May 27, 2010

Strawberry Barley Scones

Oh, where do the days go.  I made these lovely scones last Saturday for the Good to the Grain Potluck held at 18 Reasons in San Francisco.  The potluck entailed each of the 25 attendees baking something from the book and bringing it to share, including author Kim Boyce.  We then spent the evening trying each others baked treats and discussing the recipes.

It was so fun to try each of the tasty creations, especially because they were made with a variety of whole-grain flours. And it was a perfect excuse to purchase Good to the Grain, a forward-thinking cookbook that had been on my list of must purchase items.  Kim does an excellent job of walking readers through the different types of flour, ranging from whole-wheat to teff to barley via breads, muffins, granola's and much more.

I chose to make the strawberry barley scones because I'd never tried barley flour and I had a fresh batch of homemade strawberry jam just waiting to be put to good use. I followed the recipe fairly closely, for those of you that have seen the book.  As far as scones go these came together quickly (less than 30 minutes) before I popped them in the oven.

I can't wait to work my way through the rest of Kim's recipes.  A couple good ones that I remember from Saturday are the Olive Oil Cake with spelt flour and rosemary (check out this version shared with everyone on Saturday), and the Iced Oatmeal Cookies with multi-grain flour - which tasted just like Mother's Iced Oatmeal Cookies. If your looking for a simple stand out recipe that will impress I would recommend giving these a try.

Strawberry Barley Scones
from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

butter for the pan

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons barley flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt*
1/2 cold unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 cup Strawberry Jam
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and place a rack in the center of the oven.  Rub a baking sheet lightly with butter.  Sift the dry ingredients, flour through salt, into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.

Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces and add them to the try mixture.  Using your hands, toss the dry mixture with the butter until it is thoroughly coated. Starting from the back of the bowl and working forward, pinch the pieces of butter between your fingers breaking it into smaller bits.  Continue rubbing until the butter is about the sizes of peas.  Be sure to do this as quickly as possible in order for the butter to stay cold.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg until thoroughly combined.  Scrape the buttermilk and egg into the dry mixture, and mix until barley combined.  Use a spatula to transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface.  If the dough is too sticky to handle dust it with flour and fold it together a few times.  Divide the dough into 2 equal size pieces.  Flour your hands and pat each piece of dough into a disk about 1/2 inch thick and approximately the same size.

Cover one disk with the jam or marmalade. Place the other disk on top of the jam and press down gently so that the dough settles into the jam.  (I found an offset spatula very helpful to ease the 2nd round of dough off the counter and onto the jam.) Brush the dough lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.  Use a sharp knife to slice the circle into wedges, like a pie.  Carefully place the wedges on the prepared baking sheet, leaving a couple inches between them.

Bake the scones for 20-25 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through.  They are ready when their tops are golden brown and some of the jam has bubbled over onto the pan.  To keep the scones from sticking to the pan, slide a thin spatula underneath them while they're still warm and move them to a baking rack.  The scones are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day.

*Kim made a note about using kosher salt that was new to me so I'm passing it along here (in case you don't have it).  She says, "You can substitute sea salt or any common table salt you have on hand, but you'll need to adjust the amount you use because sea salt weighs twice as much as an equal measure of kosher salt (depending on the brand). Food scientist and cookbook author Shirley Corriher uses this formula: 1 tablespoon of table or sea salt = 1and 1/2 tablespoons Morton kosher salt = 2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt." This recipe is based on using Diamond Crystal kosher salt, so adjust accordingly. 

Stats: Makes at least 8 medium size scones
Time: 1 hour, less than 30 minutes active time
Seasonal/local ingredients:  The butter was from Clover Creamery, and my strawberry jam was homemade from organic strawberries I picked up a couple weeks ago at the Berkeley Farmer's Market.

happy baking,

May 19, 2010

White beans & Veggie Pot

I pulled this recipe together last week on a whim. I wanted to do something with dried beans, as I need to start working through my growing pantry. I can't help getting a little bag of some new ingredient when I'm in the bulk section of my local natural grocer. Needless to say my beans are starting to pile up.

In the morning I soaked a bowl of them, with the intent of making myself use them that night. But when I got home tired, and thinking about an evening appointment that night, I was pretty ready to order pizza instead of deal with the beans.

Lacking any great sense of culinary creativity I decided to make a vegetable pot of sorts, with beans. Basically I pulled out anything I had left in the fridge from the week: half a potato, a random bell pepper, the last few stalks of get the idea. By using the dutch oven I was able to pour everything in the pot and bake it while we were away at the appointment. Though I wouldn't really recommend leaving the oven unattended - it was well worth coming home to a hot-cooked dinner.

If your ever in a pinch, and you have some dried beans you need to use, let this recipe be your guide. Many veggie combinations would do, you could substitute the white beans for another variety, or use this as a lovely side dish for a bit of light fish or chicken.

White beans & Veggie pot

1 cup Great Northern White Beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 potato, washed and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 bell pepper, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
3 stalks of celery, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup spinach
3 sprigs fresh oregano
1 1/2 cups broth, either chicken or vegetable
salt and pepper to taste

Soak beans in water all day.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Drain the beans. Heat oil in a dutch oven and slightly brown the garlic. Add onions and stir until they start getting soft. Then add potatoes, bell pepper, celery and greens and stir until thoroughly mixed and coated. Add the beans and stir in broth.

Place the lid on the dutch oven and bake for 1.5 hours. Pull out of the oven and stir in salt and pepper to taste. This dish is very versatile and I could see adding more veggies (just be aware of the cooking liquid to make sure nothing burns while it is baking), or you could add pancetta or something similar once the beans are finished baking.

Stats: Serves 4
Time: 1 hour 45 minutes, with all day soaking. Only 15 minutes of active time.
Seasonal Ingredients: The veggies I used were the ones left in the fridge at the end of the week. Everything was from the local market except the bell pepper, which is from Mexico, but I couldn’t resist its beautiful bright orange color.

happy cooking,

May 17, 2010

Flatbread Lasagna

I love magazines. Not all mag's mind you, anything related to cooking and food - love. Any design, home improvement, get-fit mag, natural living mag - love, love, love. It's such a treat when I fly somewhere and to pick out a couple for the trip. Although I've found that it's better to get the cooking ones on the way home, that way I don't have to lug them around for the whole trip. It only took a couple years to figure that out!

Last month coming home from somewhere I grabbed the April issue of Food & Wine. I used to be a subscriber and still love it. I'm not usually one of those read the end of the story first kind of people, but I always turn to the last page for the "last bite" section which features some yummy pastry, or dessert. I can never resist trying those recipes.

Anyways, over the weekend I was scrolling through the recipes I marked to try and this one caught my eye. I don't have a good standby lasagna recipe and using flatbread instead of noodles definitely sounded different.

Overall I was happy with how it turned out. The whole wheat bread made it seemingly healthier and the soaked up all the sauce and cheese nicely, making a good base. The second night we re-heated it in the oven and got that nice crispness that makes everything a bit chewier. This is definitely a dish where the first night is good, but the second is better.

Flatbread Lasagna
from Food & Wine

1 pound hot Italian sausages, casings removed
1 and 1/2 cups ricotta
salt and ground pepper
3 cups jarred tomato sauce (I used my homemade tomato sauce, but any marinara would work)
4 whole wheat pita (or naan)**
2 cups shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a skillet cook the sausages over medium heat and break up the sausages until thoroughly cooked and browned. In a small bowl season the ricotta with salt and pepper and mix it well. Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce in a large pie plate (if you have a deep-dish pie plate use that).  Top with one flatbread, half of the sausage, and 3/4 cup each of the ricotta and mozzarella (see side note below). Start again with the sauce and layer everything again.

Side note: If your using a deep dish pie plate you will probably be able to layer everything twice more in which case you should use 1/3 of the sausage to start and 1/2 cups of the cheese.  I used just a normal plate and found that only two layers fit.   

After the last layer top with another 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce and the last flatbread.  Top with the remaining 1 cup of sauce and 1/2 cup of mozzarella.  Create a foil tent and place your pie plate on the top shelf in the center of the oven.  I recommend putting a sheet pan underneath the plate to catch any drippings.  Bake for 30 minutes with the foil on, then uncover and bake for 30 minutes longer.  Let it cool for 15-20 minutes and serve. 

**The original recipe called for pocketless pita or naan, to make this a little healthier I used whole wheat pita.  With all the sausage and cheese not sure if I can really call this a healthy dish though...whole wheat or not.

Stats: Serve 6, with leftovers
Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes, but only 20 minutes active time
Seasonal ingredients: No seasonal ingredients for this one, although I did use the tomato sauce I jarred a couple weeks ago.

happy cooking this week.

May 16, 2010

Sunday Picture - Grow little seeds grow

I spent Saturday afternoon working on my little deck garden. Do you remember when the seeds had just sprouted? My how far they've come. A couple times today I walked out to "check" on them, and without fail every time I felt a huge smile come across my face.  So I thought for the Sunday Picture this week I would post a little tour of my growing garden.  There are...

2 kinds of green beans...

...lots of tomatoes, a little basil, and other herbs...

...4 kinds of tomatoes to be exact, here's the baby cherry...

...and loads of winter and summer squash, bibb lettuce, spinach and cucumbers.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend, I'll be back tomorrow with a different kind of lasagna.

May 14, 2010

Chocolate Truffles

After a couple weeks in Spain it's been nice getting back in the kitchen and especially baking.  I've made some lovely uber-light chocolate butter cookies, churned up a batch of strawberry flecked ice-cream, whipped up a little strawberry jam, and made these fabulous truffles.  You could say I went through a case of withdrawal and I didn't even realize it.

And just to clarify, it isn't all for me...hehe, though I have tried it all. Yum.

The truffles were actually for a friends birthday party.  The only request from the host was to bring something chocolaty and not cake-like.  Truffles seemed like the perfect solution.   Just to warn you, they are a bit messy, as in all over my hands can't take a picture messy, but as you can imagine well worth it.  As truffles go these were fairly light and worked well as a compliment to the strawberry pie and cupcakes also sat on the dessert table.  I used Cognac as a light flavoring, however they would probably be good with any number of liqueurs.  I can definitely see making a peppermint version during the holidays.

Or using Frangelico as a flavoring and then coating the outside in toasted hazelnuts, that would be nice too.  The base is easy enough which allows for room to play with the other flavors.  If you come up with any good ones please pass them along. 

Chocolate Truffles
from Chez Panisse Desserts

6 ounces semisweet chocolate (either weighed or measured from the bar)
1/2 ounce unsweetened chocolate
5 tablespoons whipping cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
3/4 teaspoon Cognac, Chartrueuse, Grand Marnier or other flavoring (I used Cognac)
walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, chocolate, or cocoa powder for coating the truffles (optional)

Coarsely chop the chocolate and put in a double broiler (or glass bowl on top of a pot of simmering water) with the cream and butter.  Melt the mixture over hot water (not boiling), stirring until it is smooth and glossy.  Remove from the heat and stir in the Cognac (or other flavoring).  Set aside and chill thoroughly.  Once chilled, line a small cooking tray with parchment paper and prepare a cup of hot water.  Use a melon baller or a small cookie scooper to scoop out the truffles.  Dip the scoop your using into the hot water between each truffle.  This can be somewhat messy, but I found that making sure the chocolate is cold and keeping the water hot helps a bit.  If the chocolates break apart in the process, either pinch or roll them together to keep them as round as possible.

Though the original recipe said it would make 3 dozen, mine only made about 2 dozen - I think my scoop was larger than a melon baller.  Once you've made all of the balls chill them again before serving and before rolling them in fun toppings or they can be served as is.  I rolled my in toasted walnuts and cocoa powder for the party.

Stats: Made 2 dozen 1 inch round truffles
Time: 4 hours, but less than an hour of that was hands on
Seasonal Ingredients: I didn't use any seasonal ingredients, but they were all local (the chocolate was a mix of Guittard and Scharffen Berger) and organic. 

have a wonderful, chocolate-filled, weekend!

May 11, 2010

Homemade Tomato Sauce

So my friends, this is post is long overdue, and I can only chalk that up to having vacation-head for the past couple weeks.  Matt and I just got back from a vacation to Spain, which I will totally dedicate another post to because it was phenomenal.  Though we've been back a week, it has taken some time to get back into the routine and find my blogging voice again.

Since we're already half-way through the month I'm just going to work from my own journal this month and create meals, and treats as days go by. I'll try to blog my way through the month as much as possible.  In the mean time I wanted to be sure and post this fantastic tomato sauce recipe.  For those of you in the southern hemisphere, this might be perfect timing. For the rest of us up north, stash this one away for a few months until the tomatoes are fresh and overflowing from all the markets. 

This recipe comes from the life-changing (at least for me) book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  I've been a Kingsolver fan for years and have probably read all of her books at least once.  I think I was pretty in the dark a couple years ago when I picked this one up in terms of how life changing it would be.  Assuming it was just another good story, I dove into the book.  It was a good story, one of her best I would say.  And it was so much more.  I remember re-reading sections and fantasizing having a farm of my own one day.  For me this book brought to life this way of life that I had glimpses of before and yet hadn't put it all together yet in my mind.  Local, sustainable, following the seasons, eating what you all just made sense.

Though there are recipes sprinkled throughout as Kingsolver walks us through the seasons, this is the first one I've tried.

Because I decided to can the tomato sauce I stuck very closely to the original recipe (for acidic reasons), however if your freezing or cutting the recipe way back you have a lot more room to experiment.

Family Secret Tomato Sauce
from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

10 quarts tomato puree (about 30 pounds of tomatoes - I had 29 and a half!)
4 large onions, chopped
1 cup dried basil
1/2 cup honey
4 tablespoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons ground dried lemon peel (I zested enough lemons to make 2 T, but did not dry them before using)
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
bottled lemon juice or citric acid if canning (this is not optional for the canning process)

Soften onions in a heave 3-gallon kettle - add a small amount of water if necessary (no oil if canning, this is very important).  Add pureed tomatoes (mine were skinned and mashed up as they went into the pot) and all the seasonings, bring to a boil, and simmer on low heat for two to three hours until sauce has thickened as desired.  Stir frequently, especially toward the end, to avoid burning.

If canning continue with the directions below. If not, let cool and spoon into freezer bags for storage.

Meanwhile, if you have a separate canning pot, heat water to boiling to sterilize jars, and pour boiling water over jar lids.  I washed the jars well and dried them separately, as I don't have another large pot. Running the jars through the dishwasher would also work.  (If you've never canned before, I'd recommend reading a quick review of the canning process, as this can be tricky the first time around).

Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice OR 1/2 teaspoon citric acid to each quart jar (half that much to pint jars). This ensures that the sauce will be safely acidic. When the sauce is ready, ladle it into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Cap jars, lower gently into canner and boil for 35 minutes. Remove, cool, check all seals, and store.

We have already enjoyed this sauce on pasta, pizza and bruschetta, all to rave reviews.  Though it looks like a lot of work if you have a lot of tomatoes I definitely recommend trying it.

Stats: Made 5 quarts and 2 pints of sauce
Time: 4-5 hours from start to finish, but not all of that is active time
Seasonal Ingredients: I used tomatoes that I had picked last September, however the onions and lemons were fresh from the farmers' market.

Happy canning,