Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lavender Lemonade


The first time I had this was at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Durango, Colorado. Adding dried lavender to lemonade turns it a lovely pink color.

Serves 4

4 c. water
1/4 c. dried lavender flowers (get food-grade lavender, here in Albuquerque I buy it in bulk at Vitamin Cottage)
The juice of 4 lemons (about 1 c.)
3/4 c. agave nectar or to taste
1/4 c. lemon slices for serving

Bring water to a boil. Add lavender and let steep for 5 minutes until it turns a deep pink. Strain. Stir in lemon juice and agave nectar. Serve with ice and lemon slices.

I love when it rains here - this is the view from my front door. The rains are even more welcome today because yesterday we saw a wildfire in the mountains a few miles from our house.

I will return in a week with my recipe for a decadent deep dish pizza.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Knife Collection

80% of my time in the kitchen is spent using my knives. I always ogle the knives in kitchenware stores but in reality I have everything I need already. I may splurge anyway on another knife this year. Supposedly the new Japanese knives are thinner and lighter which intrigues me.

Here is my kitchen knife collection. The majority are from an old set of J. A. Henckel's high-carbon stainless Twin Four Star knives which have ultra-smooth polypropylene handles I really love. I'm a strong believer in that there is no perfect knife for every hand but these are what work for me. I gave away my Chinese cleaver because it was just awkward for me to use and I also used to have a Sabatier 100% carbon steel knife (they're considered superior for keeping a sharp edge) but it annoyed me when it turned various foods black. None of my knives have ever been in a dishwasher because I'd worry that they'd lose their edge from bouncing around in there.

From left to right,
1. Henckels Paring knife - DH prefers this for cutting garlic.
2. Henckels Boning knife - This is used the least frequently of all the knives but I do like the curved tip for carving pumpkins.
3. Henckels Small serrated knife - This is what I use for cutting fruit and slicing lemons.
4. Henckels Utility Knife - This is my favorite most-used knife - the blade is 6" and very thin. In fact it is so thin I'm amazed it hasn't broken over the years but I really love it. Apparently I can replace it for around $50 so now I don't have to baby it as much.
5. Can you guess what this curved knife with serrated edges on both sides is? It is a grapefruit knife by Hoffritz and I adore it for cutting the rind off of melons or removing the seeds and pith from a tomato.
6. On America's Test Kitchen they recommended this very inexpensive Forschner Chef's knife (made by Victorinox the Swiss Army knife people) for larger men's hands. DH reports the size is perfect for him and although it is a bit large for my hands, I use it occasionally when I need to cut up large, heavy items like winter squash or watermelons. Neither of us liked the thickness or the weight of the chef's knife that came with the Henckels set so we gave that away.
7. Inox bread knife - This came in a bread baking kit from a girlfriend.
8. The honing steel that came with the Henckels set to realign the very edge of the blade.

Honing is helpful but every now and then I have to actually remove some metal. Here's my Chef's Choice electric knife sharpener . It has a diamond abrasive in the two slots on the left (one slot for either side of the blade) to remove metal and the two slots on the right hone the edge. I try to use this on my knives three or four times a year. I've tried sharpening serrated knives with one of these sharpeners (only on the smooth/flat side of the blade) but it does take off the bottom points of the serrated blade. Fortunately serrated knives stay sharp longer but generally I just replace my bread knife every few years.

My 2" thick huge cutting board. This was quite expensive but it has lasted many years. Once a year DH re-sands it and I use mineral oil to buff it every now and then. We use plastic cutting boards for things that stain (like chipotles in adobo sauce) and for DH's non-vegetarian items.

Paring Knife on Foodista

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Spaghetti with Salsa Cruda

Spaghetti with Salsa Cruda

Whenever I'm lucky enough to have an abundance of fresh tomatoes, I make this simple pasta dish with an uncooked sauce. You can use all red tomatoes or even half yellow tomatoes for this. I think this is one of those dishes that can be served at all temperatures - hot, warm, or cold.

Serves 4

8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti (I'm fond of Whole Foods 365 organic brand)
8 oz red tomatoes, finely diced (about 1 1/4 c.)
8 oz orange tomatoes, finely diced
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. capers
1/4 tsp. sea salt or to taste
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, chopped

Break lengths of spaghetti in half and cook in boiling water for 10-12 minutes or until tender. In a serving bowl, mix tomatoes, oil, garlic, capers, and salt. Add hot drained spaghetti and basil.

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 315 Calories; 11g Fat (30.5% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 48g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 171mg Sodium. Exchanges: 3 Grain(Starch); 1 Vegetable; 2 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

One of my other favorite fresh tomato recipes is this Sara Moulton recipe for tomato and zucchini gratin which I make quite frequently sans cheese.

Here's our CSA loot for the week - look at those beautiful orange tomatoes! I added a lot of items via their electronic shopping cart online - the wonderful paisano bread from Sage Bakehouse, some raw honey from Socorro, Heidi's organic raspberry jam from Corrales (I want to add this to some non-dairy ice cream I'm planning), extra strawberries and baby spinach, and more Valencia peanuts. The other bag contains fresh basil and we received some pie cherries. I'm not sure what I'll do with those.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Casa Rondena Winery Tour

As part of the Lavender in the Village festival last week, Casa Rondena Winery was selling lavender sangria and of course I had to try it. None of us could really taste the lavender in the sangria but it hit the spot on an extremely hot day.

It was truly a beautiful winery and we were lucky to get a tour. Below are the vines and one of the beautiful Moorish-inspired buildings.

This is the grape smoosher machine or whatever the technical term may be (the lavender sangria was working quite well at that point!).

I liked the racks the barrels were on which allowed them to rotate the barrels easily.

Here is the bottling machine. All in all it was a wonderful tour and I highly recommend it if you're in Los Ranchos. I'm still trying to find out where their wine is sold here in the East Mountains because I'd like to try their Sangiovese. The crowds were pretty large by the time we were done with our tour so I couldn't taste it then.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tomato and Olive Tart

Look at those beautiful tomatoes in our CSA box this week! I was planning on making one of my favorite tomato recipes, the tomato and onion tart with a garlic/basil crust from Donna Klein's Vegan Italiano. I highly recommend this wonderful cookbook; I'm sure I've made every pizza in it at least 3 times. Anyway, I was out of a few things in the recipe so I ended up with this adaptation. I prefer using oil in the crust to shortening and fortunately it did not turn out soggy because I drained the tomato slices beforehand.

Tomato and Olive Tart

Serves 4

3 large tomatoes, cored, halved and sliced
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
15 halved black olives
2 Tbsp. minced fresh basil

1 1/4 c. unbleached flour
1/2 c. packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. sea salt
6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 to 5 Tbsp ice water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place sliced tomatoes on several layers of paper towels to drain slightly. Pat the tops with additional paper towels to dry them out.

Place flour, basil, garlic, sea salt and olive oil in food processor and process until basil is minced and mixed throughout the crumbs. With processor running, add water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, until mixture just comes together. Pat dough out into a 10" tart or springform pan. Prick dough with a fork and bake for 12 minutes.

Remove dough from oven and take tomatoes off of paper towels. Brush 1 Tbsp. of olive oil onto top of dough. Place tomato slices in concentric circles around dough. Arrange olives on top of tomatoes and brush with additional Tbsp. of olive oil. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until crust becomes golden brown. Remove side of pan and let rest for about 10 minutes on a wire rack. Top with fresh basil and slice. This tart can be served hot or at room temperature.

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 392 Calories; 27g Fat (61.3% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 245mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 Grain(Starch); 1 Vegetable; 5 1/2 Fat.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Shredded Collard Greens with Chipotle and Garlic

My collard green plants are my greatest garden success. I put them in the cold frame last October thinking they'd be long gone by now. I've picked off blossoms a few times and they are still going strong in our sun and heat.

Shredded Collard Greens with Chipotle and Garlic

I like the different texture you get from shredding the collards and cooking them for a shorter period of time. Chipotles in adobo sauce vary greatly in size and even sometimes vary in heat so start with the smaller amount and add more if you like.

Serves 4

1 1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 whole chipotle in adobo sauce, minced (1-2 Tbsp.)
8 oz collard greens, stems removed and thinly sliced (about 4 c. shredded)
pinch sea salt or to taste

Saute the garlic in the oil over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until just starting to become golden. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Continue to cook for another 4 minutes or until collards are a dark green.

By the way, the prop chile in the photo is a smoked jalapeno but it is not a chipotle. It is called a morita chile and they smell slightly spicier than chipotles. I've lived here 11 years and I'm still navigating the confusing world of chile peppers with all their different names and spellings. I will do a blog post on the subject soon.

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 65 Calories; 5g Fat (67.3% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; trace Cholesterol; 34mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1 Fat.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Food of a Younger Land

I'm currently reading (on my Kindle) Mark Kurlansky's The Food of a Younger Land which includes the results of the WPA's Federal Writer's Project on how America ate during the Depression. I wish there was more info about New Mexico but there is one essay about La Merienda (a late afternoon snack in the field) and it discusses the foods eaten. This particular passage really intrigued me: "... and for dessert there is pumpkin pie, still warm - not the pumpkin pie that is known elsewhere in America, but a flat pastry with a line of sweet pumpkin showing between two contrastingly thick crusts and know as pastel de raymta (line pie). This is in humorous allusion to the thin strip of filling showing between the two crusts." I've never heard of pastel de raymta but if you also find regional food history fascinating then check out this book.

I added a lot of stuff to this week's CSA box - more organic, fair trade, locally roasted coffee (called Farmy Fuel), some NM Valencia peanuts and peanut butter, extra strawberries, and some sourdough bread from Sage Bakehouse. In the center are our first tomatoes of the year - next week I'm thrilled we're getting two pounds and I'll post links to some of my favorite tomato recipes. We haven't cooked much this week and we've been busy so it is amazing to see how little of the box is actually left 4 days later.

We're now getting peas regularly from our garden. The poor zucchini plants were raided twice by ground squirrels - they managed to get in the cold frame under the screen and ate both leaves and blossoms . I think we've finally figured out how to keep them out and the plants are recovering.

These are a variation on the cherry muffins in Vegan with a Vengeance. I made them and the oatmeal-raisin cookies for DH to take on a Colorado high country backpacking trip last weekend. He says they were well-received by his fellow hikers.

Green Garbanzo, Radish, and Chayote Salad

The first time I bought green garbanzo beans at Pro’s Ranch Market in Albuquerque, I looked online for information and found out they’re mixed with chile and lime in Mexico and called guisana. Because chayote and radishes are also commonly mixed with chile and lime I decided to put them all together in a salad and the results were wonderful. You can substitute frozen shelled edamame if you can’t find green garbanzo beans. Other vegetables that would work well with this dressing include jicama, summer squash, and cauliflower.

Green Garbanzo, Radish, and Chayote Salad

Serves 6

½ c. shelled green garbanzo beans
1 chayote, peeled, seeded, sliced into quarters lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced

Chile Garlic Dressing:

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1 ½ tsp. red chile powder (not chili powder), such as Chimayo
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp. salt or to taste

In a small saucepan, cover green garbanzo beans with water and simmer over medium heat for five minutes. Drain well.

In a serving bowl mix chayote, radishes, and green garbanzo beans. In a small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Pour over vegetables and mix well. This dish can be made in advance and chilled several hours before serving as the chayote and radishes will not wilt.

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 111 Calories; 6g Fat (43.5% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 94mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Spring Rolls for Summer

I love making spring rolls when the weather heats up. I tend to use whatever I have at the moment for a filling but I always include mint, cilantro, some sort of lettuce, and thin rice noodles.

Below are the three types of rice paper wrappers I have - the extra thin, some really cute tiny wrappers, and the type I usually use. The tiny wrappers are possibly more trouble than they are worth. I found I prefer the thin wrappers although I think it is more difficult to roll them up in an eye-pleasing manner.

I like to make my spring rolls as colorful as possible. For these I used julienned scallions, carrots, red chard stems, red leaf lettuce, tatsoi, cilantro and mint.

I use a very simple dipping sauce I saw Ming Tsai do once - equal parts balsamic vinegar and low-sodium soy sauce with some minced scallions or shallots.

We received a special CSA box this week with a Fourth of July theme. If I find some time, I will make shortcake to use up those lovely white nectarines and berries. I use the Fluffy White Cupcake batter from Vegan Lunch Box and I have a special muffin top pan that works well for shortcake.
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