Friday, October 26, 2012

onion brown sugar jam

Make this! It will take you minutes of actual work (then a few hours of sitting back and waiting), and your friends will be like 'why is this so delicious? I love this! I'm going to eat it straight from the jar!' What can you do with these delicious onions? Stir them into mac and cheese, spread them on a grilled cheese sandwich, serve them on a cheese plate, put them on pizza, or throw them into a salad. (My lovely friend Jessica served me a tasty salad with these onions, walnuts and goat cheese - yum!)

Caramelized onions are the simplest thing on earth to make, yet like most delicious things, they take quite a bit of time. Time where you just have to sit back and let the onions do the work, while you go and catch up on Jamie Oliver's new television show.

onion and brown sugar jam
This is really just a fancy name for caramelized onions, a recipe I found in Food and Drink, entitled 'brown sugar and onion marmelade.' I refuse to call it marmelade - marmalade is for citrus, period. I'll stick with the jam title though, because surprise (!), you can process them in jars and make them shelf stable.

1 tbsp olive oil
6 lbs onions
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt

Cut your peeled onions in half, then in slices, around 1/2 inch thick. Don't be too careful - it's all going to cook down into a large, delicious mess. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, add the onions and stir for a minute. Add the brown sugar and vinegar, and stir to distribute. Leave on low heat, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. The onions will collapse and cook down a lot. Finally, turn the heat up to medium high, and cook off most of the liquid, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.

You can freeze this, or keep it in the fridge for 3 or 4 weeks. Alternately, you can can them in half pint jars, using these instructions, processing for 30 minutes.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

apple sauce, apple butter, apple jam

One day, I dream about living somewhere with apple trees, where I can walk through the rows of small trees, crunching on leaves and fallen apples, reaching up to pick a sweet, incredibly crunchy apple straight from the tree. I know people grow and eat apples all over the world, but to me, they just feel like such a Canadian food, full of childhood memories of apple juice and the first recipe I learned how to make: apple crumble. This year, those usually abundant apples are much more precious, after an early frost meant Ontario apple farmers lost up to 90% of their crop. I'll be savouring each apple that much more.

Here's what you can make from a half bushel of apples. It's about 25lbs of apples, which is around $25 at most markets. All but one of these recipes is from Food in Jars, an amazing preserving website with an equally amazing book

The first three of these recipes are can-able. Instead of explaining the canning process here, I'll just direct you to the official USDA canning site. Alternately, you could freeze any of these recipes instead, or just eat them fast - they'll all keep in the fridge for 3 or 4 weeks.

If you want to read more about canning, there's lots of useful websites. Well Preserved is a Canadian site with lots of canning recipes, plus dehydrated food and booze infusions. Another useful one is the very official National Centre for Home Food Preservation. Canning Across America is great, and of course, don't forget Food in Jars.

spiced applesauce with nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon
From this original recipe, makes 4 pints.

4 pounds apples
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
sugar (I used 1/2 cup of honey. Add anywhere from 1/4 to 1 cup of sugar, honey or maple syrup, depending on your taste, and the tartness of your apples.)

Quarter and core the apples. Don't bother peeling. Put in a large pot with water, cover and bring to a simmer. After 15 minutes, mash with the back of a spoon or a potato masher. Keep cooking until it reaches the consistance you want. You can either fish out the skins with tongs, or put your applesauce through a chinoise or food mill. I did this, and it created a great, silky smooth apple sauce. If you are straining the sauce, return it to the pot after straining, and add the spices and sugar. Proceed to canning! Process 15 minutes for half pints and pints, and 20 minutes for quarts.

apple, honey and almond conserve
From the Food in Jars cookbook, makes 2 half pints. 

4 cups peeled and chopped apples
3/4 cup grape juice
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped, toasted almonds

Combine apples and grape juice in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Simmer, covered, for 10-20 minutes, until apples have softened. Mash the apples with the back of a spoon or a potato masher until you have a chunky sauce. Add honey, sugar and cinnamon, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Stirring often, cook for 10-15 minutes, until mixture is thickened. Add the almonds. Proceed to canning - process for 15 minutes.

tart apple cranberry butter with maple syrup
Adapted from this recipe, makes 8 half pints. I reduced the sugar slightly, because I looooove tart food, but go ahead and add up to 1 cup of maple syrup or sugar. This, just like the applesauce recipe, is a safe recipe to adjust the sugar levels, because the acidity levels are so high.

7 cups (1 1/2 lbs) fresh cranberries
5 lbs. apples, cored and quartered
1 cup water
3/4 cup maple syrup or sugar

Combine apples, cranberries and water in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Simmer for one and a half hours, stirring every 10-15 minutes to help move around and break down apples. Now, put your apple mixture through a mesh strainer or chinoise to remove the skins. At this point, I moved my butter to a crock pot, where I left it for about 8 hours on low heat, stirring every hour or so. Alternately, you can cook down butter on the stove. Make sure you have it on the lowest possible heat, and in a wide pot, only partially covered - more opportunity for evaporation and reduction. It will take quite a few hours. Basically, just cook it until it's reduced to your liking - you're going for a dark, thick and spreadable butter. Finally, proceed to canning - process 20 minutes for a 1/2 pint.

pumpkin and apple butter with warm spices
From the Food in Jars cookbook. I reduced the amount of sugar. Usually, you should stick to official canning recipes, because they have been tested for PH levels - only highly acidic food is safe for water bath canning, hence why you can't can soup or meat unless you have a pressure canner. But, since this recipe is not suitable for canning (pumpkin is low acid), and going to be frozen, it's fine to play around with the ingredients. Makes 5 half pints.

5 cups applesauce
3 cups pumpkin puree (I used a mixture of pumpkin and butternut squash)
1 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger

Combine apples and pumpkin in a heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a simmer, then cook at low heat for 1 hour. Add sugar, lemon juice and spices, and cook for another hour or two on low heat, until it's reached a thick, spreadable consistency. Alternately, you could cook this in a slow cooker. Just add the sugar, lemon juice and spices after an hour of cooking, and cook on low heat for a couple of hours.

Again, this recipe's not safe for canning, so either freeze it, or keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

a peanut butter and jam sandwich... cookie.

It's not a sandwich, it's a sandwich cookie. And it's vegan. And it passed the test of a garage full of hungry mechanics at my boyfriend's work (I told him not to talk about the vegan part).

This recipe makes a great, crisp-chewy peanut butter cookie, and you could stop right there and have a perfectly good dessert. But I think you should go the extra step and throw some jam in the centre. Use any kind of jam you like; a classic grape jelly, a tangy raspberry jam, or an apple butter. I like to make the little sandwiches about an hour before I serve them - the jam sinks into the cookie and makes it get soft and gooey. But a day later, and you'll have a soggy cookie mess (which is still delicious, but kind of falls apart as you eat it). 

Want another flavour of sandwich cookie? Try a gingered sugar cookie with apple butter I made a few months ago. Or, Martha Stewart's zucchini nut bread cookie sandwiches. It's a mouthful. Martha's also got this cute peanut butter and jelly cookie cake- they look like tiny sandwich triangles! Now I can't stop - what about this brownie cookie with salted caramel filling? So many cookie sandwiches, so little time.

peanut butter and jam sandwich cookies
Cookie part adapted from peanut ginger sesame cookies from the Veganomicon cookbook. Makes 24 sandwich cookies. 

2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegan shortening (or butter)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup brown rice syrup (or honey)
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup soy milk (or regular milk)
1 tsp vanilla

1-2 cups jam of your choice

Pre-heat oven to 350. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat shortening with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add peanut butter, brown rice syrup, sugar, soy milk, and vanilla and beat another 3 minutes. Stir in the flour. Keep stirring another 3 or 4 minutes. The dough will become hard to stir - keep going! Scoop out two inch balls onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, leaving quite a bit of space between each. The cookies will spread and double in size. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes on cookie sheet before moving to a rack to cool.

When cookies are completely cool, and about an hour before you plan to eat/serve them, spread jam on one cookie and top with a second cookie. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

the caesar: redux

At the camp I work at every summer, myself and my fellow counsellors have a mascot. He's a stuffed lobster, and he sings 'Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot' when you squeeze his claw. Many inside jokes aside, we decided to create a cocktail that might reflect Pinchy's tastes (yes, the lobster's name is Pinchy). Then we went a little nuts and created not one, but two deluxe cocktails. Here's the first one.

A note: I'm not a big caesar person. Did you know the second ingredient in Clamato is glucose/fructose? And there's that clam juice issue, not to mention the MSG. I also hate vodka. So caesars aren't looking so great for me. However, I love the idea of a vegetable-based cocktail, something with a fancy salt rim and endless possibilities for garnishes!

Here it is: a truffle salt rim, pickle juice, sriracha, gin, a tomato juice base, and enough garnishes to keep you snacking throughout the whole drink. It's not a casear anymore - which means it's my kind of caesar.

The Garden Pinchy
Makes four delicious cocktails.

1 lime
1/4 cup truffle salt
juice from pickle jar
sriracha sauce
8 oz. gin
4 cups tomato juice
8 olives
4 dill pickle spears
toothpicks and tiny umbrellas for garnish
4 tall rocks glasses

Cut the lime into 8 wedges - the bartender way. Cut it in half, lengthwise, then make a 1/2 inch cut into each side, crosswise. Then, slice each half into 4 wedges. You should have a handful of wedges with a small cut in them, so you can easily slide them on the edge of a glass. Set four aside for garnish.

On each glass, take a lime wedge and run it around the rim. Pour the truffle salt in a saucer, and twist each glass in the salt, creating a salt rim. Toss a handful of ice in each glass. Pour a splash of pickle juice in each glass. Next, add a tiny bit of sriracha to each glass. Add 2 oz of gin to each, and top up with 1 cup of tomato juice. Stir each glass to combine. Stick a pickle spear in each glass, add a few olives on a toothpick, an umbrella, and a lime wedge.

Too much garnish? You can tone it down if you like, but I like snacks built into my beverages. It's like a salad in a glass.

Friday, October 12, 2012

hot chocolate

It seems like just yesterday I was wearing shorts. Now, they're being packed away, along with all my other summer clothes. I'm going through my boxes of tea at an alarming rate. And it's harder and harder to leave the warmth of my duvet in the morning.

The perfect cure for the chills: hot chocolate. I love it with whole milk, but you can use low-fat, soy or almond. Also in the picture? Almond cake my friend made, from the cookbook Canning for a New Generation. A most satisfying combination. I couldn't find the exact recipe online, but here's a similar one from Jamie Oliver. I just can't get enough of him lately, which is why I'm seeing him in person (!) next week at Massey Hall.

hot chocolate
makes 2 large mugs

60 g dark chocolate (about 1/2 bar)
3 cups milk
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp sugar (or other sweetener - honey, maple syrup)
pinch of salt

Melt chocolate in a heavy bottomed pot on very low heat. Add milk, cocoa, sugar and salt, and bring to a simmer, whisking to combine ingredients. Enjoy with delicious baked goods, or throw it in a thermos for consumption after fall hikes or winter sports.

roasted cauliflower fritters

Welcome to the wonderful world of fritters. There's corn fritters, zucchini fritters, broccoli fritters, and now - cauliflower fritters! Any vegetable (and sometimes fruit) can be combined with flour, egg, sometimes cheese, and some seasonings. Wikipedia says a fritter is basically anything fried in batter, from pakoras in India to apple fritters in the USA. Well then! Get frying!

cauliflower fritters
These are inspired by a delicious Broccoli Fritter recipe from Smitten Kitchen. If you think they sound delicious, then head over the the Wychwood Barns Farmer's Market, where they're on the menu tomorrow morning at the Stop Cafe!

1 large head of cauliflower
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tbsp curry powder
1 egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup grated cheese (I used a strong cheddar)

Preheat the oven to 425. Cut cauliflower into florets. Toss with oil, salt, pepper and curry powder. Spread on a baking sheet and roast 20-30 minutes, until browned. Pulse cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles small crumbs (you might have to do this in batches). In a bowl, beat egg. Add flour, milk and cheese, and mix to combine. Add cauliflower and stir.

Shape the dough into 3-inch patties. Fry fritters in olive oil, until browned, about 3 minutes each side. Try serving with spiced yogurt  (yogurt with salt, pepper, lemon juice, chopped parsley and paprika).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

carrot cake for a windy day

I can't say no to overripe bananas. So here's a carrot cake. With bananas. It's got no refined sugar - surprise! Just that fructose hiding in the dates and bananas. The recipe is from 101 cookbooks.

Carrot Cake

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 cup walnut pieces
4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup dried dates, very finely chopped into a paste
3 ripe bananas (1 1/4 cups), mashed well
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (about 3)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs, lightly beaten

6 oz. cream cheese (just over 1/2 a block)
3 tbsp maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and walnuts in a bowl. In a small bowl, stir together melted butter and dates. In a large bowl, mix together mashed bananas, carrots, yogurt and eggs. Stir in butter and dates. Add flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Spread batter into a loaf pan or 9x9 pan, lined with parchment paper. Bake 50-60 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Meanwhile, beat together room temperature cream cheese and maple syrup. Spread over the cooled cake.

(My cat loves to photo-bomb, especially when there's cream cheese involved.)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

making things fancy

There's nothing wrong with a handful of raw almonds for a snack. But what if those almonds could be toasted and flavoured with maple syrup and rosemary? I'll be honest, I have a fair quantity of free time these days, so I'm taking full advantage by turning everything I eat into a fancy, flavourful feast. I'm really enjoying La Tartine Gourmande lately. Here's another recipe from her website.

Toasty Nuts
Originally from The Sprouted Kitchen's new cookbook. Egg white acts as a binder in this recipe - you can change the recipe by mixing any number of flavours into the beaten egg white, like different sweeteners, herbs or spices.

1 egg white
2 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups unsalted mixed nuts
2 tbsp flax seeds
3 tbsp millet or quinoa
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary

Preheat oven to 300. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, beat egg white until frothy. Beat in maple syrup, cayenne, pepper and salt. Add nuts, flaxseeds, millet and rosemary. Toss to combine. Spread out evenly on the baking sheet, and cook 25-30 minutes, until browned and toasted.

Other things I've been making this week:
Jamie Oliver's blueberry cake - upside down and flavoured with citrus zest.
Not Without Salt's hot fudge pudding cake - just like that boxed pudding cake, but better.
The Sprouted Kitchen's chocolate oatmeal shortbread cookies - mmmmmm.
Also from The Sprouted Kitchen - spiced lentil soup.

Monday, October 1, 2012

more raspberries. MORE!

I just can't get enough. Here's one more raspberry recipe, which would work equally well with any berries you might have stashed away in your freezer. I can also imagine them sans berries, with some citrus zest, or a small piece of chocolate in the centre. These tiny cakes are gluten-free, and full of delicious, nutty brown butter. They would be perfect for a fancy tea party, or a afternoon coffee break.

The original recipe, on La Tartine Gourmande (one of the most beautiful food blogs around), uses ground pistachos instead of almonds, as well as a mixture of berries. She also uses muffin tins for a larger cake, but I was taking the cakes to a potluck, so I tried mini-muffin tins.

Also, I've started using a scale in my kitchen. So many European cookbooks, blogs and magazines use weight measurements - it was about time! A scale really is essential for bread and pastry making, and now I can finally be able to stop guessing what 3 lbs. of potatoes really looks like! Mine is a tiny Starfrit scale- one of the most useful presents I've received in a long time from a lovely baking friend.

brown butter raspberry cakes

5 1/2 tbsp (80 g) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped out
2/3 cup (70 g) almond meal (grind whole almonds in a food processor into a fine meal)
2 tbsp gluten free flour mix (if you're not concerned about gluten, just use all-purpose)
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup (50 g) white sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 pint of raspberries (around 1 cup)

Melt butter in a heavy bottomed pot. Continue cooking over low heat until butter turns brown and nutty flavoured, around 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla seeds. Let sit for 15 minutes to steep. After butter has steeped, strain through a fine mesh to remove any solids.

Preheat the oven to 400. Grease muffin tins. Stir together almond meal, flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together egg and sugar. Add the dry ingredients to egg and sugar, and beat to combine. Stir in melted butter, then buttermilk.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter, then press berries into each cake. Bake for 10-12 minutes for mini-muffin tins, and 20-25 minutes for large muffin tins. Let cool before removing from tins. I dusted mine with demerera sugar before serving (the large, crunchy brown sugar).

Makes 18 small cakes or 6 large cakes