Friday, February 29, 2008

Cilantro For Kalyn

I told my friend Kalyn today that I had a surprise for her. Her immediate reaction was, Am I coming to Salt Lake? More's the pity that I am not, as visiting with her would be such a lot of fun. That will have to be for another time.

I hope that this photo of a tiny volunteer cilantro plant that I happened upon in my garden this afternoon will suffice. I do believe that Kalyn loves cilantro more than anyone I know and as soon as I saw this little gem, already several inches tall, in February for heaven's sake, I knew I would post it - just for her.

Winter seems to have turned a corner in my part of the world. And even though it has just started to rain (again), it's softer, gentler, more spring-like. A rain that the daffoldils, narcissus and new green leaves drink in and to which the frogs sing their praises.

Cook's Notes:
I actually have a few recipes to post. Soon.

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Friday, February 22, 2008

Butternut Squash Ravioli With Ricotta Sherry Sauce

Here's another simple-but-elegant entrée that can be on your dinner table within 1/2 hour. Pick up these fresh butternut squash ravioli from your local gourmet foods store

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Ricotta Sherry Sauce
Christine's original recipe
2 packages store bought butternut squash-stuffed, confetti ravioli
1 teaspoon Earth Balance, or butter
2/3 to 3/4 cup vegetable broth (depending on the thickness of your ricotta cheese)
1 cup ricotta cheese, low fat is fine
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley plus more for garnish
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon Sherry
1/2 teaspoon fine kosher salt
several grinds of good black peppercorns

Gently cook the ravioli in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just done.
Remove from the water with a skimmer, drain the water, and put the ravioli back in the pot on the same burner, now turned off, so they can dry a bit.

Meantime, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, saute the garlic slices in the EB or butter until softened.
Add the ricotta cheese and the vegetable broth, whisking until smooth, until the sauce is the consistency you desire.
Add all the rest of the ingredients and mix well, tasting and adjusting to your liking.
Place a few of the ravioli on a warmed plate, drizzle with the sauce and a few sprinkles of the fresh herbs and serve immediately. A salad of crisp greens, citrus, roasted walnuts and goat cheese goes well with this.

Cook's Notes:
A good toasted walnut oil would compliment this dish. I would drizzle it over the top, sparingly, just before serving.
For the past two weeks I've been trying to get this recipe posted. But I've been down with the flu and no amount of wishing and hoping that I could blog has seemed to have mattered. This is one nasty flu bug that renders all the senses senseless - at least in my experience. Mr CC got it too and pretty much feels the same way I do, so at least I know it's not hypochondria. There are several other recipes waiting in the wings that I hope to share with you soon. But for right now, I'd like to finish just this one. The sauce is worth it.

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Monday, February 18, 2008

Happy Blogaversary To Me . . . !

I'm still recovering from the nasty flu bug that has hit the country so hard this winter so I won't be very wordy here and I certainly don't have any recipes to post. But I would feel worse yet if I let this day go by unmentioned. So I lift my weary, fevered fingers to the keyboard to wish myself a happy blogaversary and to thank all of you - those who are visiting for the first time, those who subscribe to my posts, and YOU, you wonderful circle of bloggers whom I'm proud to call friends - for all the love, encouragement and support I've received over the past three years.

Ever onward!

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Lamb And Rice Leftovers Fritatta

Remember this lamb? Having saved some in the freezer for winter cooking, we roasted a small piece of this several nights ago (which was as succulent as the kabobs were last summer) - remember last summer? - sigh, then, when later in the week we were faced with one of those nights where making a full-on dinner just didn't fit in with life, the leftover lamb got cubed up and tossed in a skillet with some leftover rice and turned into a fritatta frittata.
I love to make fritattas frittata. Better known in our house as Cassidy Lane Pizza, a name adopted from those made by my dear friend Erika who taught me how to do it, they are a quick and easy way to use up leftovers. As long as you have some great eggs, a bit of (optional) cheese if you wish, you're good to go.
Lamb and Rice Leftovers Fritatta Frittata
Christine's original recipe with inspiration from Erika, always
8 large organic eggs
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup low-fat milk
olive oil spray for the pan
2/3 cup cooked rice (see Cook's Notes)
1 cup (or more) leftover roasted lamb, cut into cubes about 3/4-inch square, or smaller if you desire
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
paprika de la vera (Spanish smoked paprika)

Crack the eggs into a large bowl, add the stock and milk and whisk well.
Spray a heavy skillet with olive oil spray and heat on medium-high.
Add the lamb and the rice and stir until hot.
Turn the heat down to medium, pour in the egg mixture and allow to cook 2-3 minutes.
Using a spatula, lift a portion of cooked eggs at the edge of the skillet and tilt the pan slightly to allow the runny uncooked egg mixture to flow into the space you created.
Continue around the pan, lifting, tiling, cooking, lifting, tilting and cooking until there is no more runny egg mixture except in the very middle of the skillet. Be sure to do this gently - adjusting the heat lower if necessary.
Sprinkle the smoked paprika over the top of your fritatta frittata and place in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes or until the middle is just set.
Remove the skillet from the oven and allow it to cool for just a few minutes to make cutting it easier.
Cut a slice and serve it with a green salad for dinner. Cut a slice the next morning and eat it out of hand as you dash off to work.

Cook's Notes:
Our eggs come from "down the road" (about 15 miles) courtesy of Tule Fog Farm. The home of pasture ranged, hormone and anti-biotic free, very happy chicks.
I love the brown rice medley from both Indian Harvest and Trader Joe's and use it almost exclusively.
2-17-08: During my downtime this past week (damn nasty flu!), it was gently and lovingly pointed out to me by my friend Simona that I had spelled frittata incorrectly - first you have 2 t's then 1 t, not the other way around. :)

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Monday, February 4, 2008

Low(er) Glycemic Carrot Hazelnut Cake

I'm currently taking a series of classes at the Eureka Co-op in regional French cooking with local chef Alex Begovic. In our last class Alex made a simple carrot cake for dessert, unadorned with pineapple or other too-sweet detractions. Just lots of carrots plus chopped hazelnuts. It was delicious, the flavors were perfect, it wasn't too sweet, and I was determined to take the recipe home, up the fiber and lower the glycemic impact. I think I did a pretty good job. The cake came out moist and delicate despite the large chunks of hazelnut you see in the photo. And the carrots fairly sing their presence. A very nice nosh to have with your afternoon tea.

Low(er) Glycemic Carrot Hazelnut Cake
Adapted from a recipe by Alex Begovic
2 cups shredded carrots
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup Splenda Granular (or 1/2 cup Splenda-Sugar Blend)*
1 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped (husks removed, see Cook's Notes)**
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
3 eggs (I used 2 large and 1 x-tra large)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (fine kosher is best)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 12x8 glass baking dish and set aside.
Using the fine shredding disc on a food processor, shred enough peeled carrots to equal 2 cups. (I shredded too many carrots, the excess of which ended up in this soup.)
Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, the hazelnuts will go in later.
In a small bowl whisk the eggs until blended then whisk in the melted butter, a little at a time so you don't cook the eggs.
Stir the egg-butter mixture into the dry ingredients until blended.
Stir the shredded carrots and the chopped hazelnuts into the batter until fully incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared dish and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Alex said it should cook for a full 35 minutes, but mine was done within thirty.
Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes then loosen the edges with a spatula and turn out on a board. Flip the cake right side up and set on a rack to cool.
This can be served warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream or without. It goes especially well with Simona's orange ice cream. You'll have to ask her to post it though. ;)

Cook's Notes:
*If you're not a Splenda user, 1 cup of sugar is what Alex used in his cake.

**Please notice the measurement here. Measure 1 cup of hazelnuts THEN chop them.
To toast and husk hazelnuts, place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a 350 degrees oven for no more than 15 minutes or until you can smell the nuts. Immediately remove the nuts from the oven and pour onto a clean terrycloth kitchen towel. Enclose the nuts in the towel and rub them vigorously until most of the husk has been removed.

I used 2 large eggs and 1 extra-large egg because that's what I had on hand. They worked well in this cake because I used white whole wheat flour for one-half of the flour called for, and it's been my experience that this coarser flour needs more moisture. You could up the fiber even more by using 1 cup of the white whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup regular flour or even whole wheat flour. Just remember that you will may need to adjust the eggs to add more moisture. I wouldn't compensate by adding more butter.

This cake may be made vegan by substituting 1/2 cup Earth Balance Stick for the butter and 3 ripe mashed bananas for the eggs.

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Squash, Yam And Leek Soup With Blood Orange Juice

Even though I'm a fair weather kinda gal, I have to admit that winter does have its good points. Setting aside for the moment that it lasts far too long, winter brings us some very earthy, high in fiber vegetables: Think hard-skinned squashes, rutabagas, turnips, leeks, carrots, beets, celeriac and potatoes, to name just a few. And then winter tops it off with beautiful kales, chards and citrus. Yes! Just when you think your teeth may fall out from lack of vitamin C, in the middle of winter citrus comes to the rescue. The many varieties of tangerines, oranges, and grapefruits alone can perk up a mid-winter meal like nobody's business.

The juice of blood oranges gave this comforting, wintery soup the perfect touch of brightness.

Squash, Yam and Leek Soup with Blood Orange Juice
Christine's original recipe
1 very large garnet yam, peeled and cubed (yields approx. 2-3 cups)
1 extremely large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (yields approx 6-8 cups)
3 leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned and cut into 1-inch slices
1 cup shredded carrots (left from making the carrot cake which is coming up next)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced (more is better)
4-6 full stems of fresh thyme
1/2 cup extra-dry vermouth
4-5 cups organic vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly squeezed juice from several blood oranges
olive oil for the pan

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place all the vegetables and garlic in a large, lightly oiled roasting pan. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Lay the thyme sprigs over the top of the vegetables.
Seal the pan with aluminum foil and roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender. Shake the pan from time to time to keep anything from sticking to the bottom of the pan. You want the vegetables to roast gently and not get very browned.
During the last 10 minutes of roasting, remove the foil from the pan, strip the thyme leaves from their stems, discarding the stems, stir the vegetables gently and put back in the oven, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Remove all the contents of the pan to a large soup pot.
Deglaze the roasting pan with the vermouth and pour that into the soup pot.
Add 1/2 of the vegetable stock plus the allspice to the vegetables.

Using an immersion blender, start blending the vegetables, adding stock as needed, until it's all velvety smooth. You can add more or less stock, depending on the consistency desired.
When the soup is smooth, stir in the blood orange juice. Adjust with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Cook's Notes:
I didn't measure the vegetables so am guessing as to how many cups I had of both the yams and squash. I'm pretty sure the squash weighed about 5 pounds.
Smooth with just the errant small piece of squash here and there, should you wish for total smoothness, you could put the soup through a food mill or a chinois.
Suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved