Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Spinach Salad

This recipe is my way of honoring one of my favorite establishments in Salt Lake City. Located on the corner of 13th S. and 17th E. Eggs in the City is one of the best kept local places in the valley. It only serves breakfast and lunch and is actually an old auto garage. In the summer the old bay doors are thrown wide open and locals and their furry friends will spill out and onto the patio to enjoy their deliciously fresh foods. The wait staff has been the same since I discovered this gem four years ago and they are a wonderful eclectic group of people who really want to deliver the best food they can any way you want it. I am going to give you my version (serves two) of their spinach salad which I had to recreate after my move to Michigan.

Bunch of baby spinach
10-12 strawberries
Small block of blue cheese
1 cup almonds *I like to use toasted almonds but you can also use candied nuts of any kind
1 large crisp apple or pear

¼ c. lemon juice¼ c. almond oil *You could also use hazelnut or any other light tasting oil
¼ red onion
4 tbl sugar
1 tbl white wine vinegar1 tbl poppy seed
1 tbl sesame seed
¼ tsp salt

1. You can use a blender or a food processor, combine the, juice, vinegar, onions, sugar and salt and blend well.
2. With machine running, slowly add oil, blending until smooth. Add poppy and sesame seeds and blend a few more seconds to mix (any extra can be kept in the fridge for bit).
3. Assemble the salad by slicing the fruit and crumbling the cheese over the washed and dried spinach, lightly drizzle with dressing and toss to combine.

This salad is delicious with candied nuts and is a beautiful presentation with lots of color and texture. I am very, very light on the dressing because the salad has so much flavor on its own, but you could also use any number of dressings including fruit vinaigrettes or a basic balsamic.

Warm Rapini Salad

Rapini is a lot like broccoli and you may know it as one of its many other names (Broccoli Rabe, Broccoletti, Broccoli di Rape, Cime di Rapa, Rappi, Friarielli (in Naples) just to name a few. It is found in lots of Mediterranean and some Chinese dishes. Rapini could be described as a love child between kale and broccoli, you have stems and leaves similar in texture to a kale, though slightly more delicate, and then you have little flower heads like broccoli florets. Simple to say it is packed with nutrients and not a whole lot of calories so it is an instant winner in most circles. I like it simply prepared but it is a very versatile green and can be a great addition to a lot of more complex dishes.

1 bunch Rapini
3-4 cloves garlic
Handful of roughly shredded aged gruyere
Dried red pepper flakes
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze of lemon

1. In a large skillet or wok sauté (on high heat) sliced garlic cloves and chili flakes in olive oil until garlic looks toasted.
2. Trim ends of Rapini and wash in cold water drain and add to the skillet allow to "wilt". Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes; you don’t want to over cook the tender leaves and you want the stems to be tender but still have a little crunch (use a fork to check them.)
3. Remove from heat sprinkle with cheese, lemon juice and maybe a little salt and pepper to taste; serve warm.

This is a simple warm salad that is open to so many variations I like to serve it alongside a crostini with a grilled chicken breast and a glass of dry white wine for a complete meal. Throw in some toasted pin nuts or substitute a creamy goat cheese and play with the acid by using a little balsamic vinegar instead of the lemon juice. You can also use this recipe for other greens like kale or swiss chard. Just remember to watch the greens, you want to bring out their color and just slightly soften their texture.

Garnet Yams, the first, of three ways…

I have an ongoing love affair with the slightly sweet, dark orange, delicate, flesh of the garnet yam. Now I know that garnet yams can sometimes be a seasonal tuber and will hit markets around the fall and winter holiday season. However, I seem to have a knack for finding them so I am always playing around with their potential which in my opinion is endless. You could use sweet potatoes in any of these recipes with very similar results. These are three of my favorite ways to use this vitamin packed staple.

Garnet Yam and Balsamic Pasta Glaze

2 medium yams
1/4 c. crème fresh
12 oz. can tomato sauce
4-5 slices thick cut bacon
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Bunch of fresh basil
Dash of white balsamic vinegar *You could use the dark variety
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400º
1. Wash the yams and cut of the ends, puncture with a knife or fork a few times. Line a baking sheet with foil and bake in the hot oven for about 50 min. The sugars of the yams may bubble and caramelize so don’t be alarmed. If you are using large yams they may take a little longer, test the potatoes with a fork the same way you would white baked potatoes.
2. While the yams are baking fry the bacon and let it drain on some paper towels.
3. Remove the Yams a let cool, after slice them in half and scoop out the flesh into a food processor.
4. Chop the onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat in a drizzle of olive oil (or the tiniest bit of bacon fat) when the onion is beginning to caramelize add a dash of balsamic vinegar (I like to use the white variety because it does not interfere with the color of the yams) and give the bottom of the pan a good scrape down with a spoon to lift all the golden bits and flavor up.
5. Add tomato sauce and the crème fresh turn down heat to gently heat through season with salt and pepper.
6. Add the sauce to the yams in the food processor (you could also use a hand blender in a pot directly on the stove if you have one) and puree all the ingredients until thick and smooth.
7. Return to stove and heat on low heat continue to taste and season with salt and pepper (it should still be slightly sweet so don’t over do it on the salt)
8. Add roughly chopped basil and bits of bacon, you could also throw a little crumbled goat cheese on top.

Serve with fresh cheese ravioli, or a multigrain penne.

You could add a little chicken or other meat (I have used sweet Italian sausage) if you don't eat pork, you can also opt for the vegetarian option by using olive oil and lots of fresh feta or goat cheese. The sauce should be thick and really stick to your pasta enjoy!

More to come…

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Whole Wheat Matzo Cookies

I have been seeing a lot of variations of this recipe flying around the Internet and I have to say it is my favorite use of the whole wheat Matzo crackers I get at Whole Foods. I love to celebrate the beauty of culture and diversity through food and these Matzo cookies are simple and fantastic. They would be a welcome addition to any Passover party or a great addition to a bowl of ice cream any time of year! Please share your favorite versions in the comments section!

Matzo Cookies
Whole Wheat Matzo Crackers
1 stick of butter
1 c. brown sugar
½ c. chopped nuts *I like almonds and walnuts but any mix works well
3 tbl peanut butter *I also like to use almond butter
6-8 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips *You can also use dark bar chocolate
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
sea salt for sprinkling

1. Lay a single layer of Matzo crackers on a paper lined baking sheet
2. Preheat oven to 350°
3. Melt the butter over low heat and slowly add the sugar until it dissolves and the mixture bubbles, stir regularly, and let bubble for 3 minutes.
4. Remove mixture from heat and add the vanilla
5. Quickly before the mixture sets spread the caramel over the matzo crackers
6. Melt chocolate in a double boiler with nut butter
7. Place crackers in the oven for 5-10 min or until the caramel is mostly smooth but be sure to watch the edges of the crackers for burning, you can always turn the oven down a little.
8. Remove the crackers and drizzle with the chocolate and nut butter mixture; sprinkle with chopped nuts and a little sea salt
9. Let cool completely and break into chucks.

These would be amazing with toffee bits or several types of chocolate drizzles. Serve them stacked on a plate with fresh fruit or alongside some amazing ice cream. (The pictures are with the home made rocky road ice cream I made a week ago.)

Honey Whole Grain Memories

Growing up my mother would grind her own wheat, I remember the sound of the grinder in the pantry as she made a rich whole wheat flour that she would use to bake bread. I remember watching the dough bubble and expand; I never knew how lucky I was to grow up in a house where my mom baked bread. Those memories are really something special and the smell of the house and the sight of the seven kids in the kitchen; that is what family was really all about for me growing up. My mom made big batches of whole wheat bread slightly sweetened with honey, she would make pizza, cinnamon rolls, beignets, and sandwich loafs. I am almost sure there was never an occasion where the first loaf out of the oven was not gone before the other loafs were finished baking. This recipe is based on the one she used just scaled down a bit and tweaked to include some of my favorite flours. It produces a lovely golden loaf that has the perfect balance of sweet and salty. It really is perfection.

Bread bakers have a language all their own. Their recipes usually read more like a chemistry assignment and even I have to use a well-referenced cookbook to keep all the language straight. Trust me when I say that the serious bread bakers mean business and the results can’t be beaten. However, this recipe is written for every skill level and it is a great foundation for several yeast bread variations.

10 Grain Honey Whole Wheat Bread
4 c. whole wheat flour (I have also used whole wheat pastry flour with good results)
3 c. warm water (if you have a thermometer it should be 110°)
3 c. ten grain flour
2 c. spelt flour
2/3 c. honey (divided in two)
2 packages active dry yeast (.25 ounces each)
4 tbl butter melted
1 tbl salt

1. In a large bowl, mix warm water and 1/3 c. honey until dissolved, then add yeast, the ten grain and spelt flours, stir to combine. Let set covered for 30 minutes in a warm spot, or until big and bubbly.
2. Mix in the 3 melted butter, other 1/3 c. honey, salt, and 2 c. of the whole wheat flour.
3. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until the dough pulls away from the counter. It should still be a little sticky to the touch you do not want to over work the dough or add to much flour or it will stiffen up. (This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of flour.)
3. Run a little butter or light tasting oil around a very large bowl to coat the bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn once to coat the dough to prevent sticking. Cover with a dishtowel and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size (about 2 hours).
4. Lightly punch the dough down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow the dough to rise again until the dough has topped the pans by one inch.
5. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes the bread should be a very light golden brown. Do not overbake or the bread will dry out! Remove from the oven and lightly brush the tops of loaves with a little softened butter and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Wait 10 minutes and remove from pans to cool completely.

You can substitute bread flour or white flour for any of the above flour, I like the multigrain flavors but the recipe should work with other flours just fine. You could also add dried fruit and nuts to the dough during step 2 if you like (I have used a little cinnamon with raisins and walnuts before with great results.) You could also substitute the butter with olive oil and reduce the honey by half. Then throw in a little chopped herbs (rosemary and basil work well) for a more savory loaf. I have not experimented with cheeses in the dough though I think it would work well. You could either add shredded cheese to the dough in step 2 or incorporate chunks during step 4.