Monthly Archives: December 2014

Paprika Leeks and Chickpeas

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Hello again! Apologies for being remiss in posting. I have been preparing for Christmas Travels and cleaning my house instead of writing about cooking.

I should let you know that I am now in Montana visiting my parents! I may have some special Montana posts (venison, anyone?), but am not sure how frequently I will be able to post for the next couple weeks. On the other hand maybe I’ll actually have more time to tell you about all the things I’ve made and haven’t shared yet. Just a heads up.

I imagine that many of you are preparing for some grand Holiday Meals, so here’s a little something to whip up while you are making other more complicated creations. Very easy, assuming you have cooked or canned chickpeas on hand already, and paprika (one of my favorite spices) adds a fancy touch to make it a real dish instead of just sautéed greens and chickpeas (which, by the way, is also an acceptable meal).

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Recipe from Bon Appétit.

Leek, spinach, paprika chickpeas
2 leeks
A few teaspoons olive oil
Salt
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup or so of chickpeas (or just one can, if that's easier)
Smoked paprika (a good 1/2 tsp, at least)
A large handful of spinach

Clean and slice leeks. I like them in long strips, I feel like they caramelize a little better. Heat oil in pan and add leeks and salt, sautéeing until soft and a little brown. Add garlic and sauté for another minute or so, then add chickpeas, paprika, and spinach. Add water if necessary, and stir until spinach is a little wilted. Sprinkle with a little more salt and eat!

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If I don’t post before Thursday, Merry Christmas!

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Ginger Pear Sauce over Roasted Beets and Parsnips

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Oh, and with goat cheese and pomegranate seeds. I don’t want to overwhelm you.

I am hoping to give you pear envy though.

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This is one of those awesome dishes that I made partially one day and then refined the next. The first night I roasted beets and parsnips together, and poached some pear slices in white wine with a bunch of ginger. It was pretty good, and I did add some spices to make it better, but it was still missing something and I spend a good while mulling over what it needed. The next day I had the same thing but added goat cheese (I had been thinking ricotta, actually, but goat cheese was easier to acquire) and pomegranate seeds. Super delicious and not a set of flavors I encounter as an ensemble too often.

The first night, sans cheese and pomegranate
The first night, sans cheese and pomegranate

I talked a little about poaching pears in my last post. This time I made it up—a little white wine, a little honey, and a whole bunch of ginger. The spice of the ginger pairs nicely with the sweetness of the pears, and makes it more pleasing as a main dish (although to be honest I wouldn’t mind eating it for dessert). I also sliced the pears because pears don’t soften in the same way apples do and I wanted to make a sauce out of it. Parsnips and beets each have a distinctive enough flavor to stand their own within the dish, but roasting them together allows flavors to blend (or something. Mostly it’s just way easier to only use one pan). Coriander and cardamom add delicate, floral scents to the dish.

I suggest this as a side (/salad?) to your next fancy dinner party. It’s easy, showy, distinctive, and delicious.

Roasted beets and parsnips, with pear ginger sauce and additions (amounts for 1 person)
3 beets
3 parsnips
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp coriander
3 or so small pears
A piece of ginger, about the length of your thumb from tip of the nail to knuckle
1/2 cup dry white wine
A small spoonful of honey
Maybe 1/4 cup ricotta or fresh goat cheese

Wash, chop, and roast beets and parsnips with a little salt and olive oil until tender but still with a slight crunch. If you’d like, toss the spices in with the veggies as they cook (I added them as an afterthought, but I think they’d be better internalized).

Peel, core, and slice the pears. Peel and slice ginger. Place in a small saucepot with wine and honey. Bring to a boil and simmer gently, covered, for 5 or so minutes, until pears are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated (uncover to evaporate more, as needed).

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Place roasted veggies on a plate (or serving platter), and cover with pear sauce. Crumble/dot chunks of cheese on top, and then strew with pomegranate seeds. Sprinkle lightly with spices if you haven’t added them already, and serve.

Red Wine Caramel Poached Pear Tarte Tatin

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Goodness, that’s a lot of words in a title. I’ve been trying to make them as descriptive as possible. Now you can make it without a real recipe, right? (Poach pears in red wine, caramelize, make into tarte tatin (=pastry dough on top of the filling, into the oven, then flip over when golden))

I’ll give you some pointers anyway, just for fun.

I made this with a friend a few weeks ago—another friend has a Magical Pear Tree that even survived the first Storm in the beginning of November, and had given me a bunch of pears, and the friend I made it with had an idea of red wine poached pears, so we researched some recipes and it all came together. It’s quite a bit of work for the end result, but a fun afternoon activity. A friend is recommended though.

I had started my Pear Tart Adventures with Smitten Kitchen’s pear and almond tart, which was awesome (although the sugar in each component adds up). But unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of that journey. Besides, Deb has already documented it beautifully, so what good am I?

Many pear recipes involve poaching the pears before use. The pear and almond tart cited above poached them in sugar syrup; others have you do it in tea (such as Earl Grey), white wine, or (this one) red wine. Depending on the size, ripeness, and type of pears, they may take a little while to peel and core (we found that coring was much more tedious than peeling, which happened to be rather satisfying).

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This recipe has a number of components; hence the friend recommendation. Projects are fun by oneself but time-consuming and can be a little tedious. Make a wine reduction, then caramel, mix in the wine reduction, add pears, cook, let cool, make crust (or use one you have in the freezer), top, bake, flip, cool, eat. Well. I guess most tarts have multiple parts: at least a crust, filling, and topping.

The original recipe is from Food and Wine, and we didn’t change too many elements. A few ingredients I didn’t have quite enough of (namely red wine and pear liqueur (one day, perhaps I shall be the kind of person who keeps pear liqueur on hand. Certainly not for a few years)). And a few processes were changed as well; the most significant is that the recipe calls for puff pastry. Puff pastry, granted, is pretty neat. And not a bad thing to have around. But, as you probably know by now, I am more into making my own things, and puff pastry is a lot of work. Fortunately, I had a pie crust in the freezer, thanks to some forethought. Turns out you can freeze homemade crusts too (I think that’s how store-bought ones come?)!—when I made pumpkin pie a while ago it seemed silly to only make a single crust, so I made a double crust, rolled out both, used one and froze the other.

Pie crust, and how to freeze it:
12 Tbsp butter (1 1/2 sticks)
~1/3 cup very cold water
2 cups flour (up to half whole wheat, preferably fine-ground, if you like)
1 tsp salt

Cut up the butter first and freeze it while you get everything else out. Throw some water in a cup and put that in the freezer too. Measure out flour and salt and mix together, then throw in the butter (I apparently like to throw my pie crusts together) and blend together quickly, either in a food processor, with a pastry blender, or your fingers (which is what I’ve been doing—just make sure the butter is very cold and work quickly, you don’t want it to melt). You should have roughly pea-sized chunks of butter, or a little larger smears, of course with a mix of sizes. Toss in a few tablespoons of the ice water and mix around—it may take a few times to be able to tell how much liquid the dough will need. You should be able to clump pieces of dough together and have them stick, but don’t let it get too wet, and don’t overmix or it’ll get tough (this is where a food processor is handy). Press together and separate into two rounds. Put in plastic wrap or a bag and refrigerate for an hour or so.

Clean a countertop and sprinkle with flour. Take the dough out and roll it out (if you don’t have a rolling pin a clean wine bottle works spectacularly) to something resembling a circle (size it to your pie pans).

Ready to use as is, or place between two sheets of wax paper and carefully roll up. I didn’t actually have any wax paper, so I took an old (clean) produce bag (one of the super thin kind of flaky ones), cut it up, and used that instead. Worked surprisingly well! Once rolled, place in another plastic bag and wrap it up completely before placing it delicately in your freezer (after it’s frozen you don’t have to be quite so fastidious). When you need to use it, remove from freezer and let thaw for an hour or two before unrolling.

I found that the frozen pie crust was actually flakier and more delicious than the one I cooked right away. Could’ve been imagining it—but other pie recipes have you freeze the dough before baking it; I always thought it was to prevent it from puffing up, so you don’t have to use pie weights, but it may have other properties as well. Things to be researched.

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Caramel! That is another piece of this recipe (I told you there were a lot). Caramel is basically browned sugar. Actual caramels (the kind twisted up in wax paper squares) and made by cooking sugar until deeply golden and a very specific temperature (candy thermometers = super helpful), then adding cream and whisking like mad as it all bubbles up. That’s my experience, anyway. It’s fun, if a little messy. This tart is nice because you get the caramel flavor without going too crazy.

Finalement, le tarte Tatin. Allegedly named after the Tatin sisters, French of course, who forgot to put the crust in the pan before the filling in a tarte they were making, so they decided to bake it on top of the filling instead. Apple is traditional, but the process is what really makes it a tarte Tatin. N’importe quoi, c’est délicieuse.

Red Wine Caramel Poached Pear Tarte Tatin
2 cups red wine (I actually only had about 3/4 cup; it worked okay but I'm sure would be improved with more)
Cinnamon sticks, or 1 tsp ground if you don't have the sticks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp butter
Pears (we used at least 10 smallish ones)
1 pie crust, or a sheet of puff pastry (see above)

Start with the wine: boil with cinnamon until reduced and a little syrupy. This could take some time. Meanwhile, peel and core the pears, trying to get the stringy center bit out if you can.

Mix the sugar and water together in an ovenproof pan, the one you’ll make the tart in. I recommend cast iron; I’d never caramelized sugar in cast iron before, and it is a little more difficult to see the color changes, so maybe choose something else your first time, but otherwise it worked great. Heat until a nice amber color, swirling or stirring occasionally (stirring can mess it up a little more easily, but this recipe is very forgiving). Add butter and red wine reduction, and dissolve any hardened pieces of caramel that will have formed. Add pears and cook covered at low heat, stirring or turning pears occasionally, until pears are tender—at least 20 min. Arrange the pears cut side up in the pan and let cool.

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Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Unroll your pie crust and place on top of the pears. Tuck in the edges. Bake for about an hour, until the crust is beautiful and golden and smells delicious. Remove from oven and let cool for 10ish minutes, then flip over. This is a little tricky, and I admit that we had a bit of trouble with it. Just be quick and confident, and don’t be afraid to rearrange if it gets messed up. No one will ever know, Julia Child style (although apparently she never actually dropped a chicken).

The recipe from Food and Wine said it serves 8. Incorrect. We polished off half of it right then, and split the rest to take home. I ate it for breakfast.

Making Stock

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I hope you saved all the bones from your turkey, or other animal of choice (or if you are vegetarian, some peelings and things. Although those are generally not unique to our particular past holiday)! I should’ve reminded you beforehand but it’s hard enough to plan my own life sometimes, let alone that of someone I don’t know.

Being gone all weekend (and most of the week too, come to think about it), I came back with very little food in the house and have been setting to remedy that. Yesterday was Stove Day—I had a pot of beans cooking alongside the pot of stock and also sautéed some veggies for dinner—and today I have had my oven going, baking bread and squash and chocolate rum raisin bread pudding (a coworker was about to throw away a stale loaf of bread today and I snagged it. Then the co-op had half-and-half at 50% off because its expiration day was today, so that worked out well).

I spend a lot of time telling you all about how to eat locally, but a recent interesting New York Times article points out poignantly that distance is not the only concern in choosing your food sources: you need to pay attention to how it’s grown as well, and support sustainable growers wherever they are. Local and sustainable growers would be preferable to similar products grown sustainably elsewhere, for reasons of community development, etc, as well as mileage; but not everywhere has the same growing conditions. We accept that Maine does not grow coffee or cacao (although a friend of mine has mentioned a few times that he’d like to change that, gradually selecting trees and moving up the coast), and we can accept other products from elsewhere as well. That all being said, growing and eating local food is necessary insofar as we want to be self-sufficient (and therefore more secure in our food future), and so we’ll need at least a slight change in our regional diet to accommodate a truly sustainable and resilient food system (again, see A New England Food Vision). All interesting trade-offs that are important to think about.

However, before you start finding books and articles about all this stuff, start making your stock, because it can take a while.

I was just reading up on Mark Bittman’s stock-making suggestions for a bit of background, and I must admit that his technique differs slightly from my own. I’ve never made stock with anything but scraps, and while I’m sure it improves the stock to add extra meat and fresh veggies, it feels like a bit of a waste when you can make an excellent stock without them. Do what your budget and palate allow.

But do make your own stock. It is delicious and makes such a difference to anything that needs stock. Or water. And is cheaper than storebought broths also.

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If nothing else, it’s an incentive not to freak out about getting every last bit of meat off the bones, like I usually do these days.

Poultry stock
Bones of one chicken, or turkey (for larger birds, add more veggie scraps to compensate)
Carrot ends
Parsnip ends
Celery ends, if you have them
Onion peelings (I ended up chopping up a small red onion and just threw it all in, because I didn't have peelings on hand or needed)
Leek ends, if you have them (make sure they are clean)
Herbs, if you want (I had stuffed our Thanksgiving chicken with rosemary and thyme, so I threw that in)
Other veggie scraps! Although avoid strong-tasting ingredients. Most stocks would not benefit from tasting like over-boiled asparagus

Put everything in a large pot and cover with a few quarts of water. My instinct is to add as much water as possible, because it gives more contact with everything in the pot and thus more extraction power, but that also means you’ll have to take more time to reduce it and get more concentrated flavor.

Set over high heat, and bring to a boil. A large pot will take a while to do this. When at a boil, turn down the heat so it doesn’t boil rapidly, and simmer. Cover if necessary, although it will reduce more if uncovered (and steam up your kitchen, which is good for cold dry winter). This is where you can pull out your reading material, or even go to sleep. We always used to leave stock simmering overnight to get the most juice out of your bones, although if that makes your uncomfortable you can get a good stock from as short as an hour (or if you are very short on time, 20 minutes and some vegetables in water will serve you better than water).

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Ingredients, after being boiled and strained

When you decide you’ve had enough, turn it off and let it cool. After letting it simmer overnight, I let it sit and cool during the day and strained in the evening (planning ahead is necessary. Pretty sure that’s okay from a health standpoint). Skim off the fat, if you can. Pour through a strainer into yogurt containers or other receptacles (if you can refrigerate it and skim off more fat, do that. I didn’t, but I think it’s a good idea). Label and freeze, or keep some in your fridge for a few days to use on hand.

I couldn’t be bothered to reduce it as much as I probably could/should have, so I had quite a bit of stock. Still, looks pretty flavorful (apparently some people want a clear stock? That seems pointless).

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Use in soups, risotto, as bases for sauces, or instead of water to cook extra-delicious rice. I always need stock and am thrilled to have a bunch of containers in my freezer to use at whim.

Plus it makes your house smell REALLY good.