Smooth As Silk

Val and I are not big dessert eaters; but there are occasions when it seems just right.  I love a good fruit pie or tart; and would never turn down a homemade scone or brownie.  But what will really get my attention is something that the texture alone is worth the calories.  I love Creme Brule or Pots de Creme; but the real deal is a flan.  It is always something I look for on a dessert menu; yet I have never attempted one at home.  Well, I’m happy to say, “No more!”  It is surprisingly easy to make and looks so beautiful on a platter surrounded by berries.  This can be made in a loaf pan or a 1 quart souffle dish.  You can even divide the recipe into 4 individual ramekins.  For our purposes today I will stick to a loaf pan.

One of the important things to remember is that you do have to make it at least one day ahead.  I actually prefer two days, as I find it easier to unmold and is beautifully creamy yet firm.   I also enjoy putting a tablespoon of Bourbon in it.  This adds a deep, rich element.  This optional however.  If you decide no on the Bourbon, add an additional 2 teaspoons of vanilla.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2/3 cups cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs, plus 5 egg yolks (I use farm fresh eggs from the farmers market)
  • 1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Bourbon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Adjust your oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In a small heavy saucepan, stir together the sugar and 1/4 cup water until sugar is completely moistened.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, without stirring, until the mixture begin to turn golden.  At this step gently swirl the pan, and continue to cook until the mixture looks like the color of honey.  Remove the pan from the heat and continue swirling until the sugar turns an amber color, about 20 seconds more.  Carefully swirl in 2 tablespoons warm tap water until incorporated.  Be careful as your mixture will bubble and steam.
  3. Pour caramel into an 8-1/2 x 4 1/2 -inch loaf pan (or whatever vessel you have decided to use);  Do not scrape out the saucepan.  Your caramel will solidify in the loaf pan after you pour it (it’s supposed to).  It will soften up again as it bakes.  Set the loaf pan aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and yolks until combine.  Add the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, half-and-half, Bourbon, vanilla and salt and whisk until incorporated.  Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer over an other bowl (you will be surprised when you see your bits of egg).  We do this to guarantee that your flan will have the ideal texture.  Pour the strained custard into your loaf pan over the set caramel.  Cover the loaf pan tightly with aluminum foil.
  5. Place the loaf pan in the center of a high-sided roasting pan to make a water bath or bain marie.  Place the nested pans in the oven; then, using a tea kettle or pitcher, pour hot water around the loaf pan until it reaches about halfway up the side of the loaf pan.  Bake for 75 to 90 minutes, until the custard is set around the edges but still a bit jiggly in the center.  The custard continues to cook as it sets completely.  Carefully remove the pans from the oven,  Remove the foil and leave the flan in the water bath for 1 hour to cool.
  6. Remove the loaf pan from the water bath and wipe dry.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight or up to 4 days.
  7. To unmold flan, carefully slide a sharp knife around the edges of the pan.  Invert on a platter with a raised rim (to hold your liquid caramel), by holding it upside down, then turn your platter over.  If your flan doesn’t release immediately, let sit for a minute or two.  Once the flan is released remove your loaf pan, and with a silicone spatula, scrape the residual caramel onto the platter.  Arrange berries around the flan.  Slice flan, adding sauce and berries around each slice.  Leftovers (if there are any) can be covered loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Serves 8-10

 

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“Life is uncertain.  Eat dessert first!”  –Jacques Torres

Chutney, Chutney, Bang, Bang

I’m in love.  With chutney’s that is.  These are marvels of Indian cuisine.  Indian chutney;s vary widely from region to region.  Chutney is a combination of sugar (sweetness) and vinegar (acidity) and is the hallmark of preserved chutneys.  This week I made Asian Pear and Dried Cherry Chutney.  We have 20 Asian pear trees on our farm.  We chose these fruit trees as they are the one fruit tree that you can grow without chemical sprays; and this is largely true if you can get past the slight imperfections on the surface of the skin.  We certainly can, as well as many of our customers.

We have two varieties of Asian pears, Shinsui and Shinseiki.  I used Shinsui for this chutney.  It is medium in size, firm even when cooked, and both juicy and aromatic.  I love this chutney so much I was drinking the juice.  Wow.  Think chicken, duck or pork.  It is easily preserved in a water bath canning system and makes a great holiday gift.

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ASIAN PEAR AND DRIED CHERRY CHUTNEY

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 heaping cups Asian pears, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh gingerroot
  • 1 teaspoon hot ground curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, uncover, 40-45 minutes or until slightly thickened and pears are tender, stirring occasionally.

2.  Fill sterilized 4 oz or 8 oz canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Process in                    water bath for 15 minutes.

Yield: 8-4 oz or 4 8 oz mason jars

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“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”  –unknown

Autumn Leaves

It is cool and has been pouring since yesterday evening, with no sign of letting up anytime soon.  The vantage point from my desk is perfect for watching both weather and nature.  The current on the lake is from the north, and with each puff of breeze, leaves are letting go and baptizing the ground.  It is gray, and natural to turn inward; checking in on one’s feelings, hopes and dreams.

My personality is one of deep feeling.  I emote.  As a recovering DQ, you never have to guess where I’m coming from, because I will tell you, without hesitation.  I do better with small groups of like-minded people, who understand my straight forward presence.  I occasionally offend people with a perceived ‘bluntness’; yet this has been a trait that I have fought hard to adopt.  I was raised in a family that children were to be seen and not heard, leaving me with a feeling of invisibility that lasted well into my 30’s.  Harmony trumped truth in any social situation, regardless of my internal screaming.  Change is hard.

Although many people see me as strong and opinionated, I am also open-hearted, cry easily and rail against injustice, both real or perceived.  I accept that I will always be a work in progress, willing to love and be loved.  Cooking for others is my most sincere form of love.  Nourishment comes in many forms; a kind word, a compliment, or the warmth of a hug.  May we rely on each other for small gifts that are shared openly.  During this season of letting go, may I shed what no longer serves me.

STUFFED ACORN SQUASH

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large acorn squash (I like the Carnival variety)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 3 cups loosely packed, chopped greens (kale, Swiss chard or beet greens)
  • 3/4 cup almond slivers, toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped for garnish (optional)

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F., and halve the acorn squashes lengthwise down the middle.  Scoop out the seeds.  Place the squash cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush halves with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and roast for about 45 minutes, or until the squash are fork tender.
  2. Meanwhile, place wild rice and water in heavy medium size pot.  Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down to a simmer.  Cook for 30 minutes to one hour, or until rice splits open and is tender.  This will be determined by the freshness of your rice.  Drain in wire colander and set aside.
  3. In a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and chopped onions.  Saute until onions are translucent.   Add chopped greens of your choice and continue cooking until greens are wilted.  Add almonds and dried cherries or cranberries, along with drained wild rice and combine.
  4. Fill each half of squash with filling, and place baking sheet back in oven for an additional 10 minutes.  Any leftover stuffing can be refrigerated and eaten as is or spooned over a salad.  Serve hot with fresh chopped parsley as garnish.

Serves: 4

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“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”
― Humbert Wolfe

I’ve Gone Nuts

Seasonal.  We are entering the threshold of fall.  Tomatoes are waning, sweet corn is done; but there are wonderful options that are showing up at the farmers market stalls.  Peppers, for example are prolific right now.  I love them roasted, and rely on them in jars during winter; but what if you change something traditionally done with roasted and made it with fresh peppers?  Muhammara, a Syrian spread is traditionally made with roasted Aleppo peppers (although jarred roasted peppers work just fine).  It also has bread and walnuts in combination with the roasted peppers.   I wondered what would happen if I used fresh peppers and additional varieties of nuts?  Game on.

FRESH RED PEPPER AND NUT SPREAD

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use avocado oil)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/4 cup unsalted roasted pistachios
  • 3 medium red bell peppers, about 1 pound, seeded and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 1 medium sweet onion (I used Wall Walla), cut into chunks
  • 1/3 cup toasted bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium heat.  Add walnuts and saute for about 3-5 minutes until lightly toasted.  Remove with slotted spoon and place in bowl of food processor.
  2. Add pine nuts and almonds to same skillet.  Saute for 2 minutes, until lightly golden.  Remove with slotted spoon to plate lined with paper towels.
  3. Add pistachios to food processor bowl and pulse until finely chopped.  Place in medium bowl.
  4. Add red pepper and onion to food processor bowl.  Pulse until fine.  Transfer to mesh strainer to remove liquid.  Let stand for 5 minutes.
  5. Add strained peppers and onions to bowl.  Stir in pine nuts, almonds, breadcrumbs and olive oil.  Season with salt, pepper and ground cayenne.
  6. Serve with crackers of choice. (I use crostini)

Yield: 3 cups

“A recipe has no soul.  You. As a cook bring soul to the recipe.”  — Thomas Keller

 

 

Earthly Delights

It feels like fall today.  Our weather and climate is unpredictable.  This has been our most unusual farm year.  Vegetables that normally grow without issue have struggled or been unable to grow at all.  This has not been a singular issue.  Many of our customers that have small gardens are wondering why they can’t grow certain vegetable this year.  Although there is no definite answer, as Dylan said, “The times they are a changing.”

Although change is definite, it instructs us to be fully present each day to the small miracles that surround us.  Comfort comes in many forms and simple pleasures can sometimes bring the most well-being.  Today it came in the form of warmth.   Our Katadin potatoes are the old Irish famine potato; earthy, creamy, with thin skins, they are exceptional in taste and texture.  When I first came to the farm I thought that a potato was a potato; until I tasted these remarkable spuds.  If you don’t have access to this particular variety, you can use russets.  It’s important to use a variety that breaks down slightly when cooked.  The advantage is a creamy soup without the use of heavy cream.  Make sure you use fresh dill.  It elevates this soup to something distinctive. Although the ingredients are simple, the soup is heavenly.

POTATO LEEK SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 pounds of Katadin (or russet) potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
  • 3 medium leeks, using white and pale green parts, scrubbed and sliced thinly
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (I use Kerrygold)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, (I use Maldon)
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large pot, over medium-high heat, melt the butter then add the leeks and saute until soft, about 4-6 minutes.  Add the potatoes and salt; then water to cover the potatoes by about an inch.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to medium and cook until the potatoes are soft. (When using fresh potatoes, be aware that these cook much faster than other potatoes that have been cured, or harvested many months earlier).  Taste for salt, add more if needed.
  2. With an immersion blender, blend the soup to thicken, leaving a far amount of chunks.  Add half of the fresh dill.
  3. Ladle into bowls and top with additional dill.

Serves 4-6

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“There is nothing like soup. It is by nature eccentric: no two are ever alike, unless of course you get your soup in a can.” — Laurie Colwin

The Reason For The Season

I know….another tomato post.  I’m slightly obsessed; this is what happens when you pull hundreds of pounds of them from the field several times a week.  In the summer I live for two things: garlic and tomatoes.  Focusing on my two loves helps me to deal with what I don’t love, which is the heat and humidity.  When I’m in my happy place (the kitchen) it makes it all worthwhile.

This particular dish, which ends up being two dishes in one; brings tears to my eyes the first time I make it each year.  I don’t think there is anything that compares to this simple sauce that can only be made when tomatoes are at their peak.  The reason it ends up being two dishes in one is I take a portion of it out and use it for a bruchetta topping.  I know that means tomatoes for the appetizer and tomatoes for dinner, but so far no one has ever complained.  Although it is slightly labor intensive, it is worth every delicious mouthful!

Start with about 30 dead-on ripe paste tomatoes.  This will serve 4 for dinner and enough bruchetta topping for a loaf of French bread.  Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the ingredients.  I literally have friends begging me to make it for them.  After all, it is the reason for the season!

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 30 ripe paste tomatoes
  • 2 heads of garlic, peeled, separated and divided in half, grated on micro plane
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons sea salt, divided (I use Maldon)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped, divided
  • 16 ounces linguine, cooked to package directions
  • 2 cup grated pecorino cheese (optional)

ADDITIONS FOR BRUCHETTA:

  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup capers, drained
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1 loaf fresh French bread (baguette)

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place a large pot on high, 3/4 filled with water and bring to a boil.  With a sharp knife, cut an “X” on the top of each tomato, through the core.  Fill your kitchen sink with cold water.  Carefully place groups of 8 in the boiling water.  Set a timer for 3 minutes.  With a large slotted spoon, pull blanched tomatoes from boiling water and place in sink with cold water.  Repeat this process until you have blanched all your tomatoes.
  2. Assemble the following: large cutting board, paring knife, serrated knife, two large bowls.  Cut the top of a tomato about 1/2 inch from top and throw in your bowl of scraps.  Next with your paring knife, peel off the skin (it should come of with ease if your tomatoes were ripe).  With your serrated knife, cut the tomato in half lengthwise; scoop out the seeds with your thumb and place it in the other bowl.  Repeat this process until you have peeled and seeded all your tomatoes over the bowl.  You will strain this later to collect your juice.
  3. Take each tomato half and chop it in small pieces.  Place pieces in large ceramic or pottery bowl.  I generally use 2/3 of tomatoes for sauce and the other 1/3 of the tomatoes for the bruchetta.  In a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup, strain your tomato scraps through a wire mesh strainer.  This will give you approximately 1 cup of juice.
  4. To the large bowl add the following: 1 head of grated garlic, 1 tablespoon sea salt (do NOT be afraid of the salt), half of the basil, and 2/3 of your reserved juice.  Next start with 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil in your large bowl.  Stir gently but thoroughly.  You want it to be fairly soupy.  Add up to 1/4 cup more olive oil if needed.  Let macerate on your counter for at least 2 hours, up to 4 hours. DO NOT REFRIGERATE!
  5. Cook your linguine according to package directions and drain.  In a large pasta bowl, place the drained pasta and top it with the sauce.  Pass cheese.

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FOR BRUCHETTA:

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  1.  In your smaller bowl add the garlic, capers, olives, red onion, basil, salt and remaining reserved juice.  Pour approximately 1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil over tomatoes.  Stir gently but thoroughly.  Again you want it somewhat soupy.  The liquid will delightfully soak into your grilled bread slices.  Let this macerate on your counter for the same amount of time.
  2. Slice up your baguette in 1 inch pieces.  Heat a gas grill on high, then turn down to medium.  Place your slices on grill for about 3-5 minutes.  Turn over and grill the other side.  You are simply looking for some nice grill marks.  This can be done ahead of time.
  3. When you are ready to eat your bruchetta, top each piece with relish, making sure your are generous with the liquid.

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Serves 4

“Nothing is work unless you’d rather be doing something else.”  –Peter Pan

Lovin Spoonful

Boy, are we rocking the tomatoes.  We are in tomato nirvana!  BBLT’s, roasted tomato sauce, cherry tomato soup, tomato confit, caprese salad, uncooked tomato sauce, bruchetta and tomato risotto.  I wait for this time of our farm season and will eat, prep and can as many variations as I can imagine.  My time is limited but this is truly a labor of love.

Last Thursday evening was the tomato risotto.  For those of you who have followed this blog, you are aware of my roasted tomato sauce; which is a combination of all our varieties cut up and roughly seeded, mounded in a roasting pan with 2 heads of garlic, olive oil and salt.  This is roasted for 5-6 hours at 300 degrees.  Each hour I remove the macerated tomato stock with a ladle and can it for future use.  I use it in chilies, soups and risottos.  For those who don’t go through this approach, you can use tomato paste to intensify the chicken stock.  Either way, the result is luscious.   Cherry tomatoes add both sweetness and color.  Top with fresh basil and shaved pecorino and you have a show stopper.  There are two recipes each summer at peak tomato season that I am emotionally moved by when I make them; tomato risotto and uncooked tomato sauce.  It’s like eating the sun.

TOMATO RISOTTO

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade) or 4 cups chicken stock mixed with  1 cup roasted tomato stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes (I like Sweet 100’s)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (omit if using the tomato stock)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I prefer Kerrygold)
  • 1 cup finely grated pecorino cheese, plus 1/4 cup shaved for serving
  • Fresh basil, chopped, for serving

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Bring stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan; keep warm over medium-low heat until ready to use.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium.  Add onion and cook, stirring often, until golden and very soft, 8-10 minutes.  Add garlic and cook, stirring until softened, about 1 minute.  Add tomato paste if using, and cook stirring often, until it darkens slightly and begins to stick to pan, about 2 minutes.  Add cherry tomatoes and cinnamon, and cook, stirring often, until some of the tomatoes start to burst, about 2-4 minutes.
  3. Stir in rice, season with salt, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook, stirring, until some grains are translucent, about 3 minutes.  Ladle in 2 cups of stock and simmer, stirring frequently, until completely absorbed, 8-10 minutes.  Ladle in another 2 cups of stock and simmer, stirring frequently, until rice is cooked through and most of the stock is absorbed, 12-15 minutes.
  4. Add butter and grated pecorino, and remaining 1 cup of stock, stirring constantly, until risotto is very creamy looking, about 4 minutes.  Taste and season with additional salt if needed.  Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  5. Divide risotto among shallow bowls and top with chopped fresh basil leaves, additional olive oil and shavings of pecorino.

Serves 4

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“A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins.”  –Laurie Colwin