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Recipe Roundup

10 Nov

When compiling and sorting these articles and recipes, it took me a moment to realize that, though I will be sharing five links below, those links actually contain a total of nine separate recipes.  I’m crediting Portland Farmers Market for that unexpected burst of recipes, as the very nature of my writing relationship with them dictates that I will attempt to make as much food as possible with the smallest amount of funds required (note: all six of my recipes for them came in at well under $20–that’s for all six recipes combined.  You want frugal?  I can give you frugal.)

As an added bonus, these dishes would all fit in nicely atop your Thanksgiving table, especially if you are looking for recipe ideas that fall well outside the basic realm of turkey and potatoes.

Pear-Stuffed Acorn Squash; Kidney Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Three Sauces (Sage Brown Butter, Caramelized Shallots and Thyme, and Garlic Chips with Sauteed Spinach)

This sage brown butter sauce was so good that I ate it until I felt a profound sense of discomfort.

Indie Fixx continues to provide Savory Salty Sweet with a great place to share more recipes with more people. These three recipes are my most recent contributions, and they happen to be some of my favorites.  That dark chocolate zucchini cake is absolutely magical.  It’s rich, complex-tasting without being complicated to make, and it just so happens to be vegan (and secretly stuffed with a vegetable, which you’d never, ever be able to tell by eating it).

Linguine with Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Blueberry, Orange, and Cornmeal Pancakes

On an unrelated note, a couple of months ago I made zucchini muffins with some fantastically fresh zucchini, straight from our garden.  As I was scooping the batter into the muffins tins, I noticed that things were looking a little firmer and more robust than they normally should.  Undaunted, I moved on, baking the muffins anyway.  It was only after the muffins had been removed from their tins and cooled that I realized why the muffins looked rather unusual.  I forgot to add the sugar.

Surprisingly, I actually sort of liked the muffins without sugar.  They were still very moist, but they were definitely sturdier, without the fine crumb usually found in a muffin.  They actually tasted more like a bread, less like a muffin, and closer to what I prefer these days when I gravitate towards a snack.  I am debating whether or not to share the recipe.  I am not sure if these muffins would be anyone else’s cup of tea, since I happened to be the only person in the house who ended up eating them (and I live with a carb-loving child and the Perfect Eating Machine, so that’s saying something).

Still, I am sort of fond of them in all their sugar-free, cinnamon-filled glory.

Jeez, that looks healthful.  Like some sort of nutrition nugget that zoologists develop as a snack for panda bears.

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Ranchero Sauce and Mexican Rice

3 Nov

If you haven’t already discovered it for yourself, I can offer nothing but the highest of praises for the Tamra Davis Cooking Show.  Tamra Davis is a film and television director based in both New York and California.  She is a mother of two, an avid home cook, and she just so happens to be married to Mike D, of the Beastie Boys.  Davis is a great originator of recipes, and a couple of years ago she self-published a cookbook called Make Me Something Good to Eat.  The cookbook is a great source of not only recipes, but also meal plans and cooking strategies for making delicious, creative, healthy meals that will satisfy both children and adults.

And Tamra Davis is serious about getting people to eat real, healthy food.  She’s led cooking classes at local food banks, and a few years ago she started the FIVE for Kids program, designed to teach kids—and their parents—about the importance of eating a natural, balanced diet that follows the simple guidelines of the food pyramid.  The FIVE for Kids program not only outlines the basic nutritional composition of common foods, but it allows kids to learn about where their food comes from, how different foods benefit their bodies and minds, and how making good food choices can have a positive effect on a person’s general well-being.  By the end of the program, the kids have been taught how to make 25 different healthy, affordable meals and snacks for themselves and their families.  You want to see someone walk their talk?  Tamra Davis is your woman.

The Tamra Davis Cooking Show is, in itself, a delight.  Each episode is only a few minutes long, but they never lack for substance.  Several shows feature not only cooking, but also meal planning, grocery shopping, and play breaks.  It’s a true representation of real life and how the process of nurturing and feeding a family is rarely as straightforward as just going into the kitchen and calmly placing things in the oven.  And this is more of a side note, but the different music choices featured as a soundtrack to each episode?  Top notch.

One episode of the Tamra Davis Cooking Show involves a trip to Mexico.  The shots of the incredible Mexico coastline are beautiful, and the recipes in this particular show are extra mouthwatering.  Davis’ family rents a vacation house that happens to come with a chef, and nearly everyday the chef ends up making a slightly different version of ranchero sauce, an incredibly versatile sauce that can be used for enchiladas, chilaquiles, and anything else you can think up.  Using Davis’ posted recipe, I’ve made this sauce several times now, and I can attest to the fact that it is not only super delicious, but it is also supremely simple to make.  The fact that the sauce is so willing to be changed up makes it a dream to work with.  You can change the type of chilies you use, you can brown the garlic in the pan with the onions, you can puree the sauce smooth or you can leave it slightly chunky—whatever you do to this sauce, it’s tough to make it taste bad. Sometimes we just sit back and dip tortilla chips into the sauce, never bothering to add it to anything because we are too busy depositing it into our tummies.

My favorite use for the sauce right now is as a flavoring for Mexican rice.  We eat a fair bit of beans and rice around here (a simple and healthy meal that goes a long way towards satisfying the nutritional needs of a small child), and I am always looking for ways to dress up the dish and make it a bit more welcome to the fatigued palettes of the adults in this house.

Cooking plain white rice in a mixture of ranchero sauce and vegetable broth produces a fluffy, flavorful rice dish that is a welcome addition to our table.  And since this ranchero sauce is made entirely of vegetables, cooking it into your rice adds a good dose of vegetables to each serving you dish up.  If you can get yourself to stop eating a batch of ranchero sauce like it’s a main dish on its own (no, really—it’s that good), I recommend you pour some into a pan of rice and get to simmering.

My son’s dinner plate.

Ranchero Sauce

From the Tamra Davis Cooking Show

Cooking show episode can be seen here.

You can adjust the spiciness of this recipe to your liking.  When I make this sauce to put in a dish for my child, I use only half of a jalapeno pepper with all of the seeds and ribs removed.  When I make it with adults in mind, I use 1 or 2 whole chilies, and I leave in the seeds and ribs.  You can really make the sauce wicked hot this way, so err on the side of caution when judging your level of spiciness.

5 medium tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 or 2 chilies of your choice (I often use fresh jalapenos in this recipe, but any type of dried chile pepper will also work.  I’ll bet habaneros would be great in this.)

½ onion, sliced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ teaspoon Mexican oregano

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon powdered vegetable stock (I generally leave this out because I do not have powdered vegetable stock, but if I have a bit of vegetable stock laying around, sometimes I’ll throw in a splash or two)

Boil tomatoes in 4 cups of water with garlic and chilies.  Cook for 20 minutes at a low boil.  The skins of the tomato should start to peel off.  While the tomatoes are cooking, sauté the onion in the vegetable oil until soft.  When the tomatoes, garlic, and chilies are done cooking, drain them, reserving a bit of the cooking water to add to the sauce.  Peel the skins from the tomatoes, and put the tomatoes into a blender or food processor, along with the garlic and chilies.  Add the sautéed onion, Mexican oregano, salt, and stock (if using).  Blend on high until the sauce is smooth.  Add a bit of the reserved cooking water if the sauce appears too thick.

Pour the sauce back into the pot you used to cook the tomatoes.  Cook the sauce over low heat for an additional 15-20 minutes.  Use as a sauce for any number of Mexican dishes, or use as a flavoring for Mexican rice (recipe below).

Makes about 1 ½ cups of sauce.

Mexican Rice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup long grain rice

½ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup chopped onion

1 cup ranchero sauce

1 ½ cups vegetable or chicken broth

Heat oil over medium heat.  Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until rice is puffed and golden.  Sprinkle with cumin and salt, then add the chopped onions.  Continue to sauté the rice and onions until the onions are tender, 3-5 minutes.  Carefully stir in ranchero sauce and broth (the liquid will sputter quite a bit as it hits the hot oil in the pan).  Bring to a boil, then cover the rice and lower the heat to a simmer.  Cook the rice at a low simmer for 20-25 minutes, until rice is tender.  Fluff the rice with a fork to fully integrate ingredients without smashing rice.

Makes about 3 cups of rice.

Heirloom Tomato Cobbler with Cheddar and Scallion Biscuit Topping

6 Oct

As if the very name of this dish wasn’t already completely unromantic and slightly clunky, let’s just go ahead and examine its most glaringly obvious head-scratching component: it’s a cobbler made of tomatoes.

I know it seems unlikely, but let me assure you, it works.  Juicy heirloom tomatoes made even more flavorful with a handful of basil and some quality time spent in a hot oven.  Soft and comforting biscuits with pleasantly crunchy tops and bursts of savory sharp cheddar enveloped within.  Put these two elements together and you’ve got nothing less than magic, I tell you.

And before you say it, allow me to tackle the next seemingly problematic tidbit about this dish: heirloom tomatoes in October?  Yes.  You can get heirloom tomatoes in October, and, thankfully, they are just the type of heirloom tomatoes you will want.  This dish does not require pretty, unblemished tomatoes, but rather calls out for those tomatoes you would like to chop up and maybe even hide a little before you eat them.

You don’t need beauty pageant tomatoes for this dish, you just need ripe, fleshy tomatoes that are bursting with flavor and willing to be cooked.  That, to me, is the very essence of the October heirloom tomato.  Summer heirloom tomatoes are for slicing and displaying atop a wonderful savory biscuit.  October heirloom tomatoes are for chopping and nestling beneath some biscuits.  It’s all so very convenient, I think.

Heirloom Tomato Cobbler with Cheddar and Scallion Biscuit Topping

2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-inch to 1/2-inch chunks

¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

salt and pepper

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

¾ cup cold buttermilk or soured milk

¾ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 large or 2 small scallions, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons total)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place chopped tomatoes and basil in an 8-inch square glass baking dish.  Add salt and pepper to taste, then toss gently to combine.

In a large bowl or in the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk or pulse to combine.  Scatter butter over the top of the flour, then cut into the mixture using a pastry cutter, or by pulsing 6 or 7 times in the food processor.  The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs with a few pea-sized chunks of butter remaining.  Gently stir in the buttermilk, or add through the feeding tube of the food processor while intermittently pulsing to combine.  Add the cheese and scallions and gently stir to combine, or sprinkle the cheese and scallions over the top of the mixture in the food processor and then briefly pulse just 2 or 3 times to combine.

Drop the biscuit mixture over the tomatoes, about ¼ cup per scoop.  You will end up with 9 biscuits total, 3 across and 3 down.

Bake the cobbler in the center of the oven for 40-45 minutes, until the tops of the biscuits are deeply golden and the tomatoes are rapidly bubbling.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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