KitK Cooking Extravaganza

 

This post is sadly delayed.  Rachel and I spent a glorious couple of days together early in August.  We went to see my friend Catherine Murray of Photo Kitchen perform at Columbus’ Pecha Kucha.  We explored the Columbus Zoo with the Philosopher’s family.  We ate fabulous breakfasts at Skillet and Northstar.  All in all, I would say it was another Karma in the Kitchen reunion success.  And like last time, Rachel and I cooked.  A lot.  I roped Rachel into joining me in the sweaty world of canning.  I ordered extra tomatoes from The Sippel Family Farm to make tomato chutney.  I scoured the local peach and blueberry options to make jam.  And I purchased tons of Snowville milk and cream to make homemade ricotta.  Oh yes.  We stayed busy in the kitchen!

First, we prepped tomatoes for tomato chutney.  We used this recipe as a base, but we significantly reduced the amount of sugar (by half).  Here’s what we ended up doing:

8lbs of tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped (the easiest way to do this is score an X on the bottom of a tomato, drop it in boiling water for a few minutes and then put in cold water.  The skins should pop of easily.  Then remove the core and chop.)  , 2 heads of minced garlic, 2 chopped onions, 1c brown sugar, 1/2c white sugar, 3c apple cider vinegar, 3 limes, zested and juiced, 2T fresh minced ginger, 4t dried hot pepper flakes, 2t cumin, 1c golden raisins chopped roughly by hand, and salt and pepper to taste.  We combined the ingredients in a stockpot and simmered all day.  I think it took about 5 hours for the chutney to finally thicken.  Stir it often, as the sugar will make it scorch easily.  We ladled the chutney into 1/2 pint jelly jars, leaving a 1/4″ headspace.  They were processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  We ended up with 12 jars of chutney.

 

Next, Rachel and I prepped peaches and blueberries for jam.  We peeled, cored, and roughly sliced 10 pounds of peaches (save the peels!).  We added 2 quarts of blueberries, washed well.  3 lemons were zested and juiced and added to the fruit.  We added sugar to taste, I prefer a slightly tart and less sweet jam.  So for our fruit, we added about 5 cups of granulated white sugar.  The fruit simmered happily on the stove until thickened.  I used a bit of Pomona’s Universal Pectin near the end to finish firming it up well.  Test for firmness by putting a bit of jam on a spoon and popping in the freezer for a few minutes.  When you have reached your desired firmness, you are ready to can.  We used 1/2 pint jars, placed 1t of bottled lemon juice on top of the jam after leaving 1/4″ of headroom, and processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  We ended up with 12 jars and a good sized bowl to go with our dessert that night!

I know you are trying to figure out why you should save your peels.  Well, here goes.  We simmered the peach peels with sugar and water making a simple syrup.  We then combined the strained syrup, fresh mint, sparkling water, a dash of fresh lime, and Middle West Spirits vodka together for a fabulous after dinner cocktail.  You should definitely save the peach peels!

Lastly, we made a batch of homemade ricotta using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.   Her instructions are so clear and easy to follow, I am not going to retype them for you.  But I am going to insist that you drop what you are doing, grab some local milk, and MAKE RICOTTA CHEESE.  Immediately.  Rachel and I were sneaking bites while the ricotta was still straining.  We just couldn’t help ourselves.  We decided that a piece of bread, topped with a smear of ricotta and some tomato chutney was a fabulous way to begin our dinner.  The play of the sweet and spicy chutney against the creamy goodness of the ricotta kept us reaching for more.  And more.  Happy faces all around that evening.  And into the next days lunch.  And breakfast.  And snack.  And dinner.  Oh ricotta.  You made us so happy!

 

 

 

 

 

A quick glance at the table reveals that I also made my infamous tomato tart.  Now, I bet you wish an invitation to our dinner party had graced your door, huh?

But I haven’t even covered dessert yet!  You should know that a meal like this requires a beautiful, tasty, butterfat-laden dessert.  Unfortunately you will have to go without a picture, but trust me, this recipe for a ricotta cheesecake should not be ignored.  The only changes to the directions were made because the recipe made more filling than my pie pan allowed, so we filled two small oven-safe glass bowls also.  We also popped an oven safe bowl filled with water in the oven to produce a nice, steamy environment for our baking dessert.  You should immediately forget everything you ever thought you knew about cheesecake.  Cream cheese has nothing on this heavenly light, slightly lemony dessert.    Perfect for leftovers!  We dolloped some peach and blueberry jam and ate to our hearts content under the stars of an August night.  It doesn’t get much better than this!

Ah Rachel.  Never is my kitchen karma so great as when I have the perfect cooking partner.  It’s comforting to know she’s willing to experiment with me.  Tasting something again and again.  Tossing in a little of this and a little of that until we both find our own recipe nirvana.  We work well together also, Rachel and I.  While I chopped onions and minced garlic for the chutney, she was peeling and coring tomatoes.  While she peeled peaches and washed blueberries, I was at the store for a few forgotten items (ok, ok.  I ran to the store twice in 20 minutes for twice forgotten items!)  What’s great is that cooking is the perfect way to catch up on the last few months.  A phone call here or a gchat there is great, but nothing beats a sweaty, sticky day in the kitchen to learn about new friends, new apartments, new jobs, and old stories.

This is going to be my last post for awhile.  The Philosopher was offered a job at UNC Chapel Hill and I am currently packing up our belongings, getting estimates from moving companies, and selling our collected stuff!  I hope to be back to blogging and cooking by the beginning of October.  Our new city has a year-round farmer’s market that is apparently in the top ten nationwide.  I would certainly say that the south sounds welcoming to me!

Unfortunately, we are also having to say goodbye to our dear friends and neighbors.  While Columbus is a great town for many reasons, the people whose lives have intersected ours have truly made this city our home.  From old colleagues, to new classmates, neighbors, children, doggies, and coworkers, we have been fortunate to have our lives filled with amazing people that have loved us and supported us.  We have many warm memories and many homes that we plan to visit again soon.  A piece of our hearts and our lives will be left in this town and we truly have you all to thank for it.  While we welcome the challenge of forming a new community in NC, we will continue to stay connected to those people who made the Bus our home for 2 years.  Thank you all!  We love you dearly!

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Spring’s Splendor

My graduate school experience and this tulip have a lot  in common.  We enter the new phase in our lives excited to experience the sunshine of academia.  We often forget the long,  cold  winter that must first pass before we can show our splendor. We walk in the doors of our glorious institutions and find ourselves humbled by the vast ocean of knowledge we must cross before graduation.  Exams and snow storms challenge our confidence.  Critical critiques make us certain that the sun will surly not rise again high in the sky to warm and refresh us.  Finally, just as we feel our strength is gone completely, we find that through that season so filled with despair, we have gathered a wealth of knowledge that has provided the nutrients needed to emerge gloriously in the spring!  We burst through our suffering renewed and refreshed as we see how far we have come.  We spend time lavishing in the sun renewed.  Knowing we can conquer the final hurdles.

Then our energy begins to wane.  All the passion put into final papers leaves us feeling exposed, weak, and vulnerable.  Our petals begin to droop.  The search for the next career move feels overwhelming and we feel the need to hide again.   To all my dear graduating friends, remember that you are capable.  The last two years have prepared you well.  You have grown in your ability to communicate through writing.  You are likely the expert on the healthcare system among most of your family and friends.  You are a capable leader.  Do not hide like Ms. Penny here, show your face to the sun once more.  Stretch your petals and be prepared to grow once more.

Now.  It’s time for the important stuff.  School has pulled me away from cooking and blogging for too long.  Make this dinner.  Share it with your neighbors.  Be renewed and strengthened.

Almond Crusted Chicken Cutlets

Purchase an appropriate number of bone-in chicken breasts for your family.  Thinly slice cutlets off the bone and save the bone for future use (I froze mine.  Chicken soup, perhaps?)In a large skillet, warm enough oil to cover the bottom then add slightly more.  My stove was set to medium heat and was warmed through in about 5 minutes.  I used safflower oil, but any high heat oil with a mild flavor will work.

Place 3 plates on the counter.  In the first, cover with brown rice flour, salt, and pepper.  In the second, place milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond milk).  The the third, add almond meal.  I purchased a bag of pre-made almond meal (in the gluten-free section of the grocery store).  This is an expensive investment at more than $10/pound, but the results are well worth the expense.  If you have a food processor that can grind almonds well or a coffee grinder, those may be preferred methods for your kitchen.  Note my almond meal was made using non-roasted, non-salted almonds.

Cover a cutlet with the rice flour, then milk, and finally the almond meal.  Test the oil by dropping some almond meal in.  If it quickly begins to “fry” you are ready.  Place the cutlets in the oil and cook until browned on both sides, 3-4 minutes each side.

I covered them with chopped fresh parsley and served to my happy customers.  Tell your children these are “chicken tenders”.  I am pretty sure they will lick their plates clean.  And you will certainly enjoy the satisfying crunch and delicate almond flavor of this intensely satisfying meal.

Tomato, Asparagus and Basil Pasta Salad

This is quick and easy to make.  Simply choose a gluten-free pasta and cook according to the directions in well-salted water.  Rise the pasta well as soon as it is finished cooking and toss with olive oil.

In the  meantime, grill one pound of lightly oiled asparagus on the grill.  You could also boil it with the pasta or steam it above the cooking pasta, if you do not have a grill and would prefer not to turn on the oven.  After grilling, I cut the asparagus into one inch pieces and tossed with the salad.  My grocery store had lovely tomatoes on the vine that actually tasted good!  I chopped a few and added them as well.  Cherry tomatoes or diced, canned tomatoes would also be good choices.  Finally, I thinly sliced about 1/4c of fresh basil and added it to the bowl.  A helping of salt and pepper and dinner was ready to serve.

How are you renewing your energy now that the sun is out and the weather is toasty?

Stocking Up

This the time of year that turning on my oven and cooking over a stove is far less painful.  The air is crisp and some folksy tendency to “hunker down” for the winter seems to fill my bones.  Last week I made vegetable stock that will hopefully last until the holidays.  I freeze my stock and find that my freezer only tends to hold 3 month batches.

I wish I could tell you the secret to vegetable stock.  I wish there were a simple recipe.  I know that most everyone gets worried when they are in the kitchen without a map with a clearly marked trail and a giant X marking the spot.  First, I am going to list my “must haves” for stock-making and then I am going to give you some basic tips I have developed over time.

Must Have Ingredients

Mushrooms                                                                       Peppers

Tomatoes                                                                          Garlic

Fresh and dried herbs                                                       Carrots

Onions                                                                               Celery

Tracy’s Helpful Hints

1.  Save your scraps-when you have leftovers from dinner that are about to go bad (or maybe because you couldn’t eat everything from your CSA share this week), throw them in the freezer.  This applies to meat too, if you want to make a stock out of chicken, beef, etc.  Remember, with stock you will only be eating the liquid.  Feel free to throw in less appetizing bits and pieces of vegetables.  If I peel a carrot for my lunch, I save the peel and throw it in a container labeled “for stock”.  Don’t be afraid of leftovers that have been seasoned.  I have been known to freeze leftover sauteed mushrooms with a white wine and garlic butter sauce and use in my stock.  All the seasonings will only enhance your stock.  Further, this is a great use for the scraps you family may be less inclined to eat.  Think of those beet greens or carrot tops.

2.  Buy stuff on sale-you know how the grocery often sells vegetables that are nearly bad at a huge discount (I often find this with mushrooms).  Buy these and throw them in the freezer.  This is a great way to get various vegetables over time at a great price.

3.  Roast some of your vegetables first-I personally like to roast my tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and about half of my garlic before I begin.  I throw these in pans and set the oven at 450.  Drizzle the mushrooms, onions and garlic with olive oil.  Allow them to caramelize (or in the case of the tomatoes and mushrooms, concentrate their flavors) and add to the stock pot.  When I am done roasting, I add a splash of cheap white wine to the pan to deglaze all those wonderful veggie bits.  That wine gets thrown in the pot too.

4.  Save liquids-when I boil vegetables, I freeze the water in another container marked “for stock”.  This is true of blanching greens, liquid off random sauteed vegetables, etc.  Basically, if there’s a chance that vegetable flavors are in it, I am saving it.  Then, to start my stock, I melt these and add vegetables.  I still had to add water this last time, but not much.  I like to think of it as a head start!

I fill two large stock pots with water and begin adding ingredients.  I don’t know exactly what I add, because it is slightly different each time.  Last week I used about one pound of both celery and carrots.  I added a ton of onions (about one 13×9 inch pan filled).  I open four quarts of canned tomatoes (I really like a tomato-y stock).  I added 2 heads of garlic, one roasted and one raw.  I threw in multiple packages of mushrooms (probably about 4 total).  I also added about 2-3 green peppers per pot, various scraps from the freezer, a handful of whole peppercorns and cloves, 2-3 bay leaves per pot, and I split a good handful of fresh parsley per pot.   I don’t add salt.  I wait until I cook with the stock to season with salt and ground pepper.

I generally bring the pots to a boil, slowly adding the ingredients I am roasting in the oven to the mix.  I simmer the stock, covered for about an hour, so the flavors of the vegetables begin to soften and the water begins to look like the base for a hearty soup.  I simmer uncovered until the stock tastes good.  How long is that?  I don’t know!  It seems to vary each time.  I usually end up working on stock for a good part of the day.  The benefit though is that once things are in the pot, you only have to remember to stir.

When I am done, I strain the liquid and measure 2 cups into containers to freeze.  I find that 2c is a common measurement I use for most recipes.  Risotto often calls for 2c stock for each 1c rice.  Soups are pretty variable, but I find it helpful to have a basic idea of how much liquid I am adding.

Why should you make your own stock?  I recently read here that vegetable stocks from the store tend to fare badly on taste tests.  Especially the organic brands that only include vegetables and water.  Well, I make organic homemade stock and it has never taste like “musky socks”.  I would like to suggest to you, dear readers, that once you try homemade stock, you will find that the price and taste make it impossible to purchase the “weak V8” and “brackish celery water” for sale at your local grocery store.  Not into the vegetarian thing?  There is no reason not to use celery, garlic, onions and carrots as a base for a chicken, beef or seafood stock.  Again, save scraps and boil away.  That’s really all there is to it!

Farewell to Tomatoes

I know that summer is basically over.  I hope you have all enjoyed the tomatoes, peppers, peaches, berries, sweet corn and other lovely seasonal fruits and veggies.  As you have probably figured out, we have eaten very well this summer, thanks to our local farmers.

Our summer has been tomato-filled.  We have had between 2-8 pounds of tomatoes per week from our CSA.  My mother’s tomatoes offered me plenty of marinara sauce for the fall, winter and spring.  My tomato plants have offered a front porch grocery store when needed.  The Philosopher and I have lived off fresh basil, mozzarella, and tomato grilled sandwiches all summer.  Sometimes we added variety with the bread; pita or fresh baked wheat bread, so hard to choose!  We once used feta instead of the mozzarella.  Sometimes I added a dab of tomato sauce.  Otherwise, lunch has been this simple yet heavenly creation.  The other major tomato kitchen event has been the Goat Cheese and Tomato Tart with a Rosemary Crust.  I am not sure how many times I have made this, but after the first baking, we decided it had to become a regular.  This has attended many of dinner parties and club meetings this summer.  I have converted individuals who previously disliked tomatoes with fairly simple dish.

I hope this post isn’t too late.  I hope you have a bowl of final tomatoes that you have been saving for that last fantastic summer recipe.  If not, run to the store and buy some.  You have to.  This is too good to pass up.  Don’t believe me, huh?  OK fine, save this until next year.  When you taste, you will regret waiting.  Trust me.

Tomato Goat Cheese Tart with Rosemary Crust

Crust

1¼c unbleached all-purpose flour

½t salt

½t minced fresh rosemary (or oregano or thyme)

8 T chilled, unsalted butter cut (one stick)

4-5 T ice water

Filling

6 oz goat cheese crumbled (~1 1/3 c)

3 medium tomatoes, cored, sliced ¼” thick and blotted dry between towels

1 T olive oil

Salt & Pepper

Pulse flour, salt and rosemary in food processor to combine.  Add butter and pulse until it resembles pea-sized crumbs (mine was much more fine than pea-sized) about ten 1-seocnd pulses).  Add water, one T at a time, pulsing after each addition.  After 4T of water added, process for several seconds and watch for dough to come together.  Add additional T of water if needed.  Process just until a rough ball forms.  Do not over process or it will not be flakey.  Form into smooth ball and fatten into 5” disk.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 375 and move rack to middle of oven.

Roll dough into 12” circle on lightly floured surface.  Lay dough on 10” tart pan with removable bottom and fit into bottom and sides of pan.  Trim excess dough off top of pan.  Prick bottom of tart shell with fork many times.

Scatter goat cheese across bottom.  Arrange tomatoes into 2 rings, overlapping slightly.  I ended up with more than 2 rings.  Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with Salt & Pepper.

Bake until edges of crust pull away from sides of the pan and are golden brown.  45-50 minutes.  Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes.  Can also be cooled for several hours and served at room temperature.  Cut and serve.

I mean, come on!  How good does that look!?

I have been using rosemary, since it is plentiful in my herb garden.  Obviously, I have varied the tomato varieties.  The cheese has also varied.  I have used both local chevre and feta.  I also don’t measure the filling.  I make sure I have enough cheese to cover the bottom well.  The tart pictured actually includes about five small tomatoes and two mediumish tomatoes.  I am pretty sure that when the ingredients are this good, actual measuring is secondary.  I have been using a springform pan.  I let it cool for a few minutes, then remove the outside of the pan and place on a plate.  If you only have a pie pan or an 8″ round pan, that will work well, also.  Lastly,  I don’t own a rolling pin.  If this is also you, don’t let it stop you!  I use a wine bottle, or vinegar jar.  Or anything that is similarly shaped to roll out dough.  Just dust with flour, make sure the lid is on tight (I missed that step once!), and roll away!

I generally buy a crisp white wine to go with this.  I don’t do well with wine parings, but have a store nearby that is extremely helpful.  If I tell them the dish, they can match me with a wine to fit my price and meal.  I think they suggested a Riesling and I was extremely happy with their suggestion!

Go out and enjoy the last taste of summer.  Lots of fantastic fall flavors await us.  I had pumpkin ice cream and bought some local apple cider today.  I am excited about the upcoming season.  What are you eating?

Basic Marinara Sauce

Here is a basic tomato sauce, from Simply In Season.  It’s a good start.  I have found that marinara sauce is something that can be highly individual (as written about by Malcolm Gladwell).  This time, I had a five-gallon bucket of my mother’s tomatoes (primarily romas) and a few pounds of CSA tomatoes.  My sauce did not include the additional vegetables they recommend, although I did this last year and found it to be perfect!  This year, my pot was completely filled with tomatoes and I had no room for additional greenery!

Basic Tomato Sauce

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

Saute until softened in 2T olive oil

2 carrots (shredded)

1/2 green pepper (chopped)

2 bay leaves

1/4c fresh parsley (chopped)

2T fresh basil (chopped, or 2t dried)

1T fresh oregano (chopped, or 1 t dried)

1T fresh tyme (chopped, or 1 t dried)

Add and stir well.

6c plum tomatoes (peeled and chopped)

6oz tomato paste

1T honey (I used a mixture of honey and brown sugar)

salt and pepper to taste.

Add and season to personal taste.  Simmer 15 minutes.  Remove bay leaves and serve, freeze or can.

To make mine, I peeled and seeded the tomatoes.  You can blanch tomatoes to remove the peels, but I prefer to run the back of a knife over a tomato to loosen and remove the peel.  This is by far the longest part of the process for fresh tomatoes.  If you don’t mind peels and seeds, this will be a huge time saver!  Since I often give sauce away, I try to remove all these for my sauce.  This is a picture of the tomato guts from the second batch of sauce I made.

I simmered the tomatoes with seasonings to taste literally all day while painting at my mom’s house.  I kept layering in flavors after stirring.  Since I had a lot more tomatoes, I did not measure according to this recipe, but instead kept tasting and adding.  I also included red pepper flakes and a bunch of fresh basil from my garden in my final pot of sauce.  There are plenty of other vegetable additions that would be great, use your bounty to increase the nutrient density of the final product as you see fit.  If you prefer a sauce that has chunks, you may want to simmer for less time.  If you prefer a smooth consistency, you may want to blend your final product (see, Gladwell was right about sauce, everyone has a different idea of what’s good!) When you have a kitchen filled with glorious smells and sauce at a consistency and flavor you want-it’s time to freeze, eat or can.

To can:  ladle into hot, sterilized pint jars to the first ridge.  Add one T of lemon juice or vinegar to each jar to ensure acidity.  Seal with sterilized lids and process in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes.

Cool on a flat surface.  Ensure that the cans are sealed.  If any are not, put in the refrigerator (or freeze) and use immediately.

*Other hints, you can freeze the sauce at any point of the process.  Think, peel and seed the tomatoes, freeze and make the sauce later.  Peel and seed some of the tomatoes and freeze…you get the idea.  Like I said, this is highly forgiving and very individual.

Note: I have made two batches of sauce now (and that’s it for this year!).  I have 28 pints of sauce.  Last year, I canned 24 pints, gave quite a few away and recently finished the final jar in the batch.  I have not purchased spaghetti sauce for over a year and it looks like it will be at least 2 before I buy another jar!