Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Spiced Cherry Chutney

A more savory option for all those pints of cherries, this chutney is sweet and tangy and pairs well with cheese, fish or meat, and is also great on its own with bread.

I used what I had on hand, one of my favorite natural sweeteners, sorghum molasses. It is a regional southern delicacy and it nearly impossible to locate up north. I got mine at the Walmart in Branson. No joke. You can use honey, rough brown sugar, maple syrup, or other sweetener of your choice. It will give your dish a particular nuance so choose thoughtfully! I served this over goat brie with crusty bread last week. Then, over a super gooey French triple cream Brie last Sunday at a family gathering. I imagine it pairing nicely with chèvre medallions, cream cheese, extra sharp cheddar, or fresh farmer cheese, as well. It would also be a nice accompaniment for fish, pork, duck, or any other savory dish that enjoys a sweet garnish. Love these savory cherries while they are here!

Spiced Cherry Chutney

Chefette stirring the pot

2 T extra-virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
3/4 c finely diced onion
about 3 cups fresh pitted cherries
10 dried apricots, julienned
1 T chopped garlic
1/4 t sea salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c sorghum molasses or maple syrup
1/3 cup raw apple cider vinegar
1/2 t ground cinnamon
Sorghum from the Ozarks
1/4 t ground allspice
2 T arrowroot (or cornstarch if you don't have any-they work the same, but arrowroot is healthier)

In a medium pot, heat oil for a minute on medium. Add onions and cook 3 minutes. Add cherries, dried apricots, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and stir to incorporate. Lower heat and cook for 10 minutes.

Add sorghum molasses, vinegar, and spices. Stir again to incorporate and cook on medium-low heat, uncovered, for 20 minutes. 

In a small bowl, stir together 3 T cold water with 2 T arrowroot. Mix until there are no lumps. Add it into pot, stir, and cook for 3-5 more minutes, until chutney has thickened. Remove from heat and let cool.

Serve over brie, cream cheese, or chevre. This chutney is also great with pork chops, duck, or fish.
Keeps in the fridge for about 2 weeks. Whatever you don't use, freeze in 1 cup increments.

Makes about 4 cups chutney.

Simmer it until thick

Monday, July 15, 2013

Trout Cakes with Smoky Tomato Aioli

Trout Cakes in progress!

What on earth am I going to do with all this trout?

It's one of those recurring questions in life that will plague me until I can come up with a decent answer to conquer it. The problem is, every time my dearest goes fishing, he comes home with some (or so he hopes). I cook them all simply and at their freshest to the best of my ability at the time. It's always decent but meal is met with groans by the fisherman himself. Typically, I am unpacking from a weekend away and throw them on some foil with whatever spices I see first. Then whatever is left is a sad plop of leftovers in a container that no one really wants. It's always a tragic tale. Recently, we had six very bony cooked fillets that were screaming for a second chance. I decided that they could be a winning meal yet and began crumbling through and removing bones while I came up with this little fish cake jive.

Not unlike the classic crab cake with breadcrumbs, celery, and onion, this is a recipe that even the complainers will try. They turned out spectacular. This will be my new go-to trout recipe. Try it with trout, bass, or other mild freshwater fin fish.

Trout Cakes with Smoky Tomato Aioli

3 cooked trout, about 6 thin fillets with bones and skin picked out (or other freshwater fish, enough to equal 4 cups without bones and skin)

3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, extra small dice/brunoise cut
1/2 t sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t Old Bay Seasoning

1 large egg
1 c fresh whole grain bread crumbs
1/4 c prepared mayo (I like the Flax and Olive Oil Veganaise, personally)
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 c minced flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup or so of extra-virgin olive oil

For The Aioli:
1/2 c prepared mayo (or Nayo or Veganaise, whatever you like)
2 T tomato paste
1/2 t honey
pinch of sea salt
1/4 t smoked paprika
small clove of minced garlic
squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Prepare trout by gently crumbling into a bowl, carefully picking out bones and skin as you go. Set aside.

In a saute pan, warm the oil and cook onion, celery, and red pepper over medium heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and Old Bay and reduce heat to low,
Cook 10 more minutes, until vegetables are soft and fragrant, but not too brown or mushy. Remove from heat and let cool. While veggies cool, whisk together aioli ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside.

When cool enough to handle veggies, add them to the mixing bowl with the trout. Add also the eggs, breadcrumbs, mayo, mustard, and parsley. Combine with clean hands until uniform. Shape into 1.5" thick X 2" wide rounds and place gently on a plate.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a frying pan, heat about half of the oil and cook half of the trout cakes over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a baking sheet or oven-safe serving dish. Cook the remaining cakes in the remaining oil and transfer those, too.

Bake cakes for about 15 minutes, uncovered, until they are all piping hot. Serve with aioli.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Great Green Popsicles!

It's HOT out. Summer officially began a week ago and the heat is in full effect in Brooklyn. The farmers markets are full of fruits and veggies and light, refreshing foods are just about all that sounds good. With the holiday week ahead of us, too, now is the perfect time to blend up some delicious and refreshing fruit and vegetable combo popsicles. They are the perfect snack for you or your little ones and are a great way to up the veggies in your diet. I found the silicone molds on and love them, but if you have the traditional molds with sticks/handles, those are great, too!

My kid is really into colors right now, so I like to make our popsicles monochromatic these days. Getting creative with layering contrasting colors would be fun, too! Maybe vanilla yogurt, blueberries, and strawberries for the 4th of July or chocolate and vanilla yogurt swirl for a rich treat? Today we whipped up a batch of great green pops, using handfuls of green fruit and some cucumber, kale, and zucchini to round out the nutrition. They are sweetened with fruit and a little maple syrup and lightened up with fresh lime juice. Great and green!

Great Green Popsicles

2 cups ripe honeydew melon
1/2 cup green pear
2 kiwis
Popsicle Monster!!
1/2 ripe haas avocado
1/2 cup zucchini
1/2 cup unwaxed cucumber (with skin)
2-3 large leaves green kale, torn into a few pieces
1/2 c or so almond milk, coconut milk, or other milk of your choice
2-3 T grade B maple syrup
juice of 1 lime

Chop fruit and veggies up into evenly-sized chunks and combine in a good blender. Start blender on low and add milk, as needed, just until there is enough that everything is caught in the blending and green stuff is becoming uniform. Turn it to high and blend until very smooth, making sure there are no chunks or big pieces of kale floating around in there. Add maple and lime juice. Blend and taste. Adjust lime and maple, adding it until it tastes good. If your fruit is ripe, you
probably won't need much maple. Remember that when it is frozen, it will be less sweet and less tangy, so be generous with your seasonings!

Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until solid.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Baked French Lentils with Tomatoes and Kale

Late spring menus are among my favorites. The markets and stands are full of juicy"real" produce again and inspires a fresh perspective on what to bring to the table. How easy it is to fall into a rut of the same few dishes and ingredients, especially through the cold seasons. This cheery casserole adds some chutzpah to your ho-hum repertoire, while taking advantage of seasonal flavors and ingredients. Enjoy it with a little vino verdhe for a light and satisfying meal.

Dill, lacinato kale (aka as Tuscan kale and dinosaur kale), and early tomatoes brighten up these French lentils into a frugal, yet tasty meal that is perfect to pick from all week. Warm it and serve over rice, enjoy cold as a lentil salad, or serve it as a stew warmed with vegetable broth with crusty, grainy bread.

Greenmarket herbs!

kale chiffonade
Baked Tomato, Kale, and French Lentils
The raw materials

2 cups dry French lentils

4-6 cups water
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup sliced carrots
2 T chopped garlic
1 large green bell pepper, sliced into 1-inch strips
1 bunch lacinato kale
1 cup fresh dill
3 cups chopped tomatoes
2 T fresh lemon juice
1/4 dry white wine
1 cup vegetable broth
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rinse and sort lentils, transfer to a pot, and fill with water and bay leaf.
Bring to a boil and cook until lentils are tender about 20 minutes.

In a large frying pan warm olive oil and add onion, celery, and carrots. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat and add garlic and green pepper. Stir and cook for about five more minutes.

While it cooks, prep kale by washing it and cutting it into a medium shred, also known as a chiffonade. Add to pan and fold into mixture. Cook until kale is just wilted. Meanwhile, drain lentils and give them a quick rinse to remove any boiling scum. Set aside.

Roughly chop dill. Combine lentils, vegetable sauté mixture, dill and tomatoes.
Toss together and add lemon juice, wine, and broth. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour mixture into a 9 x 13 oven safe casserole dish cover tightly and bake it 350° for 35 minutes.

Serve as is with a little optional sharp, aged cheese or explore above suggestions for enjoying it as a salad or over grain.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Cooking: Dal, Goulash, and Pumpkin Seeds!

Yellow split pea dal in the making

Next project: pumpkin seeds, Mallory-style

Jazzing up the goulash with fresh tomatoes
Hurricane Sandy is on it's way and preparations have been made. Wine, seltzer, candles and matches, and a few comfort recipe ingredients are all in place. I'm sure we have a flashlight around here somewhere. Life with a baby and a full-time grad student hasn't allowed much time for the tasting, market perusing, and reflecting/blogging of days past, but potential natural disaster has forced me inside and bought me some time not only to stew up some cozy day-family favorites, but actually share what I'm making.

Given the opportunity today, I am thrilled to finally try again to revisit this outlet safely from the edge of evacuation Zone B. Maybe I will get my blog momentum back, as I say about many things right now, one of these days.

So what's on the stove today? There was a big family-pack of ground beef in my freezer, a ton of dry macaroni in my pantry, and some canned tomato sauce (opened) in the fridge all leftover from a catering job. Rather than watch them collect dust and freezer burn, I thought I would answer the call of these ingredients...goulash....goulash...goulash. This will keep my husband well-fed all week and happily so. It is a hearty, simple dish that grows in quantity as it comes together so we are prepared for any hurricane party drop-ins, as may happen.

Little chef scooting towards kitchen smells
A greenmarket jewel yam has been popped into the oven for Miss Matilda. She's easy to please... and as for me, nothing hits the spot like some Indian home cooking on a day like this. I managed to grab some yellow split peas and cilantro yesterday while braving the hordes of people maniacally shopping for gallons of water and emergency candles, canned soups and liquor.  I'm still not sure how I could think clearly out there, but thankfully I was focused enough to think "dal".  How distracting eavesdropping is at the grocery store on the day before a big storm and the frantic conversations in line! Overheard at Key Food in Greenpoint, Brooklyn by a group of 20-something roommates: "There are no more baskets, so just grab everything you can carry and I'll meet you in line.". and so on...There is nothing like a highly publicized storm to get people into a panic.

Along with dal, goulash, and a sweet potato, I am roasting some pumpkin seeds I scooped out from a jack o'lantern on Thursday. My favorite version this year has been sea salt, olive oil, and Cajun seasoning, but, for this batch, I am trying my friend Mallory's recipe she recently featured on her blog, Mallory's Kitchen. The Hoffman menu today is cozy, warming, and autumnal, not to mention extremely thrifty.

My favorite dal is getting improvised today and getting the green addition of leftover kale from the greenmarket. If I had some cauliflower, I would use that, too!  Adjust seasonings to customize and make it your own.

Split Pea and Kale Dal

2 cups yellow split peas
8 cups water
1 t sea salt
2 t turmeric
6-8 cups chopped kale

tempering oil:
3 T virgin coconut oil, olive oil, ghee, or vegetable oil
2 t whole cumin seeds
1 t crushed red pepper
2 T minced fresh garlic
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 fresh minced jalapeno

1 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Combine split peas, water, salt, and turmeric in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low  and cover until peas are very soft and mixture has a uniform consistency, adding water as needed. Add kale and simmer for about 5 minutes, until kale is wilted.

In a saute pan, warm the oil and add cumin seeds and crushed red pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring, then add garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. Cook about 2 more minutes, stirring to make sure nothing sticks and gets clumpy.

Add tempering oil to split peas and stir in cilantro and lemon juice to finish. Cook for a minute or so and taste for seasoning. Adjust lemon juice and salt. Serve hot as is or with basmati rice.
Chop the kale small so you have a uniform consistency.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Super Easy Paprika and Spice Grilled Trout

Huge brook trout awaiting their fate!
As you may notice, I have been on hiatus from blogging, as well as cooking and musing about food because this spring we welcomed Matilda Mae into our lives and have been doing much more eating, feeding, and baby-cooing than cooking. Priorities have been focused on sleeping, drinking water, and just scrounging up something nutritious to eat rather than imagining up clever preparations or guilty pleasures. Raw veggies and store-bought hummus have been a staple in my diet these past few months and the only cooking I have done is using up fresh ingredients before they go bad but only if Daddy is around to care for our sweet precious. Such is the life of a new mother.  Every week I have been learning to accomplish a bit more than the last and I (now we) am(are) up and around NYC once again. Our little dumpling is turning 3 months this week and we are continuing to inch back into a routine of normal functioning (Our "new normal", that is!).

My in-house fisherman and future fisherwoman
My hard-working husband is finished for the semester with his intense MFA program and I am more than relieved to have him around and less stressed out. We have even made our way out of the city a few weekends and he finally got a fishing trip worked in after wishing for free time for months. We joined him, of course, so we could visit with family while we were up there.  Stream fishing is what he does and brook trout makes a regular appearance in my life and my kitchen. For years we just stuffed those suckers with onions and butter and grilled them (my husband's own recipe). We then began to beer-batter and fry them. Of course, that is tasty, but not the healthiest preparation and really greases everything up. Last week, when he and my father-in-law (also now known as PopPop) headed down to the stream, they returned home with 3 big ones and 1 really big one. Of course, I hadn't given any thought whatsoever to preparation and ended up improvising a not-so-basic marinade made of very basic ingredients I dug up in my in-laws' kitchen. This turned out so tasty I just made it again to finish off the rest of the trout for tonight.

Honestly, she seems more interested in the tutu than the fish...?

This marinade would be great on all types of fin fish and also would perk up chicken breasts nicely. It also works into many different menus. You can serve it with Asian or Latin-inspired sides or with traditional American sides, too.  Happy grilling season!

Super Easy Paprika and Spice Grilled Trout

4-6 Trout fillets (with skin on if grilling, deboned as much as possible)

1/2 t garlic powder
1 T sweet paprika
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T white wine or red wine vinegar
2 T fresh lemon juice
1/4 c orange juice
1 T honey

Crushed red pepper to taste (opt.)

Rinse fillets well and lay out on a plate or platter in a single layer. In a small bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients and evenly pour over fish fillets. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper, if you like. 

Grill skin side down on high heat for 5 minutes and do not turn. Trout is too delicate and you will lose it in the grill. If you need to cook it inside, just broil on high with skin side down on a broiler pan lined with foil for easy cleanup.

Serve with a fresh lemon wedge.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Italian Baba Ghanouj with Balsamic Reduction and Stewed Figs

Or is it baba ghanoug or baba my knowledge, there isn't a "right" translation and spelling from Arabic to English and it is often spelled differently everywhere you look. This popular, tangy eggplant dip grew in popularity in the U.S. mostly in the last ten years or so. I think of it as hummus's lesser known sibling. The hummus boom made the garbanzo bean version of this dip wildly popular and I have to wonder, why not eggplant? What made hummus so much more common? The plethora of hummus flavors out there is overwhelming. There is everything from roasted pepper or olive hummus to Buffalo-style hummus and pesto hummus. I have even seen edamame hummus. While these are exciting alternatives to the standard, I see no reason to limit myself to all beans. I love a good batch of baba ghanouj (my preferred spelling) with it's vague smokiness from the roasting, creaminess from the tahini, and bit of acidity on the tongue. I wonder, why can't we change a few seasonings and make flavored baba ghanouj the way some hummus companies and kitchens make flavored hummus?

Traditional baba ghanouj is made with a roasted eggplant (roasted over a flame, if possible, to achieve that smokiness), tahini, lemon juice, and olive oil. To be really traditional, you could add a wee bit of pomegranate molasses, found in Middle Eastern stores, and I love adding toasted cumin seeds and some sweet paprika. That is the classic version--not too far off from what is added to garbanzo beans for traditional hummus.

Versatile ingredients all ready to go!
For my eggplant dip to rival hummus, I am going to roast a medium eggplant with some garlic cloves, add fresh oregano, olive oil, and balsamic reduction drizzled on top in lieu of the pomegranate molasses.  Rather than a taste of the Middle East, we are off to Italy for this one. This is great served with sliced Italian bread, focaccia, or pita. I may even try to scrounge up some dried figs, stew them to soften them and garnish the top with wintery sweetness.

Italian Baba Ghanouj with Balsamic Reduction and Stewed Figs

1 medium eggplant
6-8 cloves garlic, with skins on
2 T extra-virgin olive oil+ 4 T
1/3 c +2 T inexpensive, everyday balsamic vinegar
8 dried figs
2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 t chopped fresh oregano, or 1/4 t dried
1/2 t sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

crusty bread, focaccia, or flatbread for serving

Preheat to oven to 350 degrees. Wash the eggplant and coat gently with a tablespoon of olive oil. Place on a large piece of foil that is laid across a baking sheet. Rub cloves of garlic with another tablespoon of oil. Nestle them near the eggplant in the center of the foil and wrap them loosely.

Roast for about 40 minutes, checking after about 25 minutes to check the garlic cloves. If they are very soft before the eggplant, pull them out and let them cool. When eggplant is done roasting, open the foil and also let it cool.

In a small saucepan, cook the balsamic vinegar over medium heat to reduce by 1/2. It is done when it is thick and syrupy. You can go a little over and reduce more, but don't reduce less. Transfer to a bowl.

Without washing the pot, add about 1/2 c water, 2 T balsamic vinegar, and the dried figs. Simmer until figs are very tender and water/balsamic mixture is just about evaporated. Let cool, then quarter the figs.

When eggplant is cooled, slice open and scrape out the insides into a mixing bowl. Mash with lemon juice, oregano, salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste. Add about half of the balsamic reduction and taste, adding and adjusting salt and lemon, as well.

Pour into a low flat bowl to serve. Garnish the top with olive oil, balsamic reduction, and quartered figs. Serve room temperature with warm bread.