Monday, May 31, 2010

Drop Biscuits with Strawberries and Cream

Strawberries made their first appearance at the farmer's market this week, which I was beyond excited to see. I bought quite a few on Saturday and plan on spending part of my time this week looking for strawberry recipes so I can buy a lot more this weekend.

The whole wheat flour adds a wonderful flavor to the biscuits, but they are still light and tender. This recipe is an excellent way to showcase the beautiful strawberries that will be around for much too short a time this summer.

Drop Biscuits with Strawberries and Cream
from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

serves 6

My great-grandmother would make drop biscuits for me every summer when I was growing up. Hers were made from a boxed mix, sprinkled with sugar, and served with sliced sugared strawberries and a generous dollop of Cool Whip. I just loved sitting out on her back porch way past bedtime, in the summer heat, eating biscuits with her. This recipe is my updated version, composed around whole-wheat flour. Drop a warm biscuit into a bowl with some unsweetened whipped cream and a large spoonful of macerated fresh strawberries. It's every bit as good as my great-grandmother's dessert, just without the extra sugar and additives.

Butter for the baking sheet

3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. kosher salt
1 c. cold heavy cream

1.5 t. sugar for dusting
1 lb. strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 T. sugar
1 c. cold heavy cream
1/3 c. creme fraiche, optional

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Rub a baking sheet lightly with butter.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grains or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.

3. Pour in the cream and, using a fork or your hands, stir until the dough just begins to come together. The dough will be very shaggy, do not overmix.

4. Pile the dough into six mounds, leaving 4 inches between them. Use your hands to tuck in the rough pieces of dough. Sprinkle the biscuits with the remaining 1.5 t. of sugar.

5. Bake the biscuits for 34 to 40 minutes, rotating the sheet once halfway through, until the begin to color on the top.

6. While the biscuits are baking, place the berries in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Allow them to macerate, uncovered at room temperature, for about 30 minutes, or until the biscuits are done. Meanwhile, whip the remaining cup of cream (combined with creme fraiche, if desired-see above) into soft peaks that barely hold their shape, and chill.

7. When the biscuits are out of the oven, fill six bowls with cream and berries, then nestle a warm biscuit alongside.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes

My newest cookbook obsession is Good to the Grain, which is about baking with whole grain flours. Whenever I get a new cooking magazine or cookbook, I go through page-by-page, marking every recipe I want to try soon with a Post-It. With this cookbook, I've marked more than half of the recipes. Normally I wouldn't consider a pancake recipe worthy of mention, but this one definitely is. Even though these are made entirely from whole-grain flour, they are surprisingly light, yet filling. I love the flavor of the buckwheat flour with subtle hints of pear and it's nice to get away from the basic buttermilk or whole-wheat pancakes I usually make.

Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes
from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

makes about 12 pancakes

Fragrant ripe pears and rich honey butter are a great match for the dark, earthy flavors of buckwheat flour in these pancakes-imagine a plate of traditional blini but bigger, heartier, and laden with fruit. Choose a honey with a sweet, mild flavor, such as acacia or orange-blossom. And make sure that your pears are juicy and ripe, but not so soft that they fall apart when you grate them. If you don't have whole-grain pastry flour, use all-purpose flour instead. The pancakes won't have quite the pillowy texture they would with pastry flour, but they'll have the same delicious flavor.

Butter for the pan

Dry mix:
1 c. buckwheat flour
1 c. whole-grain pastry flour
3 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. kosher salt

Wet Mix:
2 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1.25 c. whole milk
1 egg
2 medium pears, ripe but firm

4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 c. honey

1. Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grains or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.

2. Whisk the melted butter, milk, and egg until thoroughly combined.

3. Peel the pears. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the whole peeled pears into the milk mixture; the pear juice should fall into the milk along with the grated pears.

4. Using a spatula, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently combine. For tender pancakes, it is important that you use a light hand as you gently fold the batter with the spatula. The batter should be slightly thick, with small pieces of pear flecked throughout.

5. Although the batter is best if used immediately, it can sit for about an hour on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator. When you return to the batter, it will be very thick and should be thinned, 1 tablespoon at a time, with milk-take great care not to overmix.

6. Meanwhile, melt the butter and honey together in a small saucepan and cook until boiling, emulsified, and slightly thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the honey butter into a serving pitcher and set it in a warm place near the stove.

7. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron pan or griddle over medium heat until water sizzles when splashed on the pan. Rube the pan generously with butter; this is the key to crisp, buttery edges, my favorite part of any pancake. Working quickly, dollop 1/4-cup mounds of batter on to the pan, 2 or 3 at a time. Once bubbles have begun to form on the top side of the pancakes, flip it over and cook until the bottom is dark golden-brown, about 5 minutes total.

8. Wipe the pan with a cloth before griddling the next batch. Rub the pan with butter and continue with the rest of the batter. If the pan is too hot or not hot enough, adjust the flame accordingly to keep results consistent.

9. Serve the pancakes hot, straight from the skillet, with the pitcher of honey butter, encouraging your guests to pour liberally.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shrimp and Bok Choy Stir-Fry

This recipe should almost just be called farmer's market stir-fry. I always come home with far more than I need from the farmer's market, mostly veggies, so I'm always trying to come up with recipes to use up the mass quantities of veggies I buy. Stir-fry is healthy, quick, easy, and delicious! How can you go wrong?

Shrimp and Bok Choy Stir-Fry

3/4 c. low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 T. low-sodium soy sauce
1 T. mirin (sweet cooking sake)
1.5 t. cornstarch dissolved in 1 T. water
2 T. sesame oil
2 T. finely minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press or finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 c. sliced green onions-white and light green portions thinly sliced, green part cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz. white mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
12 oz. baby bok choy, thinly sliced crosswise
8 oz. small to medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
Brown rice, for serving

1. Whisk the broth, soy sauce, mirin and cornstarch together in a small bowl.

2. Heat a nonstick wok or large, deep skillet over medium-high to high heat until very hot, about 3 minutes. Add the sesame oil, ginger, garlic and crushed red pepper and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the white and light green portions of green onion and mushrooms and stir-fry until mushrooms are lightly browned and nearly tender, about 3 minutes. Add green part of green onions and bok choy and cook until leaves are wilted and stems are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add shrimp and stir-fry until they are pink and curled and nearly cooked through, about 3 minutes.

3. Stir the sauce, then stir it into the wok and cook until it is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp and bok choy mixture to a serving bowl and serve with brown rice.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Linguine with Smoked Trout and Asparagus

I picked up some smoked trout at the farmer's market this past weekend after I had success using smoked fish in Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Pizza. I didn't find any recipes that struck my fancy, so I went ahead and made up my own.

I used parsley mainly because I like it and always have access to fresh (I grow my own) and parsley seems like it works pretty well in any savory dish, but there are many other fresh herbs that would complement this dish nicely.

Linguine with Smoked Trout and Asparagus

serves 4 to 6

1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
One 13.25-ounce package whole-wheat linguine
2 T. unsalted butter
1 c. heavy cream, half-and-half, or whole milk (depending on how rich you want the sauce to be)
1/4 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan, if you don't have it)
4 oz. smoked trout, skin removed and cut into small pieces
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground salt and pepper

1. Boil asparagus pieces for 2 to 3 minutes or until just tender. Plunge into an ice bath or rinse with cold water (to stop the asparagus from cooking further) and drain thoroughly.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain pasta and place in a serving bowl.

3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet. Add asparagus and toss until coated, about 1 minute. Stir in cream and cheese; cook and stir until slightly thickened. Add smoked trout, stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over pasta and toss to combine. Top with fresh parsley.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Pizza

I picked up some smoked salmon at Whole Foods this past weekend and was searching for a creative way to use it and came up with this recipe. I been meaning to make pizza for a while and wanted to something more than the veggie or BBQ chicken pizza that I usually make at home. Both salmon and cream cheese and salmon and asparagus are natural pairs to me and I rounded out the recipe with a bit of garlic and cheese, which every pizza needs. While there may be recipes out there similar to this one, this recipe isn't inspired by anything other than what I had in the house and my own creativity.

Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Pizza

One 12-ounce prepared pizza crust (I prefer whole wheat Boboli)
4 oz. cream cheese or Neufchâtel, softened
2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press or finely minced

8 oz. asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 oz. smoked salmon, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Spread softened cream cheese evenly on pizza crust. Sprinkle garlic evenly over crust.

2. Boil asparagus pieces for 2 to 3 minutes or until just tender. Plunge into an ice bath or rinse with cold water (to stop the asparagus from cooking further) and drain thoroughly. Distribute asparagus evenly over crust.

3. Divide salmon evenly over the pizza and top with shredded cheese. Bake at 450 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Crusty Black Bean-Chorizo Subs

I LOVE chorizo. It's basically the bacon of Mexico, so it's no small wonder that I happen to adore it. Just a little bit adds a huge amount of flavor to a recipe and there are seemingly endless varieties. It's readily available in most grocery stores; both Johnsonville and Klement's make chorizo, as well as a number of other companies.

Crusty Black Bean-Chorizo Subs (Tortas de Chorizo y Frijoles Negros)
from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

8 oz. fresh Mexican chorizo sausage, casing removed (about 1 cup)
3 to 4 T. vegetable or olive oil (divided use)
Two 15-ounce cans black (or other) beans OR 3.5 c. home-cooked black beans (or other beans), with just enough liquid to cover them
4 telera or bolillo rolls, crusty French rolls or submarine sandwich rolls
About 6 oz. Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat cheese, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and cut into 1/4-inch slices
About 3/4 c. roasted tomatillo salsa, or bottle hot sauce, such as Mexican Tamazula or Bufalo

1. Set a very large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat and add the chorizo. Cook, breaking up the clumps, until browned and thoroughly cooked, about 8 to 9 minutes. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the oil (depending on how much the chorizo has rendered) and the beans. As the beans come to a simmer, mash them to a smooth paste with a Mexican bean masher, old-fashioned potato masher or the back of a large cooking spoon. Cook, stirring nearly constantly, until the consistency of very soft mashed potatoes-expect about 10 minutes after adding the beans. Taste and season with salt if you think necessary. Keep warm over the lowest heat, covered to keep the beans soft and moist.

2. Heat a large griddle or skillet over medium. Slice the rolls open. Use fingers or a spoon t scrape out some of the soft bread in the center of each half, making a small hollow. Brush the insides with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, then lay them cut side down on the griddle or skillet to crisp to a rich golden brown, about 2 minutes. (You may have to do this in batches if your rolls are large or your griddle/skillet small.)

3.  Smear about 1/2 cup of the chorizo-bean mixture over the bottom half of each rolls. (You'll have about 1 cup of the mixture left over; cover and refrigerate for a midnight snack.) Top with slices of the cheese and the avocado. Spoon on the salsa or dash on the hot sauce. Set the top of each roll in place, and you're ready to serve.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Quick Cowboy Beans

I bought some chicken bratwurst from Pecatonica Valley Farm at the farmer's market yesterday and to me the natural side for bratwurst is baked beans. I could have just bought a can of Bush's Baked Beans or made these baked beans again, but I thought this was an excellent opportunity to try something a little different.

I used two pieces country bacon, also from Pecatonica Valley Farm, instead of regular bacon because that's what I had on hand and I wanted to try it out. It's not the same as regular bacon, but still worked beautifully in this recipe. I also didn't have pickled jalapenos, so I used sliced, jarred jalapenos instead.

Quick Cowboy Beans (Frijoles Charros Rapidos)
from Mexican Everyday

4 thick slices bacon, cut into small pieces
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
Half of a 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
3.5 c. home-cooked pinto beans with enough cooking liquid to cover OR two 15-ounce cans pinto beans
1 or 2 canned pickled jalapenos-or more if you like spicy beans
1/2 c. chopped cilantro

1. In a large (4-quart) saucepan, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring regularly, until crisp, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for a minute, then add the tomatoes with their juice. Cook, stirring regularly, for 3 to 4 minutes to blend the flavors. Add the beans, with their liquid, and simmer over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.

2. While the beans are simmering, stems the chiles, cut in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Chop into small pieces and add to the beans.

3. Taste and season with salt if necessary-if the beans you used were already seasoned you probably won't need any more salt. Ladle into small bowls, sprinkle with the cilantro and serve.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Rhubarb Crisp

Last weekend my husband brought back a couple of pounds of rhubarb for me, so I've been searching for another rhubarb recipe after making Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake (which was amazing) a couple of weeks ago. I wanted something that would use a lot of rhubarb, so I went back to basics-a crisp! I adore apple crisp, and sometimes the most basic recipe is the best way to showcase an ingredient.

Rhubarb Crisp
slightly adapted from from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

5 c.  fresh or frozen unsweetened sliced rhubarb
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3 T. plus 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. regular rolled oats
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 t. ground nutmeg or cinnamon (I opted for nutmeg)
1/4 c. butter or margarine
1/4 c. chopped nuts or coconut (optional)
Vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. If fruit is frozen, thaw but do not drain. Place fruit in a 2-quart square baking dish. Stir in the granulated sugar and 3 T. all-purpose flour.

2. For topping, in a medium bowl combine oats, brown sugar, 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, and nutmeg. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts, if using. Sprinkle topping over filling.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (40 minutes for thawed fruit) or until fruit is tending and topping is golden. Cool slightly. If desired, serve warm with ice cream.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Green Bean Salad with Red Onion and Salsa Dressing

 Happy Cinco de Mayo! In honor of the day, I made a Mexican dinner of Chipotle Shrimp and this green bean salad. If raw red onion is too strong a flavor for you, I recommend rinsing the raw onion thoroughly with cold water before adding it to the salad. It will tone down the flavor some, but I know that raw onion isn't for everyone. This is a light and healthy salad, perfect for a picnic.

Green Bean Salad with Red Onion and Salsa Dressing
from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

serves 4

12 oz. (about 5 loosely packed cups) green beans, tops and tails broken off

For the salsa dressing
3/4 c. vegetable oil, olive oil, or a mixture of the two
1/2 c. good-quality salsa, preferably green tomatillo salsa
2 T. fresh lime juice
1/4 c. chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1. Scoop the green beans into a microwaveable bowl, sprinkle on a tablespoon or so of water, cover tightly with plastic and poke a few holes in the top. Microwave on high (100%) until the green beans are tender-crunchy, usually about 3 minutes. Uncover (careful: there will be trapped steam) and tip off any water. Let cool.

2. While the green beans are cooling, combine the oil, salsa, and lime juice in a blender jar or food processor. Process until smooth. Pour into a jar and stir in the cilantro. Taste and season highly with salt (the quantity will vary depending on the saltiness of the salsa).

3. Add the onion to the cooled green beans. Shake the dressing to combine thoroughly, then drizzle on about 1/3 cup. (Cover and refrigerate the remaining dressing for another salad.) Toss to combine. Taste and season with additional salt if you think the salad could use it. Sprinkle with additional cilantro, and the salad's ready to serve.

Chipotle Shrimp

Happy Cinco de Mayo! I hope everyone found a chance to enjoy some delicious Mexican food and drink today. I chose to make a little Mexican feast at home, Chipotle Shrimp and Green Bean Salad with Red Onion and Salsa Dressing, both recipes from Rick Bayless, my favorite chef.

Chipotle Shrimp
from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted), drained
2 to 3 canned chipotles en adobo
1 T. chipotle canning sauce
2 T. vegetable or olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or minced through a garlic press
About 1.5 c. fish or chicken broth or water
1 to 1.25 lbs. medium-large shrimp (21 to 25 shrimp per pound), peeled and deveined, tail left on if you wish
About 1/4 c. (loosely packed) roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish

1. Pour the drained tomatoes into a blender or food processor. Add the chipotle chiles and chipotle canning sauce. Process until smooth.

2. In a very large (12-inch) skillet, heat the oil over medium. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant and golden, about 1 minute. Pour in the tomato mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Add enough broth or water to achieve a light tomato sauce consistency. Taste and season highly with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon.

3. Add the shrimp to the pan. Cook, stirring nearly constantly, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 4 minutes. Stir in a little more broth or water if the sauce has thickened too much.

4. Scoop onto dinner plates and sprinkle with the cilantro.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Fettuccine with Peas, Asparagus, and Pancetta

Although pancetta is delicious, I substituted prosciutto, as I already had it around. (I aused spaghetti instead of fettuccine or penne for the same reason.) Although it's not exactly the same as pancetta (bacon is often substituted for pancetta in recipes), I think the prosciutto complements the local asparagus, green onions, and herbs very nicely. The cream and cheese made this pasta rich without being too heavy. The next time I make this I think I'll substitute pea pods for the shelled peas. I served this pasta with watercress salad with a lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette.

Fettuccine with Peas, Asparagus, and Pancetta
from Bon Appetit, May 2010

12 ounces fettuccine or penne
3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped 
1 1/4 pounds asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces 
2 cups shelled fresh green peas, blanched 1 minute in boiling water, drained, or frozen peas (do not thaw) 
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts separated from dark green parts 
2 garlic cloves, pressed 
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving 
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream 
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel 
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided 
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided
1. Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.
2. Meanwhile, cook pancetta in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon drippings from skillet. Add asparagus to drippings in skillet; sauté 3 minutes. Add peas, white and pale green parts of green onions, and garlic; sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. Add vegetable mixture, 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, dark green parts of green onions, 1/2 cup Parmesan, cream, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, half of parsley, and half of basil to pasta. Toss, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if needed. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle pancetta, remaining parsley, and basil over. Serve, passing additional Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Guacamole Three Ways

With Cinco de Mayo coming up this Wednesday, many people will be scarfing down fake and authentic Mexican food. My personal source for Mexican recipes is Rick Bayless, and in particular his cookbook, Authentic Mexican. While the recipes in there an undeniably authentic and delicious, many require you to spend all day in the kitchen, something I enjoy, but don't always have time for. When I don't have hours to spend in the kitchen, I go to Mexican Everyday, which is full of delicious recipes that can be accomplished in not too much time and are still pretty authentic, even if they do have a few shortcuts.

I opted for the luxurious guacamole, without raw tomato. It was fantastic, better than anything I've had in a restaurant, probably mostly by virtue of the fact that I made it and ate it immediately. That, and any recipe from Rick Bayless is probably going to be amazing. I see a lot more fresh guacamole in my future.

Guacamole Three Ways: Simple, Herby, and Luxurious
from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

2 medium ripe avocados
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press

To make it herby, add:
2 T. chopped cilantro
1 T. fresh lime juice

To make it luxurious, also add:
Fresh hot green chile to taste, finely chopped (such as 1 serrano or 1/2 to 1 jalapeno)
1/4 small white onion, finely chopped
1/2 medium tomato, chopped into 1/4-inch dice

1. Cut the avocados in half, running your knife around the pit from stem to blossom end and back up again. Twist the halves in opposite directions to free the pit, then pull the halves apart. Dislodge the pit, then scoop the avocado flesh into a medium bowl.

2. Mash the avocado with a large fork or potato masher. Stir in the garlic and about 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus any of the other sets of ingredients you've chosen. If your list includes white onion, rinse it first under cold water, then shake well to rid it of excess moisture before adding to the avocado. (This reduces the risk of having the onion flavor overwhelm the guacamole.)

3. Taste and season with additional salt if appropriate. If not using immediately, cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate-preferably for no more than a few hours.