Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Baked Salmon, Not Your Mama's Brussels Sprout & Potato Gratin

Our holiday family dinner at Tutu and Papa Keith's was superb! The setting is so intimate and festive - toasty warm and cozy inside. Their house is a beautiful hand-scribed log home... our table centerpiece set with evergreen boughs, red cardinals and candles.

We prepared our family's favorite oven-baked salmon rubbed with freshly squeezed lemon juice, sprinkled with sea salt, smothered in sour cream, topped with thinly-sliced rings of onion and baked for 40-minutes at 350-degrees.

For side dishes, Tutu came up with two new recipes this year. Both were absolutely delicious. I'm getting hungry to the point of drooling, just thinking about them.

Unfortunately, there was so much going on while I was helping to serve up dinner that I forgot to take photos of our dishes, except for this one - our daughter Skye handing me a second helping of Potato Gratin. That's my mother Marjorie aka Tutu on the left and our grandson Max on the right.


Recipe for Potato Gratin

Ingredients:

2-1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 garlic clove, halved
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Course salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (1 cup)

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees.
  2. Peel potatoes and place in a bowl of water to prevent browning.
  3. Rub inside of a 9x12 inch oval baking dish with the cut sides of the garlic.
  4. Heat the cream, milk, nutmeg and 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until bubbles form along the edge.
  5. Season with pepper and remove from the heat.
  6. Slice the potatoes 1/8-inch thick using a slicing-mandoline and transfer to a large bowl.
  7. Pour the warm cream mixture over top.
  8. Mix well, using your hands to separate and coat the potato slices.
  9. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish.
  10. Gently push the potatoes down and pour the remaining cream mixture in the bowl over top.
  11. Evenly sprinkle the Gruyere cheese over the top.
  12. Place baking dish in the oven with a cookie sheet of foil on the rack below to catch drippings.
  13. Bake until the potatoes are tender and the top is bubbling and brown, about 1 hour and 15-minutes.
Serves 6 (we doubled the recipe).


Recipe for Not Your Mama's Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

1-3/4 pounds Brussels sprouts (outer leaves removed)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 medium shallots, thinly sliced ( 2 cups)
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted and divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:
  1. Using a food processor and working in batches, thinly slice the Brussels sprouts.
  2. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large pot on medium heat.
  3. Add shallots and saute until almost translucent for about 3 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute.
  5. Add Brussels sprouts, increasing the heat to medium-high and saute until tender, about 8 minutes.
  6. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the toasted pine nuts and lemon juice.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts.
Serves 8 (we doubled the recipe).

Friday, December 25, 2009

Halibut Osso Bucco & Pine Nut Pilaf

The fish market was jam-packed... it appeared that not everyone was serving prime rib, ham or turkey Christmas Eve. My husband emerged from the frenzy with four beautiful halibut fillets packed in ice for the long drive home.

The eve of Christmas Eve our daughter made the Halibut Osso Bucco* sauce in her kitchen and I made the Pine Nut Pilaf in mine, so we'd spend the least amount of time in the kitchen on Christmas Eve and our dinner would be all the more flavorful. Our Christmas Eve Halibut "Osso Bucco" dinner was so delicious it will most likely become a new culinary tradition for our family at Christmas time.

The Osso Bucco sauce is a savory stew of fresh ingredients finely chopped: onions, carrots, celery, parsley and garlic with pureed tomatoes, lemon peel, white wine, vegetable stock, butter, bay leaves, sea salt and pepper.

Our Halibut Osso Bucco recipe comes from Halibut - The Cookbook, page 100. Whitecap Books. Edited by Karen Barnby, this cookbook is the only one you'll ever need for preparing and cooking halibut to perfection. Every halibut recipe I've tried thus far, including this recipe is magnifico!

The halibut is salt and peppered and dipped in rice flour, then pan-seared over medium heat on all sides. The fillets are then placed in a glass baking dish. The sauce is brought to a boil and poured over the halibut and baked at 350-degrees for 10 minutes; 15 minutes at the most. We served four fillets and used all the sauce intended to serve 6. We enjoyed the extra sauce with our pilaf.


Pine Nut Pilaf

Ingredients:

2 large onions, diced (2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup butter
4-1/2 to 5 cups vegetable stock
2 cups Basmati rice, uncooked
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup currants, blanched (or golden raisins)
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:
  1. Saute the onion and garlic in butter in a large skillet or pot until golden.
  2. Add the vegetable stock (or chicken stock) according to the directions for cooking the rice.
  3. Bring the stock to a boil and stir in the rice with a fork or whisk.
  4. Cover and reduce the heat; follow the directions for cooking the rice.
  5. When the rice is done, add in the blanched currants, parsley, pine nuts, salt and pepper.
Serves 10-12

* Italian Osso Bucco (or Buco) is traditionally made with veal shanks, carrots, onion, celery, garlic, pancetta, and gremolata with parsley, lemon zest, and garlic.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Red Curry-Spiced Pumpkin Soup

A couple days ago, our neighbor invited me over to share some of the last pumpkin from their garden with us. When I arrived, Kyle met me outside with an axe. She wanted to know how much of the 100 pound pumpkin I wanted. She hacked off a couple large chunks, which I brought home, cut into 8 thick slabs and roasted on two racks in my oven at 375-degrees for nearly two hours.

Some of them I vacuum sealed and froze; the rest I put in the refrigerator for making pumpkin soup this evening for our Christmas Eve lunch tomorrow with family.

I pureed two quarts of cubed roasted pumpkin in my food processor in two batches.



Ingredients:

2 quarts of pureed pumpkin
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1-6 teaspoons red curry powder (or paste; add more or less to taste)
2 teaspoons sea salt, finely ground

Directions:
  1. Pour the pureed pumpkin into your soup pot and begin cooking on medium-high heat.
  2. Add the coconut milk, butter and curry powder, and bring to a simmer.
  3. If you desire a thinner consistency, add water or vegetable stock.
  4. Add salt and adjust the curry according to your taste.
Serves 8-10

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Home-Brewing Kombucha


I was recently introduced to Kombucha, a refreshing, sweet and sour fermented tonic, at a raw foods party we hosted here at Le Roost Lorane. Marlyn brought a bottle to drink and Aaron gifted us with a bottle of their home-brewed Kombucha. Aaron also gave me some of his culture, also referred to as "mother" or "scoby".

Tuesday, I purchased a gallon glass jar at Bi-Mart and used the black and green tea and sugar I had on hand to started fermenting my own batch of Kombucha with the recipe Marlyn gave me and the mother from Aaron on Wednesday. I found liter-size glass bottles at Down to Earth and bottled my brew on Sunday. My Kombucha may have turned out better had I waited one more day, but I'm very happy with my first batch. It's a sweet-sour fermented drink that has a unique, delicate sweet and sour flavor - a great flavor!

Ingredients:

1 gallon of water (non- chlorinated (let tap water sit out until chlorine evaporates or use distilled)
2.5 cups of sugar
6 black tea bags
6 green tea bags (one can be green-ginger tea)
1 Culture start - from a Mother (3/16-inches thick, is normal)

Directions:
  1. In a large stainless pot, bring a gallon of water (free on chlorine and minerals) to a boil with the sugar.
  2. Add the tea bags and steep for 15-minutes, and remove.
  3. Cool the mixture to room temperature.
  4. Pour into a gallon wide-mouth glass container.
  5. Add the culture to start the fermentation process.
  6. Cover with a cloth (needs air) and rubber band to keep bugs out.
  7. Leave out on a counter or table in a warm spot, ideally between 70-85 degrees F.
  8. After a few days to a week, a skin will start to form on the surface of the kombucha scoby.
  9. A harmless bacteria or white mold may form on top. That is fine.
  10. Sample the liquid, and depending on how acidic you like it, strain into glass liter bottles with tight lids, store and refrigerate. If the kobucha is too acidic you will have vinegar - no real loss, as you can use if for salad dressings, etc.
  11. The skin that forms on the kombucha creates a new mother. Start a new batch with one of the kombucha mothers and store the other one in some of the liquid in a glass jar in the refrigerator. It will continue to thicken with layers of bacteria.
  12. Share your extra kombucha with a friend.
There's so much more I could say about Kombucha and its history, but I'm simply going to recommend that you gather more information about brewing your own fermented kombucha from the books like Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz and visit the World Wide Kombucha Exchange, where you can order a mother of your own.

Gluten-Free, Cottage Cheese-Jalapeño Cornbread

I love homemade cornbread made from scratch and have a great recipe. My only problem today, was that I didn't have enough rice flour nor did I have any buttermilk. My solution was to mix a variety of flours I had on hand and make a buttermilk substitute. It still turned out moist and delicious - a double batch to enjoy this morning hot out of the oven with butter, to serve it tonight with our salmon dinner, with homemade vegetarian chili tomorrow! This cornbread freezes well.


Ingredients:

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour (gluten-free: try a mix of corn, rice, almond...)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk*
1 cup cottage cheese, small curd
1-7 ounce can of diced green chilies
1/4 cup safflower or canola oil
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)


Ingredients:
  1. Mix the cornmeal, flour, baking power and salt in a bowl.
  2. Mix the sugar, eggs, buttermilk, cottage cheese in a bowl.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
  4. Stir in the corn and the diced green chilies.
  5. Pour mixture into a greased 8-inch glass baking dish.
  6. Bake in a pre-heated 375-degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
*Buttermilk Substitute:
  1. Place a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice into a measuring cup.
  2. Add milk to the one-cup line.
  3. Let mixture stand for 5-minutes.
Serves 8-10

Option: Serve honey-butter or syrup when you serve this cornbread at breakfast.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gift Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home. ~Edith Sitwell
Our family tradition, since I was a child, is to bring out our beautiful, antique chocolate set and sip hot chocolate and nibble on homemade Christmas cookies as we listen to holiday music and exchange gifts on Christmas Eve.

Invite loved ones to share a cup of hot cocoa with you around the fire on Christmas Eve or festively package your homemade, gluten-free, organic hot cocoa mix and gift a batch to your family, friends and co-workers during the holidays. Include packets of toppings like chocolate nibs and mini-marshmallows - the kids will love it!



Ingredients for Vanilla Sugar:

2 cups organic unbleached raw cane sugar
1 whole vanilla bean, cut up into small pieces

Ingredients for Organic Hot Cocoa Mix:

1 cup organic dry powdered milk
1/4 cup high quality organic cocoa powder
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
Pinch of sea salt

Directions for Vanilla Sugar:
  1. Combine the sugar with the vanilla bean in a food processor or a blender.
  2. Process until the vanilla bean is completely minced.
  3. Strain sugar into a container with a tight fitting lid. Store in a cool dry place.

Directions for Organic Hot Cocoa Mix:
  1. Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container.
  2. To make hot cocoa, stir one cup boiling water into 1/4 cup mix.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chocoholic's Delight

Raw desserts are fun, especially for those that are gluten-intolerant. I love a good piece of chocolate now and then, but variety is the spice of life "they" say. This creamy, pudding-like dessert is so rich that I made small sample-size servings for our guests to taste.


Ingredients:

1/4 cup cacao or dark chocolate nibs
1 avocado
1/4 cup dates, pitted
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a blender or a Cuisinart for 2-minutes or until smooth. Chill.

Note: I found that I can put this dessert in the freezer to chill and to keep. It will not freeze solid. I think this is because of the oil from the avocado. I made this a week ago and they remain fresh and edible right out of the freezer today. Yum! I just at two tasty treats, just as good as if I just made them. I love the zing of ginger!

Serves 3 or makes a plate full of appetizer-size servings.

This recipe is from Fresh - The Ultimate Live-Food Cookbook by Segei and Valya Boutenko, page 105.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Medlar Pie

Last month, at our raw foods potluck, I ate Durian for the firs time. It stunk to high heaven, but had the consistency of a creamy pudding or custard and had a mild, sweet taste. Last Sunday, we hosted a holiday raw foods potluck and party here at Le Roost Lorane. I thought it would be fun to introduce another food that most of us have never tasted. Medlar. It was the first time for all of us. Tastes a bit muddy and feels a bit gritty. You pop it open, suck out the fleshy part and spit out the cluster of small seeds inside. Since no one helped themselves to seconds, I made a medlar pie this afternoon with the rest, and for the remainder of the two cups I needed I added Leroux Creek organic apricot applesauce.

Don't know what to do with Medlar once you find it at the market? Join me and experiment. Make yourself a Medlar Pie:


Filling:

2 cups medlar pulp, skin and seeds removed* (I used 1 cup medlar** and 1 cup applesauce)

12 oz. (1/2 cup) evaporated milk

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, beaten


*If you don't have a full 2 cups of medlar pulp, you can use unsweetened applesauce to make up the difference.


**I swished the innards out by hand; quite messy.


Place everything but the eggs in a saucepan and simmer over low heat until slightly thick. Don't let it boil, or the milk will curdle. If needed, run the mix through a food mill or sieve to remove seeds and lumps. Let it cool slightly, then whisk in the eggs. Pour into an unbaked pie shell (I use a gluten-free shell) and bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then at 350 degrees until done (for me, it was 30 minutes more in a convention oven).


Yummers!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Meatless Monday Campaign

After a busy weekend of preparing food and entertaining guests, I wanted something on this cold and frosty day that was warm, nourishing and easy to fix for dinner tonight. One of the benefits of be a member of Linkedin.com is that you can join groups, and groups email digests, and group members share a plethora of information. The downside, of belonging to any online community or surfing anywhere on the Internet is that you can be inundated and overwhelmed with solicited content. I recently had to change a bunch of email preferences to curb the quantity of emails I am receiving daily and weekly. That said, from time to time I find a tidbit of info that has meaning or benefit to me. This is how I found out about the Meatless Monday Campaign and this delicious morsel shared by Tracy Ritson of the Green Publishing Group on Linkedin.

The following recipe "Meatless Monday Winter Warm-Up - Hearty Lentil Soup" comes from Angela on Sustainable Scribe by PLANET FORWARD.

"Monday! As you may or may not know, Planet Forward supports the Meatless Monday campaign – a non-profit initiative in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It’s part of an eco-friendly worldwide movement to reduce consumption of animal products in favour of more plant-based meals to fight global warming and improve our personal health. This week we bring another vegetarian recipe for you to try.

Beans are a staple for vegetarians as they are a healthy (and fat-free) source of protein and carbohydrates. Plus they are more familiar to flexitarians and other non-full-time vegetarians than tofu, tempeh and seitan. Our hearty lentil soup recipe can be made ahead of time and you can even freeze it (in an air-tight container) if you make too much. I am a huge soup fan especially during the long-cold Canadian winter and this is one of my favourites.

Hearty Lentil Soup - serves 4 people as a main course with a salad and bread (gluten-free ideally but whole-wheat/grain is good too)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery diced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt/pepper to taste (if needed)
  • Tabasco Hot sauce (optional and to taste)
Note: To the above, I added green onions, corn, peas and fresh tomatoes quartered, and a half tablespoon of Mountain Rose Herbs All Purpose Seasoning.

Preparation:
In a large pot, saute onions, celery and carrot in the vegetable oil for 3-5 minutes until onions are transparent. Add the vegetable broth, lentils, bay leaves and salt/pepper (if needed).

Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until lentils are soft, about 45 minutes. Remove bay leaves and stir in hot sauce (if desired) and that’s it. Easy-peasy. Serve with a side salad and fresh bread to round off a great and satisfying meal.

Don’t forget - to join the movement, sign up online by going to your local Meatless Monday site or you can go here http://www.meatlessmonday.com/ to learn more. If this Monday passed you by, next week is another chance to go meatless – it’s only one day for an eco-friendly cause. Join us.

Bon (vegetarian) Appetit!" - Angela

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Broiled Razor Clams

I find it interesting how hard it is to find variations on razor clam recipes. Even the seafood cookbooks I have in my kitchen seem to have overlooked these delectable, nutty-flavored shellfish. I've enjoyed razor clams since I was a young girl, mostly ordering in restaurants, pan-fried or chopped up and served in New England clam chowder.


Tonight, I tried something different. I made Rich's Broiled Baked Razor Clams from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

You will need: Razor clams, cleaned. (The fresher the better)

Eggs, beaten (however many you need for your egg wash).
Ritz Crackers, regular kind (not the low-fat or low-sodium varieties), crushed. Enough to coat the clams.
Butter, melted. (Margarine works)

Preparation: Turn your oven broiler on to high. It needs to be HOT.

1. Dip the cleaned clams in the egg wash.
2. Coat well with crushed Ritz crackers ( I used crushed sesame rice crackers (gluten-free).
3. Lay the clams out, single layer, on a greased baking sheet. (Lining the sheet with foil first makes easier clean up).
4. Drizzle the clams with melted butter, more or less to taste. (Without it you’ll get dry clams).

5. I sprinkled garlic salt and paprika over the top (optional).

Cooking:

1. Put the pan on the top oven rack under the HOT broiler.
2. Broil 3 minutes. Turn over. Broil 3 more minutes, and they’re done. Avoid over-cooking or the clams get rubbery.

The key is a HOT broiler or oven. You can do this in a HOT (500-degree) oven, without having to turn the clams over, but I’m not sure of the time. I prefer the broiler, thank you.

Done right, the clams are fork tender. And with no grease or oil spatter and mess from a frying pan, you’ll probably never want to fry a clam again!

Rich Daneker, KXRO Radio, Aberdeen, Wash.

It's true. I never want to fry razor clams again! They were delicious.

Earlier in the day, I received an unexpected gift box in the from a friend in Idaho... a half-dozen bottles of fine wine from Bitner Vineyards in the Snake River Valley appellation. The 2007 Reserve Riesling was wonderful to pair with our meal. I venture to say that it is the best Riesling I've ever tasted. I met Ron Bitner while doing business with him and his colleague a couple of years ago, and discovered that Ron is not only an amazing vintner, but an international bee biologist, educator and ecopreneur before it became fashionable. Bitner Vineyards has been named 2009 Idaho Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northwest.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sweet Potatoes with a Tropical Twist

Sweet Potatoes with a Tropical Twist is a lightly-fruited alternative to the heavily-candied , syrupy, marshmellowed sweet potatoes of Thanksgivings Past, which  will hopefully encourage some of you who don't like the traditional recipes to enjoy sweet potatoes not only during the holidays, but year round.



Ingredients:

24 ounces of fresh or canned organic, sweet potatoes or yams
3 ripe bananas
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 cup macadamia nuts, chopped fine
4-8 ounces of pineapple, tidbits or crushed
1/4 cup corn flakes (or gluten-free flaked cereal)
1/8 cup coconut, shredded (optional)
1/4 cup melted butter

Directions:
  1. Buy local, and use as many fresh and organic ingredients as possible.
  2. Cook sweet potatoes until tender, if using fresh.
  3. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
  4. Mash sweet potatoes, bananas, cinnamon and salt.
  5. Spread pineapple in the bottom of the baking dish; layer mashed mix next and top with a thin layer of brown sugar, and top that with a mix of nuts and corn flakes (shredded, sweetened coconut an option).
  6. Pour melted butter over the top.
  7. Bake for 45-50 minutes.
Serves 4-6.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Marinated Scallops with Sauteed Bell Peppers & Lentils

Yesterday was a busy day in town for me. Before heading home I stopped by the market and bought a pound of large sea scallops (8-10). I wasn't sure how I was going to prepare them or serve with them, but I'd think about it when I got home.

I grabbed The Big Book of Potluck by mistake thinking it was one of my "challenge" cookbooks and started flipping through it, still unaware that it wasn't. I must have been really tired. The recipe for the marinated halibut steaks served with sauteed bell peppers on pages 296 and 297 looked like our kind of  food - fresh ingredients, gluten-free and easy to prepare. I had all the ingredients to make the meal, except the halibut.

No problem. I set to work making the halibut marinade and used it to marinate the scallops,  put the French (green) lentils on to cook in  vegetable stock and sauteed the peppers and onion . By by the time my husband walked in the door, dinner was almost ready and the house was filled with the aroma of garlic. Six minutes later, we sat down to a simple, delicately flavored and satisfying meal with a glass of white wine.

 

Marinade for 8-10 Scallops

Ingredients:


1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2-1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1-2 teaspoons dried parsley
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt and ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Rinse and pat dry the scallops and place in a shallow glass dish or bowl. 
  2. Pour the marinade over the scallops, turn to coat and marinate for 10-20 minutes.
  3. In saute pan on medium-high heat, cook the marinated scallops for about 3 minutes each side or until the center in no longer pink. Watch closely so the scallops do not overcook.
Sauteed Bell Peppers

Ingredients:


2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 each: red, green, orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 1/2 inch strips
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
1/4 cup or less of white wine
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon of salt and ground pepper to taste

Directions:
  1. In a large skillet or wok, on medium heat, melt the olive oil and butter. 
  2. Add the bell pepper and onion and cook on low uncovered until tender (about 15 minutes).
  3. Stir occasionally. When tender, stir in the wine, thyme, salt and pepper.
  4. Cook uncovered another 5 minutes or so.
Serves 4-6



French Lentils


(Lentils, French)  French lentils are a small dark speckled lentil, which are sometimes referred to as "green".  They are a firmer lentil that takes a little longer to cook, but they have an excellent flavor.  French lentils originated in Southeast Asia along the Indus River, where they remain quite popular. Their French name "Puy" comes from their growth in the Puy region of France. We have not found French lentils in supermarkets in the United States, but they are readily available from coops, health food stores, and many specialty food stores.  They are an excellent ingredient for soups, salads, and many other recipes, including curries.  The actual size of the French green lentils can be seen in the photo of the cup to the left.  We could not find nutritional chart information for these lentils, but like other lentils, the French green are low in fat and high in protein and fiber." All-Creatures.org

Cooking French (green) lentils is a very simple method:
  1. Pick over lentils to remove debris or shriveled lentils 
  2. Rinse in cold water and drain. 
  3. Lentils do not need to be pre-soaked, but you can soak them for a few hours to reduce your cooking time by half.  
  4. When cooking lentils in preparation ahead of time to add to a recipe or as a side dish, use 3X  the amount of water to lentils and avoid cooking them with anything acidic like vinegar, which retard the cooking process. 
  5. Cover with water or broth and boil for 2-3 minutes (aids digestion) and reduce heat and simmer until tender (anywhere from 20-40 minutes).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wild Mushroom Risotto

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, but using a tab of butter and the last of the chanterelle mushrooms from our most recent local foraging excursion in nearby woods, I added oyster mushrooms from the market to the saute pan and folded them into the risotto just before serving.



Near the end of cooking the risotto as I was stirring in the vegetable stock by the ladle full, it dawned on me that I can actually video tape some of my cooking adventures... only after two months into blogging did I think of this. The "duh!" factor in my life can be stunning at times.

Here is a rather primitive first-attempt at recording myself as I 'm cookin' in the kitchen, quickly discovering how challenging it is to stir food and talk at the same time, followed by a list of the ingredients and the directions for making wild mushroom risotto:



Ingredients:

2 cups of wild mushrooms, sliced or coarsely chopped or 2 packages of dried mushrooms, hydrated
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped4 celery stalks finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
1-3/4 cups Arborio rice (risotto)
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Directions:
  1. If the mushrooms are dry, put them in a glass or ceramic bowl and cover with 2 cups of hot water.
  2. While the mushroom hydrate, pour the stock into a medium saucepan and warm on low heat.
  3. When cleaning fresh mushrooms, wipe away any particles with a soft cloth or a soft bristle brush used for basting or painting.
  4. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic, onion and celery until soft.
  5. Turn up the heat and add the rice to toast for about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add the wine and stir the rice until the wine is nearly evaporated.
  7. Add the stock by the ladle full (about 1/3 cup)
  8. Continually stir the risotto; do not leave it alone to cook.
  9. As you stir and the liquid and it evaporates, continue to add the stock until all is absorbed.
  10. After 15-20 minutes, taste the risotto to see if it is completely cooked.
  11. If the risotto needs more liquid and time, add more stock or water (use the water dry mushrooms soaked in).
  12. When the risotto is fully cooked, it is slightly al dente. 
  13. After you remove the risotto from the heat, you can stir in the raw or lightly sauteed mushrooms and butter.
  14. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  15. Spoon into bowls or as a side dish on a dinner plate, garnished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Serves 4-6



You can make an infinite variety of main entrees and side dishes with risotto, based on what ingredients are seasonally available and your choice of herbs and spices. For tips, listen to Taking The Risk Out Of Risotto by Susan Russo on NPR.

I received my Slow Food Eugene e-newsletter today. Tom Barkin writes, "We came across a delightful Thanksgiving piece, Back to the Land - The Pursuit Of Happiness Blog by Maira Kalman in the New York Times. Although we are already looking forward to the winter holiday season, it is worth taking a moment to read." Delightful read; great photos, too.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sautéed Parsnips & Carrots with Agave

Thanks again to Effie for contributing another wonderful new addition to our family's traditional Thanksgiving meal. I absolutely love parsnips!


Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound each of carrots and parsnips, peeled and cut into 4-inch sticks, cubed and/or diagonal slices
Sea Salt (or coarse kosher salt) and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 tablespoon blue agave sweetener or honey (wildflower) 
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped (optional)


Directions:
  1. Heat the oil in a large skilled over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the carrots and parsnips.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Sauté until the vegetables begin to brown at the edges, about 12 minutes.
  5. Add the butter and agave sweetener to the vegetables.
Notes: (1) This recipe can be made a day ahead, covered and chilled. (2) For those who have never seen, eaten or cooked a parsnip, click here. (3) Rosemary is a wonderful, aromatic herb, but we prefer this dish without it. (4) If you are planning on sharing your meal with your baby or toddler, I suggest you read this warning about giving honey to babies.



Serves 6-8

'Tis the Season for Prickly Pear Aguas Frescas

The night before Thanksgiving, our family enjoyed a festive, filling and flavorful meal of my homemade spoon bread topped with Cookwell & Company all natural, gluten-free Green Chili Stew made with Hatch chilies, a green salad, chips and salsa, seedless grapes and Effie's incredibly delicious Prickly Pear Aguas Frescas.



Here is Effie's recipe for non-alcoholic Prickly Pear Aguas Frescas:

Ingredients:

4 prickly pears (available fall/winter seasons), peeled with a knife and rubber gloves (a must)
1/4 cup white sugar
2 limes, juiced plus 1 lime for slices to garnish
1/4 teaspoon ground canela (Mexican cinnamon) or regular cinnamon
2 cups ice

Directions:
  1. Puree the prickly pears in a blender.
  2. Pass through a fine sieve or mesh strainer in to a bowl to strain out ever seed; use rubber spatula.
  3. Puree the pear liquid again, adding in the sugar, lime juice and ice in a blender for 1 minute.
  4. Pour into glasses and garnish with lime.

Serves 2-4

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Butternut & Acorn Squash Casserole

Having one butternut and two acorn squash left from our garden harvest, I incorporated them into our Thanksgiving menu as a side dish in lieu of serving our traditional candied sweet potatoes. We all loved the not-too-sweet flavor and lightness of this casserole so much that we have decided to add it to our list of family holiday favorites.


Ingredients:

3 cups butternut and/or acorn squash, mashed
1/2 cup white sugar
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
2 eggs, well-beaten

Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter
1/3 cup flour (gluten-free: use rice flour)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Directions:

  1. Place halved and seeded squash face down on a foiled baking sheet in a 350-degree oven.
  2. Bake about 45 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and cool before handling.
  4. Scoop out the flesh of the squash and mash in a medium-sized bowl.
  5. Add to the bowl: white sugar, butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
  6. Beat the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla and eggs until well-blended.
  7. Add the eggs to the squash and thoroughly combine.
  8. Place the mixture in a greased 1-1/2 quart casserole dish.
  9. Combine the topping ingredients, mixing well, and crumble on top of the squash.
  10. Bake at 350-degrees for 45 minutes.
Serves 6 - 8.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving - To Eat Good Food

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We ate a lot of good home-cooked food and enjoyed quality time together as a family. We always fit in a game or two of "Grandma's International Rummy". Although Effie brought along their lovely collection of Christmas music,  14-month old Sephira was only interested in dancing to Etta James. We missed family that was unable to join us this year, but enjoyed our chats by phone. I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving with friends and loved ones, and will share one of your favorite holiday recipes or traditions with me!

As usual, we cooked enough food to enjoy seconds, some thirds, another complete Thanksgiving meal the next day and leftovers for another week. I will be posting our family's favorites over the days and weeks ahead.



Our Family's Thanksgiving Menu:

  • Roast Turkey Supreme
  • Savory Chestnut Stuffing
  • Mashed Potatoes & Pan-Gravy
  • Creamed Peas & Pearl Onions
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Sauteed Carrots & Parsnips
  • Butternut & Acorn Squash Casserole
  • Grandma's Cranberry Salad
  • Raw Cranberry Relish
  • Wine-Curried Fruit
  • Homemade Pumpkin Pie
Did you know?   

USCB Fact: About 769,760 tons of green beans are produced for one of the most popular traditional Thanksgiving Day foods, green bean casserole.
    Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend and enjoy this video montage on the culture of food as seen in film titled "To eat good food is to be close to God". Thanks, Kate!





    Note to vegetarians: there are scenes of meats being prepared and served in some of the film footage.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    In Search of the World's Best Crab Cakes

    My friends Tom and Holly are celebrating Thanksgiving at home this year and serving crab. I suggested they consider make crab cakes. However, the search for the best crab cake recipe in the world will be an ongoing quest.


     
    For those cooking gluten-free, we have the additional challenge of choosing the best gluten-free flour, cracker or bread that won't compromise the delicate flavors and texture of the cakes. I like cooking gluten-free with recipes like this using rice or tapioca flour.

    Here's a good one I came across, handwritten and crammed in with a bunch of other index card in a old box of recipes, which I bought last year from a neighbor at their yard sale. I made a couple of changes to accommodate my pepper allergy and gluten intolerance and they were the best crab cakes we've ever eaten!

    Ingredients:

    1 pound fresh crab, picked over to remove shell
    1 cup cooked corn
    1/2 cup each onion, green pepper and celery finely chopped
    1 cup mayonnaise
    1/2 teaspoon dry mustard and a dash of cayenne or green pepper sauce
    1 egg, beaten
    1-1/4 cups saltine cracker crumbs (for gluten-free use rice crackers, fine crumbs)
    2 tablespoons olive oil and to tablespoons butter

    Directions:

    1. Combine the crab, corn, onion, pepper, celery in one bowl; in another combine the mayonnaise, mustard and cayenne.
    2. Mix the two sets of ingredients together.
    3. Fold in the egg and 1/4 cup of the cracker crumbs to bind the ingredients together.
    4. Form the crab mixture into eight (8) patties.
    5. Roll them in the remaining cup of cracker crumbs.
    6. Fry the cakes in oil and butter 3-4 minutes per side.
    7. Serve with tartar sauce.
    Here's a recipe adding Louisiana hot sauce.

    Maryland Crab Cakes

    Ingredients:
    1 pound cooked crab, flaked
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
    1 teaspoon dry mustard
    1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    1 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce
    2 eggs, beaten
    2 tablespoons mayonnaise
    1/2 cup cracker crumbs
    salt and pepper to taste
    flour for dredging

    Directions:

    Mix the parsley, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce, eggs, and mayonnaise together.

    Add the crab and crumbs, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Divide the mixture into 8 cakes and dredge in flour.

    These can be deep fried at 375 to 380 degrees for 2-3 minutes (or until golden brown). Or you may pan fry them on both sides in butter.

    Note: I've come across other Maryland crab cake recipes that add 1 teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning, celery seed, even Italian bread crumbs.  Other recipes add finely chopped green onion and tomatoes.



     Mendo Bistro’s Award-Winning Crab Cakes with Tarragon Aioli seems to be a popular recipe shared across the Internet.


    Watch how Tom Douglas, chef and author of I Love Crab Cakes! (50 recipes) makes his famous crab cakes. Scrumptous ingredients, excellent tips!

    Another excellent crab cake resource is the Crab Cake Guy. He posts about 24 crab cake recipes and links to a half dozen crab cake cookbooks.

    If you have a favorite crab cake recipe, I hope you will share it. If you try any one of the recipes I've posted here, I would love to hear about your culinary experience in the kitchen with crab.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Pumpkin Bread

    Nikki Ostrower is the founder of NAO Nutrition. I took Nikki's challenge to make her 100% all-natural pumpkin bread. She claimed that it is “SO tasty you will not believe it's Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and has NO added processed sugar!!!” She’s right. Well, with a few trials and errors, I came to like her recipe as much, if not more than any conventional recipes I’ve tried in the past. Although my loaves turned out looking rather homely, it's great to have some tasty gluten-free baked goods around this holiday that I can enjoy!



    As I was adding the dry ingredients to the bowl for the first loaf, I discovered I was out of xanthan gum. Ugh. Far from the nearest store that sells such an ingredient, I pillaged my pantry for some  kind of an alternative. I settled on adding two packets of Knox gelatin to the dry mix. The texture was good; the consistency fine, except it was a little gummy on the bottom, though I baked it for an hour. 



    The second loaf that included the xanthan gum, which baked for an hour and ten minutes, rose higher, grew wider, split in the middle and collapsed, had a similar texture and consistency, but more flavor, because I added one teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to Nikki’s original recipe:

    "Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8.5" loaf pan


    Combine in a large bowl:

    1 cup canned pumpkin
    1/2 cup organic canola oil
    1 cup grade B maple syrup
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    2 eggs

    Whisk together in a separate bowl:

    1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour - I used Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free All purpose Baking Mix (you can always use just buckwheat flour, quinoa flour, brown rice flour)
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon xanthan gum
    1 tablespoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon cardamom
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)


    Directions:

    Add the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture and stir until smooth.
    Place the batter into the greased pan and cook for 50 minutes to an hour.

    Do the toothpick test to see if completely done.
    Cool the loaf and ENJOY!!!"

    Note: For me, I think a little more experimentation is in order with spices and trying other gluten-free, all-purpose baking mixes, and working with other individual flours.

    Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca

    This meal is much better than I anticipated. Very good, in fact. It has been some time since I last cooked spaghetti squash. I don't recall it to be any more than baking the squash in the oven for nearly and hour, then serving store-bought spaghetti sauce of over top for a quick meal.

    Tonight's Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca is a dish I look forward to making again. What I like about this recipe are the fresh ingredients, the commingling of some of my favorite flavors and making it with tuna fish instead of anchovies. It is quick and easy to prepare, and a creative way to add more vegetables and fish to the diet.




    Ingredients:

    1 large spaghetti squash (3-4.5 pounds)
    16 ounces of cherry or grape tomatoes quartered, or small tomatoes chopped ( I used a can of stewed tomatoes, since I can't eat raw tomatoes)
    1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced or chopped
    2 cans (5 ounce) albacore tuna in water, drained and flaked
    1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped or sliced
    1 tablespoon drained capers, coarsely chopped
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (1 tablespoon, if using stewed tomatoes)
    Salt and pepper to taste (seasoned with sea salt and my herb blend with cayenne)
    Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
    Sprig of basil for garnish

    Directions:

    1. Pierce the spaghetti squash 6-12 times with a knife and place in a glass pie plate.
    2. Microwave the squash on high for 5 minutes per pound - 15-20 minutes.
    3. Let the squash cool down about 10 minutes, before handling and cutting open.
    4. In a medium bowl, mix together all the other ingredient, except the cheese and basil sprig.
    5. Once combined, you do not cook the sauce.
    6. Cut the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds.
    7. As you scoop out the flesh of the squash it will break into strands like spaghetti.
    8. Drain the squash if you like, and salt and pepper to taste.
    9. Divide the squash between 2-4 dinner bowls (shallow pasta bowls).
    10. Serve the spaghetti squash topped with the freshly made Puttanesca sauce.
    11. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and a sprig of fresh basil.
    Serves 2-4

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Rice and Lentils with Wild Salmon Over Vegetables

    Thank you to my friend Elli for this fabulous Iraqi recipe Kichri - Rice and Lentils Dish. I prepared it this evening to serve with Zenobia's Wild Rice Over Vegetables entree from Raman Prasad's cookbook Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, on page 132. 



     Here is Elli's recipe and the background to this aromatic, savory dish: 


    Kichri - Rice and Lentils Dish

    "This is a simple and quick dish that is very tasty and nutritious. Plus some history of the middle east as a bonus.
    Iraqi cuisine is a fine cuisine. What we now call Iraq (name invented by the British when they created the country, as they did for the whole Middle East), was once a major trade route and the cultural center of the Islamic Empire during the Golden Age. This cuisine has mellow flavors that blend together -- certain flavors that you will not fine anywhere else.
    When the concept of fine dining -- which includes using silverware and glassware, eating three course meals, and maintaining certain table manners -- was invented in the Islamic capital, Europeans were eating bread, salt and roasted pigs with their hands, and would have to sell their house for an ounce of cloves. Being on a central trade route from India to the west meant that a wealth of spices was available to Iraqis and were commonly used in the country for centuries. There are minor resemblances to Indian cuisine, but you will not get the bombardment of spices in Iraqi cuisine, it is about finesse.

    I did some modifications to the original recipe by the advice of my sister, chef Hadas Levendiger. This makes it even quicker to make, at a minor price in flavor." Elli A.



    Active Time: 20 minutes
    Total Time: 1/2 an hour to 1 hour




    Ingredients
    • 1 cup rice
    • 1/2 cup red lentils
    • 1 chopped onion
    • 5-7 spoons oil
    • 4 ounces tomato paste
    • 2-3 cups of boiling water
    • 10 crushed garlic cloves
    • 1 teaspoon turmeric
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • Salt and pepper
    Directions
    1. Wash rice and lentils
    2. Soak in water for at least 1.5 hours.
    3. In a pot, fry the onions until they are golden in color.
    4. Add crushed garlic and fry little bit more. Be careful not to burn the garlic; it burns very quickly.
    5. Add rice, lentils, and tomato paste to 2 ½ cups of boiling water. The water has to be boiling before you add them.
    6. Mix spices
    7. Bring to a boil again and cook on low heat for 20 minutes.
    [Note: I added a 1/2 cup more boiling water for more moisture near the end of the cooking time; stir occasionally as it slow-cooks without a lid.]
      Water and Cooking Time
      This largely depends on the type of rice you use. It varies between 2-3 cups of water and 20-45 minutes of cooking time. Plain white rice is the quickest and needs the least amount of water.

      Original Recipe
      Same as above, but do NOT add garlic, turmeric and cumin to the pot. When the dish is ready, fry the garlic and spices in a frying pan, and then mix it in.
      This is an extra step that emphasizes the flavor of the spices. Cooking them in water does have flavor degradation.
      Serves 6 




      Wild Salmon Over Vegetables


      I made some changes to the ingredients in the original recipe*. Here's my version, using what I had on hand:



      Ingredients 
       

      3/4 pound wild salmon fillet, with skin left on (option to remove it)
      garlic salt, dill weed and lemon peel to taste
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      Bragg's organic Ginger & Sesame Salad Dressing
      1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
      1-1/2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
      1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

      Directions
      1. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.
      2. Lightly oil glass baking dish with olive oil.
      3. Layer the thinly-sliced vegetables on the bottom.
      4. Lightly pre-cook the vegetables in the microwave for 2 minutes. 
      5. Lay the salmon across the top of the layered vegetables.
      6. Rub the seasoning on the topside of the salmon.
      7. Drizzle the ginger and sesame seed salad dressing over all.
      8. Bake uncovered for 20-minutes.
      I was pleased at how well this dish turned out; not at all fishy. The seasoning and dressing gave both the fish and the vegetables a fresh, delicate flavor. For those that don't have much time to spend in the kitchen, this is a very simple way to prepare salmon and cut down the time it takes to cook a meal.

      Serves 2

      * Zenobia's ingredients to serve 7 to 8:

      1-1/2 pounds wild salmon skinned
      salt and pepper to taste
      1 tablespoon sesame oil
      3/4 teaspoon olive oil
      3 cloves garlic, minced
      1 large onion, finely chopped
      3 to 4 portobello mushroom caps, finely chopped

      Wine-Curried Fruit for the Holidays

      An elegant casserole to serve dinner guests. I baked this fruit medley to take as a buffet side dish for a holiday party we attended and for the day-after-thanksgiving feast this year. It was a big hit both times!




      Ingredients:

      2 Bananas
      1- 29 oz. can of Peaches, halved
      1 - 26 oz. can of Pears, halved
      1 - 20 oz. can of Pineapple, chunks
      2 - 6.5 oz. cans of Mandarin Oranges
      1 - 8 oz. jar of Maraschino Cherries
      1/2 cup Butter (1 stick), softened
      1/2 Brown Sugar
      1 tablespoon Cornstarch
      1/2 cup Dry White Wine
      1 teaspoon Curry Powder
      Pecans, chopped or halved (optional)

      Use as many organic ingredients as you can, when making this recipe. Check with your local natural foods market for their selection of organic canned products.





      Directions: 

      1. Diagonally slice the bananas in 1-1/2 inch chunks.
      2. Drain the juice from all the other fruit and arrange all in a 2-1/2 quart baking dish.
      3. In a sauce pan, combine the sugar, softened butter, cornstarch, wine and curry powder and cook, stirring continually, until it begins to thicken.
      4. Pour the sauce over the fruit.
      5. Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
      6. Serve hot.

      Serves 12-14

      Pan-Roasted Turnips

      Eat your vegetables. Eat a variety of vegetables! Splendid Table on NPR featured this delicious Italian pan-roasted turnip dish. It will change your mind about some of the under-appreciated vegetables you pass by at the market. Follow this recipe and add a variety of other root vegetables like rutabagas and parsnips for a colorful and flavorful medley.



       Ingredients:

      4 tablespoons unsalted butter
      2 pounds turnips, scrubbed and quartered
      Salt and freshly ground black pepper
      2 tablespoons poppy seeds
      1 tablespoon paprika
      1/4 cup red wine vinegar

      Directions:

      1. In a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat until it melts and begins to brown. Add the turnips, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat well. Add the poppy seeds and sauté until the turnips are light golden brown, 8 to 9 minutes.
      2. Add the paprika, tossing to coat. Add the vinegar, bring to a boil, and cook until it has evaporated. Serve hot.

        Excerpted from Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home. © 2005 by Mario Batali. Published by Ecco Press.

        Makes 4 servings

      Ribollita - Tuscan Soup

      Delicious! This twice-cooked Tuscan soup recipe can be made with leftovers. The name Ribollita is Italian for "reboiled".


      Ingredients:

      2 cups cannellini (white beans (or any white bean, for that matter), cooked, drained and rinsed
      1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
      1 tablespoon each of fresh, chopped garlic and fresh chopped rosemary
      1 large onion, chopped
      1 carrot, peeled (or not, my preference) and chopped
      1 large Yukon Gold potato, diced
      2 celery stalks, chopped
      1 bunch kale, coarsely chopped
      1 cup canned or fresh tomatoes, chopped
      2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
      2 slices day-old crusty white country-style bread (or gluten-free), broken into chunks
      Salt & Pepper to taste
      Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

      Directions:

      1. Mash half (1 cup) of the white beans with the back of a fork in a bowl until smooth, then set aside.
      2. In a soup pot, gently cook the garlic, rosemary, onion, celery, carrot and kale in the olive oil for 20 minutes.
      3. Add both the whole and mashed beans, stock, potato and tomato.
      4. Simmer gently for about an hour or so, then add the bread and continue to cook until the bread completely dissolved into the soup.
      5. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
      6. Drizzle olive oil over the soup and top with the grated cheese.
      7. Tastes best the next day, so a great meal to make ahead!
      Makes four large servings.

      I came across this recipe in a runner's magazine. Marathoner, Matt Conors enjoys this nutrient-rich soup as a pre-race meal.

      Creamy Polenta

      Polenta is a very versatile staple to incorporate into your meals. Depending on what you add to it, you can dish up a tasty sweet or savory accompaniment to any breakfast, lunch or dinner meal or serve as a dessert.

      Recipe for Creamy Polenta

      Ingredients:

      Salt, to taste
      5 cups chicken stock or water
      1⁄4 cup heavy cream
      2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
      Freshly ground black pepper or cayenne, to taste
      1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
      4 ounces cream cheese, mascarpone or ricotta, at room temperature
      Milk or water, for the consistency you desire
      1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
      Herbs (optional), season to taste

      Directions:

      In a large, heavy saucepan, bring 5 cups of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the butter, cream, salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, pour the cornmeal into the water in a steady stream until all is combined. Continue to whisk until you are sure there are no lumps of unincorporated cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook 20 minutes, uncovering frequently to stir.

      Stir the mixture until thick and creamy, with no taste of rawness, an additional 20 minutes or so. Season to taste with salt and pepper, add the Parmesan, cream cheese and serve, garnished with the grated cheese.





      To Serve Bolognese: stir in leftovers and top with one of your favorite sauces.

      To Serve as Dessert: instead of adding cheese cheese, add cinnamon and vanilla for a rice pudding taste. Serve warm topped with ice cream or fruit (fresh or compote).

      Notes: Cornmeal: Bob's Red Mill Corn Grits. Cooking Directions from: Emeril Lagasse.