Monday, August 17, 2009

Purple Potatoes, Roasted Garlic and Green Beans in Fresh Lemon, Whole Grain Mustard Vinaigrette


I am so excited to show you these purple potatoes.

Can you guess where they came from?

My very own garden.

I actually grew these!

My first time. I'm so proud.


My daughter-in-law Evangelina's parents gave us a huge mixed bag of potatoes last fall, and when I had finally used up most of them, I planted what were left in my garden last March. There are still some Yukon Golds out there that aren't ready yet.

Never having grown potatoes before, I really didn't know what to expect, but here they are.

And of course I had to put a recipe together so I could brag about them.


Haricot vert, fresh from the farmers' market, steamed then cut into bite-size pieces.

Combined with gently roasted purple potatoes and garlic, then tossed with a lemon-whole grain mustard vinaigrette, these can be served cold or warm salad as a salad, or warm as a side dish.


Purple Potatoes, Garlic and Green Beans in a Fresh Lemon-Whole Grain Mustard Vinaigrette
Christine's original recipe
Ingredients:
4-5 cups Purple Peruvian potatoes, small sized, cut into quarters
1 head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled, left whole
1/2 pound or so, slender green beans, washed and cut bite-sized
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon plus 1 pinch kosher salt, divided
freshly ground black pepper to taste
juice of 1 whole lemon (approx 2 ounces juice)
1 heaping tablespoon whole grain mustard
1/4 teaspoon sugar
6 ounces plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Preparation:
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine the potato quarters, whole garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a baking pan. Toss well, cover with foil, and roast for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart.
Remove from the oven, take off the foil and set aside to cool slightly.
Put the cut green beans on a steamer rack in a large pot with 1-inch of water in the bottom. Cover and steam over high heat until tender crisp and bright green.
Remove the beans from the steamer and put into a large bowl.
In a small jar or measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, pinch kosher salt, and whole grain mustard. Adjust to taste then whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.
Place the potatoes and garlic in a large stoneware bowl (scrape the pan to get all the herbs).
Gently toss the green beans in with the potatoes.
Drizzle the vinaigrette over the vegetables, tossing to coat. You may not need to use all of the vinaigrette.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cook's Notes:
One could enhance the finished dish by sprinkling it with toasted, sliced almonds or crispy bacon lardons.



Copyright © 2005-2009, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Strawberry Ice Cream with Balsamic Reduction, Cracked Pepper and a Sprig of Rosemary

All those ingredients and there's no added sugar.

Did you know that we could all use less sugar in our lives? Of course you did.

And did you also know that ice cream doesn't have to be so darn sweet? It's true.

If you make your own ice cream you can play with the ingredients. Just like I've done here. Balsamic vinegar and strawberries go together like milk and cookies. And I love the bite that cracked peppercorns gives to ice cream. The rosemary sprig was a last minute inspiration.

I used all Splenda because I wanted to exclude all sugar except for what occurs naturally in the strawberries and the milk products. And I wanted to see if I could discern that very slight splenda taste that sometimes can be detected in desserts. I think the balsamic reduction worked its magic as I can detect no splenda taste in this ice cream. That said, please use sugar if you wish. The measurement is the same.

And one more thing: If you have very, very sweet strawberries, you can lower the splenda or sugar to as little as 1/4 cup. Try it and see if it doesn't taste wonderfully of strawberries, not sugar, which is the purpose of making your own ice cream, isn't it?


Strawberry Ice Cream with Balsamic Reduction, Cracked Pepper and Rosemary
Christine's original recipe
Ingredients:
4 heaping cups fresh strawberries
4 packets (1 teaspoon) Splenda
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup Splenda granular
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns (See Cook's Notes)
1 tablespoon (more if you wish) balsamic vinegar reduction (See Cook's Notes)
1 4-inch sprig fresh rosemary

Preparation:
Remove the stem ends from the strawberries and cut them into quarters, dropping them into a large bowl as you do so.
Sprinkle the berries with the splenda from packets, toss and let sit for 1/2 hour so the berries can juice up.
Purée the strawberries in a food processor until smooth. It will be thick. Transfer to a large measuring cup (you should have about 3 1/4 cups of purée) and place in the refrigerator to chill.
Heat the milk and the cracked peppercorns to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-low; small bubbles will form at the edges. Do not let it boil.
Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and the splenda granular on high until the mixture is pale yellow and thickened.
When the milk is ready, remove it from the heat and pour about 1/3 of it into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so the eggs don't curdle.
Return the milk-egg mixture to the saucepan of milk, whisking to blend.
Place over medium-low heat and stir constantly until it reaches a simmer and the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon. You should be able to make a track through it with your finger. Do not allow this to boil or it will curdle and you will have to begin over again. And that would be a bummer.
Remove the custard from the heat and allow it to cool for 10 minutes.
Pour the custard into a large glass bowl or measuring cup (I have an 8-cup measure that is perfect for this task.)
Whisk in the balsamic reduction and the strawberry puree, whisking until the custard and the strawberries are uniformly blended.
Take the rosemary sprig and swirl it into the custard, leaving it there.
Chill the custard until very cold, overnight is best.
When ready to make ice cream, remove the rosemary sprig, whisk the custard just a bit to re-blend, then process in your machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.


Cook's Notes:
This is excellent served soft right out of the ice cream maker. Or you can pack it in an airtight freezer-proof container and freeze for several hours. Remove it from the freezer at least 15 minutes before you wish to serve it.

Be sure to press a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap onto the ice cream before placing the lid on, as it will keep ice crystals from forming.

I put my peppercorns into a mortar and gently pound them with the pestle until they are coarsely cracked. Using this method, I can control just how coarse or fine I want them to be.

Balsamic reduction, or syrup, is easily made by bringing a cup of good balsamic vinegar to a boil over medium-high heat. When it has reached boiling, turn the heat down to medium and allow the vinegar to simmer until it has reduced by two-thirds. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool for a bit. Refrigerate until ready to use.



Copyright © 2005-2009, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grilled Lamb Burgers Stuffed with Chevre, Kalamata Olives and Herbs

I don't know about you but when I think of lamb, Mediterranean food images pop into my head: Olives, chevre, oregano, rosemary, sun-warmed citrus.

Ground, local lamb was on the menu recently, juicy and hot off the grill. With all the flavors of those Mediterranean images infused into each burger. No catsup is needed here.

As I'm rather fond of
stuffing burgers, this is what I came up with.

Surprisingly enough, the juice from this half of a blood orange helped to blend the chevre mixture and bring all the tastes together.
Chopped, pitted kalamata olives mixed with pure white goat cheese (chevre), herbs, blood orange juice and a pinch of kosher salt.

Spread the chevre filling onto one of the lamb patties, then top with the other patty; pinch, shape, and it's ready for the grill.


Grilled Lamb Burgers Stuffed with Chevre, Kalamata Olives and Herbs
Christine's Original Recipe
Ingredients:
1 pound ground lamb, preferrably locally raised, grass fed, divided
1/3 cup (heaping) chopped, pitted kalamata olives
4 ounces
good chevre
1 teaspoon (heaping) Italian herb blend (see Cook's Notes)
pinch kosher salt (depending on how salty the olives are)
juice from 1/2 of a blood orange
Preparation:
In a bowl, combine the olives, chevre and herbs and mash with a fork to blend.
Add the orange juice and continue mashing until it is fully combined and of a spreadable consistency.
Season with the kosher salt if necessary.
Divide the ground lamb in half, weighing if necessary so that each piece is 1/2-pound.
Divide each of those pieces in half again so that each now weighs 1/4-pound. (I guess I could have said that in one sentence and with fewer words, hmm?)
Pat each piece into a ball then flatten into a patty, keeping the edges rounded, 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. Make each two patties the same size and shape, as you will be putting one atop the other.
Decide which patties will be on the bottom and spread about half of the chevre mixture onto that patty, spreading to within 1/2-inch of the edges.
Top with the other patty and pinch the edges together, going round and round the patty, shaping as you go along so the edges are smooth and rounded. The finished burgers can wait for a few minutes at room temperature while you start the grill.
The following grilling instructions are for a gas grill:
Heat your grill to high (450 to 500-degrees). When the grill is very hot, put the burgers on, not crowding them, and cover with the grill lid.
Immediately adjust the heat to medium-high (375 to 400-degrees). Do not open the lid, nor move the burgers, for the first 4 minutes. This allows the meat to sear and caramelize on the surface and develop sear marks, and will prevent the burgers from sticking to the grill when you flip them.
After 4 to 5 minutes, using a large spatula, loosen the burgers and give them a quarter-turn. Do not flip just yet.
Replace the lid and grill for an addional few minutes to develop those great grill marks.
Now you can flip the burgers. Repeat as above for the other side, grilling to the degree of doneness you prefer.
Transfer the burgers to a plate or cutting board and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.
When you cut into the burger, the chevre-olive mixture, hot and melting, runs over the cut edges, melding with the lamb and tickling your nose with the bouquet of a hot Mediterranean summer's day.

Cook's Notes:
> Yes, sloth that I am, I used organic, dried herbs this time. But I highly recommend a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh oregano and a few teaspoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary as a better substitute. You do have both of those growing in your garden, right? Of course you do.
> There may seem to be a lot of chevre mixture for each burger, but it does melt down considerably during grilling.



Copyright © 2005-2009, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Strawberry Galette with Triple Sec and Bananas


Bananas? Not seeing bananas?

Heh, heh, heh. My little secret ingredient. Keep reading...

First the strawberries: So sweet and tender from
Neukom Family Farm, we gobbled up a bunch of them within hours of purchase from the farmers' market, had barely enough leftover, getting a bit soft, not enough for a pie, not for ice cream, not enough, really, for much.

But a galette, now, might have just enough for that.

Turns out, I needed a bit more than 2 scant cups of sliced strawberries in the center of the galette. When I looked around the kitchen, I saw only bananas.

Taking an idea from cheese-stuffed pizza crust (which pizza company does that, anyway?), I put the sliced bananas in a ring around the strawberries, giving me just enough fruit substance to make this work.

Slather the top of the dough with well beaten egg whites then sprinkle with a bit of sugar.
I keep a small jar of vanilla sugar around for just such an occasion.

Just out of the oven. Slice while warm or at room temperature. Serve unadorned or with your favorite ice cream.

Still wondering about those bananas? Look closely.


Strawberry Galette with Triple Sec and Bananas
Christine's original recipe (galette dough inspired by the recipe in

Rustic Fruit Desserts
)
Ingredients:
for the pastry dough (be sure to give yourself time for the dough to chill 1 hour)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons Splenda sugar blend
1/2 teaspoon fine kosher salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons very cold
unsalted butter (divided) cut into 1/2-inch cubes (See Cook's Notes)
4-6 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (I pretty much always use
Meyers)
1 egg white, beaten
1-2 teaspoons vanilla sugar (See Cook's Notes)


Dough preparation:
Use 3/4 cup butter for the pastry and keep it in the fridge (cut up) until ready to use. Reserve the rest of the butter for finishing the galette (Instructions below.)
Combine the lemon juice with the ice water and set aside.
In a bowl, combine the flours, sugar and salt until well mixed.
Sprinkle the butter pieces over the flour and quickly toss to cover each piece in flour.
Transfer flour mixture to a food processor and pulse in short bursts until the butter is cut into small pieces about the size of peas. Don't over process.
Pulsing in short bursts, drizzle the ice water through the feed tube 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Pinch a small amount of the dough between your fingers. If it holds together, that's enough processing.
Dump the dough onto a pastry cloth and knead a few times to bring it together. Shape it into a ball then press it down into a flat round.
Cover in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.


For the strawberries:
2 cups (more if you have them) sliced sweet, ripe strawberries
1-2 tablespoons Triple Sec
1 teaspoon splenda sugar blend (if needed)

Preparation for the strawberries:
Toss the sliced berries with the sugar and liqueur. Set aside to let the juices form.
For the bananas:
3 small, ripe bananas, sliced
1 tablespoon (heaping) splenda brown sugar blend
1/2 teaspoon Meyer lemon juice
2 teaspoons Triple Sec

Preparation for the bananas:
Toss the bananas with the lemon juice as you are slicing them, this will keep them from turning brown.
Toss with the brown sugar and liqueur and set aside.

Putting it all together:
Bring the galette dough out of the fridge 15 minutes before rolling so it can soften.
Using a pastry cloth and long rolling pin sprinkled with flour, roll the dough into a circle 14 to 16 inches in diameter. The dough should be about 1/4-inch thick.
Transfer the rolled dough to a parchment-covered large pizza pan or baking sheet (dough will overlap sides).
Mound the strawberry mixture in the center of the dough, spreading it out slightly, then sprinkle the banana mixture evenly around the strawberries to within 2-3 inches from the edge of the dough. Be sure to include all the fruit juices when you do this.

Remember those extra 2 tablespoons of butter? Sprinkle them evenly over the strawberries and bananas now. (This is optional but will make the galette richer. As if it wouldn't be already without the butter.)

Begin folding the outer edges of the dough over the bananas and some of the strawberries, pleating the dough as you go around so it will look rustically beautiful like the photos above.
Using a pastry brush, brush the beaten egg white all over the top of the dough, then sprinkle generously with the vanilla sugar.
Bake in a 425-degree oven for 30 minutes then turn the oven down to 350 and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and the fruit filling is bubbly.
Remove from the oven and place the entire pan on a rack to cool.


Cook's Notes:
Vanilla sugar may be made by placing a vanilla bean in a jar of baker's sugar (superfine), closing the lid, giving it a shake, and storing it until you need it. I leave the bean in until the sugar is all used up; for me, that can be a year or more.
As I've said before, use a really high quality butter for your pie or galette dough and you almost can't go wrong. I use Strauss Family Creamery unsalted butter for its high butterfat-low moisture content. It doesn't fail me. Keep it very cold until you're ready to use it.



Copyright © 2005-2009, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved