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Valentine’s Day Meringues 0

Posted on February 12, 2011 by crankycheryl

They’re pink, they’re sweet, they’re simple and light as air, and they’re my entry for the City Market We Love Local Food Dessert Recipe Challenge.

City Market is acceptng entries until 2/20 and you should feel free to go ahead and enter, but don’t make anything better than this because I want to win the year of maple syrup, okay?

A couple of notes in advance:

  • Make sure you’ve got parchment or silpat sheets ready ahead of time.  You really need the easy-release feature for meringues.
  • Have a roasted beet around and this will come together very quickly.
  • For the purposes of striving for an extra-beautiful picture, I decided I was going to try to make really beautiful meringues and went to the trouble of loading up my pastry decorator-tube thing and attempted to pipe out shapes.  I didn’t get better results than I do just using a spoon, but you should give it a try if you want.

Naturally Pink Meringues
About 30 meringues

1.  Preheat oven to 250.

2.  Have ready:

  • 1 medium roasted beet, pureed until exceedingly smooth with 2 T. maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup

3.  Beat until they stand in firm peaks:

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/8 t. cream of tartar
  • tiny pinch sea salt
  • (optional: 1 t. vanilla or rosewater)

 

4.  With the beater still going, add in:

  • 2 T. beet puree, one tablespoon at a time
  • maple syrup, in three slow pours

Beat well until well incorporated and a lovely shade of pink.

5.  Drop by heaping tablespoons on parchment-covered baking sheets.  Place in oven and turn heat down to 225.  Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, then turn off heat and leave in oven for several hours (I always leave them in over night).

Gently remove and store in a covered container for up to 2-3 weeks.

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Vermont Winter Souffle 0

Posted on February 08, 2011 by crankycheryl

One of these days I’m going to rename this blog, “Eat Butternut Squash or Die, Mofo!

And in preparation for that, here’s a truly fabulous, gluten-free, vegetarian use for the ubiquitous winter workhorse itself.  It’s adapted from Barbara Kafka’s absolutely fantastic Vegetable Love, a gem for anyone who eats vegetables, and a must if you’re a CSA member.   I hadn’t set out to make a dinner out of squash, but I came across the book just after roasting one, and it all sort of came together in a beautiful way.

I was interested to read this:

“There has been a rebellion in recent years in France against the rise of flour.  [!]  I don’t agree, but when it comes to vegetable souffles, the taste of the vegetable is often more pronounced without the use of flour.”

A few more pages of flipping landed me on Kafka’s brilliant combination of rhubarb and beets, and since I had those on hand too, that became the side dish.

Very Vermont Squash & Cheddar Souffle

Adapted from Barbara Kafka’s Vegetable Puree Souffle
About 4 dinner servings

1.  Preheat oven to 400 with a rack in the center position.

2.  Generously butter a 6- or 8-cup souffle dish (or any 6-8 cup round, straight-sided oven-proof dish).  Lightly coat with:

  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese (I was out and so used potato flakes.  The reason for this ingredient is to give the souffle something to climb as it puffs up, so the coarser texture was a good substitute.)

3.  Separate:

  • 4 eggs

(cheese grater, yes; souffle eater, no)

with whites in medium bowl.  Set aside.

 

4.  Whisk together:

  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 1/2 c. butternut (or other) squash puree
  • egg yolks, one at a time
  • 1 c. grated cheddar cheese (I used Cabot’s 50% fat, my standby)
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
  • sprinkle ground ginger
  • sprinkle cayenne

 

5.  Using your handheld blender or stand mixer or whatever you like for such things, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.

6.  Using a rubber spatula, take a generous scoop of the whites and fold them into the cheese mixture with gentle, sure strokes until it’s mostly combined.

Fold in the remaining whites until fairly well-combined, remembering to keep a fairly gentle touch and not pushing out the air in the egg whites.

7.  Scrape the mixture into your prepared dish and put on a baking sheet in the oven (if you use an 8-cup dish you can skip the baking sheet as it oughtn’t spill over the sides).  Bake for 25 minutes or until, as Kafka describes, the souffle is, “puffed, golden brown and only slightly wiggly in the center.”

Since souffles are notorious for deflating, I snapped this picture right away, before I jostled it on its way out of the oven.

And then it was still nice and puffy and so I took another picture.

Still puffy!  I was so excited I took another.

STILL PUFFY!  But, okay, enough was enough.  So then I put away the camera, cut into it and ate.  Serve immediately, or at room temperature, or even cold for an easy leftover lunch the next day.

A couple of notes:

  • It had been a while since I’d made a souffle, and was a little sad to discover I had lost my proper souffle dish somewhere along the way.  I used an 8-cup Pyrex round baking dish and it worked just fine.
  • One advance step that I always try to do, and usually forget, is taking out the eggs about half an hour before I intend to start cooking so that they can come to room temperature.  This makes a difference when you’re trying to get the whites beaten until fluffy, but don’t worry too much if you skip it.
  • Though I usually make souffles quite firm, Kafka offers this, “… the French prefer their souffles baveuse, creamy in the middle.  This semi-liquid center serves almost as a sauce.”  I did, and the contrast was nice … if initially a little alarming.

 

Warm Rhubarb & Beet Salad
Adapted from Barbara Kafka’s Vegetable Love
About 4 servings

Combine in a medium saucepan:

  • 5 roasted beets, peeled
  • 2 c. chopped rhubarb stalk (I had it in the freezer: maybe you’ve got some too)
  • 1/2 c. cider
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • (I had this on hand, which I used instead of the cider and balsamic)
  • generous sprinkle kosher salt

Cook over medium-low heat until rhubarb starts to break down and liquids are reduced to syrup.

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Vietnamese Stuffed Grape Leaves 2

Posted on January 29, 2011 by crankycheryl

I was invited to a dumpling party, and though I knew there was little chance that I’d remain purely carb-free, I also wanted to bring something to share that matches the way I’m eating.

Vietnamese-style stuffed grape leaves are a bit of flavored ground meat wrapped inside the leaves.  At Five Spice we used to serve these with peanut sauce, though some folks prefer the sweeter-type dips.  (Between you and me: they’re wrong and you should do it my way.)  I had posted about these back in 2009, but love these enough to want to revisit.

Food in the freezer and pantry feels like money in the bank, and this little treat was a lovely way to spend some of it.   I  didn’t have the fresh cilantro leaves I wanted.  A quick visit to the basement yielded a cube of basil-garlic puree, a pound of ground grass-fed beef, and a packet of grape leaves.  Those plus some fish sauce and a handful of fresh spinach leaves turned quickly into the filling, and before I knew it I had them made.

Vietnamese Stuffed Grape Leaves
Makes about 40

1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

2.  Place in a food processor:

  • 1 lb. ground grass-fed beef
  • 1-2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 T. chopped fresh basil or cilantro leaves or a combination
  • 1 T. Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1/2 c. very clean and coarsely chopped fresh spinach leaves

Process for about 30 seconds, until very well combined.

3.  Get your grape leaves.  It’s okay to use them from a jar if you weren’t out madly picking and freezing weeds last summer.  If you do use the ones in brine, rinse them a bit, then blot off the water.  To form the wraps:

Place a leaf in front of you, stem-end down, and put a spoonful of filling in the center.

These get formed differently than the Greek ones usually are.  What you want to end up with is a squat little square, rather than a cylinder.  To get this, fold over each of the four sides over the filling and then place it on the baking sheet.

 

Keep at least an inch in between them: you need enough air circulation so that they’ll get a little crispy instead of steaming.

4.  Bake for 20 minutes, until black-green and sizzling a bit,  then serve with peanut sauce, or even just on their own.

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Fabulous Frittata 2

Posted on January 18, 2011 by crankycheryl

In keeping with my 2011 eating plan that focuses solely on protein, fruit and vegetables, I made this for brunch the other day.

I find myself with an anti-carb instinct that causes me to look sort of mistrustfully at potatoes.  But then I reconsidered.  Why not potatoes? I thought.  They’re organic or close to it, and lived their little tuberous lives just a mile from here, down in Burlington’s Intervale. Plus, knowing myself, I realized that if I started putting things on the yes-it’s-a-vegetable-but-I’m-not-allowed-to-have-it list, I’d probably soon follow up with a yes-it’s-junk-food-but-here’s-how-I’ll-justify-it list.

So here this was.  And it was very simple and pretty great.

Fabulous Frittata
Serves 4

1.  Heat in a pan:

  • 2 T. butter and 1 T. high-heat oil (light olive, rice oil, or something else made to take the heat)

2.  Turn the heat to medium and add to the pan:

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 potatoes, scrubbed, peels on, thinly sliced

Cook without turning until golden on bottom side, then flip and spread into an even layer.

3.  Add to pan:

  • About 3 cups well-washed spinach, leaves coarsely chopped if large

Put the lid on the pan and cook for a minute or two to wilt the spinach.  Then sprinkle over the top:

  • 1/4 c. chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil (incidentally, this was the only non-local ingredient)

4.  Pour over the top:

  • 6 large eggs

Cook until bottom starts to set.

5.  Cover the top with:

  • 4 oz. grated cheddar or other cheese.

Put the lid on and cook over medium until thoroughly set and cheese is melted.  Let stand off the heat for a few minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.

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Apricot-Cardamom Meringues 1

Posted on January 08, 2011 by crankycheryl

I’ve once again lost my camera, dangit.  So though I can’t provide any halfway-decent pictures, I still want to share a recipe that’s well-suited to January’s good intentions.

It came about  as a result of frustration with the weight I can’t seem to stop gaining, magnified by a radio piece on obesity in Vermont.  What a terrible realization to confront the fact that I’m on the wrong side of the statistics.  And this has for whatever reason troubled me enough that I’m ready to make real changes.  As of January 1, I’m only eating protein, fruit, and vegetables (i.e., dairy, meat, fish, beans, seeds, nuts, any fruit or vegetable or tuber, but no grains).  It’s an approach that works for me because it’s drastic enough that I have to pay attention, but still very, very simple.  There’s not much wiggle room, and that’s just what I need.

It also means that I’m eating whole foods, very close to their natural state.  I feel good and I’m eating well.  Of course I still want a treat or two, and here’s something I was able to make with what I had around.  I suspect it wouldn’t taste great to folks who are used to processed sugar, but for me after a week of going without, they tasted pretty darn swell.

The next time I make these, I plan to try pureed sweet potato (an idea from my friend Layla), and I also have some designs on unsweetened dried blueberries.  The proverbial possibilities are endless – and are likely to give good results with a couple of tips:

  • There’s very little effort, but the recipe does take a long time in both the soaking and the cooling down so be sure to plan for it.
  • Prepare ahead by soaking dried fruit in warm water overnight, or by roasting and pureeing sweet potatoes or beets or whatever you might be inclined to try.  You want the fruit-type ingredient to be fairly concentrated, and pureed until very smooth.
  • Because of the science of how proteins set and toughen, ones made without any added sugar will be tougher than those that do contain it, so you can make your own choice based on your needs.

And please do let me know how your efforts go if you do go ahead and give them a try.

Apricot-Cardamom Meringues
Makes about 24

  1. Preheat oven to 225.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Puree in a blender or with an immersion blender with just enough of the soaking liquid to get a good paste:
  • About 1 1/2 c. soaked and tender dried apricots, soaked until soft.
  • 1 pinch cardamom

You should end up with about 1 cup of puree.

3.  Whip until very firm and standing in peaks:

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/8 t. cream of tartar

4.  Beat in the fruit puree about 2 T. at a time until thoroughly incorporated.

5.  Drop by heaping tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets and bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until firm.  Turn oven off and let cool completely, then remove and enjoy.  They’ll last a good long time if they’re kept in a closed container at room temperature, but shouldn’t be refrigerated or frozen.

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Thank You Cookies 0

Posted on December 17, 2010 by crankycheryl

These are the cookies we make to give our letter carrier, garbagemen, firefighters and our other year-round helpers.   And when Z.’s teacher asked his class to bring in something from a family holiday tradition, these were the first thing that came to mind.

They are chewy and fudgy, somewhere between brownies and cookies, delicious and chocolate-y and very addictive, which is why I only make them once a year.   (Though, full disclosure: 5-year old “Stewie” in Zander’s class didn’t like them because he doesn’t like fruit with his chocolate.)

Whatever, kid.

Herrick Family Thank You Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food Black Forest Cookies

Makes 36

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners and set aside.

2.   In a medium bowl, whisk together:

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
3.  Place in a large glass or otherwise heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water and stir until melted and smooth:
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

4.  Remove from heat, then whisk in separately and thoroughly:
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 2 large eggs
Whisk until smooth.
5.   Whisk in flour mixture just until combined. Fold in:
  • 1 package (about 12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries or tart cherries
Cover well and refrigerate until firm, 30 to 45 minutes.
6.   Drop mounds of dough (equal to 2 level tablespoons) about 2 inches apart onto prepared sheets. Bake just until edges are firm, 11 to 13 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Snow Day Popcorn for Grownups 0

Posted on December 11, 2010 by crankycheryl

Ever since Danielle and I were kids playing in the snow tunnels outside her apartment building, snow days have meant popcorn and hot chocolate.   It’s a tradition I’ve been happy to continue with E. & Z., who have come to expect it as a birthright if they have even the briefest contact with cold and snow.

“Mommy, I walked from the car to the house.  I’m ready for my popcorn and hot chocolate now.”

This week, it must be said, they earned their winter warm-up.  They spent hours outside on those two inches of snow, sledding and flopping around and rolling up and down hills.  And when I made the popcorn, I put a couple of cups aside for a spicy and satisfying winter snack for the grownups too.


Maybe you know that pepitas pop and toast beautifully and they make a great combination with the corn, adding a little nutty flavored protein to the mix.  Next time, I’ll probably throw in some dried blueberries or cherries and call it a meal.

I used this particular mix of spices because of the rustic, coarse texture and mild heat of Aleppo pepper, plus the smokiness of smoked paprika.  You can approximate this with sweet paprika, ground chipotle powder, and a sprinkle of crushed pepper flakes if that’s what you’ve got around.

Spicy Popcorn & Pepitas

1.  In a large skillet, war over medium heat just until fragrant:

  • 2 T. butter or olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves chopped garlic

2.  Add and stir:

  • 1/4 c. pumpkin seeds (pepitas).   You can use the green ones that have had the hulls removed, or the ones you’ve scooped out of your own pumpkin or squash.  If you choose the latter, just dry and toast them first.’
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 (or to taste) Aleppo pepper

Cook for 2-3 minutes, then stir and repeat to coat and toast the seeds.

3.  Add:

  • 2-3 cups popped popcorn.

Stir well and serve.

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Guilty Tamale Pie 1

Posted on December 03, 2010 by crankycheryl

So I really meant to tell you about my Thanksgiving prep, CrankyReaders.

There were the turkeys that the fabulous Paula slaughtered (humanely) on the Sunday before, and there was my quest to find someone who would rotisserie a turkey for us.   But there were articles and deadlines and work and I had to go teach 6th graders about death at church and 2nd graders about seeds at the boys’ school.  And then I was tired.

Plus I got a cold.

But what kind of food blogger doesn’t write about food at Thanksgiving?  Like the brine I was planning.  The pies.  How it was a mixed sort of bag that the boys would be with their dad.

So then there was guilt, and then it was Thanksgiving itself.  Sara had wanted to roast a turkey so she’d have the house smelling like it should, and I was still stuck with the rotisserie obsession.  We had a very pleasant stand-off that resulted in two birds – 43 pounds – for eight of us.

There were more leftovers than usual, which around here wasn’t a problem.   And though I don’t feel like it’s necessary to transform leftovers into something unrecognizable, I liked the sound of a Thanksgiving tamale I had heard about on the radio the day before, involving sage in the dough and a turkey filling.  But I just didn’t feel like rolling all those tamales, and so I turned it into a couple of tamale casseroles that were so very delicious.  I doubled it and made one vegetarian with sweet potato in the dough and a filling of shredded cheese, and one with plain masa and sweet potato and turkey filling.   But you should – as always – use what you’ve got.

Tamale Pie

1.  Combine in a large bowl and beat with a handheld mixer until very light and fluffy:

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 2 cups lukewarm broth (or salted water if you’re caught without)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening, or lard if you like
  • (I added 1 c. mashed sweet potatoes to the vegetarian ones)

Combine masa, broth, baking powder, salt, and oil in a large bowl, Mix together until dough has the consistency of soft paste. Cover & let rest for at least 15 minutes at room temperature so the dough can thoroughly absorb the moist ingredients.

2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Press half of the tamale dough into the bottom of an 8 x 8 casserole dish. Press the mixture evenly on the bottom and up the sides.

3.  Spread your choice of fillings evenly across.

  • 1 1/2 c. – 2 c. finely chopped turkey, chicken or other meat
  • 1 1/2 c. cooked and drained vegetables
  • 2 c. shredded cheese
  • 1 c. chopped green chiles

The top layer of masa is hard to get on too neatly.  The best method was to use both hands to create sort of patties to place side by side on the top.

4.   Put an inch or so of hot water in a baking pan that will accommodate the casserole,  Place, covered, in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the masa is soft but set.  Remove from oven, let sit for five minutes and serve.

And now: back to work.

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Socca 2

Posted on November 15, 2010 by crankycheryl

The purity of these little breads makes me realize how very impure and inconsistent my food life really is.  Does everyone vacillate between Fluff & shortening-frosted cupcakes and vegan, gluten-free, organic goodness?

Maude was so very right in the movie when she said, “Consistency is not really a human trait.”

I think I’m quite human.

Be this as it may, I do continue to try the Bittman-esque vegan-&-unprocessed before 6:00 p.m. approach.  And this simple, vegan little pancake is just the ticket for a hearty and healthy lunch when I’m home.  It’s a specialty of southern France, a sort of chickpea crepe that’s nutty and hearty and just lovely.  According to St. David Leibovitz, they’re not really to be made at home … though he does recommend this recipe.

And here’s my own take on it.

Socca
About 4
pieces

1.  Whisk together very thoroughly:

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Let stand for at least one hour.

2.  Place a large, heavy skillet in the oven and preheat oven to 450.  Once hot, carefully pour into pan:

  • 1 T. olive oil

3.  Pour 1/2 of the batter into the pan and sprinkle with:

  • 2 T. spicy pumpkin seeds (optional)

Bake 12 – 15 minutes, or until set, then flip and broil for 2-3 minutes.  Serve immediately – as is, or topped with vegetables, cheese or whatever you like.  In season, it’s lovely with a meltingly ripe tomato and a handful of mesclun.

Repeat with the remaining batter, but keep an eye on that first pancake as anyone who’s around is likely to try to make off with it.

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The Tagine Less Traveled 1

Posted on November 10, 2010 by crankycheryl

I’m so excited that tomorrow is ECHO’s Food Less Traveled event.  And in celebration of this contest that will be judged not only on taste, presentation and overall experience but also the “food miles” that ingredients have traveled, I offer this fabulous recipe for the aromatic Moroccan stew.  The starring ingredients were from my BFF-ish food sources: beef from Applecheek Farm, a stubbornly alive cardoon plant from Red Wagon Plants, and garlic, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and potatoes from the Intervale.  The lemons, olives, olive oil, ginger and spices made this a lovely celebration of sultry Mediterranean flavors to spice up that good and local stuff.

Of course this would never be able to win a localvore contest, with so much food from afar on the ingredient list.  But it was a pretty darned delightful dinner for these delightful friends:

Plus it was a chance to get to the bottom of the age-old question, “What the heck is a cardoon?,” which is a question you yourself might want to answer if you like that anise-y flavor that artichokes have, or are interested in good, new easy-to-grow things.

Tagine with Beef, Potato & Cardoons
6 servings

1.  Clean 1 or 2 large bunches of cardoon, using these instructions.  Keep in lemon juice until ready to use, marveling at how the enormous pile of leaves resulted in this tiny bit of stems.

2.  Prepare these quick prepared lemons and keep aside.

3.  Heat in a Dutch oven until rippling:

  • 3 T. olive oil

Then add and brown well:

  • 1 lb. grass-fed beef, cut into 3- or 4-inch pieces

4. Add:

  • reserved cardoons
  • 1 onion, chopped medium
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 4 c. chopped potatoes, peels removed or left on, as you prefer.
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Stir very well, bring to a slow boil, then cover and cook over low heat for 1 1/2 hours.  Check once or twice to make sure it’s not completely dry.

5.  Towards the end of the tagine’s cooking time, chop and combine:

  • 1 preserved lemon, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 c. pitted kalamata or other pungent dark olives
  • 2 T. cilantro leaves
  • 1 T. flat leaf parsley

6.  Remove stew from heat, then stir in lemon mixture.  Let cool for a few minutes, then serve with couscous or crunchy bread.  Good!

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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