Thursday, May 31, 2012

Turnip & Carrot Slaw: Discovering New Tastes

I love it when I discover a new taste, and this one had been hiding right in front of me:  raw turnips!

In my opinion, the turnip is greatly under-appreciated.  Previously, I had only eaten cooked turnips, and I’ll admit – they are not my favorite root veggie.  So imagine my delight when, in a brief crazy moment, I bit into a crispy slice of raw turnip. And loved it! I grabbed the grater and got going grating and nibbling. I found the flavor of a raw turnip is completely different than its cooked flavor. The raw turnips have a gentle heat, almost spicy, and it’s quite unexpected.

Turnips are rather pretty with their white and lavender-pink blush color.  I tend to forget they are a spring vegetable, but they are buddies with radishes.  In fact, this has been quite a season of discovery for me with eating raw turnips and roasted radishes.  Always exciting to shake things up a bit!

As I grated turnips and carrots and chopped a fragrant pile of fresh herbs, a slaw of sorts evolved.  I found it to be a refreshing change to traditional coleslaw made with cabbage and a terrific side dish for barbecue season.  Now I’m looking for more ways to enjoy turnips ... I recall munching on pickled pink turnips in Israel, so perhaps that will be the next venture?

Turnip & Carrot Slaw
Serves 8-10

2 pounds turnips (about 2 large ones)
4 medium carrots
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cut any roots or rough ends off of the turnips and carrots. Slice into smaller chunks and grate by hand or in a food processor. Spoon the turnips and carrots into a large serving bowl. Add the green onions, mint leaves and parsley and gently toss.

In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk the garlic, vinegar, mustard and poppy seeds together. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the dressing over the slaw and gently toss. Taste for salt and pepper. Leave the slaw to sit for about an hour before serving to let the flavors mix. Serve chilled or room temperature.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cheese Blintzes with Strawberries for Shavuot

It’s that time of year ... time for dairy delights! Shavuot is this weekend, and it is customary to eat dairy products to mark this Jewish holiday commemorating when Moses received the Torah at Mount Sinai. I’m looking forward to a delicious celebration with cheesecake, ice cream and my favorite Shavuot treat – blintzes.

Blintzes have a certain elegance to them. A soft, crepe-like pancake drapes itself around the creamy cheese filling under a blanket of berries. The luscious textures and flavors blend together beautifully.

When making the blintz crepes, I often find myself trying to flip them too soon in the pan and end up tearing the delicate pancakes. I’ve discovered the key is to let them really brown and loosen up so they're easy to flip, then it only takes a few seconds to finish on the other side.

Blintzes take a bit of time to prepare but all the components can be made ahead and assembled at the last minute, or the assembly can be done the night before a brunch and baked just before serving. While the blintzes are baking, slice some strawberries and sprinkle a shower of sugar over them to serve alongside. I can promise you, nothing smells as good as a pan of hot blintzes emerging from the oven!

Happy Shavuot!

Cheese Blintzes with Strawberries
Adapted slightly from The Book of Jewish Food
By Claudia Roden
Makes 18 small blintzes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/3 cups water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola oil

1 pound cottage cheese
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups strawberries, quartered
3 tablespoons sugar

In large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, milk and water until well blended.  Add the eggs, salt and canola oil and stir until smooth.  Let sit for 1-2 hours at room temperature.

Heat an 8-inch, non-stick frying pan over medium high heat.  Using a paper towel dipped in canola oil, wipe the bottom to lightly grease it.  Pour 1/3 cup of the blintz batter in and swirl the pan to cover the bottom.  When the pancake browns lightly and releases easily, flip it over and cook for a few seconds on the other side.  Repeat with remaining batter, stacking the pancakes up as you go.  The pancakes can be made ahead and covered until ready to use (chill them if preparing the night before).

In the bowl of a food processor, whiz the cottage cheese, cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla until smooth.  Set aside until ready to form the blintzes (again, cover and chill if making the night before).

Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish.  To form a blintz, lay a pancake flat and spoon about 2 tablespoons of the cheese filling in the middle.  Fold the two side edges over the filling and roll the open edges over to encase the cheese (like a little burrito).  Place the rolls side by side in the prepared dish.  The dish can be covered and kept chilled at this point to bake later, or baked right away.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the blintzes for 25 minutes. While they are baking, stir together the strawberries and sugar in a small serving bowl.  Serve the blintzes hot with the bowl of strawberries.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chive and Mushroom Cornmeal Loaf

Chives are abundant now, their cheery blossoms blooming in my yard and waving from curbside gardens as I take walks around our neighborhood.  The sturdy green stems burst with delicate onion flavor and enhance salads, eggs and any dish they are snipped into.

When I saw this month’s #baketogether challenge, I knew chives had to play a role. Abby Dodge shares her delectable recipe for Cornmeal Buttermilk Muffins and invites us to play around and get creative – always fun!

My thoughts were already on a savory track with the chives, so drawing on a favorite omelet combination I sliced baby bella mushrooms and grated Parmesan cheese. Whenever possible these days, I swap out flours to try different ones. This time I included barley flour with the cornmeal and all-purpose flour.

I recently found a couple of brioche pans at a local thrift store, so I baked the batter as a loaf rather than muffins. Let me just say, this is like cornbread elevated to new heights! The loaf is extremely moist, studded with mushrooms and flecks of chives, rich with Parmesan and a bit of zip from lemon zest. When sliced, it makes a nice little appetizer to nibble on with a glass of white wine. Perfect for a summer afternoon!

Chive and Mushroom Cornmeal Loaf
Adapted from Abby Dodge’s Cornmeal Buttermilk Muffins
Makes 1 loaf (serves 8)

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (your choice of mushroom)
Olive oil to sauté
3/4 cup barley flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup ground cornmeal
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup snipped chives
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
6 tablespoons canola oil
Zest of 1lemon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a brioche or loaf pan and set aside.  In a medium sized pan, warm a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat high and sauté the mushrooms until they release juices and begin to brown, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.  Stir in the chives and Parmesan cheese.  In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs and canola oil.  Pour over the dry ingredients and add the mushrooms.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold until just blended (don’t worry if there are a few lumps).  Do not over mix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden and a skewer comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and serve in wedges.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pickled Asparagus

Who can resist the bounty of spring? From radishes to rhubarb, the delights do not stop.  A top favorite, of course, is asparagus.  Raw, roasted, grilled or steamed, these slender beauties offer a myriad of ways to be savored.

Asparagus season always feels too short to me and pickling is a delicious way to extend it.  I am a fan of quick pickles and their instant gratification.  My fridge is beginning to fill with jars, which makes me quite happy (Asian Style Rhubarb Pickles anyone?). Pickled asparagus has joined the briny collection and we’ve been contentedly munching away all week.

These pickled spears taste of grass and green – spring’s flavors.  I can imagine endless ways to devour them, such as a simple appetizer with homemade mayo, chopped in a salad, or served with polenta and a poached egg (eggs and asparagus always make a lovely marriage together).  My best suggestion, though?  Straight from the jar.

Pickled Asparagus
Makes 2 quarts

3 1/2 cups white balsamic or white wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
10 sprigs of fresh dill
5 garlic cloves, halved
A few shakes of crushed red chile peppers
2 1/2 pounds (or 2 bunches) of asparagus, ends trimmed (save for making veggie stock)

For the brine, combine the vinegar, water, salt and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Let boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Divide the dill, garlic, crushed red chile peppers and asparagus spears between 2 sterilized, quart-sized jars.

Carefully fill the jars with the brine to within 1/2 inch of the top of the rim, covering the asparagus completely. Discard any leftover brine. Place lids on the jars and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving. Pickles will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwiches for a Birthday

I am swooning in sun drenched Seattle!  The rhododendrons are bursting with blossoms, the birds are chirping and the air is warm – in fact, I can say it was even hot over the weekend.  This all made for a marvelous Mother’s Day.  Unfortunately, I was feeling crummy with a cold (where did this come from in May?) but my family pampered me well, beginning with a mimosa in bed, giving me some much needed vitamin C.  My sniffles did not deter me from having a peaceful, relaxing day, though, which I spent dozing and reading in the sun ... and contemplating birthday sweets.

A festive air begins this week as we celebrate Isaac’s birthday.  Isaac brings joy and laughter to us each day, and I am incredibly proud to be his mama.  For a number of years, he has requested strawberry birthday cake, which I’m delighted to bake and is in the oven as I write.  This year, in addition to strawberry cake, we also made ice cream sandwiches.  You can never have too many birthday treats, right?

The stirrings of summer must have prompted thoughts of ice cream.  And, when I reflect on how quickly time passes (Isaac is turning 15), I am feeling nostalgic for childhood favorites.

A thin, cake-like cookie is filled with your choice of ice cream. Isaac chose two flavors - mint chip and coffee.  Let me tell you, these ice cream sandwiches are sublime!  The cookie is rich and chocolatey (especially with some added espresso powder) and licking the ice cream from the edges before biting into one is deeply satisfying.  They are perfect to make ahead and keep stashed in the freezer, which I plan to do all summer long!

Happy Birthday, Isaac!

The recipe I used is created by the wonderful Abby Dodge at Fine Cooking and can be seen here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Graham Nut Pudding for Mother’s Day

Tastes can evoke vivid memories, and for me a familiar taste of my childhood is Graham Nut Pudding.  This is a pudding my mom made often when I was growing up.  It is not a typical pudding – none of my friends had ever heard of such a custard – but we all loved it.  It's an old-fashioned comfort pudding and usually it didn’t last long enough to chill before it was devoured at breakfast or brunch.

My mom loves to be in the kitchen.  Her home-cooked dinners, homemade school lunches and countless pies cooling on the kitchen counter fill my memory.   When I started copying some of her recipes to begin my own collection, Graham Nut Pudding was the first one I grabbed.  In fact, my mom made it last week while I was visiting in Boston.

The pudding is made with homemade graham nuts or Grape-Nuts cereal.  I keep intending to make my own graham nuts (using graham flour) and have a couple of recipes tucked away.  Until then, store bought cereal will suffice (Kashi also has a brand of “7 grain nuggets” that I used this last time). The custard is simple to stir together.  While baking, the graham nuts sink and form a cake-like base, the middle becomes a smooth, lightly sweet milky custard and the top is a thin layer of nutmeg-kissed crust.  Honestly, it’s the type of pudding you keep “evening out the edges on” until you’ve nibbled away more than you’ve intended.

As Mother’s Day approaches, it warms my heart to see my sons enjoying this same pudding as much as I do.  Time passes quickly, as evidenced by my delightful, growing boys (both taller than me now!), and I hope as they journey into the world they will have many fond kitchen memories to take with them.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Graham Nut Pudding
From my mom
Serves 8

1/2 cup homemade graham nuts or Grape-Nuts cereal
4 cups whole milk
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional, I prefer to use only the nutmeg)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole and place in a roasting pan. Have boiling water ready to pour in pan.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together all the ingredients. Pour into the prepared casserole. Pour boiling water in the roasting pan until it reaches about halfway up the casserole.

Bake for 1 1/4 hours. The pudding will be set but still jiggle a bit. Remove it from the roasting pan to cool. It can be eaten warm or put in the refrigerator to chill for the next day. Enjoy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Oatmeal-Maple Scones, Boston and an Anniversary

Today is the first anniversary of Blue Kale Road, and what a road it has been. When I began this journey, I had no idea of all the fun, creative challenges and learning I was embarking on.  It’s been a year of happy discoveries!

One of the unexpected joys of writing Blue Kale Road is meeting other food bloggers, both online and in person.  What a world of kind, supportive, delightful people! I was in Boston this past week to visit my parents as they prepare to move to California.  In addition to having a “last hurrah” with my folks in my hometown, I was looking forward to meeting three of my favorite food bloggers.  I am consistently inspired when I read Molly, Sara and Emily’s lovely blogs and I want to cook all they share.  Seeing each of them in person was a treat – what a pleasure to meet such vibrant, talented women!

I indulged in a few other treats last week, too - Boston is filled with amazing restaurants. Since my parents are leaving the city we took advantage of this opportunity to eat out ... a lot.  We popped in to some of their local favorite spots like the Grotto, Paramount, Pierrot, the Sail Loft and even tea at the Four Seasons!  Creamy garlic soup, Greek omelets, buttery Dover sole, rich goat cheese puff pastry, glasses of champagne ... let’s just say it’s a good thing we were walking everywhere, which also allowed me to take in some of my best-loved Boston sights.

A morning visit to Flour Bakery and Café left me happily filled with sweets. Joanne Chang does not disappoint!  My parents and I studied the chalkboard menu filled with tempting choices and finally decided upon the granola bar, lemon ginger scone, pecan sticky roll and almond biscotti, all to share amongst ourselves with our cups of coffee.  Bliss, I tell you.

The Flour cookbook has been on my wish list, so I seized the moment and bought it while in Boston.  What better way to bring a taste of the bakery home with me? And now I can share with you.

Yesterday, my first morning home, found me in the kitchen with my cup of tea, the Hunger Games soundtrack playing and the Flour cookbook open.  What to bake?  I made Joanne Chang’s luscious homemade Oreos last fall for a bake sale, so I decided to focus on a breakfast item for my sleeping family.  Not surprisingly, given my love of all things maple, the Oatmeal-Maple Scones called out to me.  I improvised a bit with the recipe since I hadn’t been grocery shopping yet, substituting milk for cream, honey for half of the maple syrup, walnuts for the pecans and dried blueberries for the golden raisins.

The resulting scones were heavenly.  The maple glaze filled the craggy tops with earthy sweetness, and biting into the scone’s crisp surface yielded a buttery, flaky interior.  Nibbling on a scone in the sunshine, reflecting on the past year and daydreaming about what may lie around the next curve in the road ahead made for a very content morning.  I am grateful to be in this moment.

Oatmeal-Maple Scones
Adapted slightly from Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery and Café  
By Joanne Chang
Makes 8-9

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups oats (not instant or quick)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8 pieces
1/3 cup cold milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup dark honey
1 cold egg

1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, walnuts and dried blueberries and mix on low speed with the paddle attachment.  Drop the pieces of butter over the mixture and beat on low speed for about 30 seconds, until the butter mixes in a bit but is still rather chunky.

In a small bowl, stir together the milk, syrup, honey and egg until well combined.  Pour the mixture into the flour mix and beat for about 30 seconds on low speed.  The dough will be soft.

Remove the bowl from the stand and use a spatula or plastic bench scraper to scrape the dough down from the sides and mix in any dry spots.  Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to scoop and drop mounds of the scone dough on the lined baking sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.  Transfer to a rack and let cool.

While the scones are cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar and maple syrup.  Drizzle in enough water to make a smooth glaze (I used close to 1 tablespoon).  Brush the glaze over the tops of the scones, call everyone to the table and watch them pounce on the scones.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Breakfast Burritos for Cinco de Mayo

Breakfast burritos have been on my mind, ever since we visited Bob's cousins in Elko, Nevada while on our recent RV road trip.  We had a lovely visit and enjoyed catching up with family and introducing our sons to some of their second cousins.  While there, we took a tour of the town, stopping for breakfast at a local burrito spot.  The breakfast burritos we ordered were filled with scrambled eggs and potatoes, with the option to add cheese.  When I unwrapped my (enormous) burrito, I discovered a homemade tortilla, stuffed with eggs and diced potatoes and three flavorful salsas to dollop on top.  Simple, fresh, delightful.  A delicious breakfast before we got back on the road.

Inspired by this burrito and the approach of Cinco de Mayo, I made breakfast burritos when we returned home to Seattle.  We love Mexican food, tied only with sushi as our family favorite, and we welcome any opportunity to indulge in it.  Since this burrito is all about simple ingredients, you want to make sure they shine.  First, I looked for the best quality tortillas I could find (making homemade would be even better - on my list!) and heated them until they puffed and turned a bit brown (but don't turn away like I did and set off the smoke detector!).  I then diced some Yukon Gold potatoes and fried them - in butter - until softened but still firm.  Last, I softly scrambled eggs from our hens - again, in butter.  (By the way, if you are ever making scrambled eggs for a crowd, Oven Scrambled Eggs are the ones to turn to. The recipe can easily be cut in half, too.  You are guaranteed a pan of fluffy eggs for your guests!)

A platter of sliced avocado, diced tomatoes, green onions and roasted chiles gave everyone the option to add what they liked.   A dash of hot sauce and we dove in!  They were a hit, and brought a slice of Elko back to our Seattle lives.

Breakfast Burritos
Makes 2 (easily doubles)

8 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 large or 2 small), diced into small pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large flour tortillas
Your favorite hot sauce or salsa

Optional toppings:
Shredded cheese
Sliced avocado
Roasted chiles
Diced green onions
Diced tomatoes

In a large, non-stick saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.  Add the diced potatoes and stir to coat with butter.  Let the potatoes cook for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times, until they are softened and a little browned but still firm.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from pan and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk the eggs until well stirred.  Add a dash of salt.  Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the same pan over medium-low heat. When melted, pour the eggs in and gently stir them with a rubber spatula.  Keep stirring until they form a fluffy pile and remove from the heat while they are still shiny so they don't over cook and dry out.  Remove eggs from the pan and add to the potatoes.

Set the pan over medium-high heat and lay a tortilla flat on it.  When it puffs up (in under a minute) flip and warm the other side.  Remove and fill with half the eggs and potatoes.  Quickly warm the second tortilla and fill with remaining eggs and potatoes.  Serve with hot sauce or salsa and your chosen toppings.  Wrap them up and enjoy!