August 30, 2010

Watermelon and feta salad

This was a tasty and refreshing salad to eat with our dinner on this very hot evening. It was a nice combination of juicy watermelon (from a local farmer) and salty feta. I love the combination of sweet and salty and this salad really touched on both of those tastes. Plus it has some of my other favorite things like balsamic vinegar and fresh mint. The below recipe is enough for one side salad, so adjust this recipe for the amount and number of people you are serving.

Watermelon and feta salad
1 cup of cubed watermelon
1 heaping tablespoon crumbled feta
a few pieces of very thinly sliced red onion
2-3 mint leaves, thinly sliced
scant 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
dash of sea salt

In a small saucepan, heat the balsamic vinegar and salt over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and continue cooking until it reduces by about half. Add the remaining ingredients to a bowl and toss together. Refrigerate until the vinegar is ready. Then drizzle with the reduced vinegar while it is still warm and serve.

August 21, 2010

Spiced peach butter

I was trying to figure out something to do with all of the peaches we have and decided to try making a peach butter. I also decided that I was going to try to make it in the slow cooker overnight. I left on the skins, threw everything in the slow cooker, and set it to low before I went to bed. It was really nice to wake up to the smell of this slightly spiced peach butter on a Saturday morning. The peaches we had were very juicy and this peach butter ended up taking quite a long time to cook down in the slow cooker. When I woke up in the morning, I pureed it with the immersion blender and then bumped up the setting to high, took off the lid, and let it reduce some more. This made about 5-6 jelly jar sized containers of peach butter. It will be perfect for spreading on toast, muffins, or any other baked good! You should taste your peaches first to gauge how sweet they are and help you determine how much sugar you want to add. Start low and add more if needed.

Spiced peach butter

about 15 medium peaches, pitted and cut into chunks
about 1/4 cup granulated sugar
about 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
dash of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

Put all of the ingredients in your slow cooker on the low setting. Let cook about 6-8 hours.

Puree using an immersion blender or in a blender or food processor (then return to slow cooker). Taste for sugar and spices and adjust if needed. Set slow cooker to high and continue to cook for another 1-3 hours uncovered, stirring occasionally, until your desired thickness.

Let cool. Place the peach butter in jars or freezer containers. Refrigerate for up to one month, or freeze for later.

August 19, 2010

Shiitake hazelnut pate

My husband and I sampled this pate at the farmers' market last weekend from a farmer who was selling shiitake mushrooms. The pate was really good and his shiitake mushrooms were beautiful. I was really excited to find mushrooms that were grown locally. So, of course, we brought home a bag of mushrooms and the farmer was nice enough to give us a recipe card so we could try it at home. This pate is very flavorful with just a few ingredients. We ate it with some flatbread crackers and celery. I slightly adapted the recipe that was given to us and used the one below.

Shiitake hazelnut pate
about 1 cup of shiitake mushroom caps, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
leaves from 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 ounces Neufchatel cheese (or cream cheese)
1/4 cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
about 1 teaspoon dry vermouth

Melt butter in a small pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Saute until softened, about five minutes. Add the hazelnuts to a food processor and pulse a few times. Add salt, pepper, and thyme to the mushroom and garlic mixture and stir. Add the mushrooms to the food processor along with the remaining ingredients. Process until smooth and taste for salt and pepper (adjust as needed). Refrigerate for about 30 minutes and then serve as a dip/spread with your favorite crackers, bread, and/or vegetables.

August 16, 2010

Shrimp etoufee

I've never had etoufee before I made this, so I can't really compare what I made to anything. My husband had seafood etoufee the last time we went to the Cajun restaurant near us. Usually I would try his food, but since it was "seafood", I tend to be cautious in case some crab is in there, or else I may get a really puffy face! I have to say that I enjoyed this dish a lot and was pleased with the flavors. It did take a while to make and some patience, but as usual, it paid off in the tasting! I loosely followed a recipe I found online. This made enough for the two to three people as a main course. You could use other seafood or a mixture, or even crawfish tail meat if you can find it.

Shrimp etoufee
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons creole seasoning
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1/3 cup green bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (or shrimp stock)
about 5-7 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
hot sauce (cayenne pepper sauce) to taste
4-5 green onions (green and whites), thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
about 1-1.5 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
white rice

Season the shrimp with salt, pepper, and about 1/2 tablespoon of creole seasoning. Refrigerate until ready to use. Warm 4 tablespoons butter in a cast iron skillet. Add the onion, peppers, and celery and cook until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Whisk in the flour to make your roux. Cook the roux, stirring constantly, for about 5-8 minutes. The roux should begin to turn the color of peanut butter. Once it reaches that color, add a small amount of the stock and stir to form a paste. Continue to add the stock slowly, whisking as you go. Add the remaining creole seasoning, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. You want it to be the consistency of gravy (add more stock if needed). Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Then start your rice. Cook one cup of white rice to package directions. Add a bay leaf to the water.

Next add the thyme, remaining bay leaf, tomatoes, Worcestershire, and hot sauce to your etoufee. Continue to simmer for about another 20 minutes. Add the shrimp along with the green onions and parsley (saving enough of both for garnishing). Simmer for another 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. Remove bay leaves. Taste for salt, pepper, and hot sauce (add more if needed). Stir in remaining tablespoon of butter. Serve immediately over rice. Garnish with remaining green onions and parsley and serve with hot sauce.

August 15, 2010

Dill pickle chips

These pickles were the result of my finding a pint of pickling cucumbers at the farmer's market yesterday and deciding I would make and can some pickles. Since there's just the two of us, I figured that would be enough pickles to last us a while and just got the one container. After reading numerous pickle recipes, I picked portions I liked of each and used this recipe. I tasted the brine after it was made; however, since I just made these pickles this morning, I have not tried them yet. They should pickle for at least a week (but a couple is better) to come to their full flavor. Perhaps I will update this posting after I actually try them! I liked a bit of spice in my pickles, but you can leave out the red pepper if you prefer. This recipe will yield approximately four 12-ounce canning jars of pickles. If you want to make more than that, you can easily double or triple this recipe.

Dill pickle chips
1 pint (about 15-20 medium-sized) pickling cucumbers, sliced into about 1/4-inch coins

2 cups filtered water
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons canning salt (or other salt, though the brine may discolor from minerals. I actually used sea salt)
1-2 teaspoons sugar

Flavorings (per jar):
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
about 8-10 black peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon yellow mustard seed
1 teaspoon dried dill weed

Prepare your canning jars by properly sterilizing. Heat your water bath to boiling. In a large saucepan, combine all of the brine ingredients. Simmer until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add the flavorings to each jar. Fill the jar with cucumber slices (about 4-5 cucumbers in each jar). Fill each jar with cooled brine until it reaches about 1/2-inch from the top. Place the lids and screw tops on your jars and boil in the hot water bath for 15 minutes. Remove the jars and let cool. Make sure that all of the lids have sealed. Store the pickles for up to a year in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate after opening.

August 8, 2010

Summer vegetable enchiladas with a creamy poblano sauce

These enchiladas are delicious. They are a great way to use up some of your summer zucchini and corn. As with most enchiladas, they are time-consuming to put together. But, it's well worth it in the end. I often find food that takes a long time to make on a weekend afternoon just tastes a bit better. It's the reward for your time and effort to bite into these slightly spicy and gooey enchiladas. Plus, they are a terrific vegetarian meal, which (as you know), we try to do a few times a week. You can certainly add different vegetables into these if you prefer, but I really liked the combination of fresh and crispy sweet corn with the soft and mild zucchini. This recipe is another from Gourmet Today (a fabulous cookbook). I did modify it slightly. This recipe should make five to six well-stuffed enchiladas. I served them with some cilantro rice and sliced avocado.

Summer vegetable enchiladas
oil for cooking
1/2 white onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
salt to taste
kernels removed from 2 ears of corn
about 2 cups zucchini, diced
14-15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1-2 chipotles in adobo sauce, minced (add more or less to taste and some of the sauce for extra heat)

Creamy poblano sauce
3 poblano chiles, roasted and peeled
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
about 1/2 - 3/4 cup water
3/4 cup creme fraiche
1/4 teaspoon salt
drizzle of vegetable oil
5-6 flour tortillas (fajita-size)
about 1-1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
cilantro for garnish

Begin by making the sauce. Open the chiles flat and discard the stems and seeds. Combine the chiles, onion, garlic, water, oil, and salt in a food processor and puree until smooth. Heat the sauce in a medium saucepan (watch for splattering). Stir frequently and cook for about 10 minutes or until it thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the creme fraiche. Set aside.

Next make the filling. Warm some oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it begins to soften. Then add the corn, garlic, zucchini, salt, cumin, and coriander. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften (about 8 minutes). Then add the tomatoes (with juice), chipotles (and adobo sauce if using). Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro. Set aside to cool slightly.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 13" by 9" baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Reheat the poblano sauce and then spoon a thin layer on the bottom of the baking dish. In each tortilla shell, add about a tablespoon of cheese and then about 1/3 cup of filling. Roll up the tortilla and place them in the baking dish in a tight row side by side. Spoon the sauce over the top and then the rest of the cheese. Place the baking dish in the oven on a cookie sheet (in case it bubbles over the sides). Bake uncovered for about 15-20 minutes, until hot, bubbly, and golden. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving. Top with extra cilantro and serve with rice and avocado slices, if desired.

August 7, 2010

Spicy eggplant and Thai basil stir fry

This stir fry was something I came up with when trying to use up some of my Thai basil from our herb garden and a local eggplant. Thai basil is an amazing herb with a wonderfully unique taste that immediately transports me back to Thailand. You can substitute with another type of basil or cilantro (Thai basil is difficult to find), but to me, the Thai basil makes this stir fry. I served this stir fry with some fragrant jasmine rice. This dish serves two, but can easily be adjusted for a larger number or so that you can have leftovers for lunch.

Spicy eggplant and Thai basil stir fry
1 large to medium eggplant, cut into bite-sized chunks
half of a green or red pepper, cut into bite-sized chunks
half of a small onion, diced
about 3/4 cup cashews, lightly toasted
good handful of Thai basil leaves
canola oil for cooking
1 cup of jasmine rice, cooked to box directions

sauce (adjust to make more or less or to be more or less spicy):
1 teaspoon chili sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon fresh-grated ginger
1 clove garlic, grated
about 1 cup of vegetable stock or water
about 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar

In a wok or large frying pan, heat the oil until hot. Add the pepper and onions, stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add the eggplant and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Mix all of the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and then add to the pan. Continue cooking until the eggplant is soft and the sauce is slightly thickened (add more liquid, if needed - adjust to your taste by adding more sugar, soy, chili, etc.). Add the cashews and stir. Serve over jasmine rice and top with lots of fresh Thai basil.