Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

I am in love. Again.

I fall for recipes so easily; here I am lazily browsing my favorite food blogs, looking for some dinner inspiration or just killing time when, my eye falling upon some well-lit photo of a dish in someone elses kitchen, I am struck down with adoration. Oh hello, beer-bread grilled cheese! Come to mama, sweet potato pound cake! Come here often, pumpkin ice cream? Sometimes the fever coincides with some rare spare time and I am able to give in to the urge that very night. More often, though, I have to wait. And while I wait, I yearn.

I am a good yearner.

This pasta is an object of long-term yearning on my part. I happened upon it on Pioneer Woman (I think we are best friends. I'm not sure she knows this, but that's ok. That's how most of my high school friendships were, too) and have been having dreams (seriously, actual dreams) about it since then. And finally, returning home yesterday from the market with a bag of beautiful red peppers and discovering an forgotten carton of cream in the fridge, my dreaming became reality. And I am so not disappointed.

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks

-Red peppers - I used a few gorgeous red bell peppers from an Amish farm a few towns away (Amish food just tastes better to me. No zippers) and a couple "Non-Bell Carmen" peppers from the same farm which tasted exactly the same but were long and skinny.
-Onion - I used one large
-Garlic - 3-4 cloves, chopped
-Olive oil
-Cream - about a cup?

*Roast the peppers
      This was soooo much fun. How often do you get to char the hell out of something intentionally?? You can roast them on the burners to a gas stove or on your grill. I used the broiler of my oven. All you do is put them on direct heat and then let them get all black and crispy on the outside - this took 10 minutes in my oven, turning once.

*Put the roasted peppers in a big ziplock and seal it, letting them squishify
*Sautee up your onion and garlic in some olive oil

*Scrape the charred skin and the seeds off the peppers and throw em in your blender
      When I read about this on the interweb some people did the peeling under water, but the pepper juice smelled really good and I didn't want it to go away, so I just did it on a cutting board and scraped with a knife.

*Blend up the peppers til smooth, then throw in most of the sauteed onions and garlic. Blend more.

*Return the pepper sauce to the saute pan with the last of the onions and garlic and warm it up

*Add cream in, stirring until it's freaking amazing looking

*Dump a pound of cooked pasta (I used shells cuz of the scoopability, but whatever) in and toss

This is actually this crazy electric-orange type color.
It was very cool and faux-food looking, somehow.
*Salt to taste
*Top with lots of fresh grated parmesan (not optional. Nope.)

This made dinner for me and Jesse, and lunches for both of us and Miles the next day. It rocked.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Summer Cabbage Rolls

I really like cabbage. Maybe it's the Irish in me, but I've never had any of the typical cabbage complaints - the smell, the sliminess when boiled, the smell, the droopy leaves, the smell. I like cabbage. I think it's awesome, for eating AND for relieving milk-engorged breasts (too much information there? Nah.).

Generally, though, I can't think of anything to do with this delightful vegetable other than the standard boiled dinner or slaws. I liked the idea of cabbage rolls, but the traditional red-sauce covered, long-cooking-time rolls I could find didn't seem very summer-appropiate. So I decided to use our dearth of cabbage to make some sprin-roll type things, inspired by these INCREDIBLE Vietnamese spring rolls we get at the farmer's market. They're very, very easy, and don't involve turning on the oven, sweating, smelliness, or milk-engorged breasts. Win win!

Summer Cabbage Rolls

You'll need about 1 head of cabbage - I used both savoy (the crinkly kind) and green (the normal kind). I thought I'd like the results of the svoy better, since they make such pretty bowls:
But I found the recipe worked better with the regular smooth leaves, since they wilted more and were able to fold better. If you want to make these into scoops instead of rolls, though, I bet the savoy would be perfect.

Wilt the cabbage by boiling them for a couple minutes in salted water and then rinsing in cold water. Then, just stuff them with an assortment of deliciousness. Roll them like a burrito and hold them together with a toothpick. They can hang out in the fridge for a while first, too. Roll them like a burrito and hold them together with a toothpick. They can hang out in the fridge for a while first, too. You want mostly cold ingredients, with maybe a cooked item thrown in. We used:
-browned burger
-salad greens
-whole thai basil leaves
-shredded zucchini and carrots

Dip them in a sweet chili sauce like this one. We actually cheated and bought some at the store. It was tasty.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Pizza

This is potentially the grossest-looking food picture ever - but also potentially the absolute BEST pizza I've ever made. And me, I've made some pizza.

It started as a quick Thursday night dinner, a night when Jesse returns home late from cross country meets. The plan was onions, a little goat cheese, some basil. Simple. But then - oh, then - I got distracted by his royal babyness while the onions were cooking, and when I returned to the stove, the smell of the softening onions set off the idea lightbulb in my head. And this, THE pizza, was born...

Caramelized Onion and Camembert Pizza

-One recipe pizza dough (we like this one, but try to let it rise a few minutes first) stretched and drizzled with olive oil
-A couple huge onions
-One chunk brie or cemembert type cheese -we used Camdenbert, which we got in our cheese share from local Appleton creamery - oh yum - sliced as thin as you can get it (freezing it first helps).
-Olive oil

Cook your sliced onions down and down and down in a bit of olive oil until they start to caramelize. Mmm.
Spread them across your pizza (thickly - don't be stingy!) and then top all over with slices of cheese
Bake at 400 until the crust is gently browned and the cheese has melted down into the onions almost unrecognizably. Holy wow.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Eggs in a Nest

This is the season of plenty around here, and with plenty comes....plenty of work. We've been stuffing our faces with fresh tomato salad and roasted kale and sweet corn fritters and berry crumble and all manner of colorful deliciousness all summer long (and have been abismally lax about blogging about it. Oops.) but now, now is the time when we start to think about things like frost, and sweaters, and potato soup. And we start to panic a little because ohmygoshwhatwillweeat??? I know we are not at real risk of starving, not here, not today. Even if we didn't set aside one carrot, we could survive the winter and even gain a few pounds on supermarket fare. But it still feels like we'll starve (or at least it does to me - Jesse thinks that's the crazy coming through), and so this time of year I start, in earnest, to channel my inner squirrel.

I blanch greens and beans and broccoli and roast pound of red and yellow beets. I wear out Sharpie after Sharpie labeling freezer bags, and ruin more than one pan boiling down armfuls of berries and plums for jam. I fill the basement shelves with mason jars that send multi-colored flickers around the room, light bouncing off the tomatoes and apple butter, pickles and dilly beans. I store and I store and I store and then, somwhere in all that frantic hoarding, I make dinner.

Understandably, dinners this time of year, in this bridge between summer and fall, plenty and not-quite-enough, are simple affairs, things we can throw together in a few minutes while still tending the canning pot and the steamer basket. But we also don't want to miss out on these last weeks of fresh food, either, so we try to let the flavors of the summer come through in our September meals. Here's a favorite:

Eggs in a Nest

1 huge bunch rainbow chard (or spinach or kale or beet greens)
onion and garlic
olive oil
balsamic vinegar (good stuff)

Saute up your onion and garlic in some olive oil. Add your greens (de-stemmed) and when they start to wilt, dump in a glug of balsamic (we used this schmancy 18 year old stuff we got at Fiore). Let it all cook till the greens are soft.

With the back of a spoon, make little dents in the blanket of greens (your "nests") and crack an egg into each nest.

Cover the pan and let the eggs poach. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (I also add a little squeeze of lemon juice, but I always do that) and then scoop out your nest and devour it. The whole process takes maybe 15 minutes, and it tastes as good as your ingredients are - so get good ingredients, and you won't be disappointed. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Apple Butter

I love this season - squash and greens and apples are just ripening, summer dust gives way to the crisper colors of fall, and the air seems somehow easier to breathe. This Miles' first autumn (isn't that crazy to think? He's never seen pumpkins or leaf piles before!) and we thought a trip to the orchard to go apple picking would be a great way to introduce him to the season. He seemed to agree heartily, and spent the trip crawling around under the trees eating grass and chasing fallen apples. He has perfected the hands-free eating thing - he crawls up to an apple on the ground (or in Nonna's bag), plants his hands on either side of it, sticks his butt in the air and uses his face to simultaneously hold it down and gnaw at it with his four teeth.
 Nom nom nom. 

Apples are a couple weeks early this year because of our early spring and hot summer, so even though it was only the second weekend in September, Macs and Cortlands were ripe. We picked 20 lbs of apples and then spent an embarrassingly long time doing the "baby's first apple picking" thing. Oh, the shamelessness of parenthood. It's clear Miles is a first baby, because he has already learned that the click of a shutter means "people are going to coo and smile at me, yay!"


Once we got our apples home, though, the fun really started. Lydia came over the next day for a marathon canning session and we set to work sterilizing jars, chopping fruit and simultaneously wrangling the kids. We made plum jam and apple butter. Here's our quick method for making awesome apple butter:

1. Chop 12-15 lbs of apples. If you have a food mill or chinoise strainer you can leave the skins on.
2. Make applesauce by cooking the apples down with a teeny bit of water until they're nice and soft (usually 20-30 minutes).
3. Push the sauce through your mill or strainer, or mash with a potato masher until smooth.
4. Dump the applesauce and a cup or two (or 3 if you like it sweet) of sugar into your crock pot with a big squeeze of lemon juice, some cinnamon and ground cloves. Cook it on low overnight.
5. To can, ladle hot butter into hot jars, leave 1/2 inch headspace and process 10 minutes.