Strawberry Season

June 26th, 2015

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I adore strawberries—in part because of their lovely, sweet color and juiciness and in part because (at least where I live in western Massachusetts) they ripen just as the earth does. Their arrival in local fields and farmstands coincides almost exactly with the arrival of summer.

I haven’t picked strawberries in several years. Living by myself as I currently do, I don’t need the large quantities with which one comes home after picking. I know I could make jam and freeze or dry the darn things. Somehow I’m short sighted enough to want to enjoy a few at a time while they’re ripe and not worry about putting them by too much. (I have made a little jam this year; old habits are hard to break.)

This week on Mass Appeal I HAD to use strawberries. I made one savory recipe and one sweet. (Technically, the savory recipe was sweet as well; it actually included more sugar than the sweet. Because it was a little spicy and because it’s not a dessert I think of it as savory.)

The savory recipe was strawberry chipotle sauce. This jam-like substance is wonderful as an appetizer on crackers with cream cheese, although it could also be used as a cooking sauce or condiment with chicken or pork.

The sweet recipe was my “once a year day” special. I generally consume a pretty balanced diet; I love my vegetables. Once a year, however, I like to have ONLY strawberry shortcake for supper. Shortcake is filling, and I can lose my hunger for it if I eat a real meal. If shortcake IS the meal, however, I can enjoy it with gusto. And eating it once at year can’t hurt me.

The shortcake recipe I posted before on this blog made one giant shortcake. I find it easier in general to make smaller shortcakes so I can serve as many people as I want (sometimes just Tinky!) and then give away or freeze the remaining cakes.

The shortcake recipe here comes from King Arthur Flour, and it couldn’t be easier. To make it more festive, I include a bit of stewed rhubarb along with the strawberries. We still have a bit of rhubarb here in the hilltowns, although it’s getting ready to leave us.

King Arthur Flour also provided the self-rising flour, the nice new sharp biscuit cutters, and the sparkling sugar for the top of the cakes.

I hope you enjoy the recipes … and the season … as much as I do.

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Strawberry Chipotle Sauce

Ingredients:

2 cups strawberry slices
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 pinch salt
1 to 2 canned chipotles in adobo sauce (plus a little of the sauce)
1 dab butter

Instructions:

In a nonreactive pot combine the fruit, a cup of the sugar, and the lemon juice. Let the mixture sit for an hour or so to allow the berries to juice up.

Cook the fruit over low heat until tender. Add the remaining sugar, the salt, the chipotle, and the butter, and cook rapidly until thick, stirring frequently. Remove any foam you see (there shouldn’t be too much, thanks to the butter).

If you want jam, it will be ready when it sheets off a cold, stainless-steel spoon.

If you don’t cook it that long, your sauce will just be a bit more liquid. (I like it slightly more liquid so I measure the sauce with an instant-read thermometer and turn off the heat when the thermometer reads 217 or 218 degrees.)

Let the sauce cool for a few minutes; then pulverize it with a blender or immersion blender.

Refrigerate the sauce after it cools. Makes about 2 cups.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Shortcake

Ingredients:

for the filling:

3 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
the juice of 1/2 lemon
3 cups chopped strawberries (lightly sweetened if you like them juicy)

for the self-rising biscuits:

2 cups self-rising flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
a small amount of melted butter (optional)
coarse white sugar (optional)

for assembly:

sweetened whipped cream

Instructions:

A couple of hours before you want to begin working start the filling by sprinkling the sugar over the rhubarb. Stir in the lemon juice, and allow the rhubarb to juice up.

After an hour has passed prepare your filling. (You may also prepare the rhubarb portion of the filling in advance.) Bring the rhubarb mixture to a boil; reduce the heat; and cook, stirring, until the rhubarb becomes thick (about 5 to 7 minutes).

Allow the rhubarb to cool. While it is cooling you may begin making your shortcake biscuits. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Whisk together the flour and sugar. In a separate bowl (or a measuring cup!) combine the cream and the vanilla.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the cream mixture into the well, and gently stir until the mixture is combined, adding a little milk as needed to incorporate all the ingredients into the liquid.

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface, and sprinkle a little more flour on top. Fold the dough over several times; then pat it into a circle or rectangle that is about 1/2 inch thick.

Using a sharp biscuit cutter cut the dough into rounds, about 2 to 2-1/4 inches wide (or however wide you want them!). Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet (you may line the sheet with parchment or silicone if you’re paranoid about sticking). If you like, brush the tops of your biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle a little coarse sugar on top.

Bake the biscuits until they are golden brown (12 to 16 minutes).

When you are ready to assemble your shortcakes, cut the biscuits in half horizontally. Decorate the bottom halves with the cooked filling followed by the strawberries; then dollop on whipped cream. Top with the biscuit tops. (Or divide each shortcake into two mini-shortcakes, one strawberry and one rhubarb, as shown in the photo above.)

Serves 8 to 10, depending on the size of your biscuits.

And now the video.…

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The Charm of Chickpeas

June 11th, 2015
Garbo in "Anna Christie," the film that was marketed using the slogan "Garbo Talks!"

Greta Garbo in “Anna Christie,” the film that was marketed using the slogan “Garbo Talks!”

I almost named this post “Garbanzo Talks!” The title was suggested by my clever friend Peter who knows how much I love film history. Since not everyone is a film buff, however, I succumbed to “the charm of chickpeas.”

My sister-in-law Leigh and I are currently doing a nutritional cleanse called Isagenix. We drink shakes provided by the company for breakfast and lunch but prepare snacks and dinner ourselves. Naturally, we want to make the yummiest food possible in order to keep ourselves from feeling deprived.

The chickpea dishes here are favorites among Isagenix users and are so tasty that I decided to prepare them on my TV spot yesterday on the program Mass Appeal. They made everyone in the television studio happy.

I first learned to love chickpeas when I was a child living in India. They respond beautifully to spices and are also used to make gram flour, a staple of Indian cuisine used (among other things) in pakoras, wonderful vegetable fritters.

I can’t eat pakoras while cleansing, but I did put Indian spices on my roasted chickpeas.

Thanks to Cuisinart for the mini-food processor that made the hummus a dream, and to Lodge for my wonderful pre-seasoned cast-iron pan.

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Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients:

1-3/4 cups cooked chickpeas (1 15-ounce can if you want convenience)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt (if you want lower salt, start with 1/2 teaspoon and adjust later)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (roasted if you can find it)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly and then drain them well; then lay them between layers of dishtowels or paper towels to dry even more. If you have time, leave them to dry for a while longer, even overnight.

Place a cast-iron skillet large enough to hold the chickpeas in a single layer on the stove. (A 12-inch skillet is ideal.)

Heat the pan; then add the olive oil. When the oil is heated, stir in the garlic, drained chickpeas, and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and make sure that the contents are well mixed; then place the pan in the oven.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring the chickpeas at the 10 and 20-minute marks. Be careful to avoid burning toward the end.

Remove the chickpeas from the oven, and toss in the spices. Place the spiced chickpeas on paper towels to cool slightly; then eat them.

If you don’t eat the chickpeas right away, they will lose their crunch, but they will still be tasty and nutritious. You may crisp them again in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes if you wish.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

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Hummus without Tahini

Ingredients:

1-3/4 cups cooked chickpeas (1 15-ounce can if you want convenience)
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped or pressed through a garlic press
the juice of 1 lemon
1 heaping teaspoon almond butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste
spices to taste—consider smoked paprika and/or cumin

Instructions:

Place the ingredients in a small food processor and blend. (You may have to stop and stir them halfway through.) Taste to see whether the flavors please you, and adjust them if you they don’t. Try adding a little chili powder for extra spice.

Refrigerate for 1 hour before eating with veggies or tortilla chips. If you can’t wait, it will still taste yummy.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups hummus.

And now the video. Please note that Ashley Kohl was a little overgenerous with the olive oil in the hummus. It was delicious but not terribly cleanse-ing….

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I Love Rhubarb THIS MUCH!

May 28th, 2015

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Readers, you know I adore rhubarb. It’s tangy, it’s versatile, it’s colorful, and (at least in my corner of New England, thanks to generous neighbors) it’s free.

As Judy Garland, Ethel Merman, and even I have queried in song, “Who could ask for anything more?”

Yesterday I returned to the TV program Mass Appeal to stir up a little rhubarb happiness. Seth Stutman and I made two dishes. The first (one does sometimes make dessert first) was a dump cake.

The recipe came from my friend Vicky, who reported that her kids love it. I don’t blame them. It’s a variant on a crisp or cobbler and takes only minutes to throw together. Dump cakes are one-pan desserts, often involving (as in this case) cake mixes.

I’m not a big fan of cake mixes, and I HAVE made this recipe with “scratch” ingredients. If you’d like to eschew the mix, just substitute 2 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1-1/2 cups sugar for the cake mix; finish using 1 cup milk instead of water and add a little vanilla along with the milk.

The problem with that method is that it requires you to mix the dry ingredients together. In that case, you don’t really have a dump cake. If you’re a non-mix purist, however, you may not mind.

One solution to the mix dilemma is to use a high-quality mix like King Arthur Flour’s golden vanilla mix. I tried to get some of this—but the mix didn’t arrive in time for my TV spot!

Here is the recipe as we made it on the air. (Note that I did NOT use the strawberry gelatin, which I find excessive, although you can see it oozing in the photo here.)

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Rhubarb Dump Cake

Ingredients:

4 cups chopped rhubarb (a little over a pound, enough to fill your pan in a single layer)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 (3 ounce) package strawberry gelatin (optional)
1 package yellow cake mix
1 cup water (or milk, according to cake-mix directions)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted (I tend to be a little generous with this—maybe 5/8 stick?)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread the rhubarb evenly in the bottom of the baking dish.

Sprinkle the sugar over the rhubarb, followed by the cinnamon, the gelatin (if you are using it), and finally the cake mix. Pour the water and melted butter over the top. Do not stir. Bake for 45 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender.

Serve this treat by itself or with whipped cream, ice cream, or frozen yogurt.

making salsaweb

Seth and I also made a quick rhubarb salsa. This recipe differs from the one I have previously posted in that it is less sweet and less wet. It’s still delicious.

Rhubarb Salsa

Ingredients:

2 cups finely chopped rhubarb
1/2 inch ginger root, peeled and chopped finely
3 to 4 tablespoons minced sweet onion (e.g., red onion or Vidalia)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 handful cilantro, chopped
the juice of 1 lemon or 1 lime
2 teaspoons honey
salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)

Instructions:

Place the rhubarb and ginger in a stainless-steel sieve or colander. Place them in a pot of boiling water. Leave them in until the rhubarb begins to soften (about 1 minute; you don’t want it super crunchy, but you don’t want mush, either).

Remove the rhubarb mixture from the boiling water, still in the sieve, and pour cold water over it briefly to stop it from cooking longer. Drain again. Let the rhubarb sit in the sieve with a couple of ice cubes to keep the cooling process going.

In a bowl combine the onion, the garlic, the peppers, and the cilantro.

In a small bowl combine the citrus juice and the honey. Stir in the salt. Add the drained rhubarb mixture (make sure to take out any remaining ice). Mix well.

Refrigerate the salsa for at least an hour before serving. Serve with chips or crackers and cream cheese, or with chicken, pork, or fish. Makes about 2 cups.

Rhubarb Salsa for Michelleweb

If you’d like to watch the video (in which I refer to another Rhubarb in my life and deliberate marrying a TV star), it appears below.

You’ll note that Seth and I refer several times to slime and sliming. His co-star Ashley Kohl was broadcasting that day from a local children’s hospital. For “Slime Day 2015” Ashley and several doctors and nurses were doused with a bright green liquid to entertain the children.

Ashley is gorgeous. Darn her, she even looked good with slime all over her! I still love her, however, and so did the kids.

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Add Some Salt When You Make This!

May 14th, 2015

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I have actually posted the recipe that goes with the video below (for Sautéed Dandelion Greens) elsewhere on this blog. I thought it might entertain readers to see me back in action on TV cooking, however, so I’m posting the video here.

And I KNEW you would all want to see my new hat!

After we finished recording the segment I took a taste of the dandelions and found them unappetizing, which seemed very odd since I usually like them a lot. I then realized that in my haste to get the dish finished (and in my preoccupation with talking and talking and talking) I had forgotten to salt it.

I threw just a little salt on top, and the greens were delicious.

I promise a NEW recipe when I go back on the show Mass Appeal in two weeks. Meanwhile, happy spring to all……

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Les carottes sont cuites

April 1st, 2015

carrot seedsweb

Literally, the French expression “les carottes sont cuites” means that the carrots are cooked. Figuratively, it means that the jig is up, that whatever one is discussing is all over and can’t be changed, that one is saying “ENOUGH ALREADY!” We can hope in this case that it means that our long winter has been cooked.

The cooked carrots in the soup below are ideal for the sort of spring we have had so far in the northeast. In this chilly weather soup calls to us.

The curry powder and cumin lend an Indian tang to the mundane root vegetables, and the finished product pleases the eye and the palate.

If you don’t have a blender or immersion blender on hand (my sister-in-law Leigh and I couldn’t find one the first time we served this, although it turned up for subsequent meals!), a potato masher will render the potatoes and carrots small enough to make them sippable.

This colorful soup would make a lovely first course for an Easter dinner or a Seder (if you keep Kosher and want to use it in your Seder you might want to substitute olive oil for the butter).

By the way, Margie from Shreveport, Louisiana, won The Cast-Iron Skillet Cookbook. She seemed very pleased when I wrote to her. Thanks to all those who entered the drawing for this book! I’ll try to have another one soon.

Meanwhile, happy Easter, happy Passover, and happy spring! Warmer weather WILL come….

carrot soupweb

Curried Carrot Soup

Ingredients:

1 stick butter (you may certainly use less butter if you like; this makes a very rich soup!)
2 large onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 medium potatoes, roughly diced (2 large potatoes make a heartier soup)
2 pounds carrots, roughly diced (between 5 and 6 cups)
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 teaspoons salt (and/or to taste)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 generous tablespoon curry powder
the juice of 1/2 lemon

Instructions:

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven melt the butter. Sauté the onions and garlic; then stir in the potatoes and carrots. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, and then add the stock and the salt.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover the soup, and reduce the heat. Simmer until the vegetables are tender (about 1/2 hour).

Puree the soup, either in batches in a blender or in its pot using an immersion blender. Stir in the spices, and heat the soup again briefly. Taste and adjust seasonings. Just before serving add the lemon juice.

Serves 6 to 8.

If you don’t use all your soup at the first serving, you may certainly refrigerate the leftovers for another meal. When you reheat the soup it tends to become very thick and erupt. Feel free to add a bit more stock to settle it down. You may also want to add more spices as their flavor tends to dissipate over time.

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