Sunday, April 22, 2012

Food swap: Some yogurt for your jam? Please

Wednesday, I went to my third food swap. I'm not sure why I haven't written about the swaps before. Each one has been great.

If you've never been to a food swap, it's really worth checking out. From Scratch Club hosts two swaps each month. I've been going to the one in Saratoga Springs. They also hold one in Troy, and will be starting a Schenectady location.

In a nutshell, you bring your homemade goods and leave with something else homemade. So, if you are an awesome baker, but can't imagine making yogurt or canning jam, bring your cookies and trade for yogurt or jam. Or, maybe some soup. Or, maybe even a homemade body care product.

For this past swap, I brought one bottle of coffee-vanilla liqueur, three jars of green tomato relish and a jar of yogurt (my process to come in a future post).

I left with a loaf of cranberry-nut bread, which was quickly devoured by hubby and me before bed; a jar of raspberries in light syrup (enjoyed on yogurt with granola - yes!); a jar of sungold tomato jam (with a perfect amount of spiciness - that jar's not lasting long), a jar of healing salve and a body scrub.

Mamatoga's coconut oil and turbinado sugar scrub
Sungold tomato jam from Erika or
After past swaps, I've come home with paneer, home-brewed beer, bread, fudge, jam, and several other things. Not one thing has been a disappointment.

So, seriously, check it out. When you come, keep in mind I'm a sucker for healthy muffins and breads, so bring some for me next time, would ya?

To learn more about how the food swap works, check out From Scratch Club's page about Food Swaps.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Coriander? (and a recipe for Quinoa Pine Nut Pilaf)

Last summer, I let me cilantro go to seed. (unintentionally, of course)

Trying to make the best of the situation, I decided to let the seeds dry out on the back porch. Only, they hung there, neglected, from summer into fall, and then all winter long.

Spring came and I finally decided to pluck the seeds from the dried plant.

About two weeks later, those seeds, are still waiting in that tiny clay pot. Waiting to be crushed up and become part of something -- quinoa pilaf perhaps, or maybe a chickpea and spinach dish. The seeds are barely enough to season one dish -- if any at all.

Honestly, I'm a little afraid. What do you think, will they taste good, like I would expect coriander to taste? Or, will they ruin the meal?

Either way, this recipe for the pilaf is worth sharing.

Quinoa Pine Nut Pilaf
from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites

1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 bell pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander - if you have seeds, work those muscles with your mortar and pestle, or if you're a whimp (you don't have to tell anyone) use a coffee grinder reserved for spices 
1 cup qunioa, rinsed
1 2/3 cup water
1/2 cup chopped, fresh basil (or some dried, if it's the wrong season)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

In a saucepan, saute the onions and garlic in oil for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the bell peppers, cumin and coriander, and continue sauteing for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rinsed quinoa and the water to the saucepan, cover tightly, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Stir in the basil and corn, and cook 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until the quinoa is tender.
Stir the pilaf to fluff it, add salt and perpper to taste, and serve topped with the toasted pine nuts.

*For a vegetarian meal, serve with roasted vegetables. Or, since we're omnivores in our house, we have enjoyed the pilaf with a roasted chicken.

This week ...

... we fingerpainted with friends;

we enjoyed the season's first spring vegetables combined with some of the last of the fall's roots;

we took cooking class;

 and finished the week with the sunshine smiling on us for a spring celebration.

photo by Sara Pearsall*

And, I have no idea how I managed all this, while battling the first cold I've had in about a year.

* Thanks to my friend Sara, who forgot her camera, for picking up mine and taking a bunch of awesome pictures.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cooking something new: Salsify!

Doesn't that look gnarly? If I dug that up in my backyard, I definitely wouldn't think to eat it. Lucky for me, I found it through other means.

Salsify! It sounds more like a verb than a vegetable. It sounds to me like the act of dancing the salsa. Salsify! In fact, I can't even seem to write it without an exclamation point.

I was scanning the seed catalog and few weeks ago and saw this root described as tasting a bit like artichoke, but looking nothing like one of my favorite foods. I was very intrigue. But, I haven't expanded my garden enough to grow all the vegetables I know I want, so I wasn't going to try growing something no one has ever heard of. Besides hubby doesn't even like artichokes.

Jump forward a few weeks ... Lo, and behold, KFF has been growing the stuff. So, what was the first vegetable I picked up at the farmers market on Saturday? You guessed it.

Nah, I didn't think it was necessary to tell hubby it's supposed to taste like artichokes. Let him decide that on his own.

I chose a cheesy recipe that I thought might win over both my boys. Here's the recipe I started with: Rich and Creamy Salsify Gratin. But, as I get older, I become less inclined to follow directions. So, here's what I did.

I started off doing what they told me to. I peeled the salsify and kept it in cold water to prevent it from turning brown.

Then, I sliced it with my mandolin into 1/4-inch, or thinner, slices. As I worked, I kept the salsify in the cold water as much as possible.

Do keep it in the water. I noticed that as I was slicing it was turning brown.

(Here's the one slightly unpleasant thing about this vegetable. As I was peeling it, some funky, brown stuff came off onto my hands. It reminded my of pulling certain weeds that leave unpleasant junk on my hands, if I start pulling without gloves. This is not something that would stop me from prepare salsify in the future, but I thought I'd mention it.)

Once everything was peeled and sliced, I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan, then mixed in a tablespoon of flour to make a roux. Then, added about 1 1/2 cups of whole milk, plus salt, black pepper and a bit of freshly ground nutmeg.

As the milk started to thicken, I stirred in my salsify and let it cook until it was tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

That got transferred to a casserole dish with some cheese sprinkled on top. I used a bit less than a 1/2 cup of a mixture of Gruyère and Monterrey Jack. The casserole went in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, then under the broiler for 5 minutes to slightly brown the cheese.

In the excitement to eat dinner, I forgot to take a picture of the finished dish. But, you can imagine it looked very much like cheesy scalloped potatoes would look coming out of the oven. 

The results: YUM! 
Well, those in my house who like artichokes thought it was delicious. Hubby turned up his nose a bit, and then wasn't pleased with me once I shared the description. He wasn't fooled.

It did taste quite like artichokes. 

So, as long as you like artichokes, give SALSIFY! a try. (And, just try to say that word without an exclamation.)

Cheesy salsify! gratin
1 to 1 1/2 pounds salsify, peeled and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup (or less) Gruyère cheese
1/4 cup (or less) Monterrey Jack cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Start by getting a bowl of cold water handy. Peel salsify and place in cold water as you work to prevent browning. Thinly slice roots into about 1/4-inch pieces, continuing to keep any of the root you're not working with in the water.
In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter, then stir in flour. Add milk to make a roux. Once the milk begins to thicken, add salsify, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer until salsify is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Transfer to casserole dish and bake 15 to 20 minutes. Then, move under the broiler for about 5 minutes to lightly brown the cheese. Serves 4.