Monday, December 28, 2009

Eggs, Cardamom and a Recipe for Sugar Free Cardamom Custard Cups

My chickens just won't stop laying eggs.
I'm not complaining. I love our eggs and I love our sweet hens. There's not a crabby one in the bunch.
I'm rather astounded, actually. Out of 12 laying hens, I regularly get 6 to 10 eggs a day - in the coldest and darkest days of winter!

I consider myself one very lucky cook.

Still, this is far too many eggs for 2 people to consume. I sell them to friends. This Christmas I gave some away as gifts. And I've still ended up with too many eggs.

Now, Mr CC luvvvs custard - which he gets fairly often in the form of home made ice cream. But when I was moaning about what to do with so many eggs, he asked would I make cooked custard - you know, in cups? Right there I was off and running . . . mentally using up as many eggs as I could manage.
Not content to make just any custard, my nose went hunting through the spice closet and came up with - cardamom.
Cardamom is such a regal spice. Kind of citrus-y, minty, licorice-y . . . no, that doesn't really describe. It has a flavor all its own: deep and warmly aromatic when crushed; a bit ethereal thereafter, leaving you wondering just what was that perfume?

Traditionally used in sweet breads and cakes, cardamom is also an ingredient in many types of chai. It's also used medicinally as a digestive aid in many parts of the world.

In my humble opinion, one should only buy cardamom from an organic source and in its cute little green pod. The flavor and freshness will last longer. For me, ground cardamom is for garnish only.

Christine's Recipe for Sugar-Free Baked Cardamom Custard Cups
(print recipe)
Recipe may be cut in half
10 egg yolks (see Cook's Notes)
4 cups 2% milk
7 packets of Splenda (or more to your liking) (equals approx. 4 1/2 tablespoons sugar)
16 cardamom pods, split, seeds removed (yields 1 scant teaspoon seeds)
Ground cardamom for dusting
Place cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle and lightly pound until pods open.
Remove the seeds and discard the pods. Set the seeds aside in the mortar.
Lightly whisk the egg yolks then add the milk and the Splenda, whisking to blend.
Crush the cardamom seeds until they are broken up and their aroma is released then whisk into the milk mixture.
Allow the mixture to steep for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 275-degrees.
Lightly spray 6 to 8 4-ounce custard cups with non-stick spray. Wipe each cup with a paper towel to take up the excess and evenly distribute the spray.
Gently whisk the milk-egg mixture then pour through a fine mesh strainer into each custard cup to within 1/2-inch of the rim.
Transfer cups to a large baking pan and pour hot water into pan to come halfway up the custard cups.
Dust the tops of each custard with ground cardamom, if desired. (See Cook's Notes)
Bake in the oven for 60 minutes or more, or until a knife slipped into the center of a custard comes out clean.
Remove from the cups from the water bath (bain marie) and place on racks to cool completely.
Refrigerate for up to two days.

Cook's Notes:
Ten egg yolks to 4 cups of milk will make a very soft, creamy custard. If you prefer yours firmer, use 8 egg yolks instead.

To dust the custards with the ground cardamom, place a teaspoon or so of the ground spice in a small, fine mesh sieve. Prior to baking, hold the sieve over a custard and lightly tap the side of the sieve. The spice will fall to the top of the custard. Repeat for all the cups then bake.

The ultimate comfort food, my mother would make us kids baked custard when we were recovering from colds, flu, measels, and mumps. I can still smell the aromas of the cinnamon and nutmeg that she sprinkled over the top of each cup and that permeated the kitchen as the custards were baking.

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

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Walnuts Plus a Recipe for Home Made Walnut Oil Mayonnaise

A walnut pâté is slowly making its way through several experimental iterations to a state of what I hope to be blogworthiness; part of its problem being the amount of oil exuded by finely grinding walnuts in a food processor and then adding this mayonnaise as a binding agent in the correct increments. It's turning out to be quite a process.

The mayonnaise, however, turned out darn-near perfect on my first try.

In fact, I'm roasting a turkey today just so I can make turkey salad and lettuce roll-ups using this mayonnaise. Maybe that will turn into a better recipe than the finicky pâté.

I do have to give my friend Erika, who recently sent me fresh English walnuts from her backyard trees, all the credit: Long ago she shared with me her recipe for almond-herb pâté which I made just once, the recipe lounging in my old yellow recipe box for lo these ensuing years, only to be brought out recently and made to morph into a walnut version.

Well, why not?
I had a plethora of beautiful walnuts and thought the pâté would be a great homage to her generosity and life long friendship.

The pâté recipe calls for a mayonnaise binder. So why not make my own mayonnaise and use roasted walnut oil ?

Why not, indeed. Here you go.

Assembling your ingredients prior to beginning is key to the success of this recipe. Have your oils separated into measuring cups in the order and amounts that you will use them. This is more lucidly explained in the preparation instructions. Also very important is to have all your ingredients at room temperature.

Patience is another key to making your own mayonnaise: Even though I used a blender, it still took about 10 minutes and a steady hand to achieve perfection. Well, perfection is aggrandizing it a bit, but you know what I mean.

Home Made Walnut Oil MayonnaiseAdapted from Joy of Cooking
(print recipe)
1 whole egg (room temperature)
1 teaspoon fine kosher salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/16 teaspoon Splenda (from a packet) or 1/2 teaspoon sugar if you don't like Splenda
small pinch cayenne pepper (optional) (I do mean small; a few grains really.)
3 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
1/2 cup good extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cup toasted walnut oil

Place the first 5 ingredients in a blender along with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and blend on high until fully combined.
With the blender running on high, slowly add 1/2 cup of the walnut oil. The oil should be drizzled into the blender in a thin stream that slows down to droplets at times. Never pour the oil in faster than a very thin stream or it may break down and become more liquid. (If that happens, please consult the Joy of Cooking cookbook; that's what I did.) I know, I'm not very helpful sometimes.
Stopping the blender occasionally to scrape down the sides is perfectly fine.
With the blender still on high speed, slowly add the lemon juice, then the rest of the walnut oil (1/4 cup), then the last 1/4 cup olive oil, maintaining a thin stream of oil all the while.
Your result should be a light and somewhat fluffy mayonnaise.
Store in a covered glass container in your refrigerator. Stir it occasionally for the first hour or so, allowing the mixture to chill thoroughly and evenly.

Cook's Notes:I can just imagine this mayonnaise slathered on two pieces of really great bread that have been piled high with roasted turkey and topped with a few leaves of arugula. Sadly, I haven't mastered the art of wheat-free breads just yet but I am trying.

I did some research, in the form of visiting my local markets, about the ingredients in store bought mayonnaise. I checked the lables on Best Foods and Spectrum organic and found both of them to have added sugars. Since I am trying my darndest to eat added sugar-free, that's when I decided to make my own. Ten minutes out of your day isn't much to have a product that you know is the best it can be in terms of what goes into it.

Ed Note (10-5-10): Haven't made the pâté yet, but seeing and correcting typos on this post has brought it back to the fore of my brain. Let's see what I can come up with.  Thanks to Janet for leaving a comment and bringing this to my attention.

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

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas And Dungeness Crab - They Just Go Together

Those points of light out on the horizon are our beloved crab fisherfolk who have been bringing in the catch of beautiful Dungeness crab since December 1st. Click here and here and here for more information about crab and a few recipes that need updating badly. Something I will remedy in the new year.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Recipe For Sugar Free, Wheat Free Cocoa Dusted Coconut Macaroons

That mouthful of a title can't hold a candle to what this mouthful of a morsel will do to your tastebuds. Moist, dense but delicate is how I would describe these seasonal, coconut-filled treats. And very satisfying to one who is eschewing all added sugars and sometimes feeling the pain of it all.

After sampling a macaroon recently that had been made with sweetened condensed milk, I (and my now sugar-free sweet tooth) were determined to develop a no-sugar version. Searching through a few recipes and discovering that flour is added to many iterations of coconut macaroons, I (and my newly wheat-free shadow) just winged it and came up with this very simple, surprisingly moist rendition.

Made mostly from unsweetened, shredded coconut, this will nonetheless delight any sweet lover's tooth. If you aren't a Splenda user, you could use sugar instead - about 2 tablespoons, or to your taste.

Sift a little unsweetened cocoa powder over half of the finished cookies to dress them up a bit and satisfy the chocolate lover within.

Sugar Free Coconut Macaroons (Cocoa dusting optional)
Christine's original recipe
(print recipe)
2 cups finely shreded, organic unsweetened coconut
2 tablespoons organic tapioca starch
5 packets Splenda (or 2 tablespoons sugar)
few grains of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon (scant) baking powder, aluminum and gluten free
2 ounces fresh evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)
Combine all the dry ingredients and, using your clean fingers and a whisk, stir to thoroughly combine.
Using a fork, stir the dry mixture while adding the evaporated milk, one teaspoon at a time, until the mixture holds its shape when squeezed between your fingers.
Scoop 1 tablespoon into the palm of your hand and compact into a ball, shaping it with your fingers.
Place the balls 1-inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a 300-degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes, or until they just begin to show color. Don't overbake.
Remove the macaroons with the parchment paper to a rack and allow them to cool completely.
When cooled, dust some or all of them with cocoa powder by placing a tablespoon or so of good organic dark cocoa powder into a fine sieve and gently tapping the edge of the sieve to release the cocoa.
Store the sweets in an airtight container. They will retain their moisture and structure for at least 4 days. They are, however, 4 days old as I write this and still holding their own so I will venture to guess that those 4 days could stretch into a week. Ed. note - after 4 days they began drying out a bit, so I would say they will save in an airtight container for up to 4 days.


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

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pay It Forward: Sweets and Treats From Brussels!

Oh my goodness! Chocolate, marzipan, caramels, more chocolate, intensely fruity gummi bears, violettes candies, coconut enrobed truffles, and more chocolate. . . !

All of this came in a package sent from Sophie of Sophies Foodiefiles, in Brussels, Belgium. Sophie had received her Pay it Forward package from Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella , then asked her readers if they would like to take part in this event. Goodies from Brussels? That's pretty much a no-brainer. I signed up right away.

Soon Sophie sent 3 lucky foodbloggers a Pay it Forward package of food and non-food items that were specific to her region.

Her package to me was a very generous assortment of sweets and treats that I have shared with friends and family. Click on the photo to see more detail; to return to the post, click on your back button. Mr CC was especially taken with the small chocolate espresso wafers (little green and red squares in photo above) in both milk and dark chocolates. I sampled the gummi bears, which I adore, and they were delicious.

Here is a sampling of what I received:
From Corné Royal, caramel sel de Guerande truffles, sugared marrons (chestnuts), and dark chocolate ganache spread.
From Sirop de Liege, a delicious fruit spread that is perfect for toast, pancakes, waffles. . .
From Café Tasse Chocolatiers in Belgium were several selections that included these incredible bars (Mr CC told me so), flavored cocoa powders for hot chocolate making, and mini-chocolates as mentioned above.
Sophie also sent me chocolate bars from Galler Chocolates. We're saving those for another time.
From Roodthooft in Antwerp came Mokatine caramels.
The delicious and fruity gummi bears are from Joris (I couldn't find a web site).
I couldn't find a European web site for the very lovely violet hard candies, which according to Sophie have been made in Europe for centuries, but the link will take you to a French version that is sold on Amazon.

So there you have it. Sophie is a very kind and generous person, as well as a prolific food blogger, and I am lucky to call her my friend.

Now it's my turn to Pay It Forward: Three food bloggers will receive a package from me within the next 365 days. The only caveat is that if you are chosen to receive a package, you must send a package to three more bloggers within a year from receiving yours. To enter, leave a comment on this post. Please be sure to leave me an email address so I can contact you.

I can't promise to send a package as sweet as the one Sophie sent me, but I do promise that it will have locally produced foods and non-food items from the beautiful northern California coast and I'm pretty sure you will enjoy it!

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

Friday, December 4, 2009

Air Popped Organic Popcorn With Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, Olive Oil And Nutritional Yeast

Let's see a show of hands, here. How many of you can walk into a movie theater and NOT succumb to the tantalizing smell of popcorn? Even at the outrageous prices they charge these days.

If you're anything like me, temptation usually wins out. That's when you would find me scrunched down in my seat hoarding my popcorn, eating it one kernel at a time so it would last for the whole movie.

It wasn't until Mr CC (back in the day when we were dating) showed me just how good home-popped popcorn could be, that I changed my movie popcorn-eating ways and became a popcorn connoisseur, leaving the over-salted, high fat and heaven-knows-what-else stuff you get at the movies alone.

Don't tell anyone, but we've been known to sneak our homemade air-popped popcorn into the theater; smugly snacking on our sumptuous treat with no one around us the wiser.

More often than not these days we're happy popping up a batch of Mr CC's gourmet popcorn, then snuggling down in the comfort of our own living room and putting on a Net Flix movie.

Which is just what we did the other night when friends brought a movie over to share: Made popcorn.

Air-Popped Organic Popcorn with Butter, Olive Oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese and Nutritional Yeast
Mr CC's original recipe
(print recipe)
Serves 2 generously
1 and 1/2 cups organic popping corn
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted or lightly salted butter
1/3 cup finely grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
Hot air popcorn maker
kosher salt or Spike to taste
Melt the butter in the olive oil over low heat. Keep warm.
Have the rest of the ingredients measured and ready to use.
Place a large bowl under the shoot of the popper, pour the popping corn into the machine and turn it on.
As the corn begins to pop and land in the bowl, turn to distribute the kernels evenly.
Once one third of the corn has popped, begin drizzling the olive oil-butter mixture on the hot kernels until all the corn is popped and all the oil has been distributed.
Turn off the machine and quickly toss the popcorn with the yeast and parmesan cheese.
Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste.
Spread a tablecloth on the floor in front of the tv screen, provide pillows for sitting, plenty of paper towels for buttery, cheesey finger wiping, place the bowl of popcorn in the middle of the tablecloth, put on the dvd, and begin munching.
I think you just might smile.

Cook's Notes:
I buy our organic popcorn in bulk at my local co-op. Here is a source if you don't have access to organic bulk foods.
The amount of olive oil and butter that goes into the popcorn is entirely up to you. Sometimes we use more, sometimes less.
Soy sauce and Cholula hot sauce have been known to find their way into Mr CC's gourmet popcorn with great success. Although not at the same time.

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

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christine's Recipe for Potato Leek Soup with Uncured Ham, Marjoram and Thyme

When I stopped eating wheat, I lived mostly on vegetables, leafy greens, eggs and fruit, with the occasional piece of fish or shellfish thrown in for protein. A good four months went by before I ventured into trying wheat-free substitutions such as rice and potatoes.

I found that I can eat potatoes with no marked change in weight (leave out the butter and sour cream!). Nor did I experience that heavy, bloated feeling that comes with eating wheat.

And although I don't eat them regularly, I don't fear them like I used to - all that high-glycemic starch - and have found out that they are a nutritious, high antioxidant (red and purple ones especially) addition to a wheat-free diet.

So in celebration of the potato, I offer a hearty, warming soup that is so easy to make you practically can do it blindfolded, although I would not suggest you do so unless your knife skills are at Samurai level.

One hour, from start to finish, this soup was the perfect main course for a chilly night, watching a wonderful old movie with our friends Robert and Simona.

Popcorn was the first course, but that's for another post...

Potato Leek Soup with Uncured Ham, Marjoram and Thyme
Christine's original recipe
6 cups quartered small potatoes (a mix of red and yellow work well)
6 cups chopped leeks, white and pale green parts only
4-5 long stems fresh marjoram
3-4 stems fresh thyme
6 cups chicken stock, preferrably home made (use low sodium if store bought)
1 heaping cup cubed applewood smoked, fully cooked, Niman Ranch uncured ham (optional, but really good)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
small amount of olive oil for the pan
1/2 cup dry white wine
Add the chicken stock to a large soup pot and heat over medium flame.
Add the potatoes, bring to just under a boil then lower the heat to a simmer.
Toss the herbs, stems and all, into the soup pot and push them into the stock with a spoon.

Meanwhile, sauté the leeks in olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet (I use cast iron), tossing with tongs to keep them from burning, until they are softly cooked and slightly caramelized, about 8 minutes.
Scrape the leeks into the soup pot and return the skillet to the flame.
Deglaze the skillet with the white wine, scraping up any browned bits, then pour it all into the soup pot.
Simmer the soup, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender and the herby smells fill your kitchen, bringing hungry folks in to see what's cooking.
When the soup is done, remove the herbs with tongs and strip the leaves from the stems, tossing the leaves back into the pot. This is a rather messy job, but worth it in the end.
Remove the pot from the heat and, using a potato masher, mash the contents until they thicken the stock but still retain some shape.
Put the soup over low heat, toss in the ham cubes to warm.
Serve and enjoy.

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

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all my blogger friends, my dear family, and circle of close friends:

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

I truly am thankful for you all.

Because Mr CC and I will be having Thanksgiving around a different table than mine this year, I would like to point you to a post I wrote several years ago, filled with links to some Thanksgiving dishes I've made in the past.

The moldy salad is there, as well as side dishes, soups, and a not-to-be-missed cranberry chutney.

I'll be back on December 1st with a litany of winter recipes.

Take good care, travel safe, eat thankfully, and enjoy!

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

Monday, November 23, 2009

How to Peel and Purée Chestnuts Plus Christine's Recipe for Sugar-Free Fresh Chestnut Ice Cream with Armagnac

I eagerly await the arrival each fall at the farmers market of McIntosh Farms' Willow Creek grown chestnuts. Fresh-picked from trees just 25 miles (as the crow flies) from my kitchen, they are displayed in a line of deep cardboard boxes, the scent of roasting chestnuts wafting from the Weber kettle situated at one end, enticing customers to come take a look.

In previous years, I've snipped the ends of the nuts in an X, then roasted them in a chestnut pan. Sometimes the peeling was easy, sometimes not. The not part can be very frustrating so this year, in the interest of searching for an easier peeling process, I decided to try another method - boiling.

While this method is not nearly as romantic as chestnuts roasting on a open fire, boiling chestnuts makes them way easier to peel, in my experience. An added bonus being that the nut meat tastes sweeter.

And that sweetness fairly screams ice cream.
Certainly not the prettiest starlet in the lineup, with her rather beige coloring, nonetheless this ice cream imparts a mysteriously sweet-nutty taste and mouth feel, followed by a smokey Armagnac undertone; a perfect finish to an evening meal with friends and family on a fall-into-winter's night, and not at all a bad idea to compliment the end of a Thanksgiving dinner, if you'll excuse my pumpkin pie blasphemy.
The combination of chestnuts and Armagnac came to me as I was musing about how to prepare the purée for ice cream. Adding water or just cream seemed too blah.

Well, chestnuts remind me of the south-west of France and the south-west of France reminds me of Armagnac. So there you have it. Divine provenance.

Instructions for Peeling and Puréeing Chestnuts
I began with 13-ounces by weight of fresh chestnuts.
To prepare the chestnuts for peeling, snip an X into the flat base of each nut and put them into a saucepan. Fill with water to cover by one to two inches.
Bring to a boil and continuing boiling for 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off the heat, leaving the chestnuts in the hot water.
I used surgical gloves (available at Costco) for the next step.
Retrieving a nut from the saucepan with a pair of tongs, and using a sharp knife, peel the shells and skin from each chestnut, dropping the naked nut into a bowl. Repeat until all the chestnuts are peeled. If peeling becomes difficult, reheat the water briefly to warm up the skins and continue peeling.
When you are finished, you should have about 2 cups of peeled chestnuts.

Now comes the fun part:
Place the chestnuts in a food processor and pulse a few times to break up the nuts.
While continuing to pulse, add 3 tablespoons heavy cream and 2-3 tablespoons Armagnac through the feed tube puréeing until finely ground. The puree will be moist and hold together when pinched between your fingers. It should not be wet or gooey.
Yields about 2 and 1/2 cups of purée.
Use 1 and 1/2 cups for the ice cream and put the rest into a lidded glass jar and refrigerate until inspiration strikes you.
If it strikes me, I'll let you know.
I'm already thinking about stuffing dates.
And I like Simona's suggestion to make a wheatless pie crust.
All in good time, Grasshopper.

Sugar-Free Chestnut Ice Cream with Armagnac
Christine's original recipe
1 and 1/2 cups chestnut purée
6 medium egg yolks (4 if large)
8 packets Splenda, divided (see Cook's Notes)

2 cups 2% milk
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
Heat the milk and cream in a heavy saucepan just until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Remove from the heat, set aside.
Beat the egg yolks with 2 packets of Splenda until the yolks are thick and pale yellow. Set aside. (I will tell you here that my eggs come from my backyard chickens and the yolks are a deep orange. They never become pale yellow no matter how long I beat them.)
Pour the milk-cream mixture into a food processor, add the chestnut purée and 4 packets Splenda and process until creamy smooth. Place all but 1 cup of the milk-chestnut mixture into a medium saucepan and set over low heat
Whisk the remaining cup of milk-chestnut purée into the eggs then pour it into the saucepan, whisking constantly.
Heat gently until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Do not allow to boil or it will curdle.
Taste and adjust for sweetness, keeping in mind that the freezing process diminishes sweet on the tongue. At this point I added 2 more packets of Splenda for a total of eight.
Remove from the heat and let cool for about 15 minutes.
Pour into a large glass measuring cup or pitcher and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
When ready to process, gently whisk the mixture (see Cook's Notes about straining), pour into the ice cream machine and process according to the manufacturer's instructions.
May be served directly from the ice cream maker, or packed into sealed containers and frozen for several hours.

Cook's Notes:
If you don't have access to fresh chestnuts, you could use jarred whole chestnuts and proceed from there.

I no longer add any kind of sugar to my recipes, relying mostly on the natural sweetness of fresh fruits and vegetables.When I want a sweeter dessert however, I use Splenda packets because they are sweeter than the granular Splenda, the product is not bulky nor does it impart a chemical taste, and I can control the amount of sweetness. One packet contains 1/4 teaspoon of Splenda and is equal to about 2 teaspoons of sugar in sweetness. So, 8 packets of Splenda will yield about 2 teaspoons which will equal approx 16 teaspoons or 5 and 1/3 tablespoons of sugar. If you want to use sugar in this recipe instead of Splenda, take notes because I doubt I'll repeat that again.

To strain or not to strain - that is the question. I didn't strain the mixture prior to pouring it into the ice cream machine because my tongue likes playing with its food. That said, Mr CC, who liked this ice cream very much, warned me that some people would like it and others would not and that it might depend entirely on the texture. If you have eaters who like their ice cream purely creamy and devoid of interesting content with which a curious tongue can play, by all means strain the mixture just before pouring it into the machine. It will still taste good, though not as interesting - in my humble opinion.

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christine's Recipe For Shaved Brussels Sprouts With Shaved Ham, Valencia Orange Juice and Chopped Walnuts

Brussels sprouts recipes abound among my food blogging friends this fall. And no wonder. These little Thanksgiving favorites are packed with goodness and cheerily allow themselves to be prepared in a plethora of ways, from roasting, old fashioned steaming, grilling, or sautéing.

Well I couldn't let myself be left out of the symphony of Brussels sprouts dishes now, could I?

So yesterday, as our local farmers market was celebrating its season finale and a wheelbarrow full of bright green sprouts was quickly disappearing into shoppers hands, I elbowed my way in, claimed my own, brought them home to my kitchen and came up with this recipe.

Wanting mine to be different from anyone else's recipe that I'd seen, I decided to shave my sprouts on a mandoline. Not stopping there, I added some shaved, uncured ham, and some shaved shallots. Lots of shaving went on in my kitchen, with nary a hair in sight.

After sautéing the shallots and ham, add the shaved sprouts and sauté, tossing with tongs, until they are wilted but still a bit crunchy. Add juice, toss some more, season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. You're done. It's that simple. You can even make this a day ahead, allowing the flavors to deepen. Reheat in a low (300) until warmed through. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts if desired and serve.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Shaved Ham, Fresh-Squeezed Valencia Orange Juice, and Chopped Walnuts
Christine's original recipe
2 dozen Brussels sprouts, cleaned and thinly shaved on a mandoline (yield approx 3-4 cups)
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 cup shaved ham (see Cook's Notes)
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice with pulp (Valencia is best for flavor)
olive oil and butter for the pan
Kosher salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to taste
Sauté shallots over medium heat in about 1 tablespoon each olive oil and unsalted butter. You can use more or less of the oils according to your taste.
When shallots are slightly golden, add the shaved ham and sauté until edges of the ham curl and become golden.
Add the shaved sprouts, toss to blend, and sauté until the sprouts are tender-crisp, about 4 minutes.
Add the orange juice and, using tongs, toss the sprouts well so the juice is evenly distributed throughout for another 2 minutes. The pan will be dry and all the juice absorbed.
Remove from the heat, adjust the seasoning with kosher salt and black pepper.
Sprinkle with fresh chopped walnuts and serve.

Cook's Notes:
The flavors of this dish deepen if made a day ahead. Leave out the walnuts, keep in the fridge then warm in a slow oven. Just before serving, sprinkle with the walnuts.
The orange juice not only compliments, but marries the ham and sprout flavors delightfully.
As I shaved the Brussels sprouts, using my very old mandoline, I made sure the stem end was facing up so I didn't shave it into the bowl. See photo.
Uncured applewood smoked ham steaks, my favorite, are made by Niman Ranch. No nitrites.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Christine's Recipe For Brown Rice Medley Pilaf With Apples, Walnuts and Pomegranate Seeds

I love the Brown Rice Medley from Trader Joes; a combination of parboiled long grain brown rice, black barley and daikon radish seeds that give a nice pop when cooked.

Inspired by the shallots and apples at our local farmers market, I'd already made this pilaf several weeks ago and thought it pretty darned tasty. Then I received a gift from my friend Erika and took it a step further, adding walnuts and sweetly tart pomegranate seeds, not only imparting greater depth of flavor but also kicking up the nutrition factor - pomegranates being very high in antioxidants and walnuts giving up a walloping dose of Omega-3 fatty acids.

(Serving suggestion)

Because I avoid eating wheat, I won't be having traditional bread stuffing this Thanksgiving. But I won't feel at all deprived because this delicious, easy-to-make pilaf will be on the table.

Brown Rice Medley Pilaf with Apples, Walnuts & Pomegranate Seeds
Christine's original recipe

1 and 1/4 cups Brown Rice Medley, or your favorite rice
2 and 1/2 cups chicken stock, organic if store bought but your own home made is best
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2 tart green apples such as Granny Smith, cored, seeded and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 stalk celery, cut in half or quarters lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
olive oil and butter for the pan
kosher salt and freshly ground black peppercorns
2/3 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
Cook the rice in the chicken stock in a rice cooker until done according to the manufacturers directions. The rice will be somewhat moist. Keep warm.
Sauté the onions in about 1 teaspoon each olive oil and unsalted butter until they are golden and soft. Add the apple, celery, and chopped thyme and sauté until they are softly cooked, adding more olive oil and butter if needed to prevent sticking.
Toss the sauté mixture with the rice then season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Add the walnuts and pomegranate seeds. Toss until blended.
May be made a day or two ahead, refrigerated.
Reheat, covered, in a 300-degree oven for 30 minutes to serve.

Cook's Notes:
Fresh chopped herbs like sage, marjoram, parsley or celery leaves can be added to the onions, apples and celery as they are sautéing.
Trader Joes did not ask for my endorsement of their product (I just like it) nor have they offered me any promotional renumeration.

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

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pomegranates and Walnuts, Oh My!

Delivered to my door from the fabulous Sacramento Valley backyard of my bestest friend in the world, Erika. With a little help from her friend Bill, I'll bet.

My heartfelt thanks to you both!

Recipes to follow.....

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

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Christine's Recipe For Creamy, Garlicky Chevre Sauce With Steamed Green Beans And Toasted Pecans

While it's true that I'm no longer eating pasta, it is not true that I can't enjoy a thick and deliciously creamy pasta sauce from time to time. I just drizzle it over steamed, sautéed or roasted vegetables and I'm completely happy.

Intensely garlicky, beginning with a white wine reduction, this is a sauce that will compliment a number of vegetables served as an entrée or a side dish. (Mr CC even enjoyed it on his lunch tacos!)

Last week we roasted purple potatoes and topped them with this sauce along with some freshly chopped basil.

Decidedly unphotogenic in its white-on-white demeanor, roasted cauliflower nonetheless is the perfect compliment to the garlic and goat cheese flavors imbued here.

For its debut, however, green beans steamed to a tender crispness were the perfect vehicle to showcase this bright white saucy offering, needing only a sprinkling of chopped toasted pecans to round out the visual feast.

This sauce can be made with full, low or no fat dairy. The amount you use will need to be adjusted to achieve the creaminess you desire. It's ready for your vegetables in less than 25 minutes and will keep in the refrigerator for one week.

Christine's Creamy, Garlicky Chevre Sauce
6-ounces dry white wine
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 pinches kosher salt
1 cup cream (or 1/2 & 1/2, or milk)
11-ounces good chevre (goat cheese), crumbled
Place the white wine and the minced garlic in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until the wine has reduced by one-half, about 6 minutes.
Add the salt and stir.
Add the chevre and the cream and whisk over low heat until the mixture is smooth. The amount of milk product will vary depending on its fat content.
Serve over your favorite vegetables or roasted potatoes, or, gasp!, pasta.
Reserve left over sauce in the refrigerator.

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Christine's Recipe for Thai-Style Sausage and Vegetable Soup

Inspiration for this what can I do with all those vegetables lounging in the vegetable crispers? soup came from the Thai-spiced sausage I picked up at the market recently. After that the soup practically made itself.
Cilantro grows year-round in my garden, even when it snows. Just when the summer crop is winding down, little volunteers start coming up and, hardy souls that they are, manage to make it through the winter.

I didn't get a photo, but one of our local inland farmers has a kaffir lime tree and is now selling fresh-picked leaves at the farmers market. I couldn't resist buying a packet.

Add to these beginnings, some garlic, fresh ginger, lots of fresh farmers market vegetables and some lite coconut milk and there you have it. A soup full of zingy fresh flavor, bright colors, and wholesome goodness.

Christine's Thai-Style Sausage and Vegetable Soup
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 large shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 Kaffir lime leaves
1 and 1/2 cups low to no-sodium chicken stock, preferrably home made
2 cans organic, lite coconut milk
12-15 crimini mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced
1 large red jalapeno pepper, seeds and veins removed, finely minced
4 Thai Style uncured sausage by Niman Ranch, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers or sweet Italian peppers, chopped small
2 carrots, pared and thinly sliced
2 small golden zucchini (from my garden!), thinly sliced
2 cups fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
handful of fresh garden pea pods, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
juice from 2 small limes

Prepare all ingredients as specified above.
Place the chicken stock in a large pot over low heat, waiting to receive the fixins.
Sauté the sausage slices in a large, heavy skillet (I use cast iron) until lightly browned. Using tongs, transfer the sausage to the soup pot. Reserve the rendered fat in the skillet.
Sauté the shallots, garlic and ginger in the skillet over medium heat until soft and golden. Transfer to the soup pot and increase the heat to medium high. You are finished with the skillet now and all your attention should be on the soup pot.
Allow the stock to come to just under a boil and add the carrots, zucchini, mushrooms and peppers. Let these cook for about 6 minutes or until they are softly cooked.
Add the green beans and pea pods and cook for 5 minutes more.
Check to see that the vegetables are almost cooked through.
Lower the heat to medium low and add the coconut milk. Simmer until everything is done to your liking. Don't allow the soup to boil.
To finish the soup, remove the lime leaves if you can find them, add the lime juice and chopped cilantro.
Stir gently, remove from the heat and serve.

Cook's Notes:
A gentle reminder that I link to products only to help those who wish to make my recipes to the letter. I do not receive requests to link to these products, nor do I receive any remuneration for doing so.

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