed prune, cinnamon-coated side touching the prune.  Place each wrapped prune, seam side down in the cups of a mini-muffin tin (or two regular muffin tins).  If necessary, secure the bacon wrapping by sliding a toothpick through bacon seam and through the prune.  Bake for another 10 minutes, or until the bacon gets nice and crispy.  Transfer each prune to another paper towel-lined plate to remove some of the excess bacon drippings, then serve.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sweet Potato Gratin with Leeks, Goat Cheese, and Toasted Hazelnuts

Earlier this week I went to a Potato Party (yes, it is exactly what is sounds like) and I wanted to make a quick, easily transportable potato dish.  I had read a recipe somewhere for a butternut squash gratin that is very similar to this but I can't remember where I saw it.  Anyhow, this gratin is rich, creamy, and nutty--perfect comfort food for a cold, rainy day.  It works as a side dish, but I think would also be great as a main course.


3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut into ½-inch slices
2 Tbsps olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsps butter, plus more for prepping casserole pan
4 large leeks, pale green and white parts only chopped (and washed well)
½ C chopped fresh sage
4 oz goat cheese
1 C heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 400F.  Toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet for about 8-10 minutes, transfer the nuts to a towel and rub them together to remove the husks.  Roughly chop the toasted, husked hazelnuts and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato slices with the olive oil, some kosher salt, and black pepper. Lay the potatoes on a sheet pan in a single layer (use two pans if necessary) and roast in the oven until they begin to brown (about 35-40 minutes), flipping the slices over about halfway through cooking time.

While the potatoes are roasting, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, season with salt and pepper and sauté until, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the chopped sage and stir to combine.  Coat a 11x7 casserole with the extra butter or a butter wrapper. Spread half of the leek mixture over bottom of the casserole. Spread half of the sweet potatoes over the leeks, then crumble half of the goat cheese on top. Repeat this layering of leeks, squash, and cheese.

Ready to add the cream, hazelnuts, and bake.
Lower the oven temperature to 375F. Pour the cream evenly over the gratin and sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts. Bake uncovered until the gratin is heated through and the cream is bubbling, about 35 minutes.

The gratin can be assembled ahead of time; prepare all ingredients and transfer to the casserole dish, but don’t add the cream or hazelnuts.  Store in the fridge until you’re ready to bake, then add the cream, nuts, and increase the baking time by 8-10 minutes.

Apple, Sausage, and Parsnip Dressing

So I made this huge batch of dressing to bring to a Holiday potluck last week, but due to car troubles I wasn't able to get home in time to bake it and get to the potluck. The good thing is, I already had something yummy made for dinner when I was finally got home.

Total Time: about 2.5 hours, includes chilling time and baking time
Active Time: about 30 minutes
Makes 10 servings

1 1/2 lbs mild Italian sausage, casing removed
2 Tbsps olive oil
1 lb semi-tart apples (I used Arkansas black apples), peeled, cored, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
4 medium parsnips, peeled, chopped into 3/4-inch chunks (about 2 cups)
6 Tbsps butter, divided
1 C roughly chopped onion
1 C roughly chopped celery
4 C cubed sourdough bread, crusts removed
1/4 C parsley, chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped (about 2 Tbsps)
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
4 C chicken broth
1/4 C cream
1 egg
freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and brown the sausage, breaking it up with a spatula or back of a spoon, until no raw color remains. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Clean the skillet and return to the stove on medium heat.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the skillet and add the chopped parsnips, season with salt. Cook for 3-5 minutes, then add the apples. Continue to cook until the parsnips and apples have softened. Add the parsnips and apples to a very large bowl, then add the bread cubes and sausage.

Place the onion and celery in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (but not pureed). Melt the other 3 tablespoons of butter in the skillet over medium heat, then add the onion and celery and season with salt. Cook until the vegetables have softened and begin to brown slightly. Add the vegetables to the bowl with the parsnips, apples, sausage and bread cubes; stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, combine the parsley, rosemary, chicken broth, nutmeg, cream, and egg. Season with lots of black pepper (or however much you like). Transfer the sausage dressing ingredients to a buttered 9x13 casserole dish, and pour the liquids over the dressing. Press the dressing down in the pan (I used my hands) so that the soaking liquid coats all of the ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour so that the flavors can meld. Let the dressing sit out for about 30 minutes prior to baking. (The dressing can be made ahead of time. I let mine sit in the fridge for about 6 hours.)

When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F.  Bake the dressing on the middle rack for 35-40 minutes (the liquid should be absorbed and the top should be browned).  If the dressing gets too brown on the top, tent with foil before it finishes baking.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Miso Soup with Tofu, Spinach, and Mushrooms

This isn't a traditional miso soup by any means, but it is quick and very tasty.  Instead of the typical dashi made with kombu, I just used to a homemade light vegetable stock.  If you're going to use a pre-made stock, make sure you use one that's not very salty as you'll be adding salty miso paste to it.

Total time: about 20 minutes
Serves 4-6

6 C light vegetable stock (I use this recipe)
1 lb firm tofu, drained, sliced into 3/4-inch cubes
6 oz mushrooms of your choice (I like oysters and shiitakes), sliced
5 oz fresh spinach
1 Tbsp miso paste (I used an organic brown rice miso)
1 scallion, green parts roughly sliced and pale green parts finely sliced


Heat the vegetable stock in a medium pot over medium heat. Once warm, ladle some of the stock into a small bowl and whisk in the miso paste; set aside. Add your mushrooms to the pot and cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add the tofu and spinach and stir until the spinach wilts.  Remove from the heat, return the miso and broth mixture to the pot, and divide the soup between bowls. Top with the sliced scallion and serve. Serve with a side of rice or these spicy green beans.

Spicy Green Beans with Shallots

These green beans are great served over rice, with some crispy pork, or on their own as a side dish.

Total Time: 15-20 minutes
Serves 4

1 lb fresh green beans, washed, ends trimmed
1 shallot, sliced very thinly
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp sesame seeds, for garnish

For dressing:
1/4 C low-sodium soy sauce
1 serrano chili, stem removed, (seeded if you don't want as much heat), minced finely
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp mirin

Toast the sesame seeds, if using, in a dry skillet over medium heat until they brown slightly (do not let burn).

Whisk all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanche the green beans until crisp-tender (about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes).  Remove the green beans with a spider strainer and quickly dump into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.  Drain the beans and pat dry to remove excess water.

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  Add the shallot and cook until fragrant.  Add the green beans and stir to warm the beans.  Add the dressing and stir to coat the beans.  Divide the beans between four plates and drizzle the remaining dressing over the beans (or over rice, if serving).  Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds and enjoy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Eggs Baked in Tomato Sauce with Bleu Cheese and Parsley

I love eggs with tomatoes.  Here's my version of eggs baked in tomato sauce; I just used ingredients I had on hand, but you could substitute feta or goat cheese for the bleu cheese and basil or other herbs for the parsley.

Total time: about 15 minutes
Serves 2

about 3/4 C of tomato sauce; I used this quick tomato sauce
1/4 C bleu cheese crumbles
Before baking.
2 eggs
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Butter two ramekins or spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Ladle the tomato sauce into the two ramekins.  Sprinkle the bleu cheese on top of the sauce and gently press the crumbles into the sauce so you make a fairly flat surface for the eggs.  Gently crack an egg into each ramekin.  

Bake for 12-15 minutes until the whites have cooked and the yolks are just a bit runny (baking for longer will cook the yolks more).  Remove from the oven, sprinkle with black pepper and parsley. Let cool for a few minutes and serve.

Served with strips of toasted English muffin and coffee.

30-Minute Tomato Sauce

This tomato sauce is fast, flavorful, and ridiculously easy.  Whip some up to dip bread in for a snack or side dish, or double the recipe to ladle over a pound of cooked pasta.

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
14 oz canned good diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Heat olive oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about a minute.  Add the onion, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns golden.

Add the tomatoes with juices, parsley, and a bit more salt and pepper.  Stir to incorporate and bring the tomatoes to a simmer.  Reduce the heat so that the sauce can barely simmer (just a few bubbles come to the surface) and don't touch or stir it for about 20 minutes.  A thin film of oil should appear on the surface.  Taste and adjust for seasonings.  Enjoy!