Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The new apple of my eye...

I have a favorite apple. It is the only apple I will purchase or eat. I did not think there was a better apple than the Pink Lady. Crisp, sweet, always reliable. So many apples are starchy and mushy and not very sweet, but the Pink Lady rises above. About a month ago, the Pink Lady disappeared. I was lost, eating pears and plums, missing my apples.

Last week I noticed a new variety, something I'd never seen before and with an intriguing name...Ginger Gold. Just the idea of a ginger flavored apple excited me, so I brought a few home. Delicious. Upon research, it appears the apple is actually named after a woman, not because it tastes like ginger. Regardless, I had an inspiration.

There had to be a great recipe somewhere for an apple crisp recipe with ginger. Lots of ginger. I found this recipe at KQED's web site and it looked perfect. Fresh ginger and crystallized ginger. I actually froze fresh ginger a few weeks ago, in an attempt to make grating it easier. I peeled the ginger and just wrapped it in plastic. It worked very well and was especially convenient.

Apple-Ginger Crisp with Mascarpone Cream

6 servings
For the streusel topping:
1/3 cup whole unblanched almonds
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, minced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

For the apple filling:
2 1/2 lbs. (about 8 medium) tart, firm, baking apples, such as Rome Beauty
Juice of 1 lemon, strained
2 teaspoons fresh, grated ginger root
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

For the mascarpone cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325º F. Place the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes. Stir the almonds and continue toasting for another 7 minutes until light brown in the center. Let cool on the pan for 15 minutes. Chop the almonds roughly. Set aside.

Turn the oven up to 400º F.

To make the streusel, put the flour, sugar, and cinnamon into the bowl of a food processor and pulse 2 to 3 times to mix. Add the butter and pulse 8 to 10 times until the butter is the size of large peas. Pour the mixture into a medium mixing bowl, and stir in the crystallized ginger and almonds. Set aside.

Alternatively, mix the flour, sugar, and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is the size of large peas. Stir in the crystallized ginger and almonds. Set aside.

To make the apple filling, butter a 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish. Peel and core the apples and cut into 1-inch chunks. Toss the apple chunks with the lemon juice. Mix in the ginger, sugar, and flour.

Pour the apple mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the top, covering the apples completely. Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the apples are tender when pierced with a knife and the topping is golden brown. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes.

To make the mascarpone cream, put the cream, mascarpone, sugar, and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl. Stir with a whisk until the mixture smooths out and then whisk vigorously until the mixture is light and fluffy and will hold a stiff peak. Be careful not to overwhip or the mixture will become grainy.
Serve portions of the crisp topped with mascarpone cream.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash

This is the risotto recipe I mentioned yesterday. A good friend made this Monday night and it was delicious. The pancetta and Parmesan give a really nice salty, sharp contrast to the sweet roasted butternut squash. This is a great one dish meal with a side salad.

Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash
Recipe from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa
Serves 4 to 6

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low to simmer.In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes.

Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan cheese.

Mix well and serve.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Curried squash soup

Sunday night, our English friends invited us over for a proper English dinner. Yorkshire pudding, rib roast, roasted parsnips and potatoes, bread pudding…you get the picture. It was all wonderful and such a treat after a busy weekend, to have no worries over making dinner on Sunday night.

For starters, they made a Curried Squash Soup, it was fantastic. Even my “so over squash…” husband was looking at me, sort of saying, “we can have squash again if you can make this.”
Given the five squash still in my possession from our CSA and the strong desire to try to replicate their fantastic recipe, I gave it a go. This version is good, but I think the spices can still be substituted. Curry is not my thing, I’m trying to learn. I’ll be sure to try and get the blend that they used and post it soon. The soup is obviously, very spicy… and really good. Now that the weather is changing, I could have soup every day.
I also want to share an Ina Garten, butternut squash risotto recipe that another friend made on Monday. We didn’t get pictures, but the risotto was wonderful; really complex with a few quality ingredients.

Curried Squash Soup
For roasted squash:
2 small butternut squash
1 acorn squash
2 small summer squash
3 T olive oil

For soup:
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 T olive oil
2 T Hungarian paprika
1 T curry powder
1 t ginger powder
1 t cinnamon
1 t cumin
½ t cardamom powder
5-6 saffron threads
4 cups chicken broth (or more for a runnier soup)
1/8 c heavy whipping cream
Fresh cilantro

Set oven to 350 degrees. Peel, seed and chop the squash into 1-inch cubes. Toss in olive oil and spread across a baking sheet or large metal baking pan. Use more than one if you need to in order to spread the squash evenly to form a single layer. Roast for 30 minutes, toss and roast for an addition 20 – 30 minutes, until squash is caramelized and very soft.
**You can do this step ahead and refrigerate or freeze the squash until you’re ready to make the soup, it makes a quick dinner if the squash is already cooked.

In a large, heavy stock pot sauté onion and garlic over medium heat until opaque. In a smaller pot, heat chicken broth and saffron over low heat to release saffron flavors. In a small bowl, evenly blend spice mixture. Add spice mixture to onion and garlic, sautéing until the spices start to toast. It will be a thick. (I use a Le Crueset pan, which works very well. The spices stick to the enamel a bit, but with the addition of the chicken stock, release from the side of the pan.) Add about 2 cups of the chicken stock and stir for about 2 minutes so the flavors blend. Add the squash and cook evenly for another 2 minutes. Use either stick blender or puree soup in small batches in a food processor to process soup until smooth. Return to stock pot and add additional broth to achieve desired consistency. Cook an additional 10 – 15 minutes over low heat. The longer it cooks, the more the flavors meld.

Serve the soup with a drizzle of cream and a bunch of fresh cilantro.

Makes 6 – 8 servings.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Roasted fingerlings with red and yellow piperade

The November issue of Bon Appetit is stocked full of Thanksgiving recipes, definitely pick it up if you are planning to do the cooking for family or friends this year.

I wanted to try this side because we love fingerling potatoes and we received red and yellow bell peppers and onions in our last CSA box of the year. I will miss the weekly produce, but the City Market will still have produce on the weekends for another month or so. I used a combination of farm-raised fingerlings and Amy's organic fingerling potatoes.

The fresh herbs and vinegar at the end really made this a special side dish.

roasted fingerlings with red and yellow pipérade
Bon Appétit November 2007
Michael Lomonaco

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, cut into 1/4- to 1/3-inch-wide strips
2 large yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, cut into 1/4- to 1/3-inch-wide strips
1 large red onion, halved through core, thinly sliced crosswise
3 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar

Preheat oven to 425°F. Pour 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil onto large rimmed baking sheet. Spread all peppers and sliced onion over, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast 10 minutes. Place halved potatoes and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Arrange potatoes in single layer atop peppers. Roast until potatoes are tender and beginning to turn golden, about 50 minutes.

DO AHEAD: Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in 425°F oven for 10 minutes before continuing.Sprinkle chopped parsley and shallots over potatoes and toss to coat. Roast potatoes 5 minutes longer.

Transfer potatoes to large platter. Sprinkle with chives, basil, and thyme. Drizzle with Champagne vinegar and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pipérade refers to the classic Basque stew made with tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and garlic.

Mushroom Soup & Red Guitar Wine

I am going to try to catch up on a few recipes, starting with a great Mushroom soup I made earlier this week. I couldn't pass up the over sized jug of dried gourmet mushrooms at Costco last week. I was envisioning Mushroom sauce for steaks, Mushroom soup, Mushroom risotto...you get the picture. For $10, a collection of gourmet shrooms that if purchased fresh, would easily would cost ten times that at Whole Foods. It was worth a shot. I loved it, my husband didn't like the larger chunks, I will puree the soup next time and cut the mushrooms into smaller pieces; but overall, this is a wonderful recipe. And, of course, fresh mushrooms could be substituted. The sherry and thyme really stand out and give it a restaurant quality. This would be great to serve guests.

We had bread and a great, cheap wine. If you haven't tried it yet, you should pick up a bottle of Red Guitar 2005 Navarra. It is less than $10, a fruity Spanish blend of Grenache & Tempranillo. A great, every day wine that stood up to the sherry in the soup. And yes, the label is really cute!
Here is a good blog review of the wine, with comments:

Manitou Mushroom Soup
3 cups re-hydrated Gourmet Mushroom Blend
2 large onions finely chopped
8 large cloves of garlic crushed
3-4 cups heavy cream (more cream = thinner soup)
6 cups beef broth
2-3 T sea salt
1 stick whole butter
1/2 - 1 cup flour (more flour = thicker soup)
1 cup sherry

In a large soup pot, melt the butter on medium low heat. Cook the garlic and onion until translucent. Add the re-hydrate mushrooms and cook until the moisture is mostly gone. Add the flour. Stirring often, cook for 5-7 minutes or until the flour looks and/or smells lightly toasted. Add the wine, and cook for two minutes. Add the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the fresh thyme and cream and cook for 2-3 minutes. Serve with warm bread. Serves 6-8

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Dinner for one

I have a lot of recipes to catch up on. It has been a really busy couple of weeks, with work, travel, football, fantasy football (if you can't beat them, join them...) and life in general. I don't have much time now, but I do want to share my favorite dinner for one recipe. This is generally a female favorite.

We received the best red plums in our CSA this month; sadly it was just one week, but they were delicious. On one of my evenings at home alone, I made this salad. Blue cheese or Gorgonzola would have made it perfect, but all I had was Parmesan. Next time...

Plum, Walnut & Mixed Greens w/Balsamic Vinaigrette
Place mixed greens on plate. Slice one ripe, red plum over greens.
Sprinkle small handfull (about 4 whole) of broken walnut pieces over plums.
Garnish with cracked black pepper and Parmesan cheese.

2 T. balsamic vinegar
4 T. olive oil
1/2 shallot, finely minced
1 t. brown sugar
Whisk ingredients until emulsified.

Dress salad. Eat.
**** Taste
* Difficulty