Monday, March 2, 2015

Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Blue Cheese, and Dried Tomatoes

Here's something else to do with some of those caramelized onions, combined here with local blue cheese (I used Quabbin Blue from Chase Hill Farm) and tomatoes that I dried last summer. The result is layers of flavor that bring out added depth in each other. Sweeter varieties of home-dried tomatoes worked very well here.

1 14-inch pizza crust
Olive oil
2-3 ounces shredded mozzarella
1 cup caramelized onions
3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled or diced
1/4 cup rehydrated dried tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly paint the pizza crust with olive oil.

Sprinkle the mozzarella over the pizza crust, then add the onions, distributing them across the pizza. Add the blue cheese and dried tomatoes, then give it a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Bake the pizza for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done and the cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Pizza with Corn, Dried Tomatoes, and Pesto

If you don't freeze anything else in the summer, it's worth putting away some local sweet corn. Slice it off the cob, blanch, cool, and freeze in ziploc bags...then bring it out when you want a taste of summer sweetness. It's a world away from the frozen corn you can buy at the store. Of course, while you're at it, you might as well freeze some pesto too...

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
2-3 ounces shredded mozzarella
3/4 cup corn kernels (thawed if frozen)
1/4 cup rehydrated dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup pesto

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly paint the pizza crust with olive oil.

Spread the mozzarella over the pizza crust, then distribute the corn and tomatoes over the cheese. Dot with blobs of pesto.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until crust is done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Quiche with Caramelized Onions and Feta

One of many possible applications for caramelized onions (which you can make in bulk on the stovetop or in the slow cooker). This quiche is rich and creamy, with a wonderful depth of flavor from the onions.

1 pastry shell for a 9-inch pie (deep dish)
Canola oil
4 large or extra large eggs
1 1/2 cups cream, milk, or combination (whole milk recommended if using milk)
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 ounces crumbled feta
1 cup caramelized onions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare the pastry shell in a pie dish and prick it with a fork. Spray or brush lightly with canola oil.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, then stir in the cream (and/or milk), salt, and pepper until well mixed.

Spread feta and onions into the bottom of the pastry shell, then pour the egg mixture over them. Transfer the pie dish carefully to the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, until the custard is set (it should still be quite soft, but not runny).

Remove quiche oven and let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serves about 4.

Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions

The humble onion is a great locavore winter staple, usually available in plentiful quantity. Transformed by caramelization, they add a rich, intense shot of flavor to whatever recipe you use them in. They'll keep for at least a week in the fridge, and they freeze well, so it's worth making a big batch once in while.

I love caramelized onions, but until now have made them only infrequently because of the time required to be spent standing in front of the stove to do the job properly. It seemed worth trying in the slow cooker, and I have to tell you, this is brilliant. You can make a whole big batch this way with minimal time spend having to tend them. That said, this is best done on a day when you'll be at home and can check in on the onions and stir them once in a while. Because slow cookers vary in shape and power, you'll need to see your particular one does here. My own is a large oval one, fairly new and pretty hot on the High setting.

Step 1: Fill your slow cooker with thinly sliced onions. Drizzle generously with olive oil and stir until the onions are all well coated.

The exact amount with vary with the size of your cooker. You don't have to make a full sized batch if you don't want to.

Step 2: Cook the onions on High, stirring once in a while. There will be a tendency for a few of the slices right at the edge to get brown and crispy and stick to the sides, so you'll want to stir them around periodically. This also gives you a chance to check on their progress. If your cooker runs especially hot on the High setting, you may want to switch it to Low after a few hours, or go back and forth. After 4 hours or so, my onions looked like this:

Continue cooking the onions, periodically stirring and scraping away from the edges. As they cooked down, I just pressed them inward a tiny bit from the sides of the cooker, which helped preventing sticking.

Step 3: Toward the end of cooking, 7-8 hours in or so, you'll see there's a lot of liquid in the cooker. To really properly caramelize, you need this to mostly evaporate. Leave the cooker on High, but crack open the lid. At this point my onions looked like this:

Step 4: Take the lid off entirely and continue to cook the onions on High, checking in periodically. You can use your judgment on when exactly to do this, but make sure it's a time when you will be able to watch them a little more more closely - checking in every 20-30 minutes instead of every few hours. When the onions are a nice rich shade of brown and the liquid is mostly gone, they're ready:

You can use them straight away, or put them away in the fridge or freezer. 

Alternatively, you could leave them right in the cooker and add beef broth, white wine, salt and pepper to make the soup part of French Onion Soup. (Serve with a good quality peasant bread, toasted, and topped with melted cheese. Gruyere is traditional, but cheddar isn't bad.)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Spinach Pesto Pizza with Feta

Each summer, with my son's help, I make a bunch of basil pesto and stash it in the freezer in quantities packaged just right for pizza (1/2 cup) or a pound of pasta (1 cup). I welcome its blast of flavor every time I pull a package out of the freezer. Here it makes a nice base for fresh local hoophouse spinach and local feta cheese. You can optionally add chopped canned artichoke hearts here - not local, but delicious with these ingredients.

1 14-inch pizza crust
1/2 cup basil pesto
4 ounces well chopped fresh spinach
1 cup artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped (about half a can) (optional)
2-3 ounces crumbled feta
1 ounces shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Spread the pesto over the pizza crust. Spread the spinach over it, then strew the feta and artichoke hearts (if using) over the spinach. Top with mozzarella.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until crust done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ginger Maple Roasted Parsnips

Parsnips take really well to dry heat cooking, which brings out their natural sweetness. They pair well with sweet spices and seasonings. If you want to get fancy with the presentation here, you could serve these topped with a sprinkling of fleur de sel. Regardless, do add salt - it works well against the sweetness of the syrup, which gives the parsnips a nice candied texture around the edges.

2 lbs parsnips
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 1/2 Tbsp walnut or canola oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the parsnips and cut out woody cores, then cut into cubes or spears. Toss them in a bowl with the maple syrup, oil, ginger, and a sprinkling of salt. When well coated, spread on a rimmed baking sheet (you may want to use parchment paper or foil to prevent a sticky cleanup job). Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning once, until the parsnips are tender and nicely golden brown.

Serves 3-4.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Winter Tomato Soup with Chicken

If you have a good supply of tomatoes canned or frozen from last summer, a nice pot of tomato soup is perfect for a cold winter evening. The chicken is optional, but it does turn the soup from a side to a hearty main dish. Adding a Parmesan rind while the soup simmers adds a nice depth of flavor.

Olive oil
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced thin
2 quarts canned/frozen tomatoes (thawed if frozen) with their liquid
1-2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried basil
Parmesan rind (optional)
2-3 cups chopped cooked chicken
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan for topping (optional)

Heat a little olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the garlic and onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the carrots and tomatoes, stock, thyme, bay leaf, basil, and Parmesan rind (if using). Simmer until the carrots are completely tender, about 15 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and Parmesan rind from the soup, then puree it either with an immersion blender or in a regular blender. Stir in the chicken and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot. If desired, top with a bit of grated Parmesan at the table.

Serves 4-5.