Kale Pesto

June 9, 2013

Kale Pesto - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

I love pesto, but I’ve been wanting to try new things besides basil pesto.  This kale pesto is really yummy, and can be used in a number of ways: on a sandwich, in an egg scramble, on chicken or fish, on pizza (which we did the night after we had it on pasta…yum!), or, of course, on pasta.  This recipe is enough to cover a pound of pasta, plus extra for other things on later days.  It really freezes well, too!

Kale Pesto

1 bunch kale, stems removed

1/3 cup toasted walnuts or pine nuts

1 clove garlic

zest and juice from one lemon

1/2 tsp salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup or more olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add kale and boil for about 30 seconds.  Immediately drain kale and run cold water over it to cool it off.  Squeeze off excess water and put in food processor, along with nuts, garlic, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper.  Process for about 30 seconds, until its all ground to a fine meal.  Scrape down the sides and pulse a few more times.  With the processor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream.  Scrape down the sides again, taste, and add more olive oil if needed (and salt and pepper), and pulse a few more times.  The consistency isn’t as creamy as basil pesto, and I found that I needed more olive oil than with basil pesto.  I think I used almost 1/3 cup.

If making pasta, cook your desired type of noodle to al dente and place it in a large bowl, reserving some of the pasta water.  Add about half the pesto to the pasta, and combine thoroughly, adding up to 1/2 cup pasta water as needed.  Serve immediately, topping with parmesan cheese, and maybe a little toasted walnuts for garnish.  It’s also really good with some halved cherry tomatoes stirred in.

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Oven Roasted Tomatoes

September 4, 2012

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

I’ve wanted to make oven roasted tomatoes for a couple of years, but never got around to it.  My brother John made some recently which spurred me into taking the plunge.  In addition to asking friends and family for recipes and tips, I looked at several online to get a picture for various approaches.  There are a lot of recipes out there, but with only slight differences in cooking temps, times and methods.  There are two definite camps, however, when it comes to seasoning.  One camp uses only salt and pepper and the other adds herbs and garlic.  So, always one to see for myself and draw conclusions, I made a batch of each.  The results were great in both cases!  I have already used the plain in ratatouille in place of some of the fresh tomatoes, and we had the seasoned ones on pizza last night (yum!).  I look forward to making more while it’s still tomato season and to experimenting further with both types for appetizers and in sauces and pastas.

I used 10 Roma tomatoes in each batch, but you can use as many tomatoes as you’d like and regular garden tomatoes as well as Romas.  My hunch is that if the tomatoes are very juicy,  squeezing out some of the juice would aid in the carmelization, but I can’t say for sure.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 375°.  Have handy baking dishes or jelly roll pans.

Plum (or regular) tomatoes, cut in half (or quarters for very large tomatoes)

Olive Oil

Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Optional seasoning:  oregano, thyme, chopped garlic

Place tomatoes, cut side up,  in a baking dish or jelly roll pan.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Add salt and pepper and seasoning of your choice.  Place pan in preheated oven and bake for 45-60 minutes, until tomatoes start to carmelize.  Remove from oven, cool slightly and then remove to a platter to cool completely.  Once cooled, remove the skins – they will slip off very easily.  These will keep several days in the fridge or you can freeze using freezer bags or containers.  I hope to freeze a few packs of these because I can picture how fabulous it would be to get a hit of summer in January!

COOK’S NOTES:

Be judicious about the amount of salt.  I used about a teaspoon of kosher salt on the plain tomatoes and felt they were too salty.

I used just oregano and thyme for the seasoned version, but I think rosemary and basil would also be good.

Don’t be daunted by what the pans look like after!  I soaked these for about 30 minutes in very hot water and dish washing liquid and they wiped clean easily – no elbow grease required!  I used a Pyrex dish and a Le Creuset cast iron lasagna pan.  Both worked, but I think the Pyrex had a slight edge in terms of results.

Crunchy Granola

September 4, 2011

Margaux says…

My Aunt Judy makes the most simple and amazing granola ever.  It’s the same recipe she’s been using since the 70’s, and she always has it on hand at her house.  She was my birth doula and came to stay with us for the last few weeks of my pregnancy, and the whole time she was with us (which ended up being about a month) she kept our supply stocked. It was so great to have every morning, with fresh fruit and yogurt!  It’s gotten so I can’t even eat store-bought granola anymore, I’ve become such a granola snob.  I try to keep it up, and make a batch as often as possible, but especially in the summer when fruit is in season and tastes oh-so-yummy with this salty sweet crunchy goodness.

Crunchy Granola

5 cups rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ or flax seed meal
1 cup large flake unsweetened coconut
1 cup cashews (or whatever nut you prefer)
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup dried fruit, like cranberries or raisins (optional…I do this in the winter when I eat it with milk instead of fresh fruit and yogurt)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey (or agave syrup)
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tsp table salt
2 tbsp real maple syrup

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, minus the salt. Mix together honey, water, oil, salt and maple syrup. Pour over cereal and mix well. Bake in large jellyroll pan at 300 F for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool in the pan, then pour into an airtight container.

Chicken Stock

October 16, 2010

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I like to have lots of chicken stock on hand in my freezer so that when recipes call for it, I don’t have to use store-bought.  Not that I have never used store-bought stock or broth, but I don’t like the taste or the texture of boxed or canned chicken stock when compared to homemade.  And it’s so easy to make!   You can use fresh chicken as the basis – backs/necks, pieces like wings/legs or a whole chicken if you want lots of  meat to use in a soup or to make chicken salad, etc.   Bones are important for flavoring the stock, so using boneless/skinless chicken doesn’t work so well.  Or you can start with a leftover roasted chicken carcass.  I prefer the fresh  for its lighter and cleaner taste, but I always make stock when I’ve roasted a chicken, making sure my freezer doesn’t run out!  This is best done as a 2-day process so that you can de-fat the broth.

Margaux says . . .

I’m totally like Suzy, and always like to have broth in my freezer.  I can’t believe that I used to not care!  There’s such a difference in flavor and texture.  I make recipes that call for whole chickens cut up at least twice a month, and always buy a whole chicken and cut it up myself so that I have the back, neck and wings to make broth out of.  I use a big All-Clad pot that has a big pasta basket in it, so that when the broth is done I can just lift the basket out with the vegetables and chicken.  Then I cool the stock in the pot overnight, skim it in the morning, and then I pour it through a sieve into containers…taking the big stuff out first eliminates splashes!

Simple Chicken Stock

Place the chicken base of your choice as described above in a large dutch oven or soup pot.   Add water to about 3 inches below the rim.  To this, add the tops off of one bunch of celery, two unpeeled carrots cut in 2-3 pieces and one unpeeled onion cut into 4 chunks.  Add 2 bay leaves, 2 dried chiles (optional), 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Salt and pepper are also optional if you want to wait to season whatever dishes you make with the stock.   Add more water to bring to about 1 inch from the rim of the pot.  I am using a 6-quart All Clad stock pot.

Bring to a boil which will likely take about 15 minutes.  I set a timer for 12 minutes and then watch the pot so it doesn’t boil over.  Speaking from experience, you do not want this to boil over and run down into your burner pans!!  Not a fun clean-up job.  When it has come to a boil, skim off the foam, then turn down the heat and simmer at a bubble for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  Turn off the heat and let rest for about 15 mintues.  Remove the chicken from the pot and place in a bowl to cool.  (Once cool, remove the meat from the bones and discard the bones.)

Pour the liquid into a bowl (or bowls) through a strainer to strain out the vegetables.

Let the stock cool in the bowls, then cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, you will be able to skim off the fat that has risen to the top and somewhat solidified.   I use paper towels to do this.

Now you have defatted chicken stock that you can use immediately or place in pint or quart containers to freeze for use at a later date.

Aunt Suzy says . . . You can add all kinds of aromatics to the pot before cooking –  garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, parsley, thyme, etc., etc.  I don’t add these things unless I will be using the stock immediately in a recipe where the flavors are compatible.  I stick to the celery, carrots, onion, bay leaves and pepper so that the stock has a more neutral taste.  This insures it won’t overpower or conflict with the flavors in the recipes where I use the stock.   Today, I got 5 quarts from this recipe that didn’t cost more than $5 total for the chicken backs/necks and the vegetables.  They sell home-made stock at two places in my nieghborhood for $7-9/quart!  Maybe I should go into the chicken stock biz :-).

Applesauce

October 15, 2010

Aunt Suzy says . . . .

Fall is my very favorite season and one of the things that contributes is the abundance of  local apples!  I have fond memories of my Mom, Barb,  making homemade applesauce and homemade bread.  This was especially delightful if it was around as an after school treat.  I remember that she would usually get a bushel of apples – Jonathan only!! – and make pies and applesauce.  She would make sure that there was enough applesauce to freeze so we could enjoy it through the early winter.  I have carried on this tradition, making varying amounts in the fall and freezing it.  No matter how much I make, it seems it never lasts into the new year.

Margaux says . . .

Granny (“Mom” to Aunt Suzy) was still making applesauce when I was growing up, and she always had applesauce on toast for her 10:00 a.m. snack…every single day, while doing the crossword puzzle.  When I was younger, she had a parakeet named Carla, who would sit on a napkin holder at the table with her waiting for her little bites of toast.  There were always dogs underfoot (Teesa and Sissy when I was really little, then Pepper later, now Rex) who got the last bite (or bites).

I’ve carried on the tradition as well, making applesauce pretty much every fall (and more…in the off-season I use Golden Delicious, and add cinnamon for more flavor).  Applesauce has been a staple for Desi since he first started eating solid food…I highly recommend it for babies!  We eat it on toast for breakfast and snacks all the time.  You can also do pear sauce the same way, which is another of Desi’s favorites!  I make it the same way as Aunt Suzy, and usually use Jonathan or Golden Delicious. 

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I am a purist when it comes to applesauce.  I like the fresh taste of apples, so I don’t add cinnamon or other spices.  I also am a believer in Jonathan apples for sauce and pies, although they aren’t readily available where I live now.  I got some on a recent trip to Central Illinois, where I’m from.  A local Minnesota grower talked me into a variety called Dutchess last year and it made really good sauce.  Here’s a handy resource for choosing apple varieties for different uses.  I also like chunky applesauce rather than smooth, so I take the time to peel, core and quarter the apples before cooking.  This takes a lot more time than the alternative of quartering, cooking with skins and cores and then pressing through an apple mill.  You can find complete instructions for making applesauce using a mill on this post on My Sister’s Kitchen, where I got this photo of an apple mill.  I’m curious – how do you like to make sauce?

Barb’s Applesauce

Peel, core and quarter the apples.  I now use an OXO peeler, even though for years I used a paring knife having learned this method from my Mom.  The peeler is so much easier on the hands and does as good a job as a knife!  (who would have thought? :-))

Add the apples to a large pot – I use either a 5 or 6 quart pot.  As you are peeling and adding the apples, squeeze a little lemon juice over them every once-in-a-while to keep them from getting too brown.  Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pot about 1/2 inch.  There is nothing worse than watery applesauce, and if this is not enough water, you can always add later.  Today, I used 16 cups of quartered apples and 2/3 cup of water, which made 2 quarts of finished applesauce.  Cook at a bubble for 20 minutes as follows:  Start on high heat.  When it starts to bubble, stir and turn heat down to medium high.  Stir every 3-4 minutes, turning down the heat to medium when the bubbling gets too furious.  You want everything to be at a good bubble the entire time you are cooking the sauce.  When you are not stirring and mashing down, you want the pot to be covered.  You might think “these apples are never going to break down” because they don’t actually start mushing down until after about 10 minutes.  You will want to stir constantly for the last 5 minutes, working to mash down and break up the apples to your desired consistency.  Here’s a picture of the consistency of sauce we like in my family.   

Remove the pot from the heat so the sauce can settle down.  At this time add a little sugar to your taste.  I added 1/8 cup of sugar for this amount of sauce.  NOTE:  Don’t add the sugar until after the sauce is cooked because the sauce will taste mainly of cooked sugar, overpowering the delicate apple flavor.  If you like spices, these should be added after cooking also.

You might have noticed that there are a lot of  traditions related to applesauce in our family!  Margaux mentioned that we love applesauce on toast for breakfast or a snack.  I  have embelished this a little by adding almond or peanut butter to the equation.  If you’ve never had applesauce on toast, please do try it – it’s delish!!

Aunt Suzy says

About 12 years ago the New York Times Sunday magazine ran an article on Moroccan cooking with recipes for preserved lemons (salt-brined lemons) and harissa (a spicy hot pepper condiment or sauce).  This single article opened up doors to flavors, a cooking culture and cooking methods that I had never been exposed to before – and which dramatically changed the way I cook ever since then!   Homemade preserved lemons and harissa really outshine storebought, but if you don’t have the time or ingredients to make one or both of these, Le Moulins Mahjoub and Mustapha’s Moroccan both make very high quality Moroccan/North African ingredients including these two items.  Look to kitchen or specialty food stores and your local co-ops.  Both are available, as well, through Amazon.com.

Margaux says

If Meyer lemons aren’t available (they’re only in season from December-March), you can use regular lemons.   And you can buy preserved lemons in some stores, like Whole Foods, but they’re not NEARLY as good as homemade.

PRESERVED LEMONS

6 Meyer lemons

1/2 cup kosher salt

1 tablespoon cardamom pods

2-3 bay leaves

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, more if needed

This recipe is enough for a one-quart mason jar; adjust amounts accordingly for larger or smaller glass containers.  A wide-mouth jar is recommended, making it easier to remove the lemons for use later. Sterilize the jar by pouring boiling water into it.  Pour out the water and then proceed as follows. Quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom, sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh, then reshape the fruit.  Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of the jar.  Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt and the herbs/spices between layers.  Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons.  Add freshly squeezed lemon juice to cover the lemons.  You might find recipes that call for covering lemons with water, but we think using juice creates a better product.  Leave a little air space before putting the lid on the jar.  Place the jar in the refrigerator and shake the jar daily to distribute the salt.

The lemons are ready to use after 4-6 weeks.   Most recipes use only the peel.  To use, remove the desired amount from the jar and discard the pulp unless the recipe instructs otherwise.  Rinse the peel under running water.  Preserved lemons will keep up to a year in the refrigerator.  The salt brine can be used two or three times over the course of a year.  Remove bay leaves and coriander seeds after about 2 months, as they will make the lemons taste bitter over time.  NOTE:  I have also seen red peppercorns or a slice of red bell pepper put into the jar to add some color.

HARISSA SAUCE

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper (available atPenzey’s Spices)

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Whisk all ingredients together and place in a small, sterilized jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Use as instructed in recipes and pass as a condiment when serving Moroccan Food.  This will also keep up to one year in the fridge by pouring a little olive oil over the Harissa after each use to prevent mold.  NOTE:  There are probabaly as many recipes for Harissa as there are cooks.  It’s usually a fiery pepper paste or sauce, but I have also seen sweet versions of this from Tunesia.  We enjoy this recipe as well as the Le Moulins Mahjoub and Mustapha’s Moroccan products.

Basic Pie Crust

June 22, 2010

Margaux says

I’ve given a couple pie crust-making lessons to friends in the past, and have also had several requests to do so, so I thought I would write a pie crust-making post.  The term “easy as pie” isn’t all that accurate, in my opinion, unless you’re well practiced at the art of the pie crust.  I’ve been making pie since I was a kid, and I still think it’s tricky.   So if you’re first pie crust doesn’t turn out exactly like you’ve hoped, don’t be discouraged!  It takes practice.

I use a recipe from Joy of Cooking, Deluxe Butter Flaky Pastry Dough.  I almost always use this recipe, unless I’m out of butter…then I make a Crisco crust.  The butter crust has so much more flavor, and goes with anything from fruit pies to custard.  You can also use it as a tart crust. It’s all about the process…you have to be quick, and not work with the dough very much.

Aunt Suzy says

This crust sounds delicious and like something I need to try.  I will ask Margaux to give me a lesson next time I visit her!  I have used the Crisco crust recipe since learning it at my Mom’s side many years ago.  It has always served me well and the only variation I’ve made is to occasionally make it with lard, which makes an even better crust.  I use this approach sparingly because of lack of availability and that it’s not that good for you!   But then I might argue the same for 2 sticks of butter or of Crisco.  Pie crust, however, is good for the soul and what would life be like without pie?!!

Deluxe Butter Flaky Pastry Dough

Makes two 9-inch pie crusts, or two 9 1/2- or 10 inch tart crusts, or one covered pie crust

Using a rubber spatula, thoroughly mix in a large bowl:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon white sugar or 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Working quickly to prevent softening, cut into 1/4-inch pieces:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

Add the butter to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, chop the butter into pea-sized pieces.

Add:

1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening

With a few quick swipes of the pastry blender [or two butter knives], cut the shortening into large chunks and distribute throughout the bowl. Continue to chop until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces. Do not let the mixture soften and begin to clump; it must remain dry and powdery.

Drizzle over the flour and fat mixture:

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water

Cut with the blade side of the rubber spatula until the mixture looks evenly moistened and begins to form small balls. Press down on the dough with the flat side of the spatula. (This is where most people use their hands…I always use a spatula because your hands are hot and the butter will immediately start to melt, which is NOT good.)

If the balls of dough stick together, you have added enough water; if they do not, drizzle over the top:

1 to 2 tablespoons ice water

Cut in the water, then press with your hands until the dough coheres. The dough should look rough, not smooth. Divide the dough in half, press each half into a thick, flat disk, and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably for several hours, or for up to 2 days before rolling. [Don’t skip this step] The dough can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 6 months; thaw completely before rolling.

For single crust pie:

Make half recipe of deluxe butter pastry dough.  Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes.  Roll out dough, then place in 9 inch pie plate, trim edges so there’s about an inch or more overhang.  Tuck overhang under.  Refrigerate another 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400.  Take pie shell out, and crimp edges (or however you want it to look!).  Line with foil, making sure there’s enough overhang to cover the edges, and fill with pie weights (or rice or beans).  Bake for 20 minutes, then take out and carefully remove foil and weights.  Pierce bottom all over with a fork, then place back in oven for 5-10 minutes, until nicely browned.