Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Haunting

Happy Halloween to all!

We had lots of friends and neighbors over for a chili dinner, then went trick-or-treating. I found another use for my pasilla chilis in a fantastic chicken chili. I will share the recipe tomorrow...I am so disappointed there are no leftovers.

Salty and Sweet and Good to Eat

Here is my version of the Salty Oat cookies sold in Cape Cod. I thought they were a pretty good approximation (of course they won't share their secret recipe). They are chocolaty, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside and have just a touch of salt on top. My husband thought they were delicious and was so disappointed that they went to our friends, except the two that he ate...shhhh!

Salty Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
makes about a bakers dozen

1 stick of softened butter
3/4 C brown sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1/2 C flour
1/4 C good quality cocoa powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 1/4 C oats
1/4 C sweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 C chocolate chunks or chips (semisweet)
flaked sea salt (Maldon works well)

Preheat oven to 350°

Beat butter and brown sugar together until well blended. Add egg and vanilla. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda and add to butter and sugar mixture and stir to combine. Add oats, coconut and chocolate chunks and mix well. Plop tablespoon sized mounds onto cookie sheet spaced 2 inches apart. Sprinkle salt on top of each cookie. Bake about 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are set.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Friend in Need

I have read so many stories where characters somehow infuse their cooking with magic; be it a spell for love, to forget, for protection or prosperity. When I was much younger, I read Like Water for Chocolate (in Spanish no less, for a class I was taking) and I was spellbound by how the emotions of the one who prepared the food were reflected in those who consumed it. Now I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that my own cooking has similar effects, but it did make me aware of my own intentions when I am stirring and chopping, baking and grilling.

Cooking is hard work and for many people a chore to check off the daily list, much like laundry or scrubbing toilets. And while those other tasks are important to the overall functioning of the household, they do not nourish and comfort in the way that cooking can. For me, cooking is a way to love people, make them happy, satisfied, or even completely blissed out. Nothing pleases me more than serving a meal to appreciative eaters. On the flip side, nothing irritates me more than those who are ungrateful for all the work and thought I put into planning a meal (just ask my kids!).

Grandma was right, chicken soup really is good for the soul, both for those who prepare it and those who eat it. Cooking food for others who are in need, is one of my very favorite things to do. Setting a positive intention before preparing a meal, and during the process, helps me to focus on my friends and hopefully when they eat the food, they will feel the good "vibes" I've sent their way.

Today I am cooking for a dear friend, who is recovering from surgery, and his lovely wife and children who are caring for him. It is my hope and prayer that he recovers quickly and that my meal will help to restore peace and comfort to their home this night, or at least ease their burdens.

On the menu will be a Penne with 5 Cheeses (inspired by a Barefoot Contessa recipe) that is like gourmet macaroni and cheese, Caesar Salad and Chocolate Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with sea salt (my attempt at recreating the most delicious Kayak Cookies from Cape Cod).

I will post recipes later.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Little Composure

Composed salads often seem like they are much too complicated to attempt on a weeknight. I think of them as the beautiful French Salade Niçiose or the Italian antipasto platters; a very big production and a very big expense. But it doesn't have to be so. Tonight I prepared an easy fall composed salad using spinach, mushrooms and one of my favorite grains of late, Quinoa.

Although it is certainly NOT local (it is imported from South America, but is organic and free-trade certified) Quinoa, pronounced Keen-wah, is delicious and chock full of nutrients including protein. It does require rinsing to remove some bitterness, but it is as simple to prepare as rice, and kind of has a couscous-like texture. Its small, nutty grains can take on a variety of flavors, and I usually prepare it using some kind of stock, be it vegetable, chicken or beef.

While I have a fantasy of traipsing through the forest, foraging for wild mushrooms (which are "in season" in many parts of the country), I think I will have to let it go for now because I don't have a nearby forest to traipse in and I am pretty sure that I would be too afraid to try any mushrooms that I found in the wild. But if you are lucky enough to still have an open farmers market, perhaps you can find some mushrooms there, gathered or grown by professionals. I have never seen them at ours, unfortunately, and I had to settle for ones from Trader Joes.

The dish is simple; a bed of wilted baby spinach topped with some Mushroom Asiago Chicken Sausage (from TJ's), surrounded by lovely grains of quinoa and sautéed mushrooms, with a sprinkle of asiago cheese. It was a yummy and perfect dish for our Indian Summer; yes, it is STILL 90 degrees here!

Warm Spinach, Quinoa, Sausage, and Mushroom Salad
serves 2

1 bag of baby spinach
1 pound of assorted mushrooms, sliced
1 shallot, sliced into rings
1 T butter
olive oil
2 links of Chicken Mushroom Asiago sausage
1 C quinoa
2 C chicken broth
Asiago cheese (a small handful)

Rinse quinoa in a sieve under warm, running water. Boil 2 C chicken broth (or use 2 C of water and 2 t of Better than Bouillon). Add quinoa and return to boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, saute mushrooms and shallot in butter over medium low heat until all liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. When quinoa is finished, toss with mushrooms and shallot mixture. Wipe out the mushroom pan and add about 1 T olive oil. Sauté sausages, halved lengthwise, until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes a side. Remove sausages and set aside.

Add about 1 T more of olive oil to pan and put in baby spinach. Using tongs stir spinach around until it wilts slightly. This will take less than a minute. To plate salad, place spinach in the middle and top with sausage. Spoon quinoa and mushroom mixture around the spinach. Sprinkle with asiago cheese and serve.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Some Like it Hot

I really like spicy food, especially when it is seasoned with fresh chilis. There is an astounding variety of chilis, some so tiny that they are the size of a fingernail, and some longer than a hand. Chilis are from the genus Capsicum, which are members of the nightshade family. The smaller varieties are usually known as chilis and the larger ones are known as peppers (as in bell peppers).

Archaeologists believe that chilis have been in the human diet for about 10,000 years, and perhaps earlier, and there is evidence that humans domesticated them more than 6,000 years ago, as one of the very first cultivated crops. Many cultures around the globe have used chilis for medicinal and religious purposes, as well as for seasoning their food.

The heat in a chili is caused by the chemical capsaican and measured in Scoville Units, with bell peppers ranking at 0, jalapeños ranking between 3,000-6,000 and habañeros at 300,000. The hottest chili ever recorded in the Guinness Book of Records was a Jaga Jolokia measuring over 1,000,000 Scoville Units. Most of the capsaican in a chili is located in its veins and seeds, so by removing those before using, it is possible to reduce the heat. The oils containing the capsaican can remain on the skin for hours, so it is important to wear rubber gloves when working with chilis. There is nothing worse than rubbing your eyes after cutting jalapeños. Yes, I know from experience. Some folks swear by rinsing the hands in a mild bleach solution to rid hands of the oils, but I have never tried that.

Chilis can be used raw, dried, and roasted. They can be fried, stuffed, ground into a paste or pickled. Americans are very familiar with Tabasco sauce (cayenne peppers) and chili powder, which is a blend of dried chilis, cumin, garlic and other herbs. But there are so many other chili products widely available in the market now like pickled jalapeños, sambal-olek, and sriracha sauce, that are delicious and should be tried.

In the peak of summer I bought some tiny red and green Thai chilis that were fiery hot. At the farmers market this week, I bought a beautiful Pasilla chili. The Scoville Unit for such a chili is 2,500-5,000, so comparatively speaking, they have a warm heat but aren't particularly spicy. They are a deep, forest green and shiny, and measure about 3 inches wide and 4-5 inches long. In other regions around the country they are known as Poblano chilis. Mexicans use them for their delicious stuffed Chiles Rellenos, which is essentially a chili stuffed with cheese, then battered and fried. I roasted mine over an open flame then sautéed it with garlic and onion, finally pureeing it with cream to make a sauce for sauteed chicken breasts. It was mild, creamy and had a slightly nutty taste from roasting the pepper.

Chicken in Pasilla Cream Sauce
adapted from Everyday Food

1 Pasilla or Poblano Chili
1/2 C chopped onion
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil
1/3 C cream
salt and pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Roast the chili over an open flame or under the broiler until the skin is charred and blistered. Wrap in plastic wrap for 5 minutes then using a paper towel, rub the skin off. Seed and chop.

Meanwhile, saute onion and garlic over medium heat in a bit of olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chopped chili to pan and saute 2 minutes longer. Add cream and stir, scraping up all the delicious juices from the pan. Pour mixture into a blender or mini-prep and purée. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wipe pan clean with paper towel and add a bit more olive oil. Sauté chicken over medium high heat for 5 minutes on each side until cooked through. Slice breasts and drizzle with Pasilla Cream sauce. Serve with rice and avocado slices.

Monday, October 27, 2008

At Market...Gai-Lan

Each week, when I am at the local farmers market, I try to buy something that I have never prepared before. One benefit of buying directly from farmers themselves, is that questions can be asked about the produce; everything from what the vegetable or fruit is, to how best to prepare it.

There is one particular vendor at our market who drives all the way from Fresno, which is a good 2 1/2 hours away. The entire family comes to help, including their teenage sons, and they sell many interesting varieties of vegetables and herbs. Their produce is so beautiful and fragrant, and all of it is grown without pesticides. I love to go to their stall and just smell the gorgeous herbs; lemon basil, cilantro, Thai basil, purple basil and lemongrass. They are true "poly-culture" farmers and have an astounding variety of produce throughout the year including English peas, pea shoots, snap peas, yellow, purple and green string beans, Opo squash, tiny eggplants, Chinese spinach, spicy Thai chilis, corn, tomatoes, watermelons, pumpkins, zucchini, and lately Chinese broccoli or Gai-Lan.

Gai-Lan is very similar to broccoli rabe and belongs to the crucifer family as do cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. It has a dark green, leafy stalk with little green or yellow buds resembling broccoli. It is slightly more bitter than broccoli and its tough, stringy stalks need to be peeled before cooking. I thought that instead of sauteing it with an oyster sauce, as is the typical preparation in Chinese households, I would substitute it for broccoli rabe in the famous Italian dish from Puglia, Broccoli Rabe with Orecchiette. I'm happy to report that the results were delicious! Here is the recipe.

Pasta with Spicy Sausage and Chinese Broccoli

1 bunch Chinese broccoli or broccoli rabe
1 pound of spicy Italian sausage
1/2 C chicken broth
1/4 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound of pasta (orecchiette is traditional but small shells, mini fusilli or farfalli work well too)

Set plenty of salted water to boil for pasta. Wash Gai-Lan, peel stem ends and slice into one inch segments. Set aside.

Meanwhile, slice open sausages and remove from casing. Break apart in frying pan over medium heat and brown. After sausage is cooked add 1/2 C chicken broth and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

When pasta water for pasta has come to a boil, add pasta. Set timer for 5 minutes before the pasta should be finished cooking. When timer goes off add Gai-Lan to the boiling water and cook together with the pasta for the remaining cooking time. Drain pasta and Gai-Lan and add to frying pan with browned sausage and toss to combine. Sprinkle cheese over and serve.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ode to the Humble Egg

I love eggs. Each little self contained unit, so perfectly formed, contains the promise for a delicious meal. I love the color of their shells, whether they are brown and freckled, light tan, the blue-green of Araucana chickens, or pure white. I especially love when I crack one open to reveal a double yolk. That happens often when I buy my eggs from the farmers market. Farmers market eggs are unequivocally more delicious and nutritious that their supermarket counterparts. Chickens that are allowed to roam freely and eat greens and insects, as well as grains, produce eggs that contain more vitamins and minerals and have a lower "bad" cholesterol count that most store-bought eggs. Professional chefs love them because their yolk, when cracked into a hot pan, sits higher, and they blend more easily to make a creamy emulsion for vinaigrettes or mayonnaise.

It is simple really; healthy chickens produce healthy and delectable eggs. In California on election day this November 4th, we will be able to decide on a ballot measure (Proposition 2) that would mandate that all farmed animals be able "to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs." Proponents of the measure say that it protects the health of both the chickens and those who eat them, protects family farmers from large-scale egg production ranches, and protects the environment. But what would the consequences of this measure be?

If Proposition 2 passes, egg supplies would go down and prices would go up, increasing the probability that cheaper eggs would be imported from other states (without such regulations) or Mexico, increasing the chances of bird flu or salmonella. Many farmers would be driven out of business or move out of state, damaging the local economies in which they are located. As pundit George Skelton says, "I'm for chicken compassion. But I feel more compassionate about the chicken farmer in this bankrupting economy."

As a consumer, and supporter of sustainable agriculture and humane treatment of livestock, I feel very torn about this measure. But the conclusion that I have come to is that Californians need to vote with their dollars and support the farmers who practice humane livestock treatment, rather than pass this ballot measure that would cause immeasurable harm to both farmers and consumers. If people are willing to shell out more money for healthier eggs, more farmers would be willing to convert their farms to these kinds of practices.

I will jump off my soap box and share a recipe for a favorite egg dish. Mexicans swear by its hang-over healing properties, and it is often served "the morning after." I do love it for breakfast, but it makes a delicious, quick dinner as well.


12 dry and hard tortillas

3 eggs

4 large tomatoes

1/2 cup water
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove

3 serrano or jalapeno chiles
5 tablespoons corn oil
1 cup of grated jack cheese

Boil tomatoes and chiles until soft. Mix them in blender with the garlic and water. Heat 1 tbsp of oil and fry this paste, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
Cut the tortillas in strips with a pair of kitchen scissors. Heat 4 tbsp of oil and fry the tortilla strips until crispy. Drain oil and add the three eggs to pan. Stir strips and eggs quickly so they don't stick to the pan. Add salt to taste.

Place on a serving bowl, pour the sauce over them and sprinkle with onion and cheese. Serve immediately. Enjoy with a side of refried beans. If you have any leftover chicken, you can sprinkle that on top too.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Roasted Chicken with Rosemary

It seems so unfortunate to me that autumn here in the high desert means hot, dry, and windy weather. The rest of the country is battening down the hatches, while we sweat it out, or literally combust into flames. Fall colors here come in the skies, as smoke drifts over the mountain tops in crimson and brown, obscuring the landscape and clogging our lungs. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this fire season, as we call it, is fleeting, and that cooler weather will come soon.

I have a serious case of autumn envy. I always have. So I manufacture my own fall. While the temperatures outside still say summer, my home is stubbornly decorated with the sights and smells of an east coast autumn, thanks in part to my mother-in-law who ships me goodies like bittersweet vines and Cape Cod cranberries. And as long as we open the windows early in the morning, my house stays cool all day. I am shocked when I go outside, dressed in pants and a sweater, only to be slapped with the stark reality that it really is going to be 90 degrees today.

My appetite is piqued by glossy magazine photos of steaming bowls of chili, home baked bread and roasted turkeys. Even though the weather still seems to mandate cooking outdoors, I'm as stubborn with my cooking as I am with my decorating. So I will ignore the heat, and cook foods that seem like proper autumn fare. Tonight we will enjoy roasted chicken with rosemary and potatoes. And if we eat late enough, and open the windows again, it may cool down enough to put my sweater back on.

Roasted Lemon Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon

1 3-4 pound chicken
1 lemon, cut in half
about 10 new potatoes, quartered (red or yellow are fine)
2 shallots or one yellow onion
6 cloves of garlic
6 sprigs of rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

splash of white wine

Preheat oven to 400°

Wash and cut potatoes and place in 13/9 inch pan. Quarter shallots or onions and place in pan along with garlic cloves (you can leave the skin on). Salt and pepper generously and drizzle with olive oil. Toss gently with hands.

Remove gizzards from chicken, rinse chicken and pat dry. Push potatoes into a ring on the edges of the pan and place chicken inside it. Squeeze lemon juice from one half of the lemon on top of the chicken and place both lemon halves inside the cavity. Drizzle chicken with more olive oil and salt and pepper generously. Using scissors, snip rosemary over potatoes and on top of chicken. Place a few sprigs inside cavity and tuck one under each wing.

Place in oven and bake for 15-18 minutes per pound. Internal temperature should measure 170° in the breast and 180° in space between the body and thigh when done. Remove potatoes to serving bowl and chicken to platter to rest, covered with foil, for 15 minutes.

Place pan over flame (medium heat) and add a splash of white wine to scrape up any baked on bits. Reduce juices a bit. Drizzle over carved chicken. If you wish to thicken the sauce, make a slurry of flour and water and slowly wisk into pan juices to make a gravy. Simmer for a few minutes more until thickened.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Butternut Squash Pizza

This is the pizza I ended up making for Matt and me. I thought that the flavors of butternut squash ravioli with browned butter and sage would translate well to pizza.

The kids, of course, had pizza spread with some of my homemade tomato sauce that I canned earlier in the week and sprinkled with mozzarella cheese. That tasted pretty darn good too.

Butternut Squash Pizza

1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and sliced thinly
1 large shallot, sliced into rings
1 1/2 T butter
1/4 C olive oil
sage leaves (5-7)
1/4 C shredded asiago cheese
1/4 C shredded mozzarella
6 T ricotta cheese

1 recipe basic pizza dough

In a jellyroll pan, toss the butternut squash and shallot slices in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Turn once during roasting. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a small pan and when hot, fry sage leaves. They will splatter a bit, so take care. When leaves are still green, but crisp, remove and drain on paper towels. This takes mere seconds. Drain oil into small bowl and reserve. Wipe out pan with paper towel and heat butter over medium low heat until browned then remove from heat. Take butternut squash and shallot from the oven and toss gently with browned butter, leaving behind any dark solids.

Lightly drizzle prepared and stretched pizza dough with reserved olive oil and sprinkle over the mozzarella and asiago cheeses. Carefully spoon slices of butternut squash and shallots evenly over pizza. Dollop on the ricotta cheese and place into oven onto a pizza stone that has been preheated at 500 degrees for one hour. I usually put my stretched pizza dough onto heavily floured parchment paper so that it slides off the pizza peel easily (slide pizza on paper into oven). Halfway through baking, gently lift the pizza and remove the paper. Sometimes my oven is so hot that the paper ignites and burns down to the crust. You can eliminate this by cutting the paper as close to the edge of the pizza as possible. And if it does light on fire, don't worry, it burns itself out quickly!

Bake Pizza for about 20 minutes or until crust has desired crispness. Sprinkle on the fried sage leaves and drizzle with a bit more olive oil, cut and eat.

Pizza Fridays

Tradition versus routine...according to Webster's Dictionary tradition is an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior, and routine is a regular course of procedure. In my life I tend to consider myself to be a poor follower of routines and a master of tradition. To me, routine is something that one does day to day; washing clothes on Monday, marketing on Tuesday etc. and traditions are upheld throughout the years by celebrations, gatherings with family and friends, and seasonal influences.

Pizza on Fridays for us has been a routine for many years, which is why I am horrible about being consistent with it. Perhaps if I elevated it to the level of tradition, it would happen more often. Good pizza could very well be worthy of a tradition when it is made the way I like it with fresh, homemade crust from my sourdough starter, homemade mozzarella and seasonal vegetables from the farmers market. But more often than not, Friday is NOT the day to be messing with all that stuff. Friday is my "last day" of the week before the onslaught of soccer games, weekend trips, large school projects, or just having the kids around, so often times dinner is an afterthought after a very busy day of tying up loose ends (and finishing the laundry that was supposed to be done on Monday!)

But Pizza can indeed be a quick, nourishing, delicious and simple meal when a little planning is involved. And my children love to participate in creating their own personal masterpieces. Some of my favorite toppings for pizza this time of year are figs, caramelized onions, prosciutto, and goat cheese, or roasted fall veggies (butternut squash, onions, garlic, fennel etc.), mozzarella and ricotta. Of course the children usually just choose good ole' red sauce and mozzarella, but I am hopeful that someday soon they will branch out and try something new.

When my sourdough starter is in dormancy (as it is now), I make my dough using a recipe from Phoenix chef Chris Biancho. His secret is to leave lots of air in the dough; he never punches it down and handles it carefully when forming it, which results in a thin, crisp, blistered crust....heaven. It is also important to have a pizza stone preheating in the oven for an hour at 500 degrees. For those of us who live in warm climates, cooking pizza indoors is reserved for times of year when it is not 100 degrees outside, or else we can grill it. One item I absolutely covet is an outdoor, wood fired oven...someday perhaps. I double this recipe so there is enough for the five of us. Maybe you can make Pizza Fridays a tradition of your own.

Basic Pizza Dough

1 (1/4 ounce) package of active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 t),
approximately 1 3/4 C flour, plus additional flour for work surface
3/4 C warm water (105-115°)
1 1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t olive oil

Stir together yeast, 1 T flour and 1/4 C of the warm water and let stand until surface becomes creamy, about 5 minutes. Stir together 1 1/4 C flour and salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture, oil, and remaining 1/2 C of warm water and stir until smooth. Stir in enough of the remaining flour (1/2 C or so) so dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. This dough is wetter than other pizza dough you may have made.

Knead on a dry surface with lightly floured hands until smooth, soft and elastic, about 8 minutes. Form into 1 ball and put on a lightly floured surface and dust generously with flour. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, free of drafts for about 1 1/4 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

Do NOT punch down dough. Carefully dredge dough in a bowl of flour to coat and transfer to work surface. Holding dough in the air with both hands (like a steering wheel) carefully move hands around the edge to stretch it out to about 10 inches. Let the bottom of the dough touch the work surface. Lay the dough flat and carefully stretch the edges with your fingers until the round measures approximately 14 inches.

I like to stretch my dough on a sheet of floured parchment paper. Then I can slide the whole piece into the oven (on the paper) and not worry about it sticking to my pizza peel. I trim the paper around the dough, because if there is too much excess, sometimes it will catch fire (which quickly burns itself out). After about 10 minutes, I lift the pizza with the peel and slide out the parchment paper and finish the pizza on the stone for a few more minutes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Doughnut Delirium

Oh-my-goodness....I am in such a food coma right now I can hardly move. As you can probably surmise, I did manage to make the cider doughnuts tonight for dessert. For dinner I made pork chops, fried in a bit of oil and butter with a cider reduction sauce, and since my house already smelled like fried, I decided to go for it. I was a bit concerned because I can count the number of times I have deep fried something on one hand. Actually on one finger. I think that I have fried chicken once. That's it. And deep fat frying can be kind of intimidating...what with all that hot oil bubbling on the stove.

I found an article on in which columnist Kara Newman details the origin of doughnuts, which were considered to be a winter food because that was the time of both harvest and hog slaughter (doughnuts used to be fried in lard). Unlike yeast doughnuts, which can be quite light and fluffy (and not worth eating, in my personal opinion), cider doughnuts are cakey, crumby, and dense. They have no overwhelming taste of cider, although a cider reduction is on the ingredient list, and are subtly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. Nobody is really sure when folks started making these delicious treats, but they are served at many apple orchards, along with mugs of hot cider. In New York at Hearth Restaurant, pastry chef Lauren Dawson puts them on the menu seasonally and serves them cider-glazed with apple compote and whipped cream. I like them coated with cinnamon and sugar and think that the doughnuts alone are PLENTY. My kids dipped them in a glass of cold milk. Yum.

A couple of hints: I did not have a doughnut cutter so I used a 3-inch biscuit cutter and cut out the holes by hand, which was not difficult. If the oil gets too hot, the doughnuts will brown too quickly and the middles will be doughy, so turn down the heat if necessary. A "spider" (those Chinese tools with a wire nest-looking-thing on a stick Martha Stewart is always using) would have been very helpful for turning the doughnuts when frying, but I used a holey spatula instead and it worked okay. I do think investing in both a doughnut cutter and "spider" will be helpful for next time.

Here is an adaptation of Lauren Dawson's recipe.

Apple Cider Doughnuts

Makes 18 doughnuts and doughnut holes

1 C apple cider, reduced to 1/4 C by simmering for 20 minutes
3 1/2 C flour
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/8 t ground nutmeg
4 T butter at room temp.
1 C granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 C buttermilk or sour milk

Vegetable oil for frying

Roll finished doughnuts in:

1/2 C sugar
1 t cinnamon

In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce speed and add cider and buttermilk, mixing until just combined. Add the flour mixture and continue to mix until the dough just comes together.

Line 2 baking sheets with waxed paper and dust them with flour generously. Turn out the dough onto one pan and pat down to about 1/2 inch thickness. Dust with more flour if sticky. Put dough into the freezer for 20 minutes. Using a 3 inch doughnut cutter, cut out doughnut shapes. Place the cut doughnuts and holes onto the second pan. Scraps can be re-rolled and cut out. Refrigerate doughnuts for 20-30 minutes more.

Add enough oil to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 3 inches. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees. Have a plate ready with several layers of paper toweling.

Carefully add a few doughnuts at a time to the pan, taking care not to crowd. Fry until golden brown on one side (about 60 seconds) carefully turn and fry the other side 60 seconds more. Remove and drain on paper towels. When all the doughnuts are fried, gently turn them in a bowl of cinnamon sugar. Eat immediately.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Apples, Apples Everywhere!

Last weekend, we took the children to Oak Glen to pick apples. Oak Glen is a funky, foothill community, known for their apples, just east of San Bernardino. After checking out our options on the Internet, we decided to head to the Original Riley's Apple Farm and what an excellent choice that proved to be! As we approached the farm, there was thick traffic and cars parked along each side of the road. We elected to pay for the $5 parking, which was well worth it, and parked our car under a canopy of beautiful cottonwood trees, all tinged yellow, at the edge of the Winesap orchard. As we hopped out of the car I literally misted up at the sight of a quintessential autumn scene; changing leaves, apple trees and a babbling brook. It really couldn't have been more picturesque.

The children had a ball picking ripe Rome apples from the upper orchard and then huge, red Winesaps from the lower one. They had never been apple picking, come to think of it, neither had we...After an hour or so of labor, we paid for our haul and loaded it into the ice chest in the back of our car. Then we had fun exploring the rest of the farm which has cider pressing, tomahawk throwing, knife throwing, archery and corn husk doll making.

When the children had had enough, we headed out to Snowline Orchard for some cider doughnuts. I am obsessed with hot, fresh doughnuts tossed in cinnamon and sugar. The last time I had one was when we were in Chatham for First Night celebrations 2 years ago. And Sunday was to be my day. I was literally salivating at the thought.

As we passed other apple orchards on our way, I realized that Riley's was relatively calm in comparison and when we arrived at Snowline, I knew there would be trouble....there were people and cars everywhere. The line for doughnuts wrapped around the building and didn't seem to be moving. The "new" doughnut machine inside which was supposed to cut down on the lines, looked to me like a doughnut version of the Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven-kid sized. My doughnut dreams were shattered. I guess I will just have to make them myself.

In the meantime, I managed to make applesauce today and put up 6 jars worth this afternoon with our beautiful Rome and Winesap apples. Maybe tomorrow I'll make cider doughnuts.

Three-Apple Applesauce

The combination of three varieties of apples gives this applesauce sweet-tart flavor and great texture. Makes six to seven 1-pint jars
Recipe adapted from one by Jill Silverman Hough


2 cups water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice or organic bottled lemon juice
3 pounds Winesap apples or other sweet-crisp apples
3 pounds Granny Smith apples or other tart apples
3 pounds Rome Beauty apples or other soft-textured apples
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice


Combine 2 cups water and lemon juice in 10- to 12-quart stockpot. Peel, core, and cut apples into 3/4-inch pieces; mix pieces into lemon water as soon as apples are cut, to prevent browning. Add sugar, coarse salt, cinnamon, and allspice; stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer until apples are soft and almost translucent, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Using potato masher, mash apples to chunky consistency.

Ladle applesauce into hot clean 1-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/2-inch space at top of jars. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar threads, lids and rims with a paper towel soaked in vodka, brandy or other hard liquor. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 20 minutes. Cool jars completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.

Sex in a Jar

While I was on Cape Cod this summer, I visited a lovely little shop called the Nantucket Smoke-house in Chatham, Massachusetts. It is owned by Peter O'Donovan and Marco Protano. They have managed to stir up quite a lot of praise for their excellent smoked fish, as well as their eclectic gourmet market which stocks local and imported foods. (Visit their website While we were there Marco spooned out the most delicious sauces and jams for us to sample and I fell in love with one called Tomato Chili Melange. It tasted like sex in a jar....sticky, sweet and spicy all at the same time. I simply had to learn how to make my own.

Well with 10 pounds of tomatoes to go, and going fast, I had to get to work. Researching recipes on the Internet can occupy my time for hours each day and finding the right tomato chili jam recipe was quite the challenge. It seems that nobody in the states has a taste for it, but the Brits love the stuff. So after some sleuthing and recipe translating (why we never adopted the metric system is beyond me), I think I have come up with a most delicious recipe. And because it contains plenty of acidity from the vinegar, it is safe to play around a bit with tomato jam recipes without risking getting anyone sick from botulism. Adapted from several sources, it is not an exact replica of what I tasted this summer, but it comes pretty darn close. Eat it with a cheese platter, on sandwiches, with duck, as a glaze on chicken, pork or just out of the jar. It is quite spicy, but the long cooking and sugar temper the heat somewhat.

Tomato Chili Jam

4 large red peppers, seeded and chopped
8 medium tomatoes, chopped
16 fresh red jalapenos, chopped (with seeds)
16 cloves of garlic
1 3/4 C red wine vinegar
5 C brown sugar
4 thumbs of ginger (peeled)
the juice of 2 fresh limes

Chop and puree the red peppers, jalapenos, garlic and half of the tomatoes and pour into large stockpot. It is important not to discard the seeds from either the tomatoes or jalapenos because they contain pectin that helps the jam to set. Dice remaining tomatoes and put into pot with puree. Add vinegar, sugar and ginger and bring to a boil. Skim foam and simmer for around 45 minutes, stirring often. Jam is set when it becomes quite syrupy and very thick. I like to take my jam off the heat when I can see the bottom of the pot when I am stirring. Squeeze the juice of two limes into jam and stir. Remove any large lumps of ginger with a clean spoon. Pour into warm, sterilized jars, seal and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Twenty-two Pounds of Tomatoes

I bought a "lug" of tomatoes from Lombardi Ranch last week. According to Mrs. Lombardi, a lug is about 22 pounds of tomatoes. I understood why they call it a lug as I hobbled to my car carrying it, a spaghetti squash, a bag of peaches and an Italian cucumber. Whew. Being determined as ever to can my own tomatoes for the season, I donned surgeons gloves and began to skin, seed and chop (actually tear apart) 12 pounds for sauce, which took me the better part of an hour. Finally, with the sauce simmering away, and my giant water bath canner set to boil on the stove, I retreated to the couch to rest my back for a bit. Now I understand why professional cooks wear those ugly clogs and have cork floors. Yikes. When I cook, I usually embellish recipes, or forgo them altogether. But because I have read so much about the dangers of canning tomatoes due to botulism poisoning, that I decided at least for this one thing, I would be a stickler for precision. Even though I enjoy making food "to die for" I certainly don't mean literally!

From my hours of hard work, I managed to put up 7 pints of tomato sauce, which isn't all that much really. I might have another go at it if I can muster the energy before tomato season is over....or maybe I'll wait until next year. My oldest son, who adores Marinara Sauce gave it the thumbs up. I hope to use it over pasta, as a pizza sauce and for recipes that call for stewed tomatoes.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

When preserving ripe tomatoes, it's important to add bottled lemon juice to make sure the mixture is safe for canning. Bottled lemon juice is used instead of fresh because it has a consistent acidity. We prefer the flavor of organic; look for it at natural foods stores.
Makes about six 1-pint jars

Recipe by
Jill Silverman Hough
October 2008


12 1/2 pounds red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped (about 20 cups), divided
1 cup finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed slightly
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Sugar (optional)
6 tablespoons bottled lemon juice (preferably organic)


Combine 4 cups tomatoes and next 6 ingredients in large stockpot. Stir over medium-high heat until tomatoes begin to release juice, about 5 minutes. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer until mixture is thickened, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Add remaining tomatoes; increase heat to high and bring to rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until mixture is reduced to 11 cups, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper, and with sugar to taste, if desired.

Pour 1 tablespoon lemon juice into each of 6 hot clean 1-pint glass canning jars. Spoon sauce into jars, leaving 1/2-inch space at top. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 35 minutes. Cool jars completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Recipe Index

Good Morning

Apple Cider Doughnuts
Best Blueberry Muffins
Challah French Toast
Cheater Cinnamon Rolls
Coffee Cake Muffins
Cottage Cheese Pancakes
Cottage Street Bakery Dirt Bombs
Egg Tacos
Dutch Babies
Hokum Rock Blueberry Muffins
James Beard's Cream Biscuits
Lemon Curd
Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Nana's Pancakes
Microgreen Omelet
Oatmeal Brown Sugar Scones
Orange Pinwheel Scones
Overnight Steel-Cut Oatmeal
Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Special Waffles
Winter Spiced Coffee

Ladies Who Lunch

BLT Sandwich
BLT with Lemon Basil Pesto
Chicken and Strawberry Salad with Sesame Dressing
Egg Salad
Gorgonzola Chicken Salad with Dill
Curried Chicken Salad
Meatball Sub
Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Let's Get It Started

Chicharones de Queso with Radish Salsa
Devils on Horseback
Kale Chips
Risotto Cakes
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Rockin' Guacamole
Shrimp and Rice Patties with Cilantro Sauce
Sticky Wings
Summer Salsa

Beautiful Bread

Challah Bread
Country Loaf
Cranberry Orange Bread
Double Quick Dinner Rolls
Honey Whole Wheat Loaf
Irish Soda Bread
No Knead Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf
Parker House Rolls
Pizza Dough
Soft Baked Pretzel

Soup Kitchen

Butternut Squash Soup
Chicken Pho
Chicken Stock
Chipotle Turkey Tortilla Soup
Clam Chowdah
French Onion Soup
Greens and Ginger Soup
Italian Sausage Soup
Lemongrass Chicken Noodle Soup
Lobster Corn Chowder
Portuguese Kale Soup
Potato Sausage Soup with Crispy Kale
Roasted Tomato Soup

The Big Cheese

Goat Cheese
Homemade Mozzarella

Fresh from the Farm

Apple Salsa
Arugula Salad with Corn, Tomatoes and Blue Cheese
Balsamic Glaze for Asparagus
Broccolini with Preserved Lemons
Butternut Squash Puree
Cilantro Pepita Salad Dressing
Christmas Cranberries
Cranberry Relish
Fig, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Salad
Fries Baked in Duck Fat
Greens with Chile and Ginger
Grilled Fava Beans
Hatch Chile Salsa Verde
Indian Tomato Salad
Jamie Oliver's Awesome Tomato Salad
Kohlrabi Slaw
Mashed Potato Cakes
Potato Latkes
Quick Kimchi
Red, White and Blue Potato Salad
Roasted Cauliflower with Salsa Verde
Salt Potatoes
Sauteed Brussels Sprouts
Sauteed Baby Carrots
Sauteed Rainbow Chard
Sesame Carrot Slaw
Shredded Tuscan Kale Salad
Smashed Pan Fried New Potatoes
Smothered Mexican Street Corn
Squash, Olive and Feta Tart
Tomato Pie
Watermelon Tomato and Feta Salad

Meatless Mondays

Confetti Rice Salad
Curried Lentil Stew
Egg Pasta with Asparagus and Sorrel Cream Sauce
Farm Egg and Summer Veggie Frittata
Lemongrass Quinoa Pilaf
Risotto Cakes
Scallion Sesame Crepes Filled with Bok Choy and Mushrooms
Tomato Pie
Quick Red Bean Indian Curry
Quinoa Salad

Please Pass the Carbs

Artichoke Mushroom Pasta
Asparagus Risotto with Langostinos
Cilantro Rice
Corn Risotto with Sausage and Arugula
Egg Pasta with Asparagus and Sorrel Cream Sauce
Farm Stand Pasta
Fresh Egg Pasta
Fried Rice
Lemon Capellini
Mexican Rice
Mock Mushroom Risotto with Asparagus Spears
Oyster Mushroom Pasta
Pasta with Pancetta and Peas
Pasta with Peas and Sausage Meatballs
Pasta with Spicy Sausage and Chinese Broccoli
Penne with 5 Cheeses
Risotto Cakes
Saffron Rice
Sausage Quinoa Salad with Mushrooms
Sesame Noodle Salad
Shrimp Linguine
Spaghetti Meat Sauce
Spring Pea and Arugula Risotto
Spring Pea, Leek and Arugula Risotto
Thai Curry Noodles
Zucchini Blossom Pasta

Pizza Party

BLT Pizza
Bacon Arugula Mushroom Pizza

Butternut Squash Pizza with Fried Sage
Clam Pizza
Deep Dish Pizza
Fennel & Sausage Pizza
Greek Pizza
Lamb and Kaseri Pizza
Pizza Dough
Pizza Margarita
Sausage Mushroom Pizza
Swiss Chard, Olive and Ricotta Pizza

Tastes Like Chicken

Chicken & Bok Choy Stir Fry
Chicken Chili
Chicken & Green Bean Stir Fry
Chicken Hoisin Stir Fry with Broccoli
Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
Chicken with Pasilla Cream Sauce
Citrus Balsamic Marinade for Grilled Chicken
Cranberry Glazed Chicken
Crock Pot Chicken Tacos
Dry Brined Turkey
Duck Fat Fries
Ginger Scallion Dip for Rotisserie Chicken
Green Chile Chicken
Grilled Coconut Chicken
Grilled Indian Chicken
Grilled Thai Garlic Chicken
Latin One Pot Chicken and Rice
Lemon Roasted Chicken Pieces
Malaysian Chicken Curry
Persian Pomegranate Chicken Thighs
Roasted Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese
Roasted Chicken with Rosemary
Roasted Duck Legs with Risotto
Simple Roasted Turkey
Summer Squash and Chicken Salad
Tandoori-ish Chicken

From the Sea

Clam Chowdah

Fish Tacos
Grilled Brined Shrimp with Mango Salsa
Lobster Corn Chowder
Langostino Rolls
Roasted Shrimp with Broccoli
Scallops in Butter and Wine Sauce
Scallops with Thai Coconut Sauce
Seafood Gratin
Shrimp and Rice Patties with Cilantro Sauce
Shrimp Linguine

Meat Market

Chile Colorado
Curried Flank Steak Stew
Doughnut Burgers (Yes, you read that right)
Hatch Chile Burgers
Hearty Beef Stew
Parmesan Meatballs
Pork Filled Dumplings
Pork Stir Fry with Tangerines and Snap Peas
Pressure Cooker Short Ribs
Steak Tacos
Szechuan Pork with Longbeans and Eggplant
Taco Seasoning Mix

Preserving the Harvest

3 Apple Applesauce

Apricot Jam
Canned Tomatoes
Cranberry Chutney
Fig Jam
Green Tomato Chutney
Lemon Basil Pesto
Preserved Lemons
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam II
Tomato Chili Jam
Quick Strawberry Jam

Mommy Needs a Drink

Burning Mandarin Martini
Blood Orange Martini
Cucumber Ginger Spritzer
Cucumber Margarita
Garnet Martini
Hot Ginger Lemonade
Lemon Drop
Lemon Rosemary Fizz
Orange Stinger Martini
Strawberry Martini
Tamarind Margatini
Wickedly Strong Margaritas
Wonderful Watermelon Cooler

Sweets for the Sweet

Apple Pie
Applesauce Cake
Balsamic Strawberries
Banana Bread
Berry Crisp
Blueberry Buckle
Butter Cookies
Candied Oro Blanco (or Grapefruit)
Cape Cod Sand Dollars
Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Peppermint Cookies
Chocolate Cloud Cake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Cranberry Frangipane Tart
Death by Chocolate Brownies
Double Chocolate Crumble Cookies
Grilled Vanilla Peaches
Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes
Lemon Bundt Cake with Crushed Blueberry Sauce
Lemon Curd
Lemon Ice Cream
Maple Glazed Gingerbread Cookies
Molten Lava Cakes
Nantucket Cranberry Pie
New England Rum Pie
Orange Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Peanut Brittle
Peanut Butter Cookies
Peppermint Bark
Peppermint Fudge
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
Salted Caramel Blisscakes
Salted Chocolate Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Salted Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies
Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
Strawberry Cream Cake
Strawberry Ice Cream
Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
Strawberry Tart
Sugar Cookies
Sugar and Spice Walnuts
Sunshine Lemon Cake
Tangerine Sherbet
Watermelon Ginger Granita
Whoopie Pies
Zucchini Walnut Bread with Cranberries