Archive | October, 2012

Homemade Apple Cider

15 Oct

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am excited about fall this year.  So the apples from the CSA every week have given me plenty of opportunity to embrace that.  Apple butter?  Check!  Homemade pectin to use in future canning?  Check!  Now, homemade apple cider – the finest of fall beverage treats (excepting, maybe, the pumpkin spice latte).  In my opinion, there is nothing as homey, comforting, and warming as a nice hot mug of apple cider, resplendent with cinnamon, apple, brown sugar, and citrus flavor.  The star anise and clove flavor lingers a bit in the background, highlighting the other flavors in a way that is difficult to describe.  Like the heady musk of fall leaves and the bring orange of pumpkins, the flavors of the cider forcefully conjure up the feeling of fall.  It’s so easy to make it at home and makes the whole place smell absolutely wonderful.

Homemade Apple Cider

About one dozen apples, any variety, washed and quartered

1 Valencia orange, quartered

1 lemon, quartered

1/2 cup brown sugar

3-4 3″ cinnamon sticks

2 pods star anise

1 tsp. cloves

Water to cover

Place all ingredients in a large stock pot.  Add water to cover.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Boil, uncovered, about an hour.

C0ver and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about two hours.

After about two hours, use a potato masher to mash up the apples a bit.  Uncover and reduce another 30 minutes to an hour, until deep golden brown and spiced.  Taste, reducing as necessary.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth into a pitcher.  Reduce for another half hour over medium heat to maintain a bare simmer.  Store in the refrigerator, reheating as necessary.

Geauga Family Farms Summer CSA – Week Fourteen

14 Oct

Geauga Family Farms Summer CSA – Week Fourteen

Look at those pretty, pretty colors!  This week, we received a head of red lettuce, Swiss chard, a head of garlic, butternut squash, Yummy orange peppers, a dozen apples, a green bell pepper, and a red bell pepper.

Leftovers from last week include some sweet potatoes and the spaghetti squash.  Some of the orange peppers had to go in the trash, but almost everything else got used up.  I was pretty irritated I had to throw the peppers out, but when menu planning I had forgotten I was going to be out of town on Friday and Saturday (at the Notre Dame game with my dad and some close family friends – it was worth standing in the rain all day to watch the Irish beat Stanford in OT!).  We also went out for pho on Tuesday, since we decided to vote early.

All of that said, we did a good job of using up our CSA produce.  I still plan to do the spaghetti squash in a gorgonzola sauce, but simply never got around to it last week.  Granted, the Jarlsberg and ricotta mustardy mac and cheese didn’t use anything from the CSA.  However, I made a homemade apple cider (recipe to be posted soon!) with the apples.  Additionally, the sweet potato and black bean enchiladas used CSA sweet potatoes.

One dish I have my heart set on for this week is some wilted Swiss chard with a warm bacon vinaigrette (which I think will be a Kelsey-only dish, since try as I might to convince Zak bacon isn’t a meat, but a condiment, he won’t believe me …).  Luckily, I think it will be pretty easy to divide the greens into two pans, and whip up a warm garlic and lemon vinaigrette for him to use in place of mine.  This week’s orange peppers WILL get used in a chile relleno spin off, because I have been looking forward to it for awhile now and I think it will be really yummy.  I think I’ll bake something with the apples despite my lack of baking prowess.  Now that I have two butternut squashes laying around, I need to brainstorm an idea for those.  As much as I enjoy them simply baked with some brown sugar, I was inspired by my unexpected success with the sweet potatoes, so I might do a Tex-Mex spin on them.  No matter what, I’m really excited for this week’s fresh produce.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

8 Oct

I was reading a thread on Serious Eats about how the poster was feeling uninspired in the kitchen since going vegetarian.  In many ways, I sympathize.  All the more so because I’m not vegetarian (or pescatarian, as the case is in our household) but economics and convenience tend to force my hand into cooking that way most of the time.  And most of the time, I truly don’t mind.  I eat meat when we eat out (it might contribute to my beef tartar obsession at The Greenhouse Tavern when my dad generously treats me to lunch there every couple of weeks¹), or cook a small serving for myself while Zak fends for himself (duck wings are popular for that).

But sometimes, I just can’t think of anything interesting.  What we end up with might be good, but it’s a good variation on what we’ve made a thousand times, or not-quite-good-enough to share.  That lethargy is compounded once I head back to school and don’t get out of class until late, so dinner either has to be quick or pre-made (or made by my awesome husband, who does his fair share of the cooking).

This, though … this is interesting.  This started with the idea of a simple sweet potato taco, evolved into a sweet potato and black bean taco or burrito, and then in a stroke of madness (genius) morphed into this dish – a cheesy, spicy, sweet, and creamy sweet potato and black bean enchilada.  The enchilada sauce is made from charred green peppers and jalapeños which in one fell swoop uses up my copious green peppers and adds a hint of bitterness and an big punch of spice that tempers the sweetness of the honey-glazed sweet potatoes.  The flavors work really well together, with the sweetness of the potatoes balanced out perfectly with the heat of the pepper sauce, jalapeños, and creamy cheddar and beans.

This was really good both with and without the bacon.  It added a salty, meaty bite but was totally not necessary to the overall effect of the enchilada – in fact, I added it as an afterthought.  I mean, let’s face it, bacon makes almost anything better and this was no exception.  At the same time, it was truly amazing how complex and interesting the flavors were without it.  This really reminded me how fun, interesting, and inspirational vegetarian cooking really can be.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas:

4 medium flour tortillas

3-4 slices bacon, optional

3 medium sweet potatoes, diced into 1/2″ cubes (no need to peel unless you don’t like peels) (yield: 2 cups)

2 tbs. olive oil

1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

2 tbs. water

1/4 cup honey

1/2 tsp. Arizona Gunslinger jalapeño pepper sauce (or other hot sauce of choice)

1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°.

If using, cook bacon for 5-7 minutes in a microwave on paper towels until crispy.  Cool, and roughly chop. Set aside.

Toss sweet potato cubes with olive oil and season with ancho chile powder, salt, and pepper.  Spread on a tinfoil lined baking sheet and roast 15-20 minutes until easily pierced with a fork but not falling apart.  Remove from oven and set aside.

In a medium sauté pan, add water and heat over medium-low heat until steam begins to rise.  Drizzle in honey, whisking continuously.  Once smooth and incorporated, add pepper sauce.  Add sweet potatoes and toss to coat.

Cook, raising heat to medium-high and stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes until a sticky glaze forms on the sweet potatoes.  Add beans and 1/2 cup of cheese and stir to combine.  If using, add bacon.

[Note:  I added bacon to 2 of the enchiladas, so I could have some porky goodness but the rest remained vegetarian.]

Spray a 9″ x 13″ casserole with nonstick cooking spray.  Spoon about 1/4 cup of green pepper enchilada sauce (see below) on the bottom of the pan.

Take a flour tortilla and, using a pair of tongs, dip it in the green pepper enchilada sauce on both sides to lightly coat.  Place in the casserole dish.  Add about 1/2 cup filling to the center.  Carefully roll into a tube shape, careful not to burn yourself.  Position so the seam side is down.  Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.  Pour any remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the enchiladas.  Top with remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.  Cover with tinfoil.

Transfer to oven.  Bake 25-30 minutes, removing tinfoil for last ten minutes, until cheese is bubbling and golden brown.  Serve immediately.

Green Pepper Enchilada Sauce:

2 green bell peppers

2 jalapeños

2 tbs. olive oil

2 tbs. canola oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup water

1 tsp. ancho chile powder

Preheat broiler.

Coat peppers in olive oil and place under the broiler and broil 3-4 minutes per side, turning frequently, until outside is blistered and flesh is tender, for a total of about 20 minutes.

Transfer to a ziplock bag.  Let cool.  When cool, remove charred outer skins from the peppers and discard.  Remove stems, seeds, and inner membranes.  Dice flesh.

Heat canola oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté until translucent, 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes until fragrant.  Add diced pepper flesh and stir to combine.

Add water, ancho chile powder, salt, and pepper.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes to incorporate flavors.

Using an immersion blender or transferring to a blender, puree until smooth.  Set aside.

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Jarlsberg and Ricotta Mustardy Mac and Cheese

7 Oct

As I was reading for First Amendment (which, incidentally, is the weirdest area of law I have so far encountered in my studies), I was day dreaming about what to make for lunch.  And like a bolt of lightning, it hit me – I hadn’t made mac and cheese in a good long time.  Especially not the baked variety. And, because I am a cheese monster, I knew I had all of the ingredients necessary to make a pretty bad ass version on hand.

The combination of flavors in this particular mac and cheese is really stellar.  The Jarlsberg has a pungent sharpness, the ricotta a straightforward creaminess, and the pecorino romano a sharp bite.  The vegetable stock adds a rich layer of flavor – and takes the calories down several notches, which is always a plus.  All of those flavors are reinforced and highlighted by the bright, sharp Dijon mustard and slightly sweet heat of the New Mexico chile powder.  The sauce was extremely creamy – and had that awesome, melt-y, string-y thing going on where you grab a noodle and the cheese just oozes in beautiful, bendy strings of glory.  The bottom and top of the casserole both crisped up beautifully to act as a contrast to the creamy cheese.

So if you’re looking for a slightly fancier-than-average, creamier-than-average, more-flavorful-than-average macaroni and cheese … I suggest you start shredding up some Jarlsberg.

Jarlsberg and Ricotta Mustardy Mac and Cheese

1/2 box pasta (I used penne rigate)

2 tbs. butter

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup vegetable stock

1/2 cup Jarlsberg cheese, shredded

1/2 cup ricotta

1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, shredded

3 tbs. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. New Mexican chile powder

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

2-3 tbs. Italian bread crumbs

Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Bring a medium sauce pan of water to a boil.  When boiling, add noodles and cook two minutes less than package instructions.

As soon as you add the noodles, melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  While whisking, slowly add flour.  Don’t worry if it is slightly clumpy toward the end.

Continuously whisking, add the vegetable stock.  Whisk until smooth and creamy.  If any liquid remains, cook until it evaporates.

Add cheese and whisk to combine into a creamy sauce.  Stir in mustard and chile powder.  Taste for seasonings, and add salt and pepper as necessary.

At this point, the noodles should be ready to drain.  Drain noodles and then add the noodles to the cheese sauce.  Stir to evenly combine.

Spray a small casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Transfer the noodles to the casserole dish.  Top with the bread crumbs and spray again with nonstick.

Transfer to the oven and bake 25-30 minutes until bread crumb topping is light golden brown and the cheese sauce bubbles.  Let sit for 5 minutes, then serve.

Geauga Family Farms Summer CSA – Week Thirteen

6 Oct

Geauga Family Farms Summer CSA – Week Thirteen

In this week’s CSA, we received some sweet potatoes, three varieties of bell pepper (green, red, and I think an heirloom?), two heads of garlic, a spaghetti squash, and a dozen apples.

Leftovers from last week include lettuce (just like every other week …), some green onions, the Yummy orange peppers, and the red pepper.  The butternut squash is still hanging around as well, but I consider that a pantry item with a long shelf life, not necessarily a “leftover.”  I threw out a green pepper that went bad in the blink of an eye, and a lot of the basil wilted quickly and was relegated to the stock bag.

As predicted, I used the apples to make slow cooker apple butter, which is one of my favorite fall treats.  The creamy kohlrabi soup used kohlrabi from a few weeks back, as well as onions, garlic, and vegetable stock made largely from CSA trimmings.  The crispy sweet potato chips used CSA sweet potatoes from two weeks ago.  Zak made eggplant parmesan one evening when I had classes until late using CSA eggplant (plus canned tomatoes from my dad’s garden – yum!).

Using some sweet potatoes, I want to make spicy honey glazed sweet potato and black bean tacos (or maybe burritos).  I want to make some homemade apple cider with the apples, since we never manage to eat them all out of hand anyway and it’s such a quintessentially fall thing … and fall is here now.

For the first time I think in my entire life, I am actually excited about it.  Maybe it has to do with the ridiculously hot summer we had, or maybe I’ve finally resigned myself to the fact that Cleveland winters suck and I have to deal with it, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t enjoy fall.  Either way, I’m loving the crisp, cool temperatures and all of the colors and I know I will love the smell of apples and spices simmering on the stove top tomorrow afternoon.  I am loving not having to plan using the oven around the weekly weather report, and really looking forward to all of the homey, comforting dishes that fall produce lends itself to.

Zak loves spaghetti squash used in a play off of traditional spaghetti, so I will be doing something like this, but paired with a light and creamy gorgonzola sauce.  Since leftover peppers are always a challenge, I really want to find a way to use them this week – one of them will do well in the sweet potato taco.  I still want to try those Yummy orange peppers chile relleno style, so perhaps I’ll put that on the books for tomorrow.  Since we both have Monday off, I get an extra day of lazy kitchen time, which is always appreciatiated.

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