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Thursday
Nov082012

WHOLE WHEAT PERSIMMON RICOTTA SCONES

sprouted kitchen scones

"If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely."

- Roald Dahl

Loving that quote. Today I am happy about vibrant green vegetables, impromptu dancing with my babe of a husband, your emails and comments, my health, dreaming up a big trip for next year, new favorite nail polish and so many new cookbooks (I've had enough of the social networking crankiness from this election week, bring on the good thoughts!).

To read through Deb Perelman of The Smitten Kitchen's book felt sentimental for me. The photos and writing are so quintessentially Deb. When I was trapped in a cubicle, I poured over her and Heidi Swanson's work. Printing out all the recipes I wanted to try (in color, of course), put them in plastic sleeves, and in a three ring binder because those things are at your disposal working in an office. I still have the binder, originally inspired by these two ladies, and now bursting open, far from organized with everything I've ripped out from magazines in the past few years. I'll stretch that baby pretty far before I buy a new binder. I emailed Deb when I first started this site, the kind of question I am sure she gets multiple times daily. I can't remember verbatim, but it was something to the effect of, "So, I started a blog. What do I do now?" Her response was short but perfect. She poignantly suggested that I cook and write authentically. That I stay true to myself and the way I want to cook - the process should be fufilling for me first, people will follow that authenticity, and I won't be dissapointed trying to create something that is chasing popularity alone. And maybe that isn't verbatim either, but it was certainly the jist, and it has always been in the back of my head as the best advice I received when making a blog, this journal, my own. I'm sure most of you are familiar with her site. She is witty, to the point, detailed and opinionated. Those same qualities come through in all the recipe headnotes of her new cookbook. She tells you the what, why and how, making the process easy to understand and foolproof. From someone who is not a perfectionist about the cooking process, I greatly respect people like Deb who test and fiddle until they've got the texture, taste and directions just right. I won't say it's necessarily health-focused, for those who are looking for books with gluten and dairy alternatives, but a number of the recipes are adaptable for preferences and allergies. She leaves no stone unturned, some of the most well written recipes I've seen, and you can see her hard work and quest for accurate recipes so clearly in her first book. Congratulations, Deb. 

sprouted kitchen scones

WHOLE WHEAT PERSIMMON RICOTTA SCONES // Makes 8-9 scones

Recipe lightly adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

Deb calls for raspberries in her recipe, which look beautiful and I'm sure taste even better. My pastry eater around here isn't big on raspberries, so I tried a version with the persimmons I've been getting in my CSA basket and added a hint of fall-ish spices. If you want to stick with the original, substitute raspberries for the persimmons and eliminate the spices. 

The lesson I've learned the hard way, a few times, is to not over handle the dough. It's fine if there are chunks and bumps in it, the less futzing around with the dough, the better. Deb makes a note that this dough is damp because of the ricotta, which is what makes them so tender, so keep your hands and counter well floured. Regarding do-ahead tips, "Scones are best the day they are made. However, you can make and divide the dough, arrange on a baking sheet and freeze them until firm, then tranfer them to a freezer bag. If you're prepping just one day in advance, cover the tray with plastic wrap and bake them the day you need them. No need to defrost them, just add another 2-3 minutes to you baking time."

  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp. aluminum free baking powder
  • 1/4 cup natural cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. each of cinnamon, cardamom and ground ginger
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1 cup finely chopped Fuyu persimmons
  • 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

sprouted kitchen scones

Preheat the oven to 425' and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Mix the dry ingredients together, the flour through the spices. Add the butter with a pastry blender, and cut the butter into the flour mixture until the pieces are the size of small peas (this can also be done with your fingers, just be quick to not warm the butter, or a knife). Toss in the persimmons and break them up a bit with the pastry blender.

Using a flexible spatula, add the ricotta and heavy cream to the butter mixture and stir them in to form a dough. Working quickly, use your hands to knead the dough gently into an even mass.

Transfer the dough to a well floured surface, flour the top of dough, and pat into a 7 inch square, 1 inch high. With a large, sharp knife, divide the dough into nine scones. Transfer the scones to the prepared baking sheet with the spatula. Bake the scones for about 15-18 minutes until they are lightly golden at the edges. Cool them on the pan for a minute then transfer to a cooling rack. 

sprouted kitchen scones

Thursday
Nov012012

ROASTED BUTTERNUT PENNE WITH PISTACHIO PESTO

Any other subject matter at this time, seems commonplace next to what is happening on the East Coast. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and business' who are hurting right now. I am inspired by the sense of community that comes from disasters like Hurricane Sandy and how we are capable of rallying around each other to make the best of things that are beyond our control. We need people.

-- 

Earlier this year, I contributed to six different publications about vegetarian Thanksgiving dishes. Six! That's a lot! I realize that turkey is a big deal, but is it often people's favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal? Don't answer that. It's too late. My favorite part has always been the fresh vegetable side dishes, as they always seem the canvas for creative flavors and trying new things. I made this salad last year and my sister in law is bringing these green beans to the big dinner this year. Thanksgiving is typically a spread of heavy foods, lots of cream, gravy, butter and while I get that this is tradition, I self impose the responsibility to bring a contast to that. I'm testing out a few recipes in search of a new dish to bring to my family's table this year, and this one is certainly in the running. Maybe not the lightest of the options per se, but I try to contribute something that can act as a main dish for the vegetarians and a tasty side for everyone else. I wrote the vegetarian menu for a great spread in this months Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine, and while flipping through it to find my recipes, I earmarked this great looking pasta dish. I don't often make pasta, I can probably count the times on one hand, but this recipe had the potential to be more vegetable than starch focused. I like my pasta heavy on the vegetables, light on the pasta, so that is where you'd notice the biggest change in the original recipe. I added more squash, lots of greens and scaled back the amount of pasta. They also call for pepitas. I used toasted pistachios because I love them and already had some in my pantry. If you're bulking it up for an omnivorous family, some sausage could nudge itself in here, though I'd argue the dish lacks nothing on its own. 

This has been a pretty crazy season for us. Lots of travel, work, special occasions, book promoting and what not. All great things, but not exactly in moderation as of late. I'm really excited for life to slow up a bit in the next few months so I can process it all and soak this past year in. I need some stillness, quiet, time of staring into the vast ocean, long dinners with good friends, and an overall refresh. All of that is totally reasonable as we're heading into the holidays, right?! Until then, there will be some tasty squash penne.

ROASTED BUTTERNUT PENNE WITH PISTACHIO PESTO // Serves 4

Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine, November 2010

I used a brown rice penne from Jovial pasta (a new favorite, the texture is wonderful for a GF pasta). I am not particularly fond of penne, for no good reason, and think small shells or some tagliatelle would work great too. The pesto can be made a few days in advance and kept in a covered container in the fridge. Any extra can be mixed with a splash of water and more lemon juice for a fabulous salad dressing. I would double it for that specific reason but I'll leave that up to you.

 

  • 2 lbs. (one large) butternut squash, peeled seeded and cut into 1'' pieces
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil or melted coconut oil
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • bit of fresh grated nutmeg
  • 8 oz. brown rice, quinoa or whole grain penne pasta
  • 2 huge handfuls (about 3 cups) well chopped baby spinach or swiss chard

 

 

  • // pistachio pesto //
  • 1 large/ 2 small cloves garlic
  • zest and juice of one meyer lemon or lime
  • 1/3 cup toasted, unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 1 jalepeno or serrano, seeded (I leave a few seeds for spice)
  • 1 cup packed herbs, such as cilantro, parsley, chives, basil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • few pinches of salt and pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 450' and set a large pot of salted water to boil. 

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the butternut cubes with the olive oil (enough to coat), smoked paprika, salt, a grate of nutmeg and toss to coat. Bake for about 20 minutes or until edges are charred. 

Cook the pasta according to instructions, reserving a cup of the cooking water. 

For the pesto, add the garlic, lemon zest and juice to the processor and pulse a few times to break down. Add the jalepeno, pistachios, herbs and parmesan and run the processor to mix, about 30 seconds. Drizzle in the olive oil and a few pinches of salt and pepper until combined. Taste and alter as desired. If you want it thinner, add a splash of water or oil. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pesto, greens, drained pasta and half of the pasta water and toss gently. The warm pasta and water will wilt the greens perfectly. Add water if needed. 

Garnish with a fresh grate of cheese, pepper and any leftover herbs. 

Monday
Oct222012

EVERYTHING COOKIES

What I love most about her is her creative thoughtfulness. My Aunt Suzy sent care packages to my dorm room in college themed around the given holiday or "brain food" when it was time for finals. She makes these really delicious cookie-brownie bars that I hesitated to share and always included a homemade card. I could spot her hand writing anywhere, small and long, just a bit loopy. Aunt Suzy never forgets a birthday, is the first to organize family dinners or the Christmas gift exchange. When Hugh and I got married, the venue had lounge couches that were a bit worn, to say the least, and my aunt sewed new slipcovers for them. I mean, seriously. I wouldn't have even done that for my own wedding. I can't paint a colorful enough picture of this exceptional woman. She is a leader, organized, a problem solver, assertive and goofy enough to soften those qualities out. Always the generous type, she piped in during my book writing process to be a recipe tester when I mentioned I needed more feedback. As I could have assumed, her emails to me were full of detail, responses from her family and how she visited multiple markets in search of mushroom broth. She has always made me feel loved through quality time - be it an intentionally themed care package, planning a coffee date when we haven't chatted in a while, or the support and effort she showed me when the process of writing a book overwhelmed every part of me.

Now, as an aunt of two girls myself, I see more clearly every way she has cared for me and how that love has matured as I've grown up. Surely you can read through the lines how much I admire her, and how strong she is. The type who trained to climb Half Dome, in Yosemite, CA right after her second year of chemotherapy. Her cancer is back for a third time, a battle I know many others are watching a loved one fight, and I am motionless on how I can give love back to her. Every letter I start seems underwhelming, as I cannot relate to what she is going through or how defeated this must make her feel. How do I tell her I am angry and completely scared while being a voice of hope, encouragement and support? I want to be her most enthusiastic cheerleader, while still needing to kick my feet that this is not fair. I brought over soup a few weeks ago, which felt so lackluster compared to how my heart feels - a feeling I can't put my finger on let alone communicate to her. So I baked. Not to give these cookies away, but to be in a familiar process, to slow down, and let myself feel sad so I can be a niece who sits right next to her, as I'm confident to say we're both scared.

I bookmarked this recipe in the newly released Small Plates and Sweet Treats: My Family's Journey to Gluten Free Cooking by Aran Goyoaga of Cannelle et Vanille. It's truly a stunning book, beautiful and romantic in the same way that Aran's blog is. Her book takes you through the seasons featuring gluten free desserts and small meals that are full of color, creativity and fresh produce. I am excited to try her bread recipe and a few of the soups as the weather around here is getting a bit of a chill. I had the ingredients for these cookies, always a reinforcement to make something immediately, and they are just as delicious as I assumed they'd be. The book is beautifully designed and photographed, like a fairytale of gluten free foods. Congratulations to you Aran, I'm glad to have your fabulous cookie recipe in rotation around here. The book is a treasure to be proud of. 

EVERYTHING COOKIES // Makes 24

Recipe from Small Plates and Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga

I only tweaked one thing in Aran's recipe to avoid a trip to the market. She calls for 1/2 cup superfine brown rice flour and 1/4 cup tapioca starch and I substituted 3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour (I use King Arthur, which has rice flour and tapioca starch in it). I found this substitution to work fine, though maybe a tad more delicate, but want you know what the original states. 

 

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup natural cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark muscavado or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour (see note)
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (or hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, roughly chopped

 

Combine the butter and both sugars in a stand mixer and mix for three minutes. 

Add the vanilla and egg and mix to combine, scraping the sides. 

Add the gluten free flour (or rice flour if using), buckwheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix until dough just comes together. 

Add the chocolate, oats, pecans and coconut. Mix until ingredients come together, dough will be sticky. Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment and roll into a tight log 16'' long and about 2'' in diameter. Refrigerate for one hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350'. Cut the cookie dough log into 1/2'' thick disks. Place the cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet, spaced 2'' apart. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, you want them to look slightly underbaked. They get very crispy if overcooked, air on the side of undercooking. 

The raw dough or baked cookies keep for 5 days.

Tuesday
Oct092012

BUTTER LETTUCE SALAD WITH TAHINI-HONEY DRESSING

This seems to be the season of new cookbooks because I have quite a few I want to share with all of you. This recipe hails from the soon to be released cookbook Keys to the Kitchen by Aida Mollenkamp. It arrived on my doorstep shortly after I had a passionate conversation (on my part, of course) over breakfast with Hugh about how important it is for cookbooks to be practical. In a generation where a lot of people lean more towards convenience food, I find it so important to encourage the actual cooking of real foods, which seems most successful when offering approachable, healthful recipes. Of course I love when there are lots of pictures and the design is attractive, (duh) but I really appreciate when the recipes featured are ones you would make for a weeknight dinner, something special when guests come over or a new idea for a sweet treat to have on hand for coffee breaks. Aida's book reminds me of a modern day Joy of Cooking. It's equally, if not more so, a resource as it is a book of recipes. She goes through tools, cuts of meat, pantry staples, ingredient substitutions, quick dinners, and any other question that a cook may come cross in the kitchen. I think it would make a wonderful gift for someone just learning how to cook, or wanting to get the basics down. It is definently text focused, but I find that to be a strength and consistent with the book's title.

I made this salad because I adore tahini dressings. I upped the lemon a bit, added some sunflower seeds as Aida suggested and it was the perfect accompaniment to some grilled albacore tuna. So simple and clean with that "healthy" flavor profile (I may be one of the few who enjoy eating at the cafes in health food stores, but their house salads always seem to have carrots, sunflower seeds and a tahini dressing, yes?). The book comes out on October 24th, but is available for preorder now. Congratulations Aida, it's a gem and a true testament to your hard work. 

BUTTER LETTUCE SALAD WITH TAHINI-HONEY DRESSING // Serves 2-4

Adapted from Keys to the Kitchen by Aida Mollenkamp

This made about twice the amount of dressing I needed but that's ideal for me. It's so nice to have a great dressing on hand for next time I make a salad. I get the ribbons on the carrots and cucumbers with a veggie peeler but I'm sure a mandoline would do a great job as well. 

  • // tahini-honey dressing //
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. honey or agave
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • big pinch of parsley or chives
  • 2/3 cup water
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  •  

  • 1 large head (7 oz.) butter lettuce, cleaned and dried
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 persian cucumber, halved and thinly sliced or shaved
  • 1 carrot, grated or shaved
  • 1 cup sprouted (broccoli, pea, sunflower, radish etc)
  • sunflower seeds, optional

Blend all the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Rip the lettuce into large pieces and combine it in a large bowl with the avocado, cucumber, carrot and half of the sprouts (saving half for garnish). Toss the salad ingredients with desired amount of dressing. You'll likely have more than you need. Garnish the top with remaining sprouts and sunflower seeds.

Tuesday
Oct022012

SPICED LENTIL SOUP WITH COCONUT MILK

It is not fall in my pocket of the world. Summer is still lingering with warm ocean water, people in shorts and tank dresses and tomatoes at the farm stand. Sure there are pumpkins at the market and the sun sets earlier but those are the only telling signs the season is changing. The weather makes me crave salad and fruit, but a big pot of soup intrigued me for some emotional reason. I feel a bit drained lately, and there is something about soup that is comforting. Just a bowl and spoon. No stabbing bits of lettuce or cutting with a knife. Just simple eating. The kitchen is a place of solace for me - a place to be creative, to give, to appreciate small things, to refresh or to be pointed towards something in myself that I haven't taken the time to recognize. And in this case, that awareness came from wanting to make a pot of warm soup on a 97' day. I knew when I saw this soup on The Travelers Lunchbox that I would make it and like it. At first taste, it seemed all the spices didn't marry, but after a bit of sitting in its own goodness, my mouth was filled with warmth, spice, a bit of heat and lentils just tender to the tooth. I garnished it with some toasted coconut because I'm a sucker for a nice garnish, but this is certainly optional. The recipe makes a good portion of soup, which is not inconvenient because it is actually better the next day. So, maybe you're wearing a sweater or maybe you're still in shorts, but soup is never a bad idea.

SPICED LENTIL SOUP WITH COCONUT MILK // Serves 6

Recipe adapted from The Travelers Lunchbox who adapted it from Once Upon a Tart

The recipe calls for green lentils. I used a mixture because I have a large amount of them and they worked just fine. Split or red lentils will likely get too mushy here. I used 4 cups broth because I like my soups on the stewy side, if you prefer more broth to you soup, add another cup or two when cooking the lentils.

1 1/2 cup lentils, rinsed (green suggested)

4 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 1/2 tsp. tumeric OR curry powder

2 tsp. dried thyme or 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 Tbsp. coconut oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 stalks lemongrass, outer layer removed, lower portion finely minced

1 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste

1/2 tsp. cardamom

1/2 tsp. cinnamon pinch of red pepper flakes to taste

pinch of fresh grated nutmeg

1 1/4 cup coconut milk (use full fat, just believe me)

3 Tbsp. lemon, lime or orange juice

a few handfuls of swiss chard, spinach or kale

1 cup flake coconut, toasted (optional)

chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Add the rinsed lentils, broth, thyme and tumeric or curry powder to a large pot. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.

While the lentils cook, heat the coconut oil in a pan. Add the onion and saute until just browned. Add the lemongrass, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, pinch of red pepper flakes and some fresh ground nutmeg and saute another minute. Add the onion mixture to the lentils and stir, keeping the heat on a low simmer.

Add the coconut milk and greens and simmer another five minutes, stirring occasionally until just wilted. Taste for salt and spice and add as you prefer. Finish with the citrus juice and serve warm with toasted coconut flakes and cilantro on top.