Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving is Coming!

My most beautiful turkey ever. OK, it looks like this every year. Tastes even better than it looks.
Yep, right around the corner now. Starting to think about that big holiday menu? Not me! I'm going to visit family so I'm not responsible for the bird, etc. this year. That's not to say I don't have recipes for you. Here are links to Thanksgiving posts from years past to give you some ideas:

Thanksgiving 2010: a mix of recipes pulled from various places.
Turkey Brining: how I've done it though I don't always bring mine because the drippings become too salty for gravy.
Turkey Cooking: how to roast that bird.
Icebox Cake: a rather non-tradtional Thanksgiving dessert originally from Fine Cooking.
Masa Cornbread Stuffing: Delicious Southwest-inspired stuffing. Really dressing since you don't stuff the bird with it.
Buttermilk Rolls: impress your guests with homemade rolls.
Apple Sausage Stuffing: two Thanksgiving classics, apples and turkey.

The Turkey Carcass:  Stop! Do not throw out that carcass. Make stock.
Turkey and Corn Chowder: place to use both stock and turkey meat
Turkey and Wild Rice Soup: turkey and wild rice, two American natives.
Turkey Curry: from my other blog, School of Eating Good.

Hope your Thanksgiving meal is filled with many delicious dishes and good company!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Trader Joe's Nut Oil Sale

Nut oils are one of the secret weapons of the great cook. Like high quality extra virgin olive oil, they pack a big punch of flavor in a little package. They make sensational vinaigrettes. They are delicious drizzled on cooked vegetables, grains, or fish. They are delicate so you don't cook with them. You use them to impart a rich nutty flavor. Unfortunately, they are usually quite expensive.

This month, Trader Joe's has a trio of nut oils - hazelnut, walnut, pistachio - on sale for $14.99. I know that sounds expensive but that's a huge bargain. Three 8.45 oz. cans for $15! Jump at this sale. Get to Trader Joe's and snap it up.

Here's the Trader Joe's page on the oils:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Elderflower Cocktail

It's about 0 degrees here and I'm posting summer cocktails. What can I say? We're not intimidated by some cold here in Colorado.  I had tried this cocktail at a party over the summer, and I wanted to give it a try, weather be damned. Traditionally, it's made with St-Germain liqueur. That's some expensive hooch. It's a French liqueur infused with elderflowers, giving it a delicate floral bouquet. I wasn't up to forking over $35 for a bottle, so I settled for the elderflower syrup from IKEA. Significantly cheaper. The Swedes love this stuff. They use it to make an elderflower lemonade (so my Swedish friend Anette tells me). It's much sweeter than the liqueur and it contains no alcohol. Still made for a delicious cocktail, one quite light on alcohol. I've dubbed it the Hummingbird Moth Cocktail. The hummingbird moth, a large moth common in Boulder gardens, is often mistaken for a hummingbird.

The Hummingbird Moth Cocktail
(makes 1)

a few pieces of ice
1 oz. elderflower syrup  (available at IKEA)
2 oz. prosecco or sparkling white wine
2 oz. club soda

Combine everything in a wine glass. Sip and dream of summer breezes. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mussels in Mustard Dill Sauce

At this point, I realized I hadn't taken a picture but I had already eaten a bunch of them.  Let me tell you, it took some restraint to stop and take a picture!

Mussels are my favorite "cheap" seafood. I love all seafood: raw oysters on the half shell, lobster, shrimp, all manner of crab. What do all these delicious things have in common? All pricey! Mussels are not cheap like pinto beans, but compared to the rest, they are an outright bargain. They are so adaptable too. So many sauces work on the flavorful but not fishy tasting mussel. I went to a Belgian restaurant in Montreal a couple of summers ago and they had pages of variations.

If you have a Costco near you, you can get a great price on mussels during their Seafood sales. They have lots of other great things, like giant scallops, crabs, shrimp, and clams at a good price, but they are still hardly cheap. The mussels are the cheapest of them all.

Mussels in Mustard Dill Sauce
(serves 2)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Lamb Shanks Vindaloo

I mentioned this dish to two friends and they both went "Oooohh!" It was certainly delicious. The secret is using a pressure cooker. Lamb shanks take a very long time to cook. They are filled with connective tissue, which is what makes them so rich and delicious. Alas, connective tissue takes quite some time to break down. The pressure cooker to the rescue! Something that would take hours in the oven is done in about an hour. Score one for technology.

Vindaloo is supposed to be hot. Really hot. At ½ teaspoon cayenne, it's mildly spicy. Feel free to increase the cayenne up to 1 ½ teaspoons, if you can handle it.

Lamb Shanks Vindaloo
(serves 4-6)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Applesauce Time!

This box of apples showed up at my house a few days ago, thanks to some generous friends. That's about 20 pounds of apples. When you have a windfall like that, you need to do something on a large scale so I made a lot of applesauce. Homemade "canned" applesauce is easy and delicious. You can make it as sweet as you like - I don't like it very sweet. Canning requires some equipment and some labor but it isn't hard. If you have a decent sized garden, canning skills are almost part of being a gardener. That's why you plant a garden - so you can sock away all that bounty for those dreary days in winter. I'm sure this applesauce will be a ray of sunshine in my winter.

Twelve pints is a lot of apple sauce. My canner will only hold 7 pint jars. You may have to can this in two batches like I did.

Sharon's Applesauce
(makes 12 pints)

12 pounds apples, cored and cut into chunks*
citric acid to prevent browning (also called Fruit Fresh)
4 cups apple juice or apple cider
1 vanilla bean
1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger
1 4" stick of cinnamon
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

As you cut up the apples, place them in a large bowl with water and citric acid (check the Fruit Fresh label instructions on mixing this). Drain well and put the apples, apple juice, vanilla bean, ginger, and cinnamon in a large stockpot. Cook over medium-high heat until it reaches a boil. Stir, and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the apples are falling apart tender, stirring occasionally. How long that is depends on the type of apples you are using. My apples took about 30 minutes to fall apart. Remove from the heat. Remove the lump of ginger and cinnamon; discard. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sauce. Using an immersion (or wand) blender to break up the apples. I like my applesauce chunky. If you want a smoother applesauce, puree in a blender in batches - this will take a while!

Wash 12 wide-mouth pint jars. Fill your canner pot about half full with water. Place the jars in the canner on a rack; it's easier if you fill the jars partially with water before putting them in the canner, because they try to float. Add enough water to cover the jars by 1" of water and bring it to a boil. Wash 12 jar lids and 12 rings, and set aside while you get the water boiling.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, return the applesauce to the stockpot, add the lemon juice, and stir. Reheat over medium-low and maintain it at a simmer until the canner is ready.

Remove the jars and drain. Fill each jar within ½" of the rim. Remove any air bubbles. Put on a lid, screw on the ring, and place in the canner. As soon as the water in the canner returns to a boil, start your timer. At my elevation (nearly 5400 ft.), can for 30 minutes. At sea level, you only need 20 minutes.

Remove the jars to a rack covered with a towel and let cool. After 24 hours, check seals: the jars are sealed correctly if the lids don't flex up and down when pressed.

*You can peel the apples if you like but I don't. The skins on my apples are tender and I hardly notice that the apples weren't peeled, but your apples may have tougher skins.

Adapted from the Ball website, which is a great collection of preserving and canning know-how.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Zucchini and Apple Soup

I used light green zucchini from my garden. If you use standard zucchini, the soup will be a deeper green

Really? Sounds sort of odd together, doesn't it? But, it tastes delicious. Zucchini is not all that exciting on its own. The apple adds just the right amount of sweetness and acidity. It's apple season, why not?

Zucchini and Apple Soup
(serves 4)

1 large apple, peeled, cored & diced
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 large onion, sliced
½ cup cider or apple juice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 cups chicken stock
½ cup light cream
4 Tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat the butter and oil in a soup pot. Add the apples, zucchini, and onion. Cook over medium heat until the onions have softened but do not brown.

Add the cider, nutmeg, and black pepper. You can add a bit of salt here if you are using unsalted stock. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Add the stock, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes.

Puree everything in a blender or with an immersion blender. Add the cream and heat until hot. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve hot.

Adapted from Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier, Storey Publishing, 2001.