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Monday, January 25, 2010

Crunchy Granola

I am not a big fan of commercial granola. I find it way too sweet, like so many other breakfast cereals. I have started making my own, using a basic recipe from Mark Bittman. I've made a few minor modifications to his recipe and offer some tasty combinations. This is also an economical recipe. Bulk rolled oats are very cheap and they are the basis of this recipe. It's a good way to use up odds and ends of nuts and dried fruit too.

Crunchy Granola
(makes about 8 cups, 16 servings)

6 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)
2 cups chopped nuts and/or seeds
1 cup dried unsweetened grated coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup (imitation maple syrup is fine)
dash of salt
1 cup raisins, craisins or chopped dried fruit
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine oats, nuts, coconut, cinnamon, sweetener and salt in a large heatproof bowl. If using honey, it's going to be clumpy, but don't worry about that.
3. Dump onto a large rimmed cookie sheet. Don't clean out of the bowl; you'll be using it again.
4. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring it every 10 minutes so that it browns evenly. Keep an eye on it near the end of baking so that it doesn't burn.
5. Transfer the cooked, hot granola from the cookie sheet back to the bowl. Drizzle on the vanilla (boy, does that smell good!) and mix in the dried fruit. Allow to cool and store in a cool, dry place.

Some tasty combinations:

2 cups chopped pecans, imitation maple syrup, and chopped dried apricots or pears

2 cups chopped or sliced almonds, honey, and raisins

2 cups peeled chopped hazelnuts, imitation maple syrup, and chopped dried apricots or peaches

2 cups chopped walnuts, honey, and craisins

Link to PDF of Crunchy Granola Recipe

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Different Take on Split Pea Soup

I love split pea soup. Traditionally, split pea soup is split peas, vegetables such as carrots, onions and potatoes, and maybe a ham bone. That's all good, but it is pretty basic.

This week, I made a split pea soup from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, one of the many Moosewood cookbooks. Moosewood is a vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, New York that has been around a very long time. It was in Ithaca when I went to college in upstate NY and that was quite a while ago. It's still there; I drove by when I was in Ithaca last October. If my daughter decides to go to school in upstate NY, I might actually eat there. I wasn't much interested in vegetarian food when I was in college, so I never ate there way back then.

This recipe is different because it draws on the delectable spices of North Africa. The spices and the onions bring out the sweetness in the peas. It is a warming bowl of soup.

Split Pea and Rice Soup
(serves 6)

1 1/2 cups dried split peas
4 1/2 cups water
3 bay leaves
1 large onion (about 3 cups), chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup cooked brown rice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Rinse split peas. Put them in a soup pot with water and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.
2. In a large skillet, heat olive over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook until golden, but do not brown. Add spices and cook for another 10 minutes. Watch carefully so that spices don't burn.
3. Add the onion mixture to the peas along with stock. Simmer, covered, for another 30 minutes or until peas are very soft.
4. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes until hot.

Link to PDF of Split Pea and Rice Soup Recipe

Friday, January 8, 2010

Grapefruit, Ginger and Star Anise

Happy New Year to everyone! It's been a while since my last post. I was soaking up the relative heat in San Diego over the holidays and the return to chilly Colorado has slowed me down. I think I'm back into the swing of things now.

The first recipe of the new year is very sunny. Grapefruit is a sunny fruit, don't you think? And it, along with its citrus cousins, is in season in the North American winter when many other fruits in the market are coming from far south or out of storage.

Star anise tastes similar to aniseed but it's not quite as powerful or licorice-y. It's available at Asian markets or in the Asian section of your local supermarket.

This recipe originally came from Gourmet. I reduced the sugar slightly. Feel free to adjust it to your taste. The original called for 1 cup of sugar instead of 2/3 cup. I usually make this with red grapefruit because that is what the excellent service organization Amigos de las Americas sells as a fundraiser. I'm sure it would look lovely with both white and red. The ginger and star anise give it an Asian twist, though the flavor is universally appealing. I have served this a number of times at brunch and it is a big hit. The trickiest part is sectioning the grapefruits. If you have never done this, I suggest you check out this video from Taste of Home: How-to on Sectioning Citrus

Grapefruit, Ginger and Star Anise Compote
(serves 6)

1 cup water
2/3 - 1 cup sugar
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger
6 whole star anise pods
1/2 tablespoon grated grapefruit peel
3 red grapefruits, sectioned
3 white grapefruits, sectioned

Bring water, sugar, ginger, and star anise to boil in medium saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until mixture begins to thicken, about 10 minutes. Stir in grapefruit peel. Reduce heat to low and simmer syrup 30 minutes.

Place all grapefruit sections in large bowl. Using slotted spoon, remove ginger from syrup and discard. Pour hot syrup with star anise over grapefruit; let stand at room temperature 1 hour, stirring occasionally. (Can be made 4 hours ahead; cover and chill.) Divide fruit and syrup among 6 small bowls; discard star anise. Serve compote chilled or at room temperature.

Link to PDF of Recipe for Grapefruit, Ginger and Star Anise Compote