Friday, June 6, 2014

Grab and Go Polenta Quiche


 I want chickens more than anything. It will be a reality soon, but I have to wait until some other areas of my life cool off first. In the meantime, I am enjoying farm fresh eggs from my neighbors as often as possible, and creating an arsenal of egg recipes for when my time of surplus arrives.


Breakfast is a tricky meal for many people. Often times, especially for kids, it ends up being a very quick grab-and-go situation, often laden with sugar and empty carbohydrates. In reality, most of us do better with some protein in the morning- and hey, why not throw in some vegetables as well?

These mini quiches can be prepared ahead in big batches, and stored in the fridge for the week. They make a perfect grab-and-go breakfast or lunch. Like most of my recipes- the ingredients are very flexible. Feel free to work with what you have in the kitchen that week, and according to your individual preferences. If red onion, mushrooms and bell peppers aren't your thing, other vegetables that pop into mind are scallions, potatoes, fresh herbs, spinach or broccoli. Just make sure to cook any vegetables you are using appropriately before the final assembly of the quiche. Chèvre or cheddar would also be great substations for the feta, if you lean that way.


The turmeric is optional- I love the extra orange hue it lends, on top of it's superfood antioxidant load. I try to sneak it into my routine whenever possible.

I tried these guys with parchment paper lined muffin tins, and as well as well-oiled tins. Either way worked, but I would honestly forgo the parchment paper - it wasn't entirely necessary and the results were "more aesthetically pleasing" without.

Polenta Quiche
Makes 12 mini quiches

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups water
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup polenta, or corn grits
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 tbs. olive oil
1 egg
a few cranks of black pepper

1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup red onion, medium chop
1 portabella mushroom, sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large (or 2 small) garlic clove, minced

1/3 cup crumbled feta

4 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. turmeric
ground black pepper

Extra parmesan or grated cheese to garnish (optional)

Directions

Preheat to 400 degrees.

Bring water and salt to a boil in a small pot. Stream polenta into boiling water, using a whisk to stir constantly for 5-10 minutes, until thick. Turn off heat, add parmesan, olive oil, egg and black pepper.

Line muffin tins with parchment paper or spray thoroughly with oil. Divide polenta and spoon into muffin tins. Let cool for 5 minutes. With wet fingers (to avoid sticking), press polenta into the bottom of the cups and spread up the sides, to create a nice indent for as much filling as possible. Thinner is better. Place in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until dry to the touch, checking and rotating after 10 minutes. Set aside.

In the meantime, heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add chopped red onion and sauté until translucent. Add sliced mushrooms and continue to cook until broken down, about 5 more minutes, stirring often. Add chopped red pepper, cook for another 5 minutes. Add minced garlic, stir and turn off heat.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs, salt, pepper and turmeric.

To assemble quiches, spoon a tablespoon of mushroom vegetable mixture into each crust. Divide and sprinkle evenly with feta. Finish by pouring egg custard on top. Use a fork to jostle the center a bit to make sure the egg seeps down into the vegis. If using, sprinkle with grated cheese.

Return quiches to the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes, rotating every 10 minutes, or until fork inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Remove from oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before enjoying. Can be stored in the fridge for several days.

Relax. Eat Well.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Ramp Butter

At the risk of sounding cliche, spring is just so refreshing.


It is. It was not that long ago (maybe a month?) that I would look outside and feel as though there was absolutely no way this bitter, hostile weather could lead to brighter days, that the temperatures could climb above freezing for 24 hours at a time, or that growth could actually spring from this ground. 


But it did, just like it always does. Now it is mid-may and the earth is gracing us with the first of the season's edibles. Young garlic is sprouting, fiddleheads are quickly unfurling and my favorite, ramps, are "ramp"ant along the river sides. For more information about about ramps (also known as wild leeks) and how to harvest them, check out last year's post on Wild Dandelion and Ramp Pesto.


I was inspired by a new product on the shelves these days, from one of my favorite butter and cheese producer, Vermont Creamery. I love their chèvre and cultured butter and regularly buy them in bulk for the CSK. Recently, they added a cultured Maple and Sea Salt Butter to their line. I am a sucker for the all things "sweet and salty", so it immediately caught my eye. It doesn't come in bulk, so I decided to use a log of their lightly salted cultured butter, along with a touch of VT maple syrup, course sea salt crystals and foraged ramps to make a beautiful butter for my catering spreads this summer. Butter freezes extremely well, so I made a bigger batch and froze it in varying sizes. These will go on cheese boards and in bread baskets throughout the year. 


I also kept some out for our personal use. Right now, it is going in a pan over medium heat until it starts to sizzle, at which point a few fiddleheads are thrown in. Lightly sautéed until the fiddleheads are soft yet still have their structure, this is my absolute favorite way to consume my namesake this spring.  


After a few trials, I have discovered that one of the keys to making a successful compound butter is to start with butter at room temperature in place of melted. The first time I tried to make it by melting the butter, all of my delicious ingredients simply sunk to the bottom of the mason jar by the time it hardened, instead of being evenly distributed throughout. Lesson learned.

Ramp Butter
Makes about 2 1/4 lbs. compound butter

Ingredients

1/4 lb. or 2 cups chopped ramps- bulbs minced and leaves roughly chopped
1 lb. lightly salted butter, room temperature
2 tsp. maple syrup
2 tsp. coarse sea salt crystals
a few cranks of freshly ground pepper (1/4 tsp?)
zest of half a lemon, about 1 tsp. packed

Directions

In a large pan, melt 1 tbs. of butter over medium heat. Add minced ramp bulbs and chopped leaves. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until soft.

Put room temperature butter in a medium bowl. Add sautéed ramps, and remaining ingredients. With a rubber spatula, press to mix thoroughly. If butter is soft and starting to melt at this point, place bowl in freezer for 15 minutes. The trick is to find a consistency that is solid, yet still workable.

Remove butter from bowl and place on a large piece of parchment paper. Using a spatula, spread the butter into a rectangle about 10 inches long. At this point, use the parchment paper to roll the butter into a log, taking the time to make sure the wrapping is tight and the log is as round as you can get it. Fold the ends over and place entire log in the fridge for at least an hour. At this point, you can unwrap and cut it into smaller portions, to be used in the next few weeks, or frozen for future use. I cut mine into 4 sections and wrapped each tightly with plastic wrap. Those went into a freezer bag and are waiting in my cooler for future culinary adventures.

Relax. Eat Well. 






Friday, April 11, 2014

Roasted Beet Salad with Maple Miso Balsamic Dressing


It is pretty hard these days to feel inspired by the few local ingredients that are left. Mostly roots, maybe some cabbage. It has been a long hard winter and we are OH SO close to greens popping up for spring, but just not quite there.

Here is the last of my homegrown garlic - scraping the bottom of the bin.


But on to beets- one of the few roots I have yet to satiate on this winter. I'm not going to dive into the nutrition world today- because, well, I just don't feel like it. Instead, let's just drool over some pictures...


Roasty, toasty, cozy…...


Roasted Beet Salad with Maple Miso Balsamic Dressing

Serves 6

Ingredients

4 large beets, ruby red, golden (pictured) or bullseye chioggia
1 tbs. grape seed oil
2 tsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 lb. baby spinach
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, minced.
1/2 cup raw walnuts

1 garlic clove
½ cup olive oil
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. mustard
2 tbs. miso
1 tbs. maple syrup
½ tsp sea salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wash beets well and slice of ends. Slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds, unpeeled. Toss with grape seed oil, syrup and salt, and place on baking sheet in a single layer.

Roast for 15 minutes, check and flip if beginning to get golden. Continue to roast for another 10-15 minutes, or until fork tender and beginning to caramelize. Remove from oven and set aside.

Turn oven down to 325 degrees and toast walnuts on a baking sheet for 5-10 minutes, until fragrant and just beginning to brown. Watch carefully- they have a propensity to burn! Remove and cool.

To make dressing, combine garlic through sea salt in a blender and process until smooth.

Just before serving, toss spinach with dressing and place in a large bowl. Top with minced crystallized ginger, roasted beets and toasted walnuts.

Relax. Eat Well.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Oven-Fried Turmeric Tofu


I have been on a major turmeric kick these days. Mostly because it gives me a mental-boost of immune confidence every time I dash the powdered gold, but also because of the lovely flavor it imparts. It is what I imagine the streets of India to smell like constantly, although I sadly have yet to visit. Earthy, pungent, and slightly bitter, turmeric seems to add a dash of life to each dish it graces.

Just because I have to (no i really, compulsively, I do) I will share some of the amazing nutritional benefits this wonder spice offers. Long revered in Indian and Chinese medicine, turmeric root is a powerful anti-inflammatory, rich in the compound carcumin. As a result, turmeric has been found to be as successful in fighting inflammation as potent drugs such as hydrocortisone and Motrin, without the potential toxic side-effects.


Remember that pattern we have noticed before, where deep, rich colors often indicate the presence of strong antioxidants in our food? Think beets, tomatoes, and spirulina. Turmeric might be the embodiment of that rule- its saturated golden hue is indicative of extremely high antioxidant action, which has the ability to neutralize free radicals in our bodies, protecting against a wide range of cancers.

Found to boost cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol levels, protect against alzheimers, the list goes on and on. If you are interested, hop on over here for some more details.

So hopefully by now you are excited to try out this magical root, and work it into your daily diet as well.

What have I been doing with it, you ask? I seem to be obsessively making the "Love your liver" tea- morning and night, I swear it has saved me from the pulls of the winter flu more than once this season.

It also tends to make it's way into my breakfast skillet on an almost daily basis- a quick stir-fry of onion, garlic, spinach and red pepper seasoned with a dash of nutritional yeast, turmeric and tamari and finished off with a cracked egg fried in the middle. Possibly even a swirl of my favorite hot sauce, a few cubes of avocado and some cilantro leaves if I am feeling fancy. Highly recommended.


But what I want to share with you today is a turmeric version of my Oven-Fried Tofu- a puffy, chewy rendition of the type of tofu you might find at your local Thai restaurant, with significantly less oil involved. This recipe is super flexible and can be flavored in many different directions- just keep the amount of oil, salt and pepper constant. I like it best served with asian inspired dishes, but it is great to have on hand for snacking as well.

Other seasonings I have tried include:

Garlic Ginger: replace the turmeric with 1/4 tsp. granulated garlic and 1/4 tsp. ginger powder, and sprinkle with a light dash of tamari.

Salt and Pepper: Keep it simple- take out the turmeric and amp up the pepper with a few extra cranks of freshly ground peppercorn and you are in business. I love this one paired with "non-asian" sauces, such as honey mustard or garden dill.

Curry: Add an extra 1/2 tsp of your favorite curry powder- one with a little heat is a nice touch

Chipotle: For a smoky version, replace the turmeric with cumin and add an extra 1/4 tsp of chipotle powder.



Oven-Fried Turmeric Tofu
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
1 14 oz. pkg. extra-firm tofu (this is my favorite, for my VT peeps)
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs. grapeseed oil

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut tofu into 1.5 inch cubes, toss with turmeric, salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, with some room between each piece.



On the bottom rack, bake for 5 minutes. Rotate pan and continue for another 5 minutes. Flip tofu cubes and continue to bake for 5 minutes, rotate, and continue for the last 5 minutes, until golden and puffy.

*If you have a convection fan in your oven, I highly recommend using it for a puffier result. Some changes need to be made: use a 375 degree oven, position the baking sheet in the middle of the oven and remove after 15 minutes instead of 20.

Relax. Eat Well.




Friday, February 21, 2014

Jamaican Jerk Tempeh



Inspired by our trip to the tropics of Panama earlier this month, I prepared this Jamaican Jerk Tempeh for the CSK last week. I received so many notes of enthusiasm that I decided it deserved a blog post of it's own so it could be shared with our cyber world friends. 


I'll be the first to admit, tempeh is not the easiest ingredient to make exciting. In fact, it always requires a bit of finesse. I love it for many reasons- it's hearty, nutty flavor, nutritional profile and protein prowess, but it can often end up dried-out and less than appetizing. For that reason, I have a few rules when cooking tempeh. I don't dry grill it. No matter how nice your spice rub is, tempeh needs ample liquid to come to life. 

I prefer to cook tempeh in a liquid marinade, either in a skillet or in the oven. Once it has absorbed the flavors and hydration, then it is possible to get some dry heat going to give the edges a bit of a char- either on the grill, broiler or convection oven. 


I aim for marinades with loads of flavor- this jamaican jerk sauce is a perfect example. If the sauce itself doesn't have a significant sweet component, I end the cooking process with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup and a touch of oil to achieve the golden caramelization that really brings tempeh into the winners circle.


Of course I have to leave you with a tiny nutrition lesson before I can move on. Tempeh is a fermented soybean product, originating from Indonesia. It uses whole, unrefined edamame which is fermented and pressed to produce a firm patty. Rich in high-quality amino-acids and friendly bacteria, tempeh is a nutritious vegetarian protein source. I buy Rhapsody Tempeh, which is produced in Cabot, Vermont using organic soybeans grown in Quebec. As with all soybean products, I recommend doing some research on your brand and buying organic to avoid GMO-laden soy.

Try serving this with a side of smashed yams and a tender green salad tossed with sesame dressing. The perfect lunch or light dinner. 


Jamaican Jerk Tempeh
Serves 4 as main component
Ingredients
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tbs. olive oil

2 tbs. tamari soy sauce

1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce (use vegetarian version if vegetarian)
1 tbs. brown sugar

2 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tbs. fresh minced ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. chili flakes, or to taste (optional)
4 chopped scallions
8 oz tempeh, sliced thickness in half and then into 8 triangles
Cilantro, chopped, for garnish
Instructions
In a medium bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients and stir well (if you aren’t into mincing, you can alternatively add everything to a blender and process until smooth). Add the tempeh triangles and ensure all of the tempeh is coated. Let rest for 30-45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.


Line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper, trying to insure that the paper curves up the sides and ends a few inches, for easy clean-up. Place tempeh in a single layer, sprinkle with scallions and pour remaining marinade on top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until most of the marinade has absorbed and bottoms are beginning to brown. Garnish with cilantro to serve.

Relax. Eat Well. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sweet Potato Bisque


Two soup recipes in a row? WHAT?

Blogger faux pas? Arguably. Case of the "I can't believe it is still 5 degrees out and need fire inside me now"? Most definitely.

A dangerous outcome of the practice of blogging what I cook, in a fairly 1:1 ratio.


I've been working on a project lately that requires developing recipes that are shelf stable. This has proven to be quite a challenging project for a natural chef, who bases most recipes on the fresh and the raw.


The good news is that it inspired this cashew cream powder, which I have incorporated into a sweet potato version of the potato chowder I was originally developing.



The cashew powder that you create in the first step of this recipe can be kept in an airtight container, preferably somewhere cool and dark, for a few weeks. It can then be mixed with 1 1/2 cups of water and brought to a simmer, to thicken into a luscious cashew cream. At this point, you have a versatile sauce for a variety of dishes - as an alfredo sauce mixed with whole wheat pasta, over steamed broccoli, or as the "cream" in a vegan chowder, such as we find here.





The beauty of using it in a soup is that you can cut out the step of thickening it in simmering water, and simply add the cashew powder to the soup in the last few minutes of cooking. You'll notice a quick thickening effect, and after a few minutes with the immersion blender, you have a beautiful chowder or bisque.

Wow, that got a bit detailed- hope I didn't lose any of you yet.

In short: this cashew powder is fun to play with and can easily be made ahead and transported to be used over camp stoves in the woods, while traveling to remote destinations, or to throw together a quick week night meal.


Like most soups, this one requires a decent amount of chopping, resulting in some valuable ends and pieces. DON'T YOU DARE THROW THIS IN THE COMPOST. This is the start of your next soup- save them for your next batch of vegetable stock.


Vegan Sweet Potato Bisque


Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 cup ground raw cashews, room temperature
1 tbs. nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. garlic granules
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. rosemary

1 tsp. coconut oil
1 small onion, minced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large yams, diced (5 cups)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 tbs. cooking sherry
¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste

Optional additions: a dash of red pepper flakes, a handful of fresh herbs- basil, sage, scallions or parsley

Directions

In a food processor, pulse the first 5 ingredients, cashews through rosemary, until you reach a granular consistency, similar to that of sand. The more powdered the better, but don’t go too far- it will try to turn into cashew butter. Set aside.

Heat the coconut oil in a medium pot over low-medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add celery and continue to cook for 5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute, then add yam and vegetable stock. Bring up to a boil and down to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until yams are very soft. Uncover, add cashew powder and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

Turn off heat, add cooking sherry and ground pepper. With an immersion blender, puree until very smooth. Taste, and adjust with salt. Add additional spices and herbs if using, and pulse to combine.