Saturday, September 24, 2011

Oven Roasted Radishes

Sometimes the simplest preparation creates the most amazing dishes. Case in point: oven roasted radishes. I often ignore these adorable bright red bulbs because their bite is just too much for my everyday salad. But after coming across an article about spring veggies, I decided to try a different approach.

Loosely based on an article in Bon Appetit, April 2011

serves 4

The Ingredients:
2 bunches of radishes, any variety
1 Tbsp olive oil
kosher salt to taste
The Process:
Preheat oven to 450.

Thoroughly wash the radishes. Cut of the tops, leaving approximatley 1 inch behind. Reserve the greens. Slice the radishes in half lengthwise and toss to coat with olive oil.

Arrange radishes cut side down in a single layer in a heavy baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Roast, uncovered, for 15-18 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Remove radishes to a serving bowl and keep warm. Coarsely chop about 1/2 cup of the reserved radish tops and toss with roasted radishes. Server immediately.

The Review:
I have always detected the slight similarity between radishes and turnips. It wasn't until I tried roasting the tiny red orbs that their sweetness came out the relationship became obvious. I absolutely adored this preparation. Unfortunately, my turnip loving partner...who is averse to radishes, was unable to try them in their new form. I had ended up eating the entire batch for dinner by myself.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Carolina red slaw

Lexington, Carolina apparently is known for a very perculiar cole made with vingeary-ketchup base instead the more familiar cream or vinegar bases served elsewhere in the states. I have never been to North Carolina, so I have no basis to compare this slaw recipe too. However, a friend was hosting a "goodbye to summer" BBQ with slow smoked, Carolina style BBQ pork and specifically requested this red slaw. So I obliged.

The recipe below is for approximately 1 lb of cabbage. My cabbage head was closer to I've adjusted the ingredients list accordingly, below.

adapted from a recipe at

Makes a boat load

The Ingredients:
1 medium cabbage, rinsed, cored and quartered
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes or more to taste

The Process:
In a food processor or by hand, finely chop the cabbage. Place cabbage in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together ketchup, sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Adjust seasoning as needed. Pour dressing over cabbage and toss to coat. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour -- preferably longer to allow flavors to blend.

The Review:
As as said before, I have never tried Carolina red slaw, so I have absolutely no comparison. Our hosts, who have tried the slaw before enjoyed my concoction, though they did say they have yet to find anything remotely similar to the real deal that they have enjoyed in North Carolina.

As for myself. I enjoyed it, though I think I prefer my slaws to be cream based. And none of the sides at the BBQ could hold a candle to the amazing, slow smoked pulled pork that our hosts spend over 12 hours preparing. Who really need sauce or slaw when you have meat as smokey, flavorful and tender as that?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Black Bean Brownies

Wait. Say what? Black beans? In a dessert? That was my initial reaction when my intern and I were discussing a multitude of amazing baked goods we wanted to try. I had no doubt these gluten-free, high fiber, high protein brownies would hit a high note with some people. I just couldn't believe the end result would be as chocolaty divine as he made them out to be. So I set out to find out for myself.

adapted from a recipe as described by my intern

yields one pan (about 12-16 brownies)

The Ingredients:
1 - 15 oz can of black beans (preferably low or no sodium)
1/3 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup sugar substitute (truvia or splenda)
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp instant coffee
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3 eggs
8 oz chocolate chips, or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350.

Drain the black beans and rinse thoroughly. Add beans to a food processor and blend on high until a smooth puree is formed. Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in agave, sugar substitute, oil, cocoa powder, instant coffee, baking powder vanilla extract and salt, and blend until just combined. Gently beat in the eggs, one at a time. The batter will be runnier compared to other brownie batters. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour the batter into a lightly greased, 8 x 8 inch baking pan.

Bake in preheated oven 30-35 minutes until the brownies begin to pull away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly before serving.

The Review:
Don't be fooled. Something is afoot...these aren't your fudge-y, Betty Crocker variety of brownie. But I bet most people would be hard pressed to put their finger on what really is different about these brownies.

In batter form the flavor of the legumes is still present, but as the brownies baked the chocolate aroma took over. Out of oven the counterfeit brownies looked denser and darker than typical boxed brownie mixes, but still had an airy, cake-like appearance. They were moister than most, and just as prone to crumbling as other brownies we've had.

The major difference any of us could deceiver was a slightly mealy texture, but not in a bad way. It made for a brownie that was smooth and almost dissolved in your mouth. The chocolate was rich, but mellower than in other chocolate brownies. Overall they had a richer, more earthy taste. Had I not known, I never would have guessed that the key ingredient was black beans. I certainly would not have been able to tell they were made without flour.

Unlike other gluten-free brownie recipes, these were actually cake-like. Most gluten-free brownies and flourless cakes I've tried in the past had a wonderfully dense and fudge-like texture. While good in their own regard, I was pleased that this black bean version offered a more airy alternative.

Try these out on some fellow unsuspecting brownie connoisseurs. I'd love to hear what their impressions were...and if any were able to guess the secret.

For the health nuts among you, here is the approximate break down compared to Betty Crocker's fudge brownies:

Betty: ____________ Black Bean:
170 calories ________ 155 calories
9g fat_____________ 7.9 g fat
90 mg sodium _______80 g sodium
65 mg potassium_____ 109 mg potassium
23 g carbs __________20 g carbs
16 g sugar __________12.3 g sugar
less than 1 g fiber_____ 2.3 g fiber
1 g protein _________3.2 g protein

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Chicken Skewers with Tarragon-Pistachio Pesto

Fall has arrived. The days grow shorter and the evenings become chillier. What more reason do you need to uncover the grill for one last hurrah as summer slips away? This is a great recipe to prep ahead of time and cook with friends, huddled over the warm grill, beer in hand. We have the friends and beer part down. Now we just need to work on the grill part. In a pinch, a broiler works just as well.

adapted from "Weeknight Cooking" Bon Appetit, April 2011

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1/2 to 1 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2-3 Tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
2-3 Tbsp unsalted pistachios, shelled and coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1-3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oilskewers
8 large chicken tenders (about 1 to 1 1/3 lbs)
1 medium onion, cut into 1 inch wedges
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
8 lemon slices, halved
salt and pepper to taste
The Process:
for the pesto
In a blender or food processor, combine the first 5 ingredients and finely chop. Slowly add the olive oil and blend until a coarse paste. Mix in 2 Tbsp water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill until ready to use.

for the skewers:
Heat a grill or broiler. On metal or bamboo skewers (soak the bamboo in water at least 10 minutes prior to using to prevent burning), thread 1 piece of onion, 1 piece of pepper, 1 slice of lemon, 1 chicken tender (lengthwise), followed by an addition piece of onion, pepper and lemon. Brush with olive oil and tarragon-pistachio pesto. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill or broil over medium-high heat until chicken is cooked through and vegetables lightly charred, about 6-8 minutes per side. Serve with remaining pesto.

The Review:
We had a guinea pig, errr, guest for dinner this evening so this incredibly fast and simple, yet elegant looking dinner fit the bill. The flavors of the pesto are fresh and provide a nice change of pace from the traditional basil/parsley concoction. The combination of tarragon and pistachio was a bigger success thanmy hazelnut pesto a few months back. I'll be stashing this recipe to toss with pasta or spread on crostini in the future.

The chicken was tasty, tender and fairly neutral foil to the charred veggies and pesto. Overall the entire meal was light, fresh and filling. And offered a perfect reason to heat up the coals on a chilly September evening.

Zucchini Keftedes with Feta and Dill

Zucchini is everywhere right now. Only so many of these slender green squash can be turned into stir fry, zucchini bread, or oven roasted side dishes. These fritters in Bon Appetit caught my eye a while back. We'll see if this turns into a new go-to recipe for summer's excess bounty.

adapted from "Easter goes Greek" in Bon Appetit, April 2011

12 servings

The Ingredients:
1 1/3 lbs medium zucchini, trimmed
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon peel, finely grated
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup panko
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup feta, coarsely crumbled
canola oil (for frying)

The Process:
Grate zucchini onto a clean kitchen towel or several layers of fine cheesecloth. Sprinkle with coarse salt and let stand at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Gather up the towel or cheesecloth around the zucchini and twist to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Place shredded zucchini in a medium bowl. Mix in green onion, dill, mint, garlic, lemon peel and black pepper. Gently stir in panko and egg. Fold in feta. Using approximately 2 Tbsp of the zucchini mixture for each fritter, shape a 1 3/4 - 2 inch patty. Place on a baking sheet and chill for at least 1 hour.

Pour enough canola oil in a large, heavy skillet to reach a depth of 1/4 inch. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add patties to the skillet. Fry until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove patties with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain.

Serve warm or room temperature with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

The Review:
I'm not sure what went wrong during the process, but as soon as my keftedes hit the oil most of them disintegrated. Perhaps my mixture needed more binder, more panko and egg than the recipe called for. Or perhaps I hadn't drained the zucchini well enough before combining all of the ingredients.

Those that remained intact were lovely. Nothing special really in my book...but tasty. The flavor was incredibly reminiscent of something else I had tried. It took me awhile to place the flavor as the quinoa, dill and feta salad I had transformed into patties in an earlier recipe. Given the amount of time and flavor of the finished product...I much preferred the quinoa, zucchini and dill patties.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stone fruit jam with cardamom

Growing up, I remember small jars of rich red-colored jam sealed with paraffin wax nestled in our refrigerator door. My grandmother made pints of plum jam every year and shared the bounty with the family. At first the tree in her backyard provided all of the fruit she needed. After the tree withered away, she continued the tradition by hunting down that specific variety of plum. Sadly, the recipe passed away with her.

In her memory, I wanted to concoct a stone fruit jam of my own. While I vividly remember how her cheery, wax-topped jars looked, I barely recollect the flavor. So I am on my own... However a generous pile of plums, apricots, nectarines and one lone peach remained from a recent family BBQ. I squirreled these summer gems home and created this heavenly jam in hopes of beginning a jam tradition of my own

the recipe is my own

yields approximately 4 one pint jars.

The Ingredients:
10-12 assorted stone fruits (about 8 cups chopped)
I used about 6 small plums, 2 nectarines, 3 apricots, and 1 peach
1 stick of cinnamon, about 4"
2 black cardamom pods
6 green cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
6 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

The Process:
Wash and rinse the fruit thoroughly. Do not soak. Remove stems and pits from the fruit and dice. Measure into large saucepan. Add sugar, lemon juice and whole spices.

Over medium high heat, bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Continue to boil until mixture thickens and the temperature reaches 220 on a candy thermometer. Test the jam's consistency by spooning a little onto a cold saucer and chill for a few minutes in the fridge. If adequately set it should wrinkle and feel firm.

Remove saucepan from heat and skim off any foam. Remove cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and cloves. Fill sterile jars with jam, leaving 1/4-inch head-space. Gently stir to remove air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars clean and top with lids, screwing them finger tight (not TOO tight). Submerge filled jars in a water bath of boiling water and boil for 5-7 minutes (process times may vary by elevation).

Remove from water bath and allow to cool undisturbed for 12-24 hours.

If properly processed the jam will remain good for several months, though the flavor will diminish after a year.

The Review:
The spicy aroma that filled my kitchen as the jam bubbled on the stove top was absolutely divine! The warm spices of cinnamon, cardamom and clove turned out to be the perfect flavor compliment. I could barely wait until the next day to try the jam on a batch of freshly baked biscuits. Pure heaven for breakfast! I had to restrain myself from eating the jam straight from the jar.

The stone fruit jam gelled up much better than my first peach jam attempt. While I prefer my jams and jellies slightly soft and soupy, those preferring a more solid spread may want to add pectin to their saucepans full of fruit.

This jam may not be grandma's, but I'm sure she would approve. And now I have four rosy jars of summer to see me through our cold, snowy winters.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Minced Meat Curry Samosas

My first attempt at samosas happened very early on in this blog's history. While the end result was tasty and quite filling (though not at all photogenic), this first attempt was far from an ideal filled pastry. So a few weeks back when I concocted a curried mince meat for stuffed eggplant, I set some filling aside and froze it in anticipation of a samosas take two.

From the stuffed eggplant experience I knew that the filling was stellar. I need only nail the pastry. After the lackluster baked samosas back in February I opted to fry these savory little suckers. It was the right choice. Deep frying makes everything tastier...

the filling recipe is my own
pastry recipe and samosa frying tips adapted from

makes about 24 samosas

The Ingredients:
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 lb ground meat (lamb, beef or turkey)
1/4 onion, minced
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp tomato paste
pinch of turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup brown rice, cooked

1 - 2/3 cups flour
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup water

The Process:
For the pastry:
Mix flour and salt into a medium bowl. Make a well into the center and add the oil and enough water to make a firm dough. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth, about 10 minutes. Roll into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.

For the filling:
Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the onions. Saute over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the onions are translucent and beginning to brown, 10-12 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and pepper and saute for 1-2 minutes more.

Add the ground meat, and cook until no longer pink, 10-12 minutes. Break up any lumps with the back of a spoon. Add the tomato paste, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes more. Stir in peas and rice until well combined. Remove from heat and set aside.

To make the samosas:
Divide the pastry into 12 equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time (keep remaining dough covered) form piece into a ball and roll the ball out into a circle about 6" in diameter. Divide circle into two equal pieces with a knife.Brush the straight edge of the semi-circle with a little water and form a cone shape around your fingers, sealing the dampened edge.

Fill the cone with 1 Tbsp of the minced meat curry. Dampen the open edges of the cone with a little water and press firmly together to seal the cone. Set aside on a parchment lined baking sheet and prep the remaining samosas.

In a deep skillet heat about 1/2" of vegetable oil. Working in small batches fry the samosas until crisp and lightly browned, 3-4 minutes per side. Drain on a paper towel.

Serve warm with yogurt and chutney.

The review:

These samosas kicked my initial attempt out to the water. I was leery of the pastry at first, mostly because of the tediousness and frustration of filling all 24 little pockets of goodness. For the easily thwarted, I highly recommend purchasing a puff pastry in lieu of making your own. Though the end result of the struggle with a home-made dough is well worth it, I promise.

The pastries bubbled and blistered in deep fried glory. The dough had just enough salt to enhance the curry filling. While in most situations these would be served up as a tasty starter, paired with a fresh green salad ours made for an incredibly satisfying summer dinner.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Leek, Potato and Zucchini Cakes

A huge thank you to Marc and Elysabeth of Saucy and Bossy for posting this recipe from All Things Simple. I absolutely adore leeks and am always on the prowl to find new ways to prepare this subtly onion-flavored stalk. While the recipe may be time consuming for those in a week night bind, I found this to be an easy recipe to intersperse with a vain attempt to regain control of my kitchen.

The cakes were done long before the kitchen was re-ordered.

adapted from Marc's post at Saucy and Bossy

makes 6-8 cakes

The Ingredients:
1 medium russet potato
3 leeks
1 cup zucchini, washed and grated
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
pinch cayenne pepper
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

The Process:
Clean and pierce potato with a fork a few times, and cook in the microwave for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Alternatively, bake an oven set to 350 for 25-30 minutes or until soft but still firm. Set aside to cool.

Remove the outer leaves, and cut off the dark green portion and roots of the leeks. Slice lengthwise and rinse under cold running water or submerge in a basin of water to remove any dirt or grit. Slice thinly, crosswise to the stalk. Blanch leeks in a large pot of boiling salty water for 4-5 minutes then drain in colander and immediately rinse in cold water. Add zucchini and add salt to extract moisture for 10-15 minutes.

While greens are draining, peel potato and grate on a box grater. Combine with egg, flour, cayenne, Parmesan, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl.

Squeeze remaining moisture from the zucchini leek mixture and add the greens to the large bowl. Mix well.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat until almost shimmering. Fry cakes, 4-5 minutes a side, until golden brown. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, and hot sauce as desired.

The Review:
These are an amazing twist on the classic potato pancake. The pre-cooked potato combined with egg and flour provides an wonderfully creamy base for the texture and mild onion flavor of the leeks. Just enough seasoning is added to enhance the flavors without overpowering them. And the cayenne or dash of Sriracha on the side provides just enough interest and heat for those that may otherwise find these hearty veggie patties a bit bland.

I found two cakes to be a perfect accompaniment or side dish to a hearty protein, however they are filling enough to stand on their own as a vegetarian entree. Made smaller and served at room temperature these may be a hit as an appetizer as well. I will be adding these to our regular rotation.