Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's Fall Back Brunch Time Again

It’s that weekend when the clocks are turned back and somehow you get an extra hour.   No one in the household knows whether its time for breakfast or lunch. It is the perfect Sunday for an impromptu brunch. 

With the extra time, you can leisurely put together a waffle batter while you sip on some tea or coffee.  Fluffy waffles topped with fruit, syrup, compound butters or yogurt and fortified with a slice of bacon or a sausage patty are easier than you'd think, especially if everyone dresses their own.  

Since it is autumn, try some buckwheat waffles.  They may look like hearty wholewheat health fare, but this surprisingly soft flour creates a mild cake that takes any topping beautifully.  It's fun to have a little waffle toppings bar set out as the waffles pop off the iron.

I learned to make buckwheat waffles after experimenting with buckwheat crepes.  The crepe recipe requires a bit of regular flour but the waffles are 100% buckwheat flour.  This recipe is adapted from the excellent Simply Recipes version that also uses an all buckwheat flour base.

I use 3 eggs instead of their suggested '2 eggs plus extra egg whites.' The additional yolk adds extra moistness and tenderness and 3 whites are plenty to help with the waffles' stability and structure.  Also, the original recipe uses butter which can result in a heavier waffle.  I use vegetable oil instead of butter but you can use half and half.   

A really fun topping to put out with these waffles is an 'all in one' butter made with maple syrup and fruit, Maple Cinnamon Cranberry Butter.  Fresh cranberries are in grocery stores (and on sale) right now and they are easy to rinse and cook down with maple syrup and a touch of cinnamon.  Folded into softened butter, this waffle butter keeps well in the fridge for a week and is good on toast too. (See below for more interesting uses.)

If you are up really early and want to get a jump on the morning, make the waffles and keep them in a preheated oven (under 200˚F) on a flat cookie sheet lightly covered with foil.  They freeze well too.  Place sheet of wax paper between each and store in a resealable freezer bag.

Buckwheat Waffles with Maple Cinnamon Cranberry Butter
Makes 8 waffles

1 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
baking powder
baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
1 cup yogurt
1 cup milk
3 eggs, seperated
1/2 cup vegetable oil (canola, for example)
1-2 tablespoons sugar
  1. Combine dry ingredients (buckwheat flour through salt) in a medium bowl.
  2. Combine yogurt, milk egg yolks and oil in a small bowl or pitcher.  Stir to break up the egg yolks.
  3. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until foamy.  Sprinkle on sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.  (This small amount of egg whites can be whipped quickly and easily with a whisk but you can also use a hand mixer.)
  4. Pour the yogurt milk mixture into dry ingredients and combine so that all ingredients are moistened.  
  5. Stir into the batter a large spoonful of egg whites.  This will lighten the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into the egg whites trying to pour down one side of the bowl so that most of the egg whites remain puffy.  Using a rubber spatula or large spoon, fold the egg whites into the batter by drawing the spatula through the mixture and pulling batter and egg whites up from the bottom.  When the egg wites are nicely incorporated into the batter, you are ready to eat the waffle iron. 
  7. Waffle irons very in size.  Follow the manufacturers instructions on preheating.  Place a little cooking oil or spray oil on the cooking surface and pour about 1/2- 2/3 cup batter onto iron. 
  8. Close and  cook about 3 minutes (more or less depending on your appliance, ours likes 3 minutes).
  9. Use a rubber spatula to help lift the waffle from the iron onto a waiting plate or a platter (that can go in a low oven to keep the waffles warm). 
Serve with your favorite topping including our new favorite, Maple Cinnamon Cranberry Butter.  This lightly sweetened fruit butter goes beautifully on waffles and pancakes.  If you have any leftovers, try a spoonful with roasted acorn squash.  Good on turkey or roast pork sandwiches too.

Maple Cinnamon Cranberry Butter
Makes 2/3 cup

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons softened butter

  1. Pick over cranberries and discard any soft berries and stems.
  2. Place cranberries and water in a small, heavy-bottomed pot and cook over medium heat until berries burst and water is almost cooked out.  As the berries break down, they will release their pectin and create a thick sauce.  
  3. Lower heat and add maple syrup and cinnamon.  Cook 1-2 minutes more until the jewel red sauce is quite thick.  Remove pot from the heat and allow cranberry mixture to cool. (Hint: you have just made a simple cranberry sauce from scratch).
  4. When the sauce is room temperature, whip the softened butter - 1 tablespoon at a time- intot he mixture. 
  5. Serve immediately or store in a covered bowl.  When chilled, Maple Cinnamon Cranberry Butter will harden.  It can be rolled and sliced for serving.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Baked Potato Soup

If you have some extra potatoes already baked, this soup is even faster on a chilly evening.  Just remove the peel and stir in the cooked potatoes once the cauliflower is tender.  Cauliflower adds a silkiness to the texture of the soup that is subtle but special.

Our Baked Potato Soup
Serves 4
2 slices bacon, chopped in inch wide pieces
2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
½ onion, diced
1 large baking potato
3 medium eastern potatoes
½ head cauliflower
1 quart low sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
Optional garnishes: grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, chives or chopped scallion, bacon (reserved from rendered bacon fat), black pepper

  1. In a large stockpot over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy.  Remove bacon as it crisps and reserve to garnish soup.   Leave bacon fat in pot.  
  2. Lower heat and add celery and onion.   Cook vegetables until tender.  
  3. Meanwhile, peel potatoes and cut into quarters.  Cut the large baking potato into eighths.  All the potatoes should be about the same size.  Add potatoes and chicken broth to pot and bring to a boil.  
  4. Chop cauliflower into large florets.  When soup is boiling, lower heat to medium and add cauliflower.  
  5. Boil soup over medium heat, partially covered for 30 minutes until potatoes and cauliflower can be easily mashed with a fork.   Add water if liquid becomes to low.  
  6. When vegetables are fork-tender, remove soup from heat.   Using a large spoon, break up the potatoes so they are in smaller, bite sized pieces.  Stir in milk.  Stir in half the salt and taste.  Add remaining salt if needed.  Finally stir in butter.  
  7. At this point you can serve the soup with garnishes or you can puree it.  To puree, use an immersion blender or allow the soup to cool about an hour before pouring into a blender to puree.  Soup may be made a day in advance.  Store covered and refrigerated.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Chili & Fire Prevention Week

This week's motto: Fire in the chili, not in the kitchen.  It's Fire Prevention Week. 

The leading cause of home fires and injuries is cooking.  (I always thought it was heating or electrical.)  In fact, two of every five home fires start in the kitchen.  So the National Fire Protection Association theme this year is "Prevent Kitchen Fires."

Some hot, fiery chili seemd like a natural companion recipe to a few simple tips and "best practices" to commemorate the week.  When making this recipe, you can put into use many of the habits of fire prevention in your own kitchen.
  •  The leading cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking and most of that involves stovetop cooking.  
    •  If you are simmering, boiling, baking or roasting food, check it regularly and remain at home while food is cooking.  Use a timer to remind you to check on the cooking food.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire- oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels, long sleeves- away from the stovetop.
  • Keep a lid nearby when cooking to smother any small grease fire.  Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turning off the stovetop.  Leave the pan covered until it is complete cooled.  DO not throw water on a grease fire.  
  • If you decide to fight the fire, be sure others are getting out and that you also have a clear way out.  Have someone call 9-1-1.  When you get out, close the door to prevent spread of the fire.  
Let's make chili and show off some fire safety know-how. 

Recently, America's Test Kitchen did some very clever things to develop depth and oomph in a vegetarian bean chili.  Recipes for meat-based chilies can benefit from the addition of one of those tricks: dried mushrooms, ground in with your chili powder. The mushrooms add extra umami flavor, a deep flavor component that will mature your chili quickly. 

Kitchen Fire Chili
Serves 4
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
1 tablespoon ground, roasted and seeded chilies*
1 teaspoon ground dired mushrooms (porcini, shitake, etc)
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2-1 teaspoon ground cumin
14-ounce can chopped tomatoes in juice
2 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
optional: cayenne

  1. Over medium heat, brown the meat in a wide, deep skillet.  Stir and turn occasionally to cook all the meat completely.  Pour off excess fat, leaving no more that a tablespoon (not necessary if using a lean meat; wipe any fat from the outside of the pan before placing back on heating element.)
  2. Lower the heat to medium-low and push the meat to the side of the pan. Sprinkle the chili, mushroom, oregano and cumin over the oil left in the pan and stir to coat and cook the spices for about one minute.  
  3. Combine the meat and spice mixture together and add the tomatoes, juice and tomato paste.  Stir to combine well.
  4. Cover and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes.  Check mixture after about 5 minutes and add water, a few tablespoons at a time, if mixture is becoming dry. 
  5. Remove from heat (and turn off stove top).  Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. 
  6. Taste and add salt, up to 1/4 teaspoon if needed.  This is also the time to adjust for spiciness-- adding cayenne or hot sauce to suit your taste. 
Flecks of mushroom color freshly ground chili powder
*To make your own pure chili powder, roast whole dried chilies in a 300˚F oven for 10 minutes.  A nice combination is two ancho chilies and two gaujillo chilies.  Cool the chilies, abut 5 minutes so they are easy to handle.  Break open, remove seeds, stem and any large membranes inside each chili. Grind the chilies in a spice grinder (coffee grinder used only for spices) or food processor.   Grind with the dried mushrooms to make an instant, house-blend of chili powder. 

If you use a purchased chili powder that already contains cumin, oregano and other ingredients, simple add the ground mushrooms to your chili powder and proceed with recipe. 

Note: Beans are optional in your chili and can be added with the tomatoes.  Use one can, drained, for every pound of meat. 

Serve chili scooped into bowls over warmed tortilla chips or rice.  Garnish with any combination of chopped avocado, black olives and tomatoes, grated cheddar or jack cheese, sour cream lime quarters and fresh, chopped cilantro.  Pass the extra hot sauce. 

Special thanks to firefighters everywhere, especially the members of The Thornhurst Volunteer Fire & Rescue Co, our local heroes.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Carrot-Ginger Red Cabbage Slaw

Crispy salads from cabbage make really nice sides to fall meals.  We enjoyed this Japanese-inspired slaw with pork tenderloin.  If you like the carrot-ginger dressing on salads served at Japanese restaurants, you know what a nice match it is to grilled and roasted meats and fish.  Leftover sliced pork and the slaw make really good lunch tacos the following day.  This slaw is also a fresh and crunchy foil for vegetarian fall offerings like winter squash gratins.

Red cabbage is a vibrant choice.  You can also make this with green, savoy or napa cabbage.  Leftover steamed or roasted Brussels sprouts could get new life from this zesty dressing too. 

Carrot- Ginger Red Cabbage Slaw
Makes a little over 2 cups, serves 4

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 small carrot- finely grated
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 t grainy or Dijon mustard
Juice ½ lemon
Salt & pepper
Optional: ½ teaspoon honey, hot sauce

½ red cabbage, thinly sliced

  1. Make the dressing.  Combine the first five ingredients, ginger through lemon juice in a small bowl.  It is helpful to grate the ginger and carrot into the bowl first using a very fine grater.  
  2. Then add the mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice.  Taste and add salt and black pepper as needed.   
  3. You may also enjoy a sweeter or hotter version—add honey or hot sauce to taste.  Start with ½ teaspoon honey and/or a few dashes of hot sauce.  
  4. Combine dressing with thinly sliced cabbage.  Be sure to cover the cabbage entirely so it will all cure in the dressing.  
  5. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.  Your slaw is ready when the cabbage is slightly wilted but retains some crunch.