Easy pickled asparagus

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Spring came late this year.  Maybe you experienced it yourself; otherwise, these whiny posts might’ve clued you in.  No bother – We all still seem to be smitten with the token spring produce players.  Every year, an onslaught of rhubarb, asparagus, ramp, etc. posts flood the internet.  I’m a definite contributor…  and I’m not apologizing.  But the spring season seems so fleeting.  The ramps don’t stick around long, and then asparagus gets woody, stringy, and flavorless.  And with spring quickly turning to summer around here, I wanted to find a way to make that green, grassy joy-flavor stick around a little longer.

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Enter: the pickle.  Frozen and canned asparagus fall apart.  Freezing makes the cell walls burst, causing asparagus to go limp and lifeless.  Canning does the same, except in the form of overcooking.  But pickling…

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Pickling takes that grassy flavor and intensifies it.  It’s also perfect for those big stalks you find at the market a 3 or 4 weeks into the season that seem to be un-cookable when roasting or sauteing, then suddenly are overcooked and bland in the blink of an eye.  I like to blanch the spears briefly before dousing them in the hot vinegar solution, just to make sure each spear is cooked through.  But magically, pickled asparagus keeps some of it’s bite.  I wouldn’t say it’s crunchy… it’s certainly “bendy.”  But it’s also firm, and sliced into a salad or munched alongside an after-work beverage, pickled asparagus is one of my early summer favorites.

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Easy pickled asparagus
Makes 2 – 24oz. jars
Inspired by Simple Bites and She Simmers

*Note: I used the pint-and-a-half wide mouthed jars that are 24 oz. each.  You can certainly use wide mouth pint jars, but you’ll have to trim more of the asparagus bottoms off.  Also be sure to wash your asparagus well in cool water; gritty pickles are the worst.

1.5 pounds asparagus, trimmed to fit jars
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons pickling salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 dried chiles de arbol, or 2 teaspoons dried chile flakes
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon mustard seed

Wash and trim asparagus.  Bring a pot of water to rolling boil and blanch the asparagus (in multiple batches, if needed,) for one minute; rinse with cold water and set aside. Combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a pot (I used the same one) and bring to a rapid boil.  While waiting for the mix to boil, put one chile (or one teaspoon chile flakes), one clove of garlic, and 1/2 tablespoon of mustard seeds in each jar.  Then place asparagus in jars.  Once the mix comes to a boil, stir to dissolve salt and sugar. Carefully pour the boiling liquid into the jars, and carefully top with a lid.  Leave at room temperature for 6-8 hours, then move to the fridge to store.
Pickles are ready to be eaten after 24 hours in the fridge, but I let them sit about 48 hours before digging in.

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Filed under Condiments, etc., Side dishes, Summer, Vegetables

rhubarb + sour cherry beer preserves

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I feel like this has been the spring of failures.  First my body failed me; I’ve been sidelined from the activities I love due to some chronic health issues.  While I’m slowly getting back to normal, it’s been… slow.   I’ve had a few friends let me down, and I haven’t been the best friend either. Not on anything big, but the little things add up.  I’ve set goals, monthly and weekly, and haven’t hit them.  I’ve messed up quite a few things  in the kitchen.  And over the top of all of this is the feeling that spring completely failed us.  Months of unrelenting cold and snow, and then the sudden, unceremonious unfurling of greenness, hurling itself into being, even though it feels as though the sun hasn’t even properly shone yet.  All of this failure has been a little bit exhausting.

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The failed kitchen experiments have been particularly frustrating.  I’m realizing how much better I feel without gluten in my diet. I’m amassing a whole shelf of flours and starches – at last count I had something like 15 different kinds! – but gluten-free baking really is a whole new world.   I want to avoid adding gums, but I can feel my resolve breaking down.  There have been cookies that were cake-like, and cookies that spread into a giant mass on the pan;  miserable hockey-puck muffins;  cardboard pizza crusts;  an attempted crumble where the “crumb” sank into blueberries and rhubarb like the lost city of Atlantis, and then was completely forgotten about in the oven and burnt to a crisp.  And don’t forget the particularly disastrous upside-down cake that I absentmindedly assembled in a Springform pan.  (It actually hurts to write that one “out loud.”)  I’m still chipping bits of charred mess off the bottom of my stove.  Even my trusty loaves of (completely gluten-filled) sourdough have been falling flat – literally.

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AND since I’m moaning, I’ll point out that while the flavor of this preserve is very, very good, it’s looser than a typical jam.  Another failure.  I cooked and cooked and cooked, over double the time given in the recipe, but still I ended up with a very loose preserve, despite my addition of a cup of apple pectin stock.  All of the extra cooking I did after adding the fruit gave me a lower yield than the original recipe – 5 half-pints instead of 7 – and I’m still scratching my head at how the original recipe could work.

But the triumph here is that the combination of rhubarb and sour cherry is really winning, bright and tart, and lifting me above all of the little let-downs.  I particularly love that I was able to put some of my husband’s excellent homebrew to use.  The balance of sour and sweet with some slight hoppiness is exactly what I need to cope with some of these feelings of inadequacy.  Ah, emotional eating at its finest.

Hopefully I’ll have some recipes to share, and SOON.  In the meantime, I’ll be slathering this preserve with butter on top of pieces of crusty – albeit, flat – sourdough bread.

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Rhubarb + Sour Cherry Beer Preserves
Adapted from The Preservation Kitchen

Notes: I changed this up from the original in a few ways.  First, I used 2.25 pounds of fresh rhubarb and 0.75 pounds of frozen sour cherries, as my rhubarb is really green and I was afraid of ending up with a greenish-gray jam.  *shudder* I considered using strawberries, but I’m really glad I went with cherries- the tanginess of the two marry perfectly.  I also used a blonde ale that my husband homebrewed– but the called-for wheat beer is going to be a bit sweeter and less hoppy.  I added an extra 1/4 cup of sugar, left out the lemon zest, and instead added 1 cup of apple pectin stock and let the whole mess macerate with the lemon halves in an attempt to eek out some additional pectin.  Here is a link on apple pectin stock, and Liana Krissoff’s Canning for a New Generation is where I got the idea of macerating overnight with a lemon.

2-1/4 pounds diced rhubarb
3/4 pound frozen sour cherries
1-3/4 cups sugar
3 cups wheat beer
1 cup apple pectin stock (optional)
the juice of 1 lemon

In a heavy-bottomed pan, combine all ingredients and stir.  Throw the juiced lemon halves in as well, but try to pick the seeds out first.  Optional step- let macerate in the fridge for 4-6 hours.  (This will extract more of the juice and hopefully more of the pectin out of the lemon, slightly changing your cooking time.)  Bring ingredients to a low simmer, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat, cover with a lid, and place in the fridge overnight or for up to 5 days.

When ready to make the jam, remove the lemon halves. Place a small saucer in the freezer.  Use a sieve or slotted spoon to separate the juice from the fruit solids; return the juice to the heavy pan and set the fruit aside.  Bring the juice to a rapid simmer, stirring frequently, and allow to reduce by almost half.  (Virant said 12 minutes; mine took closer to 20 minutes.)  Stir in the fruit solids and return to a simmer.  Stir frequently to prevent scorching.  While your jam is cooking, prepare 5-6 half-pint jars and lids for a boiling water bath.  As the jam thickens, use a spoon to place a small amount of jam on the frozen saucer and return to the freezer for 60-90 seconds.  When the jam is gelling on the plate, it’s done.

*Virant says to cook until the jam reaches 215 degrees F and lightly coats the back of the spoon, approximately 10 minutes. In my experience, the spoon-coating consistency results in more of a sauce than a jam. I cooked for over 25 minutes, stirring frequently, and I personally prefer the freezer gel test.

Once you’re satisfied with the texture of your jam, pour the jam into half-pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch head space.  Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove the jars from the water bath and place on a towel; leave for 12-24 hours without disturbing. Remove lid rings for storage.

*If you’d rather not process, you can simply store this in the fridge in clean jars.  I’m going to guess it’ll last a month or two, if not longer- but I haven’t tested it.

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Filed under Condiments, etc., Desserts, Gluten-Free, Spring

Carnitas

Anybody who has dinner at my house will eventually have carnitas.

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There’s something kind of magical about carnitas.  The sweet-savory aroma as they cook is irresistible, and guests smell it as soon as they walk in:  salty, fatty pork; sweet cinnamon and orange; the smell of cumin and oregano from a pot of beans; corn tortillas frying on the stove top.  It’s welcoming, but not overwhelming.  They’re not too fancy, and each person gets to add what they want.  It’s like a grown-up taco bar. (And I love a good taco bar, believe me.)

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The thing that puts them solidly in the “Entertaining” column is that almost all of the prep is done ahead.  The only thing you’re doing when your guests arrive is sliding them under the broiler, just above a stack of freshly-fried tortillas.   Little bowls of cilantro, queso fresco, diced onion, and avocado are already on the table.  You’ve got time to mix a couple of cocktails, pull a bowl of red cabbage slaw out of the fridge, and then dinner is served.

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I had tried crockpot carnitas, but they were always a bit dried out and dusty by they time they made it onto our plates.  At the same time, I refuse to fry 4 pounds of pork cubes in a vat of oil in my kitchen, and definitely NOT when I have people coming over.  Then I stumbled on this article by Serious Eats’ The Food Lab, and things got real.  Instead of cooking the pork in water-based liquid, you still cook the pork in fat- it’s own fat.  By packing it tightly in the dish and cooking it slowly, the fat is rendered out of the pork, filling the dish and effectively frying the meat.  It’s genius, simple, and deliciously fatty while being not at all messy.  The best part is that the pork can be cooked ahead – days ahead! – and all it needs is a quick crisping-up under a hot broiler.  Brilliance!  I use the fattiest pork shoulder I can find, and although that means I have to buy a heavier cut and thus pay more, it’s worth every penny.

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Carnitas
Serves 4-6
Adapted (barely) from Serious Eats

3.5-4 pounds pork butt roast (shoulder)
1 medium onion
1 orange
1 lime
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 or 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into 3-4 small pieces (1 if you have new/pungent cinnamon; 2 if it’s older)
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil
2-4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2-3 teaspoons kosher salt

To serve: tortillas and any extra condiments you want.  I serve queso fresco, cilantro, diced onion, avocado, tomato, salsa, lime wedges, and cabbage slaw.

Preheat oven to 275 F.  Cube pork into 2-3 inches pieces, trimming away large hunks of excess fat, but not being too picky.  Place in a 9×13 baking dish; the pieces should form fit in one layer, but should be touching. Quarter the onion and nestle the quarters into the baking dish.  Juice and orange and lime over the pork, then nestle the pieces into the dish as well.  Place the garlic, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick pieces throughout the dish.  Drizzle the oil over the top of the pork, then sprinkle with cilantro and salt.

Cover the dish with foil and bake until the pork is fork tender, approximately 3.5 hours.  Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit.  Remove the onion, garlic, lime and orange pieces, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks.  If serving later, place the pork in a covered container in the fridge. Dispose of the grease remaining in the dish.

Before serving, heat broiler on high.  Break up pork slightly and place on a baking sheet.  Broil for 5-6 minutes, until the edges are crispy.  Shake or stir and broil for 1-2 minutes more.  Serve with warm tortillas and accoutrements.

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Filed under Clean Eating, Gluten-Free, Main dishes

Fresh red cabbage slaw

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There are a couple of big things that have happened in the last few weeks.  The first: I think spring might actually have arrived.  Secondly: I apparently now like cilantro.

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The first one is a big deal because IT’S MAY.  The last weekend of April was gorgeous.  Mid-60s and low 70s, sunshine, green grass, even budding tulips and the tips of iris and hostas poking through the mulch.  And then, on May 2nd and 3rd (!) the Midwest got hit with a nasty system that included snow (!) and sleet (!) and freezing rain (!).  Not just a dusting, but 18 inches fell in northwest Wisconsin.  18 freaking inches of white, dream-shattering, soul-crushing snow.

But between the 60s and 70s yesterday and today, the snow has melted, the grass is re-perking, and my rhubarb has unfurled an impossible number of frilly leaves.  Spring is here to stay, I think.

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The second part- the part about me finally coming around to cilantro- is a big deal because, c’mon, it’s cilantro.  It’s fresh.  It’s green.  I can grow it.  It’s a big deal in Mexican and Indian cuisines.  And I’m pleased to say that I actually have bought and used it three whole times in the last two weeks and it’s been awesome.

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I made this slaw to serve with carnitas, and it’s crunch and tanginess was exactly what the tender pork needed.  And after all, the recipe is a bit like the weather we’ve had lately: schizophrenic.  It combines winter staples (cabbage and carrot) with a few fresh things that pack a little more punch in the flavor department (jalapeno, cilantro, and lime).  Even if I have to keep buying cilantro for a another month while the weather warms up (*grumble grumble*), I’m adding cilantro to my seed-purchase list, and I’ll definitely be making this slaw frequently for the summer barbeque circuit.  It took me less than 20 minutes to prep, and it needs only an hour in the fridge to really come together.

Fresh red cabbage slaw
Serves 6-8
Adapted from Pezzo

juice of 2 limes
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 large clove garlic smashed (approximately 1/2 tsp)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (Greek yogurt might work?)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup diced onion
1 diced jalapeno (I removed the seeds; keep them for more spice)
1 medium carrot, grated
1/2 large or 1 small head of cabbage

In a jar or bowl, whisk together the limes, honey, garlic, mayo, and cilantro. Salt and pepper, and set aside.  Prep the veggies, and thinly slice the cabbage- you want approximately 4 cups of cabbage. Toss all the veggies together in a bowl; dress with the dressing.  Set aside in the fridge for the flavors to develop, at least 1 hour.  Taste before serving and add salt and pepper to taste.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Clean Eating, Condiments, etc., Gluten-Free, Side dishes, Spring, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Chicken tikka masala with gluten-free naan

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I married a man who doesn’t like flavorful food.

That’s maybe a little harsh.  He doesn’t like what he calls “ethnic food.”  What he’s referring to is any food that has specific/bold flavors.  No Chinese, no Thai, no Indian.  He likes American fare: burgers, meatloaf, potatoes and chips and cheese.  Basic tacos or enchiladas on flour tortillas and some stereotypical German foods make up the cultural boundaries of his palate.  He doesn’t even like wine.

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The woman behind the checkout counter at the grocery store last night couldn’t imagine.  She had identified the spice blend in the little self-serve baggie on sight- “Is this garam masala? I can tell just by looking at it, I cook with it that much!”  I told her it was for this chicken tikka masala that I was making this weekend, as my husband didn’t like it but he was gone.  “You married somebody who doesn’t like chicken tikka masala?!” she asked incredulously.  I sighed.

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I spent the last week in D.C., and without making a conscious effort, I ate things he wouldn’t have almost every night.  Lamb boti kabob and kachumbar, clam pizza, authentic Mexican, spicy kim chi, oysters on the half shell.  I drank way too much wine.

And as I waited in the airport on Friday afternoon, I had a serious hankering for butter chicken.  My blog feed included this chicken tikka masala recipe though, and despite it’s long list of ingredients and long marinating time, I decided that fate wanted me to tackle it on Saturday.  I didn’t go with the typical rice as a side; instead I had a small but flavorful mound of fresh fava beans, and I also experimented (barely) with gluten-free naan— and much to my surprise, it worked just fine.  My old stand-by naan recipe is AP flour + plain yogurt + a bit of salt and baking powder in a hot cast iron skillet, so I subbed in Trader Joe’s gluten-free all purpose flour.  While it probably won’t win any awards for World’s Best Naan, it was hot and chewy and good for soaking up the rich sauce.

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Chicken Tikka Masala
Serves 4
Adapted from Bon Appetit via The Bitten Word

This isn’t a particularly spicy chicken tikka masala.  If you like more heat, add additional pepper flakes, or use dried chiles de arbol instead. I also realize the addition of raisins is out of the ordinary, but I love the extra sweetness and chew.

6 garlic cloves, finely grated
3-4 inches of finely grated peeled ginger, about 4 teaspoons
4 teaspoons ground turmeric
4 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 cups whole-milk yogurt (not Greek)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise
3 tablespoons ghee
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup tomato paste
6 cardamom pods, opened up and seeds crushed, or approximately 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup raisins

Combine garlic, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, coriander, and cumin in a small bowl. Whisk together yogurt, salt, and half of spice mixture in a medium container with a lid; add chicken and turn to coat. Cover and chill 4-6 hours. Cover and chill remaining spice mixture.

An hour before you plan to eat, melt the ghee in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion, tomato paste, cardamom, and chiles and cook, stirring often, until tomato paste has darkened and onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining half of spice mixture and cook, stirring often, until bottom of pot begins to brown, about 4 minutes.  Add tomatoes with juices, crushing them with your hands as you add them. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot.  Then add cream, water, raisins, and chopped cilantro. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 30-40 minutes.

While the sauce simmers, preheat your grill or broiler. If using the broiler, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack inside sheet.   Arrange chicken on rack in a single layer. Broil until chicken starts to blacken in spots (it may not be cooked through), about 10 minutes.  Flip and broil on the other side for 5 minutes.  If using a grill, preheat to medium high, between 400 and 500 degrees and grill for 6-8 minutes on each side, until it begins to blacken.  Again, it may not be cooked through, but that’s okay.  (I used the broiler method.)

Allow the chicken to cool for a few minutes.  Cut chicken into bite-size pieces, add to sauce, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 8-10 minutes. Serve with rice and sprinkle with cilantro (both are optional).

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Gluten-free Naan
Adapted from Food.com

2 cups Trader Joe’s Gluten-free all purpose flour blend, or your favorite gluten-free flour blend
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
Coconut oil for frying

Whisk together flour blend, salt, and baking powder.  Stir in yogurt, and then use hands to kneed together a bit.  The dough will be sticky and even paste-like, but don’t fret yet.  Heat 2-3 tablespoons coconut oil in a cast iron skillet on medium-high.  Preheat the pan for at least 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, split the dough into 8 equal pieces, and then roll or press each piece out between saran wrap.  Fry each piece for 3-4 minutes on each side.  Add additional coconut oil to the fan as frying.  Set each piece on a towel or paper towel to rest, and serve warm.

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Filed under Breads, Chicken, Gluten-Free, Main dishes

Two Wintertime Cocktails


I have a problem calling these wintertime cocktails.  I’ve seen no snow, no gusting winds, no blizzards that force mass-exodus-style trips to the grocery store followed by 2 or 3 days of hunkering down in the house, eating beef stew and peeking out the window as the plow goes by to see how high he’s piled up snow at the end of your driveway.  This meek and mild “winter,” pfft, has been downright enjoyable.  Not that I have a problem with it… but clearly, I do have a teeny tiny problem with it.

Even if you happen to be in southern California or up in the Yukon, these cocktails might help fill a small missing piece on a Friday or Saturday evening.  I know I was searching for something by the time happy hour came around on Friday, and these hit the spot.

1. Heidi’s Blood Orange Gin Sparkler.  I only had two blood oranges so I juiced a naval along with it, and it definitely worked.  I had misremembered the recipe that I read earlier in the day and used club soda on the first drink, but found that I preferred the called-for tonic.   These are too good! And I can’t wait to try these with grapefruit, or a grapefruit-0range combo next weekend…

Edit: I couldn’t hold off for long.  Fresh grapefruit juice is, dare I say, even better than the blood orange juice?! Divine.  A perfect shade of light pink, and brighter-n-lighter in flavor, too. Plan for approximately half a large grapefruit per drink.

2.  Rhubarb Rosemary sparklers.  In an attempt to use up the rosemary-infused simple syrup in the aforementioned gin sparkler recipe, I remembered the jars of rhubarb liqueur I had stowed away last summer.   Rosemary and rhubarb…  beyond alliteration, did they have a chance to work in harmony? I say yes.  I had used a mix of the sweet pink and tart green stalks, and the savory-sweet syrup compliments the tart-sweet liqueur.

Rhubarb & rosemary sparkler
Serves 1

2 oz. rhubarb liqueur
1 oz. rosemary simple syrup
2 to 3 oz. club soda
Pour over ice and stir in a highball or Collins glass.

Muted, earthy, and perfect for a quiet winter night in.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Beverage, Condiments, etc., Winter

Souper Bowl: Kale and white bean soup

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I haven’t exactly been present on this blog.  This last year has brought a lot of changes to my life: work has been busier than ever, I’m eating more healthfully, and having taken up running means that I get less time at night to prepare (let alone photograph) supper.  But when I saw Branny’s Souper Bowl post invitation, I knew I had to participate.

We have two cats.  Ever since I found out that I’m not actually allergic to cats, I’ve known that I wanted a couple and that I wanted to adopt them (rather than buy a specific breed).  Both of ours came from the local shelter, and both have very distinct personalities.  Sierra, the first cat we got and the older of the two,  is a cuddle-bug… for about two minutes. Then she’s out of your arms and dashing away to go off on her own… but if you wait long enough, she’ll be back, for two more minutes of intense cuddling, purring, and marking your chin with her nose. In any case, this post is dedicated to Sierra, our quiet furball.

Up close, wanting some love. (Soup in the background!)

This soup has been one of my winter staples until recently.  Bacon, homemade croutons, and soft slumped kale- what’s not to like?!  It’s filling, salty and almost buttery.  The bacon adds some chew, while the veggies and beans bring the heft. I’ve made it with both curly and lacinato kale, and both work just fine.  And if you’re a fan of chorizo or sausage, you may want to try that instead of the bacon.  But one thing is for sure- do not skip the homemade croutons.

Kale and White Bean Soup
Approximately 4 servings
Adapted from Everything is Better with Bacon and a recipe in the Williams Sonoma Bride and Groom Cookbook

1 pound or 2 cans white beans (if you can’t get fresh dried beans, go with canned)
4 slices bacon, chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 bay leaf
1/4 to 1/2 t. sage and thyme each (to your taste)
3 -4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced (save the leafy greens if you’ve still got them)
5-6 cups chicken stock
1 large bunch of kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the beans: if using dried beans, soak overnight and boil for 30 minutes, or prepare according to package directions. They don’t need to be totally soft as they will simmer in the soup.  If using canned beans, drain and rinse; set aside.

In a large dutch oven or kettle, fry the bacon in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes over medium or medium-high heat.  Stir in the onion and sautee for 4-5 minutes more.  Add garlic, sage, thyme, and bay leaf, and stir while cooking for a minute.  Add carrots and celery, stir, and saute briefly; add chicken stock and beans, and bring soup to a simmer.

Simmer the soup for at least 25 minutes, but up to an hour to combine flavors and soften vegetables. Stir in the chopped kale (and the celery greens if you’ve got them), return up to a simmer, and allow the kale to wilt in the soup, about 15 minutes. (If you want a bite to your kale, watch closely and only cook for about 5 minutes. I like mine silky soft and slumpy on my spoon.)  Season with salt and pepper, and serve with homemade salted croutons.

For croutons:
Melt 2 tbsp butter in a small sautee pan on medium high.  While melting, add 1/2-3/4 cup bread cubes.  Sprinkle with a few pinches of good salt.  Toss bread around and allow to brown for 2-3 minutes between stirs, for a total of 8-10 minutes. Serve warm or at room-temperature with soup.

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January 20, 2012 · 3:28 pm

two notes-to-self

A couple things I’ve made, and made changes to, that I’ve enjoyed recently:

1.  Molly O’Neill’s Roasted Carrot and Red Lentil soup, via The Wednesday Chef.  I followed the recipe almost exactly the first time- doubled the paprika and introduced a little immersion blender action- and loved every bite.   A month or so later found myself with a small butternut squash, a lonely sweet potato, and some straggler carrots at the bottom of my crisper, but craving a creamy, bulky soup.  The combo of the three orange veggies worked just as well as the all-carrot version, immersion blender and all.  But as I sat down with the first bowl, and I felt it was missing… something.  A couple teaspoons of lemon juice stirred in at the end fixed it, and really brightened things up.

2.  Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins at Joy The Baker.  She used blueberries; I used a large peeled-and-chopped Honeycrisp and tripled the cinnamon.  Very welcome at the office on a chilly day. Healthy-ish too!

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Fall, Vegetables, Winter

Peach vanilla bourbon preserves (jam?)

This summer has seen a lot of firsts: first race run, first time learning how to ride (and then buying) a motorcycle, and first time making and canning jam.

I had dabbled with canning tomatoes, but had never ventured into jamming territory.  I had always heard how tricky and messing canning jam was, and I seriously think that those people are doing it wrong- it has been easy AND liberating.  Putting up some small-batch jam with whatever I find at the farmer’s market is now one of my favorites ways to start a weekend!

Although there’s a lotta flavor going on in these preserves, this is a pretty straightforward recipe and a good “starter” if you’re unfamiliar to making preserves and jams.

I’m not sure of the subtle nuances between jams and preserves, but I left mine a little looser than your typical jam.  However, I did take an immersion blender to the pot to smooth it out a bit, so it’s not quite a “preserve,” either.   Either way, it’s delicious on toast and  I’m thinking that it’s going to be a killer pastry filling and ice cream topping this winter!

Peach vanilla bourbon preserves
Adapted from Tartelette via Smells Like Home
Makes approximately 5-6 cups

3 pounds of ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2-1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1 vanilla bean
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup bourbon (or a bit more if you like!)

Place a small plate in the freezer. In a Dutch oven or preserving pan, combine peaches, sugar, and water.  Stir, cover pan, and set on burner set at low for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, split and scrape clean your vanilla bean. Add the vanilla bean seeds and entire pod to the pan. Increase heat to medium and bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Once boiling, reduce heat and keep at a simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.  Use an immersion blender to “pulse,” and pulverize about half of the fruit.

Put pan back on medium and stir in lemon juice.  Return preserves to a simmer, stirring frequently now.  As the mixture thickens and coats your spoon, pour in the bourbon.  Bring it back up to a simmer and keep stirring for 3-4 minutes.  Once the preserves have thickened up again, use a spoon to put a small amount on the plate in the freezer and return it to the freezer for one minute. This is the freezer test- you can do this multiple times.  If the preserves aren’t as thick as you’d like, keep simmering and stirring.  When it’s as thick as you want, remove from heat.

Store in clean jars in the fridge or process for 10 minutes in a water bath canner.

*Notes
You can add up to 1/2 cup of any kind of liqueur, according to Helene at Tartelette. If I recall, she also suggested Grand Marnier?
The original yield was 6 to 8 cups, but I got 5 cups (1 cup to each half-pint jar) plus a bit extra to dab on toast. I assume my yield was a bit lower because of the pureeing.

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Filed under Condiments, etc., Desserts, Summer

Molly’s Braised Kale and Spaghetti

Made this last night for supper, and it was good, though incredibly garlicky.  I had some curly kale to use up, and though her recipe calls for lacinato kale, I found that the curly worked well when I braised it a bit longer than the 20 minutes she calls for, with a little bit more liquid too. 

No picture from me- but Molly’s story about kale is a good read (as expected).

 

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Clean Eating, Main dishes, Pasta, Side dishes, Vegetables, Vegetarian