Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Quick Bread

After some experimentation, this is adapted from a few different recipes I found online.  It's nothing but whole grains, and unlike many quick breads it is made in a free-form loaf rather than a loaf pan.  The texture is satisfyingly hearty and toothsome but not too heavy.  It's best eaten fresh, but not at all bad the next day.  I find it just a little addictive.

I buy soft wheat from Upinngil Farm or Four Star Farms (available at Green Fields Market) and grind it into whole wheat pastry flour.  This yields a wonderful flavor but a somewhat fluffier and coarser flour than what you get if you just buy whole wheat pastry flour at the store.

1 cup coarsely ground oat flour or instant oats (not old fashioned rolled)
1 1/2 - 2 cups freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour (store bought may need less)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp honey (use less or more depending on sweetness desired)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 - 1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Combine oatmeal, whole wheat pastry flour (start with 1 - 1 1/2 cups), baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Combine honey, oil, and milk (start with 3/4 cup) in a small bowl and mix well (honey will tend to stiffen with cold milk, so stir well).  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  Add additional flour or milk if needed to form a soft but not too sticky dough.  It will not have the consistency of a yeasted bread dough, but you want to be able to handle it.  Form it into a roll about 2-3 inches across and 6 inches long.  Place on a baking stone or lightly oiled baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Makes 1 loaf.  Serves 4-6 as an accompaniment to soup, etc.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Roasted Fingerling and Carrot Coins

Simple but really good.  You can always add some herbs to dress it up (try rosemary, sage, thyme, or parsley), but it's not at all necessary.  If you happen to have some fancy large crystal salt lying around (I know, most people don't), use it here.  I have some that my in-laws gave me for Christmas, 'artisanal' sea salt with large but delicate crystals.  I used it in this dish and it added a nice crunch here and there, a pleasant effect.

2 lbs fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch rounds (do not peel)
3-4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the potatoes and carrots together in a roasting pan and drizzle generously with olive oil (don't be shy on this!).  Sprinkle generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and toss to coat.

Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring once or twice about halfway through, until the vegetables are tender and starting to crisp up a little bit in places.  Serve hot.

Serves about 6.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Leek Risotto with Apples, Spinach, and Blue Cheese

Sometimes a set of ingredients just speaks to me tells me what I need to do with it.  Such was the case here, with apples, spinach, and leeks in the fridge (I had to go out and buy the blue cheese, but the apples and spinach insisted).  Choose a blue cheese of your liking; I recommend erring on the side of mildness rather than pungency here.  You want it to be flavorful but not to completely overwhelm the rest of the dish.  I used a marvelous sheep's milk blue from Seabrook Farm in Vermont.  For the apples, choose ones that are nice and tart that will hold their shape well when cooked - I used Macouns.

Olive oil
3 medium-large leeks, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 medium-sized tart apples, peeled and diced
1/2 lb spinach, stemmed and well chopped
3-4 oz. crumbled or diced blue cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Make the risotto in the pressure cooker: Heat a little olive oil in the bottom of the cooker and saute about one third of the sliced leeks for 2 minutes or so.  Add the rice and saute for a minute or two.  Pour in the stock, bring the cooker to pressure, and cook for 7 minutes.  Release pressure.

While the risotto cooks, heat a bit more oil in a large skillet and saute the remainder of the leeks for 2-3 minutes.  Add the apples and cook over medium heat until tender but not soft (you don't want applesauce here).  Add the spinach and cook for a few minutes, covered, until it wilts.  Stir in the blue cheese and let it melt, then mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve mounds of risotto topped generously with the apple and spinach mixture.

Serves about 4.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Classic Beef Stew

No exotic spices here, just classic comfort food with plenty of flavor - perfect for a brisk day.  Make this in the middle of the afternoon and let it simmer away over very low heat until dinner time.

2 lbs stew beef, cubed
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Canola oil
3 medium onions, diced
2 1/2 - 3 lbs fingerling potatoes, cubed or in 1/2-inch rounds
3 large carrots, diced or in rounds
Beef stock
1 tsp dried thyme
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Place the beef in a bowl and toss with the flour, chili powder, and a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Heat some canola oil in a large pot.  Add the beef and brown well over high heat.  Strong browning action here will produce better flavor for the stew.

When the beef is browned, add the onions and stir well.  Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, as the onions brown a little bit too.  Add the potatoes and carrots to the pot, then enough beef stock to cover all ingredients.  Add the thyme and Worcestershire sauce and some more salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the beef is tender, at least 30 minutes - an hour or even longer would be better if you have the time.

Serves about 6.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pureed Potato Soup with Shiitakes and Roasted Garlic

Here's a simple, earthy, comforting soup for fall.  If you don't have roasted garlic on hand (and don't have time to roast it before making the soup) just mince and saute several cloves along with the shallot and mushrooms.

Olive oil
1 large shallot or small onion, finely chopped
1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and finely chopped
2 1/2 lbs potatoes, cubed (no need to peel)
1 bay leaf
Chicken stock and/or water
1 head roasted garlic, cloves peeled
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a little olive oil in a large pot.  Add the shallot or onion and the shiitake mushrooms and saute for 3-4 minutes.  Add the potatoes, bay leaf, and enough stock and/or water to cover.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

When the potatoes are nice and tender, remove the bay leaf and add the roasted garlic.  Puree the soup using an immersion blender (or do it in batches in a regular blender or food processor, then return to the pot).  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot, topped with a small drizzle of olive oil if desired.

Serves 5-6.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pizza with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, Onions, and Herbs

Here's another pizza using that delicious Fire Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Sauce, this one a bit less unconventional than the last one I posted, with the pears and feta.  Sliced red onion and chopped fresh herbs add some additional interest while letting the flavors of the sauce shine.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
3/4 cup Fire Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Sauce
1 medium red onion, sliced into thin rings
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 oz shredded mozzarella

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

Spread the red pepper sauce over the pizza crust, then arrange the onion rings over it.  Sprinkle with the  sage and parsley and add a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Top with mozzarella.

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

Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pizza with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, Pears, and Feta

This is a little unusual, but it's definitely a winner, with enthusiastic endorsement from everyone from my five year old to my mother-in-law.  Use pears that are nicely ripe but not mushy.  Substitute goat cheese for the feta if you like.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
3/4 cup Fire Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Sauce
1 medium-large pear, cored sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 oz crumbled feta
2 oz. shredded mozzarella (optional)

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

Spread the red pepper sauce over the pizza crust, then layer with the pear and feta.  Add mozzarella if desired.

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

Serves 3-4.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fire Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Sauce

This lovely orange sauce is sweet and savory with a silky texture from the eggplant.  Use it on pizza or pasta, or simply as a dip for pita chips.

3 red bell peppers
1 medium eggplant, pierced in a few places with a sharp knife
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Start by roasting the peppers and eggplant over a hot fire on the grill, turning as needed.  You want to blacken the skin of the peppers all the way around.  For the eggplant, roast until the skin is blackened and the eggplant is very soft.  The peppers and eggplant should take around the same amount of time.  Let the peppers and eggplant cool until you can handle them comfortable.

Peel the skin off the peppers and discard the stem and seeds.  For the eggplant, either peel off the skin or cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh.  Puree the skinned peppers and eggplant in a food processor.  Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and puree until very smooth.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.