Monday, November 30, 2009

Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Brown Sugar Icing

Brown Sugar Pound Cake was our dessert contribution for Thanksgiving dinner.  The boys did most of the work preparing this cake, and it was a big hit with the family.  If you have leftovers, the cake keeps well (at room temperature) for several days.   It can be baked in a bundt pan, loaf pan or tube pan.   Be prepared for requests for the recipe if you are nice enough to share this cake with others.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Brown Sugar Icing

3         cups         unbleached A.P. flour
1/2      tsp            baking powder
1/4      tsp            salt
1         cup           whole milk
1         tsp            vanilla
1 1/2   cups         (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1         lb              dark brown sugar
1/2      cup            sugar
5                          eggs

1/2     cup            (1 stick) unsalted butter
1        cup            packed light brown sugar
1/2     cup            evaporated milk
4        cups           powdered sugar, sifted
1        tsp              vanilla

  1. Heat oven to 300 (convection) or 325.  Butter and flour the pan.
  2. Combine dry and set aside.  Combine milk and vanilla and set aside.
  3. In mixer using the paddle, beat butter until fluffy.  Scrape bowl.  Add brown sugar, sugar and eggs and beat until fluffy and well-combined.  Scrape bowl.
  4. Add half dry and mix on low until just combined.  Add milk/vanilla and mix until just combined.  Add rest of dry and mix until just combined.  
  5. Bake until done, about 70 minutes.
  6. Cool cake before removing from pan and icing.
  1. Melt butter over medium and add brown sugar.  Mix until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Add milk and let come to a gentle boil.  Stir and remove from heat.
  2. In mixer, combine liquid with powdered sugar and vanilla.  Beat well until fluffy and light.
  3. Immediately cover cake with icing.  Icing layer should be very thick.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fall Cucumber Harvest

Warm autumn weather has extended the season of many summer vegetables including eggplant, snap beans, basil and tomatoes.  These plants are all producing copious amounts of fruit.  Cucumbers are also plentiful including the lemon cucumber (top) and Marketmore (center).  The "duckling" on the bottom is a Japanese cucumber, Hybrid Soarer, that was not fully pollinated.  Not much use in the kitchen, but a big hit at Kindergarten "show and tell".

Monday, November 23, 2009

Grilled Eggplant, Haloumi and Arugula Sandwich

Sandwich perfection. Cloud Nine eggplant, Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes, arugula and Marketmore cucumbers from the garden. Grilled haloumi cheese and tahini yogurt sauce on grilled sourdough bread.  Try to stop at just one.

Grilled Eggplant, Haloumi and Arugula Sandwich with Yogurt Tahini Sauce
serves 2 (barely)


1/2      pound     Cloud Nine or Asian eggplant, sliced thinly
4         oz           Haloumi cheese, sliced
1                        cucumber, cut into strips
12                      cherry tomatoes (more or less)
1/2      cup         arugula (more or less -- ours is VERY strong)
1         cup         thick Greek yogurt
3         Tbs         tahini
1/2                    garlic clove, minced

  1. Prepare sauce:  combine yogurt, tahini and minced garlic.  Mix well.
  2. Saute eggplant in olive oil over medium heat until golden brown.  Flip and repeat.  Remove to paper towels to dry.
  3. In same pan, add 1 Tb butter and melt.  Add more olive oil if needed. Grill slices of sourdough until golden and crusty.  Flip and repeat.  Remove and set aside.
  4. In same pan (add more butter and olive oil if needed), saute haloumi until melted and brown.  Flip and repeat.
  5. Assemble sandwiches:  generously spread yogurt tahini sauce on both sides of bread.  Add eggplant, then haloumi, then tomatoes, cucumbers and arugula.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pasta with Fava Beans and Ricotta Salata

Fava beans, vicia faba, are one of the oldest plants in cultivation.   This popularity is attributable to the fact that they are easy to grow in temperate climates, and an excellent source of protein, minerals, fiber and folate.  While snap and lima beans are native to the Americas and thrive in warm weather, broad beans originated in the Old World and require cool temperatures.  This means broad beans are a fall crop in our sub-tropical climate.  Super Aguadulce seedlings, an Italian heirloom variety, are in the ground now, but a harvest is still months away.  

Luckily, dried favas are readily available and combine well with the fresh tomatoes and basil that are abundant in our garden right now.   If you've never cooked with dried favas before, get ready for a workout removing the outer skins.  When you see the amount of labor involved, you will also understand why European explorers were thrilled to discover and later cultivate the beans of the New World.  But when you have the time, favas have a unique and wonderful flavor that no other bean can equal.  So turn on the tv and get to work.

Tagliatelle with Fava Beans and Ricotta Salata
based on a recipe in The Il Fornaio Pasta Book by Maurizio Mazzon
serves 6-8


3                      garlic cloves
1       Tbs         sea salt, plus more to taste
1       lb            dry fava beans, soaked in water overnight,
                        skins removed
3/4    cup         olive oil (used in 3 different steps)
1                      shallot, minced
6                      basil leaves, torn into pieces
1/2    cup         dry white wine
                        black pepper to taste
1       lb            dried tagliatelle pasta
1                      large tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2    cup         grated Pecorino Romano
1/2    cup         shaved Ricotta Salata
                       (use vegetable peeler when cheese is very cold)

  1. Place beans in large pot and cover with water 1" above beans.  Add 1 Tbs sea salt, bring to a boil and cook until soft, about one hour.  Remove beans with a skimmer but SAVE THE COOKING WATER.
  2. Heat 2 Tbs olive oil over medium and saute shallot and 2 smashed garlic cloves until soft.  Add half the basil and half the beans and cook 2 minutes.  Add wine and cook until completely evaporated, about 3 minutes.  Add 2 cups of fresh water and bring to a boil.  Cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes, and then puree in a food processor.
  3. Return bean cooking water to a boil and add dry pasta.  Cook until ready, then drain.
  4. Meanwhile, over medium high for 1 minute, saute 1 garlic glove, minced, and rest of basil in 1/3 cup olive oil.  Add remaining beans and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook 2 minutes.  Add pureed beans and mix well.   
  5. Add cooked pasta to fava bean sauce, then add 1/3 cup olive oil, tomatoes and pecorino.  Mix well.  Plate up and then top with shaved ricotta salata.

Pasta with Fava Beans and Ricotta Salata made the Foodbuzz Top 9 today! The Foodbuzz Top 9 is a photo-driven collection of top-buzzed posts within the Foodbuzz community.  Congratulations again, and thanks for being a part of Foodbuzz!  Cheers, The Foodbuzz Editorial Team.

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Italian Breakfast Chickpeas

    Savory foods for breakfast are trendy right now.  It makes good sense to start the day with nutritious, filling food instead of sugary carbs.  But, if you are a member of the breakfast cereal generation as we are, savory before noon can be a shock to the system.  This dish is so tasty that you'll soon forget it isn't lunchtime yet, and it's also loaded with folate, fiber, minerals and protein.   In fact, it's a perfect little dish for any time of the day.  Most of the cooking can be done the night before, and adding mint and poblano and cayenne chiles from the garden make the dish pop with flavor.

    Italian Breakfast Chickpeas
    based on a recipe in Food and Wine, December 2009
    serves 2


    2       Tbs         olive oil
    1                      onion, diced
    1                      garlic clove, minced
    1/2     tsp         ancho chile powder
                            (this is from a dried poblano pepper)
    1/2     tsp         cumin
                            pinch of cayenne pepper
                            (we used dried cayenne from the garden)
    15      oz          chickpeas, drained
    1        cup        vegetable broth
    1        Tbs        lemon juice
    1/4     cup         pine nuts
    1        cup         thick Greek yogurt
    1        Tbs        mint (fresh), chopped

    1. The night before, saute onions and garlic in olive over medium high until soft.  Add spices and cook one minute.  Add chickpeas and vegetable broth and bring to a boil. 
    2. Reduce to simmer and cook, covered, 15 minutes.  Add lemon juice and return to boil uncovered.  Cook until broth is thick, about 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cool and refrigerate.
    3. In the morning, heat a small amount of olive oil over low heat and add pine nuts.  Toast until golden grown, stirring constantly.  Remove from pan.
    4. Gently reheat chickpea mixture.   Place yogurt in bowls, top with chickpeas.  Sprinkle pine nuts and mint on top.  Serve while still warm.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Stewed Eggplant, Tomato and Chickpea

    Continuing to celebrate the month of the pomegranate, pomegranate syrup and sugar sweeten this savory dish which uses Thai long green eggplant, tomatoes and parsley from the garden; simmering enhances the natural sugars in the tomatoes.  These sweet undertones create a rich and flavorful eggplant dish that works as either a side dish or meal.   Although December is just a few weeks away, the Thai long green eggplants are loaded with fruit and flowers thanks to the mild autumn we have been enjoying.  This is another eggplant variety that deserves a spot in next year's vegetable garden.

    Stewed Eggplant, Tomato and Chickpea
    based on a recipe by Claudia Roden in Arabesque
    serves 2 as an entree


    1        pound        asian-style eggplant
    3                         garlic cloves, minced
    1        pound        tomatoes
    1        tsp             sugar
    2 1/2 Tbs             pomegranate syrup
    14      oz              chickpeas
    2        Tbs            Italian parsley, chopped
                                olive oil
                                salt and black pepper

    1. Cut an "X" on the bottom of each tomato.  Place in boiling water for one minute, remove with slotted spoon.  When cool, remove skin with your fingers and chop.
    2. Thinly slice eggplant and saute in olive oil over medium until browned.  Flip over and repeat.  Remove to paper towels to dry.
    3. In same pan, heat garlic in olive oil until just beginning to color.  Add tomatoes and stir.  Add sugar, salt and black pepper and cook for 15 minutes.  
    4. Add 1 1/2 T pomegranate syrup, eggplant and chickpeas and simmer until eggplant is very tender.  Add 1 more T pomegranate syrup, salt and pepper to taste.  Cook briefly and serve, with parsley sprinkled on top.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Quick Rhubarb Sauce

    Tracey's Culinary Adventures featured a gorgeous pound cake from Pichet Ong's The Sweet Spot.  The recipe looked like a good family project, and our six-year old son was eager to give it a try.   The kitchen was a little worse for wear, but it was an easy recipe for a young chef.  Once the cake made it into the oven, our son said that such a simple cake required toppings.  Adding a scoop of ice cream was rejected as boring.  Creative genius eventually kicked in and he gathered Skittles and other Halloween candy to sprinkle on top.  For the adults, we made a quick sauce using frozen rhubarb.  We are suckers for a good pound cake, and this may be our favorite yet.  Adding the rhubarb sauce makes it really special.  But you decide:  candy or rhubarb sauce on top?

    Quick Rhubarb Sauce


    2        cups        frozen rhubarb
    1/3     cup         sugar
    1/8      tsp         lemon zest

    1. Defrost rhubarb in the microwave in a pyrex measuring cup.  Retain the liquid produced when the rhubarb defrosts.  If rhubarb is in long segments, slice into 1" pieces.
    2. Combine rhubarb, liquid and sugar in small saucepan.  Heat over medium low, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb starts breaking down and becoming stringy.
    3. Add lemon zest and continue to cook one or two more minutes until sauce is thick and a fairly consistent texture.  Serve warm or refrigerate for later use.  Keeps several days in refrigerator.

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Cloud Nine Eggplant with Pomegranate Seeds, Pine Nuts and Yogurt Tahini Sauce

    Visually stunning red pomegranate seeds and golden pine nuts on a bed of grilled white eggplant and creamy yogurt-tahini sauce.  The bright white skins of Cloud Nine eggplants create the perfect backdrop for this dish, but any eggplant variety will suit the recipe.  Slice eggplant thin or thick to suit your preferences.   November 7th marked seven months of harvesting Cloud Nine eggplants from the garden, with just three plants producing a pound or more per week.  Make some room for this eggplant variety in your garden next year.

    Cloud Nine Eggplant with Pomegranate Seeds, Pine Nuts and Yogurt Tahini Sauce
    adapted from Claudia Roden's Batinjan Bil Rumman in Arabesque
    *served 2 as an entree


    1 1/2       lbs         eggplant, sliced
    1 1/2      Tbs         pomegranate syrup
    1 1/2      Tbs         white wine vinegar
    2            cups        Greek yogurt
    1                           garlic clove, minced
    2            Tbs         tahini
    1/4         cup          pine nuts
    1/4         cup          pomegranate seeds
                                 olive oil, salt

    1. Saute eggplant in olive oil over medium until golden brown.  Flip and repeat.  Remove to paper towels to dry.
    2. Heat 1/2 Tbs olive oil and fry pine nuts briefly until starting to brown.  Remove from pan.
    3. Combine pomegranate syrup, vinegar and 2 Tbs olive oil.  Toss eggplant slices in the mixture and place on plates for serving.
    4. Combine yogurt, tahini and garlic.  Dollop on top of eggplant slices.  Spinkle pine nuts and pomegranate seeds on top.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Coming Soon... Get Growing

    We receive dozens of messages each week that contain some version of "I wish I had your vegetable garden".  Call it garden envy.  So, if you:

    1.  Love eating fresh, organic vegetables
    2.  Don't want to spend a fortune on said vegetables, and
    3.  Have access to some patch of dirt, no matter how small

    the question becomes why don't you have your own vegetable garden?

    Vegetable gardening may seem intimidating, like the first time you made a souffle or baked bread from scratch.  But if you're a foodie who loves vegetables, it's time to get out of the kitchen and reconnect with nature.  Growing your own vegetables is not difficult, you just need to muster up your courage and listen to some friendly advice to Get Growing.  That's where we come in.  Starting on December 1, we will be posting a monthly series on vegetable gardening.  Nothing complicated, so easy that you will soon be growing vegetables despite yourself. 

    Our partner in this endeavor is Daphne's Dandelions.  Based in Boston, Daphne is the ├╝ber-blogger for vegetable gardening.  She will be helping all you Yankees with know-how for gardens in the North.  We will provide monthly tips for those in warmer climates. 

    Part 1 of the Get Growing series will be posted on December 1st:  Here at Vegetable Matter we'll be talking about growing peas and other vegetables that love the cold weather (well, the Southern version of cold).  Daphne will be discussing garden planning and seed selection.

    Look, humans have been growing their own vegetables for thousands of years without the aid of books or the internet so how hard can it be, right?   Stop yearning for our garden and plant your own.  We hope to inspire you, and we'll be here to help.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Slow-Cooked Florida Speckled Butter Beans and Sorrel

    Sadly, lima bean season is coming to an end.  Eating freshly picked butter beans for the last few months has been a revelation and the limas will be sorely missed.  To celebrate the last big harvest of the year, we use a slow Mediterranean cooking technique to highlight the rich buttery flavor of these beans.  Sorrel freshly-picked from the garden adds a mellow lemony flavor.  This is a weekend recipe -- total cooking time approaches six hours although the active time is barely 20 minutes.

    Slow-Cooked Florida Speckled Butter Beans and Sorrel
    serves 4 - 6


    1      cup      fresh Florida Speckled Butter Beans
                       (or other fresh lima beans),
                       removed from pods
    4      Tbs     olive oil
    2       cups   vegetable stock
    2                 onions, sliced thinly
    5                 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
    1                 dried red chile (small), diced
                       (we used a dried cayenne from the garden)
    1                 bay leaf
    1      cup      sorrel, thick stems removed and blanched
                       (about 2 cups when fresh)
                       salt and black pepper to taste

    1. In a big pot of boiling water, cook beans about 10 minutes.  Drain.
    2. Put beans back in same pot, cover with fresh water, and simmer for 1 hour.
    3. While beans are cooking, combine onions, garlic and chile with 3 Tbs olive oil in a 2 qt. pyrex dish.  Mix well, cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 300 for one hour.
    4. When beans are done, drain and add to onion mixture in the pyrex dish.  Add vegetable stock and bay leaf.  Return to oven, covered, for one more hour.
    5. Saute the blanched sorrel in 1 Tbs olive oil until soft and set aside.
    6. When beans have been in the oven one hour, remove from oven and add sorrel.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Return to oven, uncovered, and bake 15 minutes.
    7. Remove from oven and let sit 3 hours before eating to allow flavors to develop.  Keep at room temperature -- do not refrigerate.
    8. Serve with cheese bread and thick Greek yogurt.

    Slow-Cooked Florida Speckled Butter Beans and Sorrel made the Foodbuzz Top 9 today! The Foodbuzz Top 9 is a photo-driven collection of top-buzzed posts within the Foodbuzz community.  Congratulations again, and thanks for being a part of Foodbuzz!  Cheers, The Foodbuzz Editorial Team.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Kibbe with Bulgur, Pomegranate Syrup and Pine Nuts

    November is the month of the pomegranate and vegetarian kibbe seasoned with pomegranate syrup makes for perfect autumn eating.  Add greens and tomatoes from the garden, stuff into a pita, and you've got a tasty sandwich.  This dish is from the cookbook Silk Road Cooking, A Vegetarian Journey by Najmieh Batmanglij which traces the flow of ideas, recipes and spices along the Silk Road from China to Italy and all points in between.   The book is full of gorgeous photos and makes for fascinating reading.  Most important, the recipes have never disappointed.  This dish is not complicated, but it has several steps and requires refrigeration time in between.  Budget your time accordingly or you're in for a late night.

    Kibbe with Bulgur, Pomegranate Syrup and Pine Nuts

    adapted from Silk Road Cooking by Najmieh Batmanglij



    1      pound        russet potatoes, peeled and boiled until soft
    1                        egg
    2      cups           fine grain bulgur, soaked in 3/4 cup warm
                              water for 15 minutes
    1/3    cup           unbleached all-purpose flour
    1                       onion, peeled and sliced
    2       tsp            salt
    1       tsp            black pepper
    2       tsp            cumin
    1       Tbs           vegetable oil
    2       tsp            pomegranate syrup (not juice,
                             available at Middle Eastern grocers)
    1/2    cup           parsley


    1       Tbs         butter or vegetable oil
    1                      onion, peeled and thinly sliced
    1                      garlic clove, peeled and crushed
    1/2     cup         pine nuts
    1/2     tsp          salt
    1/4     tsp          black pepper
    1/2     tsp          cayenne pepper
    1/4     tsp          cinnamon
    1/4     tsp          cumin
    1       Tbs          pomegranate syrup
                             vegetable oil for frying

    For the Sandwiches

    1/2 C tomatoes (we used Matt's Wild Cherry from the garden)
    tahini or hummus to taste
    1/2 C lettuce (we used mizuna from the garden)
    pita bread
    fresh mint

    Step 1 -- Make the Shell
    1. Combine all the shell ingredients in a food processor and mix until you have a thick dough.  Cover and refrigerate 40 minutes to firm up.
    Step 2 -- Make the Filling
    1. Heat oil or butter and saute onions over medium until translucent.  Add spices and pomegranate syrup and cook one more minute.  Remove from heat and set aside.
    Step 3 -- Make the Kibbe
    1. Using your hands, mold the shell dough into balls -- smaller than a tennis ball, bigger than a golf ball.  If you moisten your hands first, the dough won't stick too much.  Place on sheet pan lined with silpat or parchment paper as you go. 
    2. Make an impression in each ball of dough using your thumb and fill each hole with 1 tsp of filling.  Pull the dough around the filling so it is now in the center of the dough.  Flatten each ball into a patty.  You shouldn't be able to see any of the filling.  Refrigerate the patties to firm up before cooking, about 30 minutes.
    3. Heat oil for frying over medium, and fry each patty until golden brown on both sides.  Remove to paper towels to drain.
    Step 4 -- Assemble the Sandwiches
    1. Serve kibbe with warm pita bread, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, mint and tahini or hummus.  
    2. To eat, open the pita and fill with all of the above.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Eggplant Rishta Bi (Eggplant with Lentils, Caramelized Onions and Pasta)

    We made a brief stop in Cincinnati before relocating from Los Angeles to Houston.  Known for it's chili and German food, Cincinnati was far from the ideal city for a vegetarian.  In fact, it was so hard to eat out that we actually started cooking at home, something we never did in L.A.  After my many cooking disasters, David took over in the kitchen and the rest is history.   The one restaurant that we loved in Cincy was a little hole-in-the-wall Lebanese restaurant called Floyd's.  Back then the kitchen was always occupied by a grandmotherly type who fed us until we were ready to burst.  She made an amazing dish with lentils, rice and caramelized onions, mujaddara, that we remember to this day.

    We have made mujaddara at home many times since, and a similar dish called rishta bi which substitutes pasta for rice.  We decided to put a garden spin on these classics by adding eggplant fresh from the garden.   We cooked with Thai Long Green eggplant, but any type will work.  Leave yourself plenty of time to caramelize the onions.  Thomas Keller has a technique that takes an entire day, but if you live in the real world and can't spend the day in the kitchen, our approach yields tasty onions in around an hour.  We use butter and olive oil for the onions, but vegans should use only olive oil and the onions will still taste great.  Just a few ingredients, amazing flavors.  Although it deviates from tradition, we think our eggplant rishta bi would make our old friend at Floyd's proud.

    Eggplant Rishta Bi


    1       lb            eggplant, cut into thin slices
    1                      large onion, sliced
    1/2    cup         brown lentils
    8       oz           fresh tagliatelle pasta
                           (or 4 oz dry pasta)
                           olive oil
                           sea salt and black pepper
                           fresh Italian parsley, chopped
    1. Heat olive oil over medium and fry eggplant slices until golden brown.  Flip and repeat.  Remove eggplant from pan to paper towels to dry.
    2. Melt butter (about 1 Tbs) and add a dash of olive oil over low heat and cook onions until brown and caramelized.  This takes about an hour.  Keep the pan covered to soften the onions.  We let ours turn almost black before removing from heat.
    3. Boil water and add lentils, cooking until just tender.  Drain in a collander.
    4. Cook pasta in salted water and drain in a collander.
    5. Toss pasta, lentils, 5 Tbs olive oil, eggplant and onions together.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Top with chopped parsley.

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    Italian chicories in the garden

    Before planting our vegetable garden, chicory to us was a coffee ingredient in New Orleans.   Little did we know that we've been eating chicory in its various forms for years.  Dandelion greens, radicchio, endive and escarole are members of the chicory family.  They vary in color, texture, and growth habit, but all chicories possess a wonderful bitterness and bite.  The chicory used to flavor coffee is actually the root of an endive plant, roasted and ground.

    Chicories grow best in cool weather.  Too much heat turns them unpleasantly bitter so in Houston we grow chicories in the autumn and spring.  Chicories are high in folate, vitamins A and K, and fiber.  Italian cooking embraces chicory in its many forms, and we chose several varieties offered by Seeds from Italy. This website has an impressive selection, and the seeds arrive in big, glossy, colorful packets with multilingual descriptions and cute pictographs demonstrating planting instructions.  We're growing Catalogna Punterelle, Barba di Cappuccino, and Radicchio di Castelfranco to name just a few.  

    David wanted to add chicory to a foccacia featuring traditional Italian ingredients:  potatoes, pine nuts, gorgonzola dulce and rosemary.  Lots of strong flavors, so the question was which chicory would work the best.  We narrowed it down to Puntarelle or Barba di Cappuccino because they have matured the fastest in the garden.  The Puntarelle is long and narrow, mostly stem and very little leaf.  The Barba di Cappuccino has big serrated leaves with a thicker center stem.  We conducted a quick taste test and decided that the Puntarelle had just the right amount of bite for our foccacia.  We plucked rosemary from the garden, and its fragrance was almost overwhelming.  With the puntarelle, gorgonzola, and rosemary, this foccacia is definitely not for the timid.  As Nonna would say, devi accettare l'amaro insieme al dolce (you have to learn to take the bitter with the sweet). 

    Foccacia with Catalogna Puntarelle, Fingerling Potatoes, Gorgonzola Dulce, Rosemary and Pine Nuts

    1                     foccacia dough, rolled out
                           (we used our pizza dough recipe but doubled the
                           yeast and rolled it out thicker than for pizza)            
    3 or 4              fingerling potatoes
    1             Tbs  olive oil
    1/4-1/2   cup   gorgonzola dulce, broken into small pieces
    1/2          cup   puntarelle
    1/2         Tbs    rosemary, chopped
                           sea salt and black pepper
    1 1/2       Tbs   pine nuts

    1. Cook potatoes in gently boiling, salted water partially covered until they start to get soft, 10-15 minutes.  Drain immediately and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.  When cool enough to handle, cut into 1/4" thick slices.
    2. Blanch puntarelle in boiling water for 2 minutes, drain and run under cold water.  Roughly chop or keep whole if small.
    3. Heat oven to 325 and bake pine nuts on a sheet pan until they start to darken and become fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove from oven to cool.
    4. Assemble foccacia.  First brush crust with the olive oil.  Then spread around half the cheese.  Then add potatoes, then puntarelle, rosemary, and rest of cheese.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on top to taste.  Do NOT add the pine nuts at this stage.
    5. Bake at 450 on a pizza stone (if you have one) until crust is golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes.  We have two ovens, so we preheat this oven for one hour before using so the stone gets hot. 
    6. Remove from oven, sprinkle pine nuts on top.
    Foccacia with Puntarelle, Gorgonzola Dulce, Rosemary & Pine Nuts made the Foodbuzz Top 9 today! The Foodbuzz Top 9 is a photo-driven collection of top-buzzed posts within the Foodbuzz community.  Congratulations again, and thanks for being a part of Foodbuzz!  Cheers, The Foodbuzz Editorial Team

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Lebanese Pies with Asian Greens and Feta

    I have always loved the little spinach pies you find at Lebanese restaurants.  We just got our spinach seeds in the ground, so an authentic Fatayer is still months away.  But the garden is practically bursting with Asian greens -- we have an abundance of Natsu Rakuten, Yu Choy, Komatsuna, and Choho to name just a few.  I wish I could tell you the distinguishing flavors of each of these greens, but we always harvest the greens together and combine them when we cook.  The cooked greens taste amazingly similar to spinach.

    This inspired us to create our own version of a traditional Lebanese pie using a mixture of Asian greens.  We added feta (because what's not better with feta?), and instead of making pastry dough we used store-bought puff pastry.  The results look like savory hamantaschen and taste wonderful.  If you're the entertaining type, these would make fantastic appetizers fresh from the garden.  Since our entertaining these days seems to be limited to crowds of hungry little boys, we kept all the pies for ourselves and popped them in our mouths straight off the sheetpan.  A little bit of Beirut by way of China and Japan right here in our Texas kitchen.

    Lebanese Pies with Asian Greens and Feta


    1/2         lb         assorted Asian greens, washed,
                              thick stems removed, and chopped
    1                        large onion, chopped
    3            tbs       olive oil
    1/4         tsp        allspice
    1 1/2      tsp        sumac
                              salt and black pepper to taste
    6            oz         puff pastry, defrosted
    1/4         cup       feta, crumbled or cut into small pieces

    1. Cook onions in olive oil until golden.  Add Asian greens and cook until soft, 1-2 minutes.  Add spices, then salt and pepper to taste.  
    2. Remove from stove to cool and heat oven to 325 convection or 350 regular.
    3. Flour your work surface and a rolling pin lightly.  Dust puff pastry lightly with flour on both sides and roll out until thin.  Cut circles of whatever size you prefer.  We made 3" circles, which yield mini pies.  As you cut the circles, place them on a silpat or parchment paper.  You can re-roll the extra dough after you cut out your circles.
    4. Mix the feta into the cooled filling.  Place a dollop in the center of each circle and pinch a corner on the bottom left and right (if you're a military type, pinch at 4:00 and 8:00).  Last, pinch the top.  
    5. Once all your pies are assembled (and don't worry if they don't look perfect), bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

    Lebanese pies with asian greens and feta made the Foodbuzz Top 9 today! The Foodbuzz Top 9 is a photo-driven collection of top-buzzed posts within the Foodbuzz community.  Congratulations again, and thanks for being a part of Foodbuzz!  Cheers, The Foodbuzz Editorial Team

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Rhubarb Strawberry Cobbler

    Everyone in our house has a serious sweet tooth.  David is hooked on Skinny Cow ice cream, but I prefer desserts that are not frozen because I am always cold (ok, not always now that we live in Texas, but have you ever experienced Houston air conditioning in the summer?  Trust me, you need to carry a sweater with you at all times here even though it's 100 degrees outside).   There are a few desserts that I can make with my eyes closed, perfect for weeknight baking, and one of them is my Rhubarb Strawberry Cobbler.

    Rhubarb is one of my favorite fruits.  To be accurate, I should say that rhubarb is one of my favorite vegetables.  It is a member of the sorrel family, which accounts for its sharp bitter flavor.  We have rhubarb growing in the garden, but it won't be ready for harvest until next spring.  If you want to read more about growing rhubarb in Houston, click here.  Luckily, rhubarb is just showing up at the grocery stores.   If you can't find fresh rhubarb, or it's priced out of reach, frozen rhubarb (either your own or store-bought) works well too.  Fresh strawberries are beautiful right now, but frozen strawberries also work in this recipe.

    The definition of a weeknight baking project is one that works with what's available, is quick to assemble, and doesn't make a mess.  This recipe qualifies because it is so adaptable, it's quick to make (maybe 10 minutes to prep before it goes into the oven), and it doesn't create lots of dirty stuff that needs to be washed.

    The combination of rhubarb and strawberry creates a fruity version of sweet tart candies.  You should adjust the sugar in my recipe based on your tolerance for tartness.  I make ours fairly sweet to try to encourage the kids to eat their fruit (although good luck right now competing with all their Halloween candy), but you could easily eliminate 1/8 cup of sugar or more if you prefer tart over sweet.   The topping on this cobbler is a sublime buttery biscuit that soaks up the fruit juices inside.   If I were being honest, I would tell you that the topping is the best part of the cobbler, but then I would lose my street cred as a devoted vegetable gardener.   So the official line is that the fruit makes this dessert.  



    Rhubarb Strawberry Cobbler



    1 1/4 - 1/12     lbs        rhubarb  (depending on how tart you like it).
                                        cut into slices about 1/2" thick
    1                     pint       fresh strawberries (or 2 cups frozen)
                                        hulled and quartered
    2/3                  cup       sugar
    3                     Tbs       AP flour (we use unbleached)
                                        zest of 1/4 of small orange
                                       (a little goes a long way here or your cobbler
                                       will taste like orange juice)


    1 1/2            cup        AP flour
    1/4               tsp         salt
    1                  Tbs        baking powder
    2                  Tbs       sugar (plus more to sprinkle on top)
    4                  Tbs       unsalted butter, cubed and kept cold
    1                  cup        heavy cream                         

    1. Preheat oven to 350 for convection oven, or 375 for regular oven.  
    2. Not to insult anyone's intelligence, but if you're using frozen fruit, defrost and drain it first.  I've tried to rush things and use semi-frozen fruit thinking it would defrost in the oven, but it doesn't cook quickly enough so your top ends up finished before your fruit is completely cooked.   Also, if you forgot to pick up an orange (it happens), this recipe is fine without the orange zest.
    3. Combine all the filling ingredients, mix well, and put into 8" pyrex baking dish.  Or, use individual ramekins to make individual cobblers (these are perfect for dinner parties if you're so inclined).
    4. Make topping.  First, combine all dry ingredients.  Then cut in the butter to resemble coarse meal.  I use my fingers for this by rubbing the butter/flour mixture between my thumb and forefinger until the butter pieces are the size of a pea (some can be bigger than that, and some a bit smaller).  You don't want the texture to be too smooth or the topping will lose its buttery richness.  You can also use a pastry cutter, food processor or forks to do this, but why create one more dirty thing to wash?
    5. Add cream and mix until uniformly moist.  Spoon out on top of filling.  It should be plopped on in clumps.  You don't want a perfectly smooth topping.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar for some sparkle.
    6. Bake in oven until top is golden brown, about 40 minutes.  If you used a glass pyrex, you will also see the fruit bubbling.  
    7. Serve warm topped with clotted cream, whipped cream or ice cream.
    8. Leftovers refrigerate and re-heat well.

    Rhubarb strawberry cobbler made the Foodbuzz Top 9 today! The Foodbuzz Top 9 is a photo-driven collection of top-buzzed posts within the Foodbuzz community.  Congratulations again, and thanks for being a part of Foodbuzz!  Cheers, The Foodbuzz Editorial Team

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Eggplant, Black Bean and Cotija Tostada with Spicy Tomatillo Jalapeno Salsa

    We don't do much southwestern cooking at home, so my image of tostados is from Taco Bell commercials.   I pictured a crunchy, deep-fried shell with little taste, but our tostados were soft and golden brown with lots of fresh corn flavor.  The trick is to gently fry the tortillas just before assembling your tostadas.  The Spicy tomatillo jalapeno salsa can be made ahead of time, so just pick your fresh eggplant and tomatoes and dinner will be ready in no time.  We used Cloud Nine and Thai Hybrid Tiger eggplants, Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes and cilantro from the garden. I wish we had an avocado tree, but for now the avocados are store-bought.

    Eggplant, Black Bean and Cotija Tostados with Spicy Tomatillo Jalapeno Salsa 
    (makes enough for 4-6 depending on how much you load the tostadas)


    2                 garlic cloves, chopped
    1/4    cup     cilantro (or what you pick from the garden), chopped
    2       cans    black beans (30 oz total), drained and rinsed
    3/4    tsp      salt
    1       lb       eggplant, sliced thinly
    2                 avocado, chopped
    1       pkg    corn tortillas
    1       cup     cotija cheese, grated
    1       cup     cherry tomatoes
                       Spicy Tomatillo Jalapeno Salsa
                       vegetable oil, olive oil

    1. Combine beans with 2 cups water and bring to a simmer uncovered.  Cook about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Drain beans but RESERVE LIQUID.  
    2. Puree beans, 1/4 cup of cooking liquid, and garlic until smooth
    3. Heat some olive oil in a pan over medium heat and fry eggplant until golden brown.  Flip and repeat.  Remove from pan to paper towels to dry.
    4. Heat 3 Tbs vegetable oil over moderate heat, then add beans and cook until very thick, about 5 minutes.  Add salt and remove from stove.  You may have extra beans (we did).  If so, refrigerate and use later.  If beans get too thick to spread, just add some more of the reserved cooking liquid.
    5. Heat tortillas in vegetable oil over moderate heat until golden brown.  Flip over and repeat.
    6. Assemble tostadas:  spread beans over bottom, then salsa, then eggplant slices, avocado, and tomatoes.  Top with cheese and sprinkle with cilantro.

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Spicy Tomatillo Jalapeno Salsa

    We are enjoying beautiful autumn weather at last, but the summer vegetable harvest continues. Eggplant, tomatoes, tomatillos and jalapenos are still plentiful in the garden, so we decided to create a meal that celebrates many of those summer vegetables while they're still around.  A spicy, smoky salsa seemed the perfect place to start.  We paired the salsa with eggplant, black bean and cotija tostadas (recipe coming soon), and had enough salsa left over to use for several days.  This salsa has a kick that stands up to bold flavors, but it doesn't overwhelm the subtle eggplant and cotija flavors in our tostada.  

    We are really falling in love with the uniquely sweet and tart flavor of tomatillos.  They are are also good for you.  Tomatillos are an excellent source of iron, vitamin C, niacin and potassium.  This salsa is loaded with complex flavors, but it has zero fat.  Do we have your attention now?  Our friend and fellow blogger Diana had the great idea of freezing extra tomatillos at the end of the season, but they taste so good that it will be a challenge to save any for long.

    Spicy Tomatillo Jalapeno Salsa


    4       cloves      garlic, whole but peeled
    1       pound      tomatillos, husks removed and cut in half
    2                      jalapenos (with their seeds), coarsely chopped
                            (feel free to use more if you're a heat freak)
    3/8    cup         cilantro (more or less), coarsely chopped
    1/2    cup         white onion, finely chopped
    1       tsp          salt

    1. Line a 10" cast-iron skillet with aluminum foil.  
    2. Pre-heat empty skillet on stove over moderate heat.
    3. When pan is hot, add 2 garlic cloves and half the tomatillos, cut sides down, and roast until well browned.  Flip over and repeat.  Tomatillos should be completely soft.  Total time is 8-10 minutes.
    4. Put cooked tomatillos and garlic in food processor (but don't do anything yet), line pan with clean foil, and repeat process with remaining garlic and tomatillos.
    5. When all the tomatillos and garlic are cooled to room temperature, add the jalapenos and cilantro to everything in the food processor.  Add 2 Tbs water and pulse until sauce is chunky.  If it's too thick, add 1 more Tbs water.
    6. Remove from food processor and add onion and salt.
    7. Serve immediately or refrigerate.  (Ours was still fresh and full of flavor 3 days later.  It may keep even longer than that if you can keep yourself from eating it all).