Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sardine bruschetta

It occurred to me yesterday that I didn't know the difference between bruschetta and crostini.  I knew both where toasts usually flavored with olive oil and garlic, usually topped with something.  Well, don't worry, it's cool, know one else does either because we have completely changed the usages from the original Italian definitions, at least according to a couple websites and blogs.  But people are still willing to argue about it.  I should probably just call these sardine toasts instead of bruschetta to avoid controversy, but bruschetta seems more fitting, at least in the American misusage.  It seems the fundamental difference between the two is the diameter and thickness of the toast, crostini referring to smaller, bite-sized toasts, and bruschetta referring to anything larger.
Don't be scared of sardines, they are a delicious, sustainable source of omega 3 fatty acids

This recipe is a super easy, quick and healthy dinner.  I think I've extolled the virtues of sardines enough and don't need to go into it more (but, oh the omegas!)  Since the bread is large, I am calling it bruschetta.  We had it last night accompanied by a nice salad of spinach, arugula, roasted beets and asparagus, diced red peppers, pumpkin seeds and goat cheese.

Makes 4 toasts which is 2 servings for dinner or 4 to 8 (if cut in half) for an appetizer.

1 can sardines (preferably boneless, skinless, packed in olive oil; I buy them in bulk on Amazon, much cheaper this way)
2 T. diced sun dried tomatoes
2 T. diced red bell pepper
1 T. finely chopped parsley
2 t. finely chopped mint
juice of 1/4 lemon
2 cloves garlic
4 slices good whole grain bread (I used some leftover "Seeduction" bread from whole foods full of all sorts of seeds)
Parmesan cheese to grate over the breads

1.  Preheat broiler.
2.  Drain the sardines, reserving the oil separate from the sardines.
3.  Combine the tomatoes, bell pepper, parsley, mint, lemon juice with about 1 t. of the reserved oil from the sardines.  Mince 1 of the garlic cloves and add that in as well.  Stir, adding a little more oil if it seems dry.
4.  Slice the second garlic clove in half.  Rub one side of each bread slice with it.  Then, brush the same side with the reserved oil.
5.  On a baking sheet or broiler pan, put the bread slices under the broiler.  Broil till toasty, 1-2 minutes.
6.  Remove toasts from oven and divide the sardine mixture among the toasts.  Grate a dusting of parmesan cheese on top of each and return to the broiler for another 2 minutes to warm.  Consume immediately.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy belated Pi day! Whole grain shoofly pie

I'm always surprised at how many people have never had shoofly pie.  Some people haven't even heard of it.  Which is too bad because the confection of my Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors is delicious.  In taste and texture, it's almost more of a coffee cake than a pie.  It's not overly sweet, and it's a great treat to have with tea in the middle of the day, and for that reason I decided to make it (very slightly) healthier by incorporating whole grain flours. 
Yep, that's the middle digits of pi on my pie plate.

First, a quick description of how it's made for uninitiated.  You start with a traditional pie crust (unbaked).  Next, you pour in a molasses-egg yolk-baking soda-hot water mixture.  And last, you pour a good amount of spiced crumb topping that is a little like a streusel topping but with a greater flour:butter ratio.  The crumbs sink into the molasses mixture, and as it bakes, it develops a gradient from nearly 100% molasses-y custard on to bottom to nearly 100% dry sugary crumbs on top.  This picture, taken a few days after baking, kind of shows the gradient, but it was hard to capture.

My recipe originated in one of my Mom's old cookbooks called the Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook.  I transcribed the recipe into my little recipe book years ago.  The few changes I've made: spelt flour instead of white flour,  the fillings are multiplied by 1.5 because my pi plate is pretty deep, and I use butter instead of shortening in the crumbs.  I was also pretty generous in rounding up the spices cause I like spices a lot.  The crust I used was not from the original recipe, but one I made and froze at Thanksgiving from Cook's Illustrated - side note: I actually froze this pie crust cause I wasn't convinced it was going to be any good!  It was too wet!  But it was wet because the crew at America's Test Kitchen used vodka instead of some of the water, which doesn't develop the gluten like water does, but makes the dough easier to work with.  I just couldn't believe it when the dough was so tacky, but it's an amazing innovation.  Last note, there are plenty of recipes out there for whole grain pie crusts, I'm sure they would work great in this application.  Onto my version of shoofly pie...

1 unbaked pie crust

2 egg yolks
0.75 c. molasses
10 fluid ozs. boiling water
1.5 t. baking soda

1.5 c. spelt flour
0.75 t. cinnamon
0.25 t. freshly grated nutmeg
0.25 t. ground ginger
0.25 t. ground cloves
0.75 c. brown sugar
3 T. butter, cold, cut into 0.25 inch chunks   

3.  Preheat oven to 400.  Roll out pie shell, form in pi(e) plate, and refrigerate until it's ready to fill.
1.  Beat egg yolks, then blend in the molasses.
4.  Dissolve baking soda in boiling water.  Slowly, while whisking, incorporate the water-soda into the egg-molasses mixture.  Set aside.
1.  Combine the remaining dry ingredients, including brown sugar.
5.  Add butter and work into crumbs with your fingers.  Crumbs will be very dry.
9.  Pour liquid into pie shell and top with crumbs.
2.  Bake at 400 for 10 min.
6.  Reduce to 325 and bake for another 35-40 min.

Anyone catch the secret code in the recipe?  Happy π day!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Red spaghetti squash hash

I'm not going to claim I knew where I was headed when I made this the other night.  It was one of those "uhhhhh what do I want for dinner ... let's see [head in fridge] ... errr... there's kale, spaghetti squash ... and beet puree, what the hell am I gonna make with this??"  I was actually surprised that I really liked the end result.  And I'm proud to say that it's February and the spaghetti squash marks the last of the CSA produce (the beets too but they were in the freezer).  Took me long enough!

I had defrosted and pureed previously roasted beets to make a recipe - Quinoa and Beet Pancakes - from a cookbook I just got, Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain.  What a great cookbook, the cakers were awesome.  You can see another blogger's result from making this recipe here - they really are beautiful pancakes.  This reminds me of red flannel hash due to the color, but is meatless and probably tastes quite different, but that's what inspired me to put poached eggs on top.  Poached eggs on top of anything generally make it awesome.   This isn't the best picture - Andy took it from his phone once we were halfway through - sorry, but it gives you an idea!
Half eaten spaghetti squash hash

serves 2-4
1 small spaghetti squash
2 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 head flowering purple kale
1/2 t. salt
4 cloves garlic
1/3 c. beet puree
1 t. thyme
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
4 eggs
2 t. vinegar (white, white wine, or apple cider)

1.   Cut squash in half, scrape out the seeds.  Place cut sides down in a microwave safe casserole with about 1/4 inch water.  If you can only fit one half cut side down, do them one at a time.  Microwave for 10 minutes on high.  Let it sit a few minutes in the microwave to cool off.  Check for doneness - WARNING - will be VERY hot, use mitts.  Microwave for additional minutes till done if necessary.  It is done when the strands come loose with a fork.
2.  When cool enough to handle, transfer strands to the casserole dish (dried) and toss with butter, salt and pepper to taste.  (You probably want to do this step when the kale is almost done)
3.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet.  Tear up kale in large bite sized pieces, put in skillet with salt, and saute till just wilted.  Add about 1/4 c. water, garlic, and cover.  Cook for about 10 minutes or till done.
4.  Add beet puree and thyme and stir till it is warm. 
5.  Have a straight sided skillet heating with about 2 inches of water and the vinegar.  When it's at a simmer, very carefully break each egg into a saucer, and use the saucer to transfer the eggs in the simmering liquid, one for each quadrant of the skillet.  I do four eggs at once in my largest skillet, but if you haven't poached eggs like this before, you might want to start with one or two so you're not worried about them bumping each other.  Monitor the heat so you're maintaining a very gentle simmer.  After 3 minutes, remove the eggs.  I use a slotted spatula for this cause I do find they occasionally are slightly stuck to the bottom of the skillet.  You may want to gently shake them or flip onto a slotted spoon to remove excess water - just be careful not to break the yolk - they're delicate!
6.  Top the hash with the eggs and parmesan, serve.  This could be breakfast for four.  Andy and I each had two eggs for dinner but did not finish the hash.  I may need to poach another egg to have with the leftovers!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pregnancy drink series: week 3, decaf chai latte

Chai is one of my favorite coffee shop drinks (since I don't really like coffee).  The trouble with chai and pregnancy is that I don't think you can really get a good estimate of how much caffeine is in it because of the variety of ways it's prepared.  Here's a list of a few brands, and how much caffeine they have per 12 ozs (numbers from and
Oregon chai - 97.5 mg
Tazo - 70 mg
Pacific chai - 100 mg
Starbucks - 75 mg
So there's a range, and there might be more of a range among brewers who don't use the chai concentrate, but rather make it from scratch (a number of coffee shops, Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants I've been to make it from scratch, and it's delicious).  I also have a feeling that coffee shops that do make it from concentrates don't really measure it, cause I've definitely had ranges of concentrations.

But anyway, the obvious answer is to make it yourself with decaf tea.  The trick is great spices, good tea, and fresh ginger.  I just got a new batch of spices from Savory Spice Shop, and they sure make a difference!  I think especially good, soft, well-crumbled stick cinnamon and cardamom that hasn't been sitting around for a year makes this really good.  The cinnamon may be hard to find.  This recipe is certainly good with some ground cinnamon or hard cassia cinnamon stick, but not quite as good.  I'm giving links in case you want to follow this recipe to a tee, both Adagio and Savory have online ordering!

Ingredients, serves 2
3 t. teaspoons loose leaf decaf black tea
5 cardamom pods, crushed or torn open with your fingernails
3 cloves
1 inch soft Ceylon cinnamon stick, crumbled
1 grind of black pepper
1 heaping t. minced fresh ginger, or about an inch roughly chopped*
1 c. water
2 c. milk or milk substitute
2 T. sugar**
0.25 t. vanilla extract

1.  Combine tea, spices, ginger, and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a simmer, simmer for 3 minutes.
2.  Add in milk and sugar, stir to dissolve sugar, heat to steaming.
3.  Add in vanilla extract.  Strain and serve.

*The pre-minced jarred ginger you can get in a store works well here, I happened to have some, so that's where the 1 heaping teaspoon measure comes from.  I've also made it with sliced or roughly chopped fresh ginger root.  No need to peel.
**Honey and agave syrup are definitely tasty too!  I like plain sugar though.  2 T. makes the drink sweet, but not too sweet.  Less sweet than most chais I've had a coffee shops or restaurants, but it's all a matter of taste.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Pregnancy drink series: week 2, Green smoothie (spinach-banana-strawberry)

You need even more iron when you're pregnant, and that's one nutrient I struggle to get enough of normally with my mostly vegetarian diet (and the few meats I do rarely eat - chicken and turkey, stocks, aren't very high in iron anyway.)  There's certainly Fe in my prenatal vitamin, but supplements are generally harder to absorb than natural Fe ... it's less bioavailable due to its chemical form ... I won't get started on this but could go into a lot of chemistry if anyone's interested.

There's lots of iron in greens, and combining green with a little acid, especially the citric acid found in citrus, is a great way to increase its availability.  I love spinach in almost any form, but the smoothie form is a great way to start off the day.  Or for a snack.  My dad tried this this morning and despite he skepticism over the color and eating spinach for breakfast said it was good.

Green smoothie, serves 1
2 c. baby spinach greens (I buy the prewashed and add straight from the bag or clamshell)
0.5 banana (frozen is fine, even preferable)
a small handful of strawberries (4-6) (ditto the frozen remark)
0.5 c. plain yogurt
0.25 c. orange juice, adjust to achieve the preferred texture
optional: sweetener to taste (I usually skip this)
optional: a few ice cubes

Directions: Put in blender.  Blend.

I say that frozen fruit is preferable cause it makes the smoothie nice and frosty.  You may want to add a few ice cubes if your fruit is fresh.  I don't think they sell bananas frozen, but I buy a large bunch when they're on sale, and when they are good and ripe (a little overripe even), I peel them, break them in half, and throw them in a freezer bag.  Then they are ready smoothie making.

Other fruits are really good too - this morning I added some mango - but I would say strawberry makes for a classic taste.

Oh, and a random question - Andy picked up some Whole Foods 365 organic brand plain yogurt for the first time yesterday.  Did we just get a weird batch or is it about 10 times more sour than other brands of plain yogurt (specifically Mountain High, which is what we usually get)?  It was sour enough that when I licked the spoon I immediately spit it out thinking something was wrong with it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pregnancy drink series: week 1, Grapefruit spritzer

As I mentioned in the last post, I'm getting creative with non-alcoholic beverages lately.  I'm going to attempt to keep a semi-regular posting schedule by putting a new drink up once a week. Most will be pretty simple, some a little more complex.  We'll start with a simple one.

Grapefruit spritzer, serves two

1 grapefruit
2 T. agave syrup (or to taste)
2 cans seltzer water

1.  Juice the grapefruit.
2.  In each of two glasses, combine half the juice and 1 T. agave syrup and stir.  Add an ice cube or two.
3.  Pour in the seltzer water (slowly as it will bubble up a lot) and stir. 

Note: My glasses aren't big enough to hold all of the seltzer water; there's always a little left in the can, so I just top it off when I've had a little of it.

Barley edamame soup

I haven't posted in quite a while!  I'm not abandoning the blog, but if the next 6 months are anything like the last one (and they probably will be), posting frequency will probably be somewhat similar as well.  My master plan is to finish up my PhD work by mid-May; this is commanding most of my attention right now.  That and pregnancy!  To make up for the lack of well though out recipes and nice pictures, I think I'm gonna try to post a weekly pregnancy (a.k.a. non-alcoholic) drink recipe because I've been getting pretty creative in that arena lately.  These aren't necessarily cocktail type drinks, but a variety of warm, cold, blended or whatever beverages.

But I did make a nice soup a few days ago - it disappeared before I could take a picture, but I wanted to share it anyway cause I think barley and edamame go great together.  Really the rest of the ingredients are optional, just use what you have.  Sauteeing them might bring out some more flavors, but this is so easy as is, it's really great as is.  The water used to cook the barley has a nice barley taste, so I just supplement that with some broth.

I made about 1.5 c. worth of dry barley (half a bag), and have been enjoying the leftovers for breakfast like oatmeal.  I've been mixing in (not necessarily all in one bowl) toasted pecans, maple syrup, chopped stewed prunes, craisins, diced apples, cinnamon, milk, All-bran cereal (bran buds)... yummy.  If you do this, you'll need to pour all the barley into a strainer and catch the barley water (you'll also need more water than I call for in the recipe); add about a cup of cooked barley and 1 - 1.5 c. barley water, then proceed with the recipe.

Serves 3-4


1/3 c. dry pearled barley
water to cover by about 2 inches
1 can chicken (or veggie) stock
1/2 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 c. frozen edamame (pre-shelled)
1/2 c. frozen spinach
1-2 t. soy sauce (to taste)
2 T. grated parmesan cheese
fresh ground black pepper

1.  Cover barley with water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 35 minutes, or still al dente (should be edible, but it's going to cook a bit longer so doesn't need to be super soft.  Chop veggies while barley is cooking.
2.  Add in the stock, bring to a boil.
3.  Add in the carrots and onion.  Cook for 5 minutes, then add in the celery.  Cook for another 5 minutes (or more) till the veggies are tender.
4.  Add in the edamame and spinach, bring to a boil, and boil for 2 minutes. 
5.  Season with soy sauce, cheese, and pepper and serve.