How To :: Homemade Herb Vinegar

Oregano vinegarFresh herbs can get expensive if you’re buying them at the store, so I like to grow my own. I always make sure to use every last sprig. If you have leftover herbs, or a prolific plant that needs cutting back, you can dry herbs for your spice cupboard (see the sidebar “Spice Cupboard” in chapter 6, “Nuts”) or use them to flavor vinegar. Herb vinegars are made of two simple ingredients—vinegar and fresh herbs—and can be made in minutes. Subtle in flavor, herb vinegars impart an undertone of herb along with the tang of vinegar. They can be used in salads and vinaigrettes.

Use fresh healthy sprigs and distilled white vinegar for the best results. Any herb can work—try  mint, lemon balm, basil, or tarragon. Use two sprigs of herb for every cup of vinegar. Add the sprigs directly to prepared jars. (Wash and sterilize jars for 10 minutes in a hot water bath before using.) Heat the vinegar until just beginning to boil and pour over the herbs, leaving a bit of head space. Store the vinegar in a cool, dark place for three to four weeks, checking the flavor after two weeks. When the flavor is to your liking, strain and discard the herbs and store the infused vinegar in a cool, dark cupboard. Use glass containers that can be sealed with a lid or cork.

Herb vinegars will keep for three months, longer if refrigerated. Be mindful of any mold or fermentation bubbles—this means the batch is spoiled and should be thrown out. As vinegar has a high acid content, there is no risk of botulism; mold and yeast are the two culprits of spoilage.

HOW TO :: Harvest Rose Hips & Dry for Recipes

rose hips for harvestingWith the recent autumnal frosts, now is the perfect time to collect rose hips. A bit of frost sweetens them up. Rose hips offer a subtle floral flavor to dishes, but their real power is in the health benefits they possess. Rose hips contain more vitamin C then most other herbs - even many times those found in citrus pound per pound. These antioxidant, red globes, are best harvested in late fall and used in syrups or jams. Rose hips look like little tomatoes, often orange-red and shiny. They are more round than long, about the size of a red globe grape. Harvest rose hips by snapping the stem from the plant. They are tough enough that you can toss them into a plastic bag and then a backpack without doing too much damage. Rinse them well when you get home to drown out any bugs and use them within a day of bringing them home.

Following is a quick guide on how to harvest and dry rose hips. Their chewy skins can be used in tonics, jams or recipes. To dry rose hips is quite an effort, but if you're looking for  a slow winter project, this is it. Of course, you can always skip this step and purchase dried rose hips at your local apothecary or herbalist, or order online.

Dried Rosehips makes about 2 cups | start to finish: about 2 hours active time

Harvest 6 cups of rosehips from untreated, wild bushes between late October and mid-November. To begin the drying process, wash and dry them completely. Trim off both the stem and blossom ends. Lay them out on newspaper in a single layer to dry for several days.

After three to five days, cut the rosehips in half, and using a small spoon, scoop out the interior hair and seeds. (Allowing them to dry slightly first makes the removal of the hair and seeds far easier. This process can be long and arduous, but the hairs can be very irritating if ingested.)

harvest & dry rose hipsOnce all of the rosehips have been cleaned, preheat the oven to its lowest setting. Place the semi-dried rosehips in a single layer on a sheet pan and put it in the oven to dry overnight. The drying time will depend on the size of the rosehips, but figure it will take 5 to 7 hours. Rosehips are done when they are entirely dry and hard to the touch.

When rosehips have been completely dehydrated and cooled, add them all to the bowl of a food processor and pulse just until they are coarsely chopped. Do not over process, or the rosehips will turn into a powder. Store crushed rosehips in a glass jar in the cupboard, where they will keep for several months.

washed jars • pantry storage

HOW TO :: Preserving & Canning Apple Pie Filling

applesApples are available all year long, but they are certainly not in season all year long. New crop apples, those that are harvested and sold in the same season, are the best tasting—their juice just contained under firm, naturally shiny skins. To preserve the natural, raw integrity of fresh fruit, buy in bulk when they come into the markets. Boxes of apples are infinitely less expensive than buying a pound at a time, so choose a favorite variety (most farmers offer samples) and load up. For more awesome apple recipes, check out my APPLE COOKBOOK. Apple Pie Filling

makes about 4 pints | start to finish: about 1 hour active time

This simple recipe guarantees you’ll always have the best apples on hand for pie baking. Blanching the fruit before canning them will preserve their crispness, ensuring that they won’t break down to mush when they’re baked. Choose a firm, crisp apple, and mix something tart (Bramley) with a sweeter bite (Spitzenberg). When it comes to baking time, simply pour the apples into a prepared shell and bake, or slice them thin for layering in a tart. Either way, expect to use two pints of filling per 9” pie.

6 pounds apples, cored and sliced 1 cup water 1 cup apple cider 1 cup sugar 1/4 cup apple pectin (available online or in health food stores) 1/4 cup lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

apple pie filling

Fill a large stockpot half full with water and bring to a boil. Drop in half of the sliced apples and cover, returning to a boil. Once the water returns to a boil (about 8 to 10 minutes), use a slotted spoon to strain out the apples. Add the slices directly to clean pint jars, leaving a small amount of room at the top. Repeat the process with the remaining apple slices. On a folded-over dish towel (for padding), strongly tap the bottom of each jar on the counter, to help pack down the apples. If necessary, redistribute apples so each jar is full, with 1” of headspace.

In a medium saucepan, add the water, apple cider, sugar, apple pectin, lemon juice, and spices; bring to a boil. Simmer the liquid for 15 minutes, reducing it slightly. Using a ladle or a liquid measuring cup for ease, pour hot juice over the jarred apples, leaving 1/2” of headspace. Gently tap the jars on the counter to release any air bubbles. Wipe the jar rims and seal the jars. Place them in a prepared water bath and process for 20 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter overnight. Store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 1 year.

washed jars • water bath

Pineapple & Mint Drinking Vinegar Recipe

Making Pineapple Drinking VinegarDrinking vinegars, or shrubs, are refreshing beverages made from fermenting a combination of fruit, sugar and vinegar. Last week, in honor of my new SodaStream, I created a pineapple drinking vinegar recipe that is light, energizing and fresh. Shrubs are not a new idea - they were used in colonial America as a way to preserve quick-spoiling fruit. Lacking proper refrigeration, fruit turned quickly. Adding vinegar to the fruit solved the issue of decay and was a means of preservation, as vinegar is high in acid and prevents mold and spoilers from forming. There are no limitations to ingredients that can be combined and preserved safely, so drinking vinegars are a great way to experiment with preservation. I prefer softer and sweeter vinegars - apple cider or champagne work well with many fruits and vegetables.

Products like Bragg's apple cider are a great choice as they have healthy bacteria that is alive and active. (Read: Great for your gut!) Of course, you can also make your own vinegar at home, using a fermentation process. This is a great idea for apple season, and I have a recipe in my Apple Cookbook that is easy to follow and make.

Straining Pineapple Drinking Vinegar

Drinking vinegars and shrubs are alcohol-free, thus a festive option for anyone who does not drink alcohol. Add a spoonful of drinking vinegar to make juices more complex, or go straight for the sparkling water and make a brightly colored fizzy drink. (Here, I have a lot of other lovely ideas for homemade sodas! And here I have additional recipes for drinking vinegar, including one using beets.)

To age, I leave the drinking vinegar out on the counter for several days, covered with a thin linen kitchen cloth. This allows the mixture to breath and ferment, while keeping out insects. The pineapple-mint mixture fermented for five days, but a few days longer or shorter is also fine. Use your nose - when it's strong and yeast-y smelling, call it done.

Pineapple Mint Drinking Vinegar

I use my SodaStream to create fizzy water at home. I went for a big bubble in the water and compressed the machine seven times. The fruit juice is dense and thick and I wanted the water to sparkle in the mouth. To serve, spoon some juice into a glass and top off with soda water. Using more drinking vinegar results in a stronger, sweeter drink. Less is obviously more subtle. I'm in love with my new SodaStream!

PINEAPPLE MINT DRINKING VINEGAR 

2 cups chopped pineapple 1/2 cup sugar or honey 1/2 cup mint leaves 1/2 cup LIVE apple cider vinegar

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a blender and puree until fruit is mashed and mint is chopped fine. Pour into a 1 quart jar and cover with a thin linen cloth and secure the cloth with a rubber band. (This prevents gnats and other insects from getting in.) Leave on the counter for 3 to 5 days to ferment. To serve, set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour in the fruit, pressing on it to release all of the juice. Store any leftover shrub in a covered jar in the fridge where it will keep for many weeks.

Cooking with Peppers

Fresh Pantry, PeppersTis the season for getting the last of the peppers. Now is a GREAT time to roast and freeze varieties that aren't available all year - sweet Jimmy Nardellos or fresh and hot cayenne or hungarians. You can also pickle pepper, or make big pots of pepperonata for winter stews and snacking. All of the below recipe ideas are available in my eBook, Fresh Pantry : PEPPERS, which also includes 14 recipes + essays on How To Grow Peppers all Winter Long and an instructional method for making Homemade Red Chile Flakes. For anyone reading this post, I'd love to offer it to you for $.99. Follow this special link to download and purchase. For now, the goal is fresh-eating - enjoy them while you can with these recipe ideas……. BAKED PEPPERS, TOMATOES & EGGS My perfect breakfast pairs a mass of vegetables with baked or fried eggs. Here, tomatoes and bell peppers are stewed with a generous mix of spices, drawing on the traditional North African dish shakshuka. A raw egg is cracked into the stewlike mixture and poached until just done. The goal is for the yolk to break and bleed into the peppers. You can bake this dish in individual ramekins or crack four eggs into a large sauté pan and cook them all together to serve a crowd.

Peppers, Amy Pennington

SEARED STEAK with QUICK PICKLED PEPPERS Here, perfectly cooked steak is succulent, seasoned only with salt and pepper. The beauty of this dish lies in the quick-pickled peppers. Choose peppers that have some heat—serrano, jalapeño, or even Hungarian peppers all work; you are only limited by how much heat you prefer. I like serranos for their medium heat and bright red pop of color.

Peppers, Amy Pennington

SEAFOOD BAKE with FENNEL BULB & PEPPERS I love this recipe for both its effortlessness and promised piquancy. An abundant portion of seafood is paired with a savory, thick pepper and tomato sauce spiked with preserved lemon. Caramelized onions and fennel bulb add yet another layer of flavor. Cut the fish into approximately the same size as the scallops and shrimp so they cook simultaneously. This elegant but quick-cooking meal is sure to impress. Healthy, light, and simple on its own, it can also be served with a bowl of pasta, the sauce spooned over.

Peppers, Amy Pennington

HOW TO :: Quince Recipes

quinceSeveral years ago, I received an email from a friend, who had a friend who was giving away 40 pounds of quince. I didn’t even know what quince was back then, but I figured I could preserve it easily enough. I sent an email to this woman I’d never met. Within hours, I found myself driving to Ballard. I rang her bell, she invited me in, we had some tea and I walked away with over ten pounds of quince. Better still, I made a new friend. Every year since, Elaine has emailed me to let me know when her father’s quince tree ripens. I drive to her place, chat about food (last year’s topic du jour—kimchi), and walk away heady with a huge bag of fragrant yellow fruit. Quince is beautiful when poached, roasted or baked but it absolutely shines as a thin syrup or thick paste, and the pulp that cooks into membrillo is a natural byproduct of making the syrup. While the recipes take some time, starting with a large quantity (in this case five pounds) will keep your pantry stocked in quince.

Quince Syrup Makes about 2 pints | start to finish: 3 hours

The flavor of this syrup offers a hint of the floral fragrance that makes quince so appealing. This syrup can be made as thin or as thick as you like. Thinner syrup will take less time, and is best for adding to cocktails or soaking a sponge cake or other dessert. You can also choose not to reduce the liquid at all, and drink it as a refreshing beverage on its own.

10 cups water Juice from one lemon 5 pounds quince, thoroughly scrubbed clean of hair, stems and blossom ends removed

Fill a large pot with both water and lemon juice. Quarter quinces and immediately place into water. When all the quince is cut and added, the water should just cover the fruit. If needed, add more water to cover. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the fruit is cooked all the way through and can be easily pierced with a knife, but is not yet falling apart, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Strain fruit from cooking liquid, and set the fruit pulp aside. Using a fine mesh strainer (or cheesecloth-lined colander) filter the cooking liquid to strain out any remaining fruit fibers. Place the strained cooking liquid in a clean pot and set over medium-high heat. Reduce the syrup by about half or until desired consistency is reached. For a medium-body syrup, this will take about 45 minutes to an hour.

Prepare pint jars for canning. Add quince syrup to the jars. Using a damp clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars and place the lids and rings on the jars. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. When the syrup is cool, check for proper seals and label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dark cupboard until ready to use, for up to a year. Once opened, store in the fridge.

washed jars • water bath

Quince Paste Makes 4 thin loaves | start to finish: 12 hours

Quince paste is also known as membrillo, and it’s commonly cut into squares and served alongside cheese. The paste is made from the fruit pulp reserved from making the syrup, requiring only some additional sugar. Note that you will need to commit some time to this project. Cooking the fruit down to a paste can take well over an hour and then it must be dried in an oven. Be patient and know that the effort will be handsomely rewarded.

Reserved pulp from 5 pounds cooked quince, about 8 cups 4 to 5 cups sugar

Place the cooked quince pulp in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Push the puree through a fine mesh strainer. Measure the puree and pour it into a large, heavy pot. For every cup of puree, stir in 1/2 cup of sugar. Set over medium low heat and cook, stirring regularly, until quite thick and paste-like, between 1 and 2 hours. It may stick to the pot as it thickens, so adjust the heat lower as needed. The paste is done when a small spoonful is placed on a plate and no liquid separates out.

While the pulp is cooking, prepare a pan for drying out the paste. You may use a shallow high-walled cookie sheet (such as a half sheet pan or jelly roll pan) or a smaller, deeper glass baking dish (about 11″ x 7″) depending on how thick you would like your sliced paste to be. Just make sure you dish is no deeper than two inches; otherwise the paste will not dry sufficiently in the center. Rub the entire surface with a thin layer of vegetable oil and line with a layer of lightly-oiled parchment paper. Set aside.

Turn oven to 140 degrees or the lowest setting it will allow. Pour the quince paste into your prepared baking pan and bake for 3 hours. Turn off the oven, and leave the paste inside overnight. In the morning, cut a small piece of quince paste to see if it is dried throughout. If still loose and jam-like in the middle, you may need to continue drying in the oven for a few hours more. When the paste is dried through, turn it out from the pan, remove the parchment paper and cut into four to six small loaves for easy storage. Wrap each paste loaf in fresh parchment paper before storing in the fridge, where it will keep for several months.

store in fridge

Originally published in Edible Seattle

Getting Busy With The Fizzy :: Homemade Cocktails with SodaStream Play

sodastreamIn the latter half of the 18th century, carbon dioxide was introduced into water creating soda water or seltzer. (Interesting food fact - the origin of the name seltzer hails from water that had natural effervescence and came from the town of Nieder Selters in Germany.) Today, anyone can make fizzy water at home and can vary the degree of the fizz and the amount of bubbles in each glass. Personalizing soda water may sound a bit bourgeois, but I liken myself to a soda water connoisseur and find most people have a preference. I like a slight, small bubble. My sister's family prefers big, round bubbles that explode in the mouth. All five of my nieces and nephews are soda water snobs - slightly flat and they turn up their nose. I've been coveting a SodaStream  for years and finally got my hands on my very own machine. This SodaStream Play comes with the options of wrapping in 'skins' of various designs - or you can customize your own skin by uploading an image of your choice. I picked the NY skyline - an homage to my roots and Eli the Seltzer Guy in Brooklyn, who used to deliver soda water to our brownstone monthly - a wooden crate full of handblown glass bottles that were made in the 30s and hail from Czechoslovakia. Incidentally, he fills the bottles at an old seltzer factory in Canarsie, where my father and all of my aunts, uncles and cousins grew up.

This nostalgic feeling likely influenced my choice in first experiment - a chocolate egg cream. Egg creams are a thing of the past, though you can find them in vintage east coast delis. The Townhouse Diner in Honesdale, PA (by my dad's house) serves them still, with no hint at irony. Egg creams have big bubbles, so I used 6 compressions on the SodaStream Play to achieve a strong, vibrant bubble.

While they're traditionally made with a heavy chocolate syrup, I made my version with a dark, organic cocoa powder. 2 cups whole milk + 1/2 cup cocoa powder + 1/2 cup vanilla sugar - heat this up over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and cocoa powder is well blended, then cool completely. For really creamy soda, make this with half & half.

1 part chocolate milk : 2 part SodaStream soda

chocolate egg cream

Given the autumnal energy in the air, I also decided on a cider beverage of some kind. I was gifted a gallon of TreeTop apple juice in honor of National Apple Month, so decided it was high time to use it. Mulled apple juice pairs well with bourbon, so that was the jumping off point. I wanted to veer from super traditional mulling spices, so opted for lavender - a heavy floral note with an earthy undertone. Once the juice is steeped with aromatics and cooled, the only trick is nailing the proportions. This cocktail was a crowd pleaser - all my girlfriends sat around sipping and singing the praises of autumn. I wanted a soft sparkle here, so I used 3 compressions on the SodaStream Play to achieve a gentle, small bubble.

: Apple-Lavender Fizz : 2 cups apple juice, or cider 3 tablespoons fresh or dried lavender buds 2 thin slices fresh ginger root 1 tablespoon cloves 1 tablespoon allspice 10 cardamom pods 1 cinnamon stick

Place a small saucepan over medium high heat, and add the juice and spices. Bring to a boil and reduce heat slightly, allowing the apple juice to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Strain the spices, pressing into the solids to release any juice, and serve.

1 part bourbon : 2 part juice : 1 part SodaStream soda

apple-lavender fizz

I also rimmed the glass with "apple powder" - essentially dehydrated apples that I pulverized with a bit of sugar. The moisture gives it a molasses-like consistency, though the apple flavor shines through.

Because I was on a roll and had company over, I whipped up an easy, refreshing non-alcoholic drink using frozen fruit juice as a base. It's smart to keep a container of this juice around (opt for an organic company, which won't use high fructose corn syrup) for quick beverages - a good pantry staple. Rather then blending with water, I used SodaStream Play soda water resulting in a light, effervescent drink. You could of course add a splash of vodka. I had some Blood Orange vodka from 3 Howls Distillery and it worked beautifully together.

1 part frozen lemon concentrate : 4 part SodaStream soda

lemon-thyme spritzer

For this lemon-thyme fizz, I wanted major bubble action, (the bubbles have to lift the syrup, which is heavy) so I used 8 compressions on the SodaStream Play. Worked like a charm.

The SodaStream Play comes with a selection of syrups, too, for anyone wanting a pure soda option.I have more experiments going now, so stay tuned for more. There is this pineapple fermentation thing that my friend declared "tastes like colors," which is a pretty spot on assessment.

[This is a sponsored post. All personal commentary, stories and recipes are original content, written by me at my discretion and whim.]

Homemade Fruit Leathers :: How To Dehydrate Fruit

_MG_3639Dehydrating fruit is a simple and easy task of little effort, though it does take some inactive time. One of my garden clients has an old and poorly pruned apple tree, resulting in knobby fruit that is not pleasant for eating fresh. Cooked down, however, it made a lovely base for cinnamon & nutmeg scented fruit leathers. I am using a food dehydrator, but you can easily do this project in the oven, finishing to dry at room temp should any moist spots on the leather remain. Here is a photo essay of the process, taken quickly as I was cooking the other day. Six pounds of fruit made about 70 four inch square fruit leathers - perfect for a kids snack or pre-dinner sweet. I split the batch with my friends Ronny & Catherine and their 4-year old daughter, Emerson, LOVED them.

For more apple-y projects, please check out my APPLE Cookbook, which was released this past September. It has great DIY projects like a Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar or Homemade Apple Juice. _MG_3660

As a side note, I recently returned from a trip to see my cousins in Croatia and my 2-year old cousin, Otilia, would often ask for "compote", which is essentially homemade apple juice in a bottle. My cousin leaves out the sugar, just like the recipe in the book, making it a healthy option for kids.

_MG_3720

 

Before dehydrating, you can add edible petals, crushed nuts or citrus zest to your fruit leather for flavor, texture and visual appeal. Here, I am using crushed rose petals from a Rosa Rugosa plant which can be found all over the Pacific Northwest and along many coastlines nationally. Here is a HOW TO on making Rose Hip Sherry._MG_3911

Apple leathers

 

 

 

 

Preserving Plums - Ginger Plum Sauce Recipe

plumsTogether, plums and cherries make a happy marriage of texture and flavor: plums break down easily in cooking, and cherries hold their shape. They are both stone fruits, and maintain a slight almond essence that can be highlighted with a splash of brandy or kirsch. Plums are excellent fruits for both sweet and savory preparations. Broken down into a luscious sauce spiked with Asian flavors, they are easily manipulated into a silky condiment. The sauce also comes together quickly and will take little more than an hour to make and jar, resulting in the perfect jar of preserves for gift-giving. Ginger Plum Sauce Makes 4 to 6 half pints | start to finish: 1 hour

Sauces and savory relishes are an excellent way to add some flexibility to your pantry; this spicy ginger plum sauce has a kick of heat from jalapeno peppers. Use the sauce as a condiment to barbeque with, or as a dipping sauce for grilled meats. Drawing from Asian flavors, this is also exceptional as an accompaniment to summer spring rolls and steamed dumplings. You can easily turn up the heat by adding more jalapeño, or go sweeter with a bit more sugar. Neither will affect the safety of the sauce and can be adjusted to your personal taste.

3 pounds purple plums, pitted 1 cup brown sugar 1 medium onion, finely chopped 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced 1/4 cup soy sauce 3 tablespoons ginger, peeled and chopped 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Prepare jars for canning. You’ll need to sterilize the empty jars for this recipe. Place all the ingredients into a large pot and set over medium-high heat. Stir frequently until the plums release their juice. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking until the fruit breaks down and the sauce thickens. If the fruit is too hot and sticking to the bottom of your pot, lower the temperature. The sauce is done when a small spoonful is placed on a plate and no liquid separates out, creating a ring around the pulp. Total cooking time can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

When the sauce is cooked, add half of the mixture to a blender (or add it all, if you prefer) and process to a smooth puree. Combine the puree and sauce and add to the prepared jars. Using a damp, clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars and place the lids and rings on the jars. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. When the sauce is cool, remove the metal rings, check for proper seals, and label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dark cupboard until ready to use, for up to a year. Once opened, store in the fridge.

washed jars • water bath

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Plum & Cherry Jam makes about 7 half pints | start to finish: 1 1/2 hours plus overnight rest

Pectin is the plant cellulose needed to set a jam properly. Cherries are a low pectin fruit, so do not easily turn to thick and luscious jam. Plums, however, contain decent amounts of pectin and so work in harmony with the cherries to make a perfect jam. Both fruits tend to pronounce their acidity when cooked, so the sugar amount is important here. Taste as you go, and feel free to add a half cup more mid-way through cooking if the jam seems sour. With a deep red-purple hue, this spread is gorgeous served on toast or over a bowl of morning yogurt.

3 pounds sweet red cherries, pitted 1 1/2 pounds plums, pitted and split in half lengthwise 2 cups sugar 1 lemon, juiced and halved, rind reserved Splash of kirsch or brandy, optional

Place cherries, plums, sugar, lemon juice and one half of the lemon rind into a large pot and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Stir the fruit regularly, and reduce heat to medium-low, holding fruit at a gentle simmer. Cook until cherries soften completely and plums begin to break apart, 20 to 25 minutes. Skim any foam. Remove from heat, and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, prepare jars for canning. You’ll need to sterilize the empty jars for this recipe. Remove the lemon rind from the pot and return the jam to medium heat. Put a small plate in your freezer. You will use this later to check the set of the jam. Cook, stirring frequently, until jam is set, 30 to 45 minutes. To check jam set, place a small spoonful on your cold plate and let sit for 30 seconds. If the preserves wrinkle slightly when pushed with your fingertip, jam is set. If preserves do not wrinkle, continue cooking and checking the set every 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning.

After the set is reached, add a splash of kirsch or brandy, if desired, and stir to incorporate. Pour the jam into the jars. Using a damp, clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars and place the lids and rings on the jars. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. When the jam is cool, remove the metal rings, check for proper seals, and label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dark cupboard until ready to use, for up to a year. Once opened, store in the fridge.

washed jars • water bath

Elderflower Syrup Recipe

elderflowerA few summers ago on the highway home from a long weekend at Lake Chelan, I pulled my car across three lanes of traffic when I spotted a tall slender tree hunched over by the weight of its small blue berries. I had noticed the same trees on the way out to the lake, but wasn’t sure they were what I thought they were – elderberries. Some sleuthing in books (yes, I packed my copy of Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples) and a quick bit of online research over the weekend confirmed my suspicion and I made a vow to find some trees on the way home. Yanking my car across the road may have startled my co-pilot (sorry, Katie!) but she forgave me as I scaled up a loose clay hill and threw fat clusters of berries her way. Elderberries! It was like we struck gold and were giddy with excitement. I knew I was going to make syrup and Katie knew she was destined for elderberry tincture (elderberries are thought to be high in antioxidants). With four shopping bags full, we headed home with stained fingers and dusty clothes. These same gorgeous trees produce dense clusters of blossoms in the spring, more commonly known as elderflowers. According to an online index of plants from the University of Washington, the trees can be found from British Columbia to California and typically grow along river banks, and open places in low level areas near a water source The flowers blossom around May, growing in dense clusters. These white flowers are heavily scented and smell of thick honey and sweet pollen. When steeped in water and sweetened, they impart a delicate floral note and make an excellent syrup for sipping (they’re the basis for trendy St. Germain liqueur). I first had elderflower syrup in Croatia, at my cousin’s landlord’s house, with a splash of seltzer. She called it Sirup od Bazga, and taught me how to make it. Now that I know where to find these trees in spades, I’ll definitely be stocking my pantry this year. Drivers east of the mountains, you’ve been warned.

Elderflower Syrup

Makes about 4 cups start to finish: 2 days plus 30 minutes

30 flower clusters 4 cups water 4 cups sugar 1 lemon, zest reserved & juiced 2 teaspoons citric acid (available in the vitamin section of most stores)

Place flower clusters in a large bowl and cover with the water. Make sure blossoms stay submerged and let it sit out on the counter for two days. Strain out blossoms and discard. Over medium heat, heat the blossom-infused water and add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Remove promptly from heat and add lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour liquid through a fine mesh strainer lined with damp cheesecloth, straining out any residual petals and the lemon zest. Add citric acid, stirring to dissolve. Bottle syrup in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 8 weeks. washed jars | store in fridge

Lucky for us, in the Pacific Northwest we have gobs of edible wilds ripe for picking. Unlucky for us, sometimes you really need to do your homework to know where to look. Good thing, then, that our urban jungle is home to easily identifiable treats from nature. Apples, blackberries—these plants are easy to identify and everyone knows they’re edible. But a Big Leaf maple? I’m betting that never crossed your mind. Seattle plant expert, Arthur Lee Jacobsen wrote about these large maple trees several years ago, and what I recall most about the article is that the tree’s flowers are edible. Like the elderflower, maple trees form heavy clusters of florets each spring, starting in April. Most maple trees are quite tall, so foraging after a storm is a great idea as branches tend to break off. Failing that, put on your climbing shoes. The flowers are lime green and look like tiny pine cones, and carry a soft, round sweetness. Similar to maple syrup, but not nearly as sweet, these blossoms can be made into an infusion (as above), sautéed or eaten raw, but they also make a subtle and delicious quick pickle. These little pickled buds can be added to salads of bitter greens or used as a garnish along with minced shallots and chopped herbs on a grilled steak. They don’t keep long before getting mushy, so are best eaten within several weeks.

++photo credit to Edible Seattle

TGIF Cocktail Hour :: Spring Amaro

SpringAmaro_BlogI've been on a Manhattan kick lately. Any after-hours drink made with whiskey and something bitter has been my go-to for weeks. (I miss you Dry Sapphire Martini!) I'm a huge fan of a dry punch in these cocktails - an extra shake of bitters, a splash of Fernet, Campari or a herbaceous amaro. The bitter quality acts as a digestive, and I like the bracing quality they add as a counterpoint to the sweeter bourbon. Hell, let's be honest….. I'm happy to sip any bitter liqueur simply, over ice. It was such a pleasure then, to recently stumble upon a recipe for homemade Amaro from Beth Evans-Ramos on her blog Mama Knows Her Cocktails. Beth is a prolific speaker and travels the country hosting seminars and classes on gardening - her current focus is creating garden cocktails! Not a bad gig.

Amaro is a technically an Italian liqueur, and is essentially a bitter-sweet infusion of herbs, roots and other earthy ingredients. Sugar is added for a more syrupy quality. And while there are many awesome amaro products for purchase, you can certainly make your own version at home.

Mama Knows Her Cocktails makes a different amaro with every season, taking advantage whatever is in bloom at the time.  Even better, she graciously allowed me to re-post her image and recipe. Here, her version of a Spring Amaro uses lovage (celery-like leaves and a strong flavor that grows well in containers), lemon verbena (a delicate and beautiful floral-lemon herb) and even chive blossoms, which I bet add a bit of kick. Her recipe for the drink is here, though you essentially pour vodka over a boat load of herbs & plants! No big secret, though I'll warn you all plant material MUST be submerged. Oxygen interacting with plants may introduce some funky bacteria to the mix and you don't want to worry about mold or microbes, so just keep it covered. (If your plant ingredients float, you can weigh them down with a rock or plate.)

This takes a few weeks to infuse, so unfortunately you may just need to splash a little vodka in a glass and add soda water & ice for tonight. Or meet me out for a Manhattan. Bottoms up!

 

 

 

Weekend DIY :: Boozy Blood Orange Marmalade Recipe

jams_UrbanPanty. copySundays are a perfect day for a longer kitchen project. We have settled into the ease of a weekend pace, have a bit more time for errands and tend to wind down early in the afternoon in preparation for the week ahead. For that, I introduce Weekend DIY a new article highlighting a small and awesome food project that is easy to tackle on the weekend. This week, take advantage of winter citrus before they disappear. This recipe will keep your pantry stocked for the year.

(Unless you're a marmalade-consuming-monster, that is.) Thankfully, winter is the time of year where citrus shines, and many tree fruits are coming into season. Citrus of all varieties flood the markets in waves – first the Meyer Lemons in December arrive, with Blood Oranges, Cara Cara’s and more following in the new year. For now, grab the last of the blood oranges which are toward the end of their availability and try this boozy marmalade, which I know you'll love. The flavor is a more complex take on traditional marmalade - the bourbon adds an earthy quality that I love. Try this as a side on your next cheese plate (and aged Gouda or Old Amsterdam work perfectly) and the Almond Cracker recipe found in Urban Pantry. You won't regret it!

Boozy Blood Orange Marmalade (photo cred = the impeccable Della Chen Photography) [ Makes about 5 half pints ]

I’m not sure how I got the idea to add booze to marmalade, but the experiment ended up being a success. A splash of bourbon intensifies the flavor and also helps mellow out the sour edge a marmalade can have. The secret to a good marmalade is in your preparation. This is a lengthy process, so I typically make one big batch a year and then call it done. All that outer peel slicing is time consuming, so plan for a couple of hours, at least. Making this marmalade in stages helps to break it down. If you can’t source blood oranges, use lemons instead, which are in season at the same time.

2 pounds blood oranges, scrubbed, peeled, halved, and juiced (seeds reserved in a muslin bag) 1 lemon, scrubbed, peeled, halved, and juiced (seeds reserved in a muslin bag) 3 cups water 2 to 3 cups sugar 3 to 4 tablespoons bourbon

With a vegetable peeler, remove the outer peel from both the oranges and the lemon, avoiding the white pith. Cut the peel into very thin strips and toss into a large pot. (Wider pots are better for jammaking than deep pots.) Pour the orange juice and lemon juice into the large saucepot, along with the muslin bag of reserved seeds. Add the peels, the lemon halves, and 4 of the orange halves. Add the water and set over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking until the rinds are soft, about 30 minutes. Cover the saucepot and put in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Measure the marmalade. For every cup of citrus and liquid, add 3/4 cup of sugar to the saucepot. (So, 4 cups of citrus equals 3 cups of sugar.) For every cup of citrus, measure out 1 tablespoon of bourbon and set aside. Return the saucepot to medium-low heat and cook down the mixture. Skim off any foam that forms and stir the marmalade often. Put a plate into the freezer for testing the set. Cook until the marmalade gels, about 30 minutes to an hour (depending on how wide your saucepot is).

Prepare jars for canning. To test the marmalade, remove the plate from the freezer, spoon a small amount onto the cold plate, and let it sit a moment. Push the marmalade with your fingertip. If a wrinkle forms in the jelly, the marmalade is done. If it is loose and runny, keep cooking and stirring until thickened. When your desired consistency is reached, remove the muslin bag of seeds and the citrus halves, squeezing any excess juice into the saucepot. You can compost your solids.

Add the marmalade to the jars. Using a damp clean towel, wipe the rims of the jars, and place lids and rings on the jars. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter. When cooled, remove the metal rings, check for proper seals, and label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dark cupboard until ready to use, for up to a year.

Pantry Note: This marmalade is a consummate pantry staple because of its ability to be served with sweet or savory foods. Use this on your toast, or smear a layer on the bottom of an Almond—Butter Tart. You can also add some fresh garlic and water to the marmalade for a wonderful marinade and glaze for fish, chicken, or duck. Spread some on the meat and cook according to directions. I also serve marmalade on cheese plates alongside a soft creamy cheese. Store in the fridge after opening.

Washed jars; water bath (directions online here.)

TGIF Cocktail Hour :: Fir-Tip Syrup Recipe

Spruce TipsI spent Easter weekend out in Skykomish and marveled at the many shades of green on the drive up. Evergreen trees stood dark and pine-y against emerald colored leaves and lime-y new growth. It is truly a magical time in the tree canopy - just look around! On a recent walk in Discovery Park, I reached up and pulled a pale chartreuse bit from a fir trees outstretched limbs and chewed whilst strolling. Good stuff. It reminded me now is the PERFECT time to used this Fir-tip Syrup recipe!  

The fir is a conifer tree (cone-bearing, woody trees & I'll be the first to admit that tree identification is not my forte) that can grow as tall as a NYC building and live several hundred years. Fir trees are in the same family with Pine and Spruce trees - the are the great giants of the forest. Tips from new needle growth can be clipped and harvested for syrups, salads or simply their herbaceous quality. Try some in place of rosemary in your next halibut dinner. Or drink it, like I recommend here.

Just as you'd suspect, this fir-tip syrup recipe is made with sugar water and fir tips. Cook them all together and let the fir greens steep, it's oils releasing into the liquid. Traditionally sugar is used for a simple syrup base, but I'll encourage you to consider some natural sweeteners like honey or pure maple syrup which both work using the same technique.

Fir tips are super woodsy tasting and smacks of a pine-y forest. The resin undertone works well with a floral gin or cedar-smoky bourbon - everyone is most often fond of some fir-tip syrup in a G&T, that woodsy syrup lending an lemon-y and pleasingly astringent flavor. (Skip the squeeze of lime.) I'm betting some of you will have ideas, too - leave them here!

This recipe is officially from Jennifer Hahn - Pacific Feast | A Cook's Guide to West Coast Foraging and Cuisine. If you haven't picked up a copy and you actually LIVE in the Northwest and eat food daily, you must get your hands on this book immediately. It's available online from Skipstone Publishing (who conveniently also published both Urban Pantry & Fresh Pantry!) and at Book Larder in Fremont - the best food lovers bookstore in Seattle.

Spruce (or Fir) Tip Syrup

4 cups spruce (or fir) tips 4 cups water 2/3 cup sugar

In a medium saucepan, cover green tips with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Strain out green tips with a fine sieve, reserving liquid. Measure amount of liquid you have and add an equal amounts sugar. (1:1 water:sugar). Return syrup back to a boil and reduce until the consistency of syrup, about 30 minutes.

How to Harvest & Eat Dandelions

Poor dandelions, always getting a bad rap for wreaking havoc on lawns and in general being a ruthless weed. It’s true that dandelions are a deeply rooted “weed” that are a real nightmare to dig out, but it’s also true that they taste pretty good and are literally everywhere. One need not look very far to find a bed of dandelions fit for eating; they are easily identifiable. Dandelion greens turn bitter and woody quite quickly, so very early spring is the best time to harvest them. To harvest and eat dandelions, try to clip the small leaves from the plant before the plant flowers. How to Harvest & Eat Dandelions

Once the yellow flower has bloomed, taste the dandelion greens first to see if you find the flavor too off-putting. Harvest by picking off the small leaves and eating straight away. Be sure to wash dandelion greens well, and steer clear of picking them out of public lawns. Those areas are too heavily sprayed with chemicals to warrant
eating. Use dandelion greens in salads, or
cook them in a sauté. I like my greens
wilted with a little bacon and an egg
in the morning. You may also use the
flower petals in recipes. I roll chopped
 petals into cracker or pie dough, for their 
bright yellow color, but the taste will not
shine through unless you use an exorbitant
amount of petals. If you're really brave, you can try this recipe for Dandelion Jelly & Pectin.

Lemon Trout with Dandelion Greens

Whole fish can sometimes be intimidating, but trout cooks quickly and tastes great. No need to clean anything—commercial trout comes scaled and gutted already. I learned this wholesome and healthy recipe from my friend Jaime years ago; it has been a standard of mine ever since.

Whole trout is cooked quickly under the broiler and served topped with a salad of dandelion greens and almonds. The dandelion greens are quite bitter, but work well with the subtle fish. They are also very healthy for you; ounce for ounce, they have more vitamin A, iron, and calcium than broccoli.

Harvest new dandelion growth in spring; older, bigger leaves are too tough and woody, and their flavor is harsh.

Dandelion Greens

Serves 2

1 garlic clove, peeled 1 handful sliced almonds 2 handfuls dandelion greens, coarsely chopped 1 lemon, zested, then sliced 1 tablespoon olive oil Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 whole trout

Preheat the broiler and raise a rack to the highest position in your oven.

In the bowl of a mortar and pestle, mash and grind the garlic clove. When the oils have covered the walls of the mortar, remove and discard the garlic flesh. Add the almonds to the bowl and grind until they are broken up into smaller pieces. Add the dandelion greens and lemon zest and mash all the ingredients together until com- bined. The mixture will look a little bit like a salad and a little bit like a pesto. Inconsistency in the size of the leafy bits is perfect. Add the olive oil and a pinch of salt and give it one last stir with the pestle. Set aside.

Meanwhile, season the trout on both sides and inside the belly with salt and pepper. Insert several lemon slices into the belly of the trout. Place on a sheet pan and lightly coat the trout with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking. Place the sheet pan directly under the broiler, and broil on one side until the skin starts to shrivel and char, 4 to 5 minutes. Take out the pan and flip the trout with a spatula. Return to the broiler and broil the other side until charred and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes.

Place the broiled trout on a platter and spoon the dandelion salad over it. Serve immediately.

More Garden Recipes: Dandelions are a great green for adding to your salad, but use them sparingly so they don’t overpower the other flavors. Try making a dandelion pesto with crushed garlic and pine nuts. Dandelion greens can also be used as a filling for the Pea Vine Dumplings, which are in my book Apartment Gardening

TGIF Cocktail Hour :: Citrus & Mint Fizz

It's FRIDAY! Time to squeeze some fresh citrus, bust out the cocktail shaker and invite a few friends over to unwind. No need to make it a big project, or turn it into a long night, but with TGIF Cocktail Hour, I invite you to slow down, socialize and sip. I'm starting this series with………stopyellingatme……….a non alcoholic beverage. Of course, you can mix some vodka or gin in here if so inclined, but truly - this drink stands on it's own and feels every bit as decadent without the addition of booze.

© Esra Paola Crugnale | Dreamstime Stock PhotosAt any party, I like to offer a non-alcoholic drink that is every bit as festive as a fancy cocktail or wine. I’ve been making this one for years after seeing a version in the New York Times holiday section. For this fizz-filled drink, a heavily spiced syrup is added to fresh orange juice, along with a drop of peppermint oil, to make a perfect savory, refreshing drink. You can substitute half of the lime juice for lemon juice, or use all lemon juice if so desired. The syrup can be flavored with many other spice options--try allspice, fennel, or even a red chile for some heat. Make extra--most guests will choose this over Prosecco.

Citrus & Mint Fizz Makes 4 drinks

1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup water 2 tablespoons ground cloves 2 cinnamon sticks 2 whole star anise pods 3 thin slices fresh ginger 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract 2 cups fresh-squeezed orange juice 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice

Fizzy water or Seltzer, for serving

In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the sugar, water, cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and ginger. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Once all the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and set aside to infuse and cool completely. Once it’s cool, strain out the spices and stir in the peppermint extract.

In large pitcher, combine the orange juice, lime juice, and peppermint syrup. Stir vigorously until well incorporated. You will see little peppermint oil bubbles on the surface of the juice, so work to emulsify and whisk these in as best as you can.

In a highball glass filled with ice, add juice to the halfway-mark and then add fizzy water to fill. Serve immediately,  and stir well in between pourings.

PANTRY NOTE: Leftover syrup (as if!) can be stored in a small glass jar in the fridge for many weeks or even several months. You can use this syrup in place of sweet vermouth in a Manhattan, or try some with hot water and brandy for an updated version of a toddy.

Photo by: © Esra Paola Crugnale | Dreamstime Stock Photos Recipe excerpted from Fresh Pantry

House-Made Mayo :: a Novel Approach to Using Leftovers

Miller's Guild Chef Mixes Up a House-Made Mayo (Originally published in Seattle Magazine, April 2014) Chef/partner Jason Wilson turns waste into wonder with his signature condiment, Motoraioli   

Chef Jason Wilson grew up in a family of butchers, and as a kid in Minnesota, he relished the fatty, gnarly bit on the end of a roast. As a chef, he developed modern techniques and tastes, which are on display at Crush in Madison Valley, but with his newly opened Miller’s Guild downtown, he returns to a more visceral style.

Chef Jason Wilson_0414keyingredient

“It’s wood-fired cooking in a nutshell,” Wilson says of the 9-foot-long, custom-made, open-flame grill that serves as the restaurant’s centerpiece. Instead of traditional grates, the grill is tilted at an angle to funnel “the goodies”—seasoned fat, grease and oils—into a channel. Early on, Wilson dipped some focaccia in it, and proclaimed, “This is good!”

This eureka moment went on to inform the menu. Using the collected grease as an infused oil, Wilson created a house-made mayo, naming it Motoraioli in homage to the brown hue the drippings impart. In home kitchens, leftover roasting juices are more commonly used in gravy, or, gasp, treated as waste. Wilson showcases it in his signature aioli. For brunch, Motoraioli is served alongside fries as a dipping sauce, while for dinner, it appears in an appetizer of corned beef tongue, house pickles and leeks.

How to make motoraioli: You’ll need about 1 cup of fat drippings for a good portion of mayonnaise, which is made by emulsifying the oil with egg yolks, as you would with a traditional homemade mayo recipe.

Save the drippings: “If you’re searing a steak in a pan, or making a standing rib roast or pot roast, collect the fat that’s left over,” instructs Wilson. Depending on the meat cooked and the seasoning used, flavors will vary. Save the fats from several recipes by storing them in a covered container in the fridge, where it will keep for several months. Saved drippings can be used as a basting “butter” for roasts, grilled meats or vegetables—grilled radicchio is a favorite.

Where you can find motoraioli: On the menu at Miller’s Guild or in your own kitchen.

Why you should try it: Using every last bit of an ingredient means you are maximizing both flavor and your budget. Why spend $3 on a jar of mayo when you can make it at home using an ingredient you would have thrown away?

Want step-by-step instructions on how to make it? We've got 'em here.

Perfect Oatmeal Cookies

Cookie StackWelcome to Cookie of the Month, the absolute antithesis of my posts (and lifestyle) on Clean Eating! It was my boyfriends idea to write a Cookie Of The Month column, no doubt because it allows him to sample the cookie test results, but I think it's a great idea! Last fall, I posted a pic of my friend Marcus' Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies - he used a recipe from Cooks Illustrated - and it turns out it was one of the most popular posts on my site. So while everyone is juicing and eating clean, there are those of use who still indulge in the occasional sweet. And now it's February, so I know many of you have completed your detox. Here, I took the learned process of browning the butter before blending it into a dough to my favorite recipe for oatmeal cookies. I'm happy to report the result is outstanding. These cookies spread into a thin and lacey cookie once baked and are perfect for serving alongside a cup of black tea.

 

Perfect Oatmeal Cookies

To prepare, preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180 C) & set up the following ingredients:

BEAT TOGETHER IN A SMALL BOWL & Set Aside: 2 eggs 1 tablespoon vanilla

BLEND IN ONE BOWL & Set Aside: 1 cup whole wheat flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon baking powder 3/4 teaspoon salt 3 cups thick rolled oats 1 cup chocolate chips or raisins

IN A LARGE MIXING BOWL (preferably the bowl of a standing mixer), add: 4 tablespoons butter (2 ounces), cut into small pieces

& HAVE READY TO MEASURE OUT: 1 cup brown sugar 1 cup sugar

PLACE IN LARGE STAINLESS STEEL SAUTE PAN: 12 tablespoons of butter (6 ounces)

browned butter

Place saute pan over medium high heat to melt butter. Once butter has melted, swirl the pan occasionally until the butter is deeply brown and smells nutty. This takes 3 to 5 minutes. Do not allow butter to burn - i.e. pay attention & keep swirling. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour the browned butter into the bowl with the solid butter and stir until all of the butter has melted. Set this bowl aside until slightly cooled, stirring occasionally, which introduces air into the melted butter and helps it to cool more quickly.

butter to butter

Once butter has cooled to warm (so, if you stick your fingertip in, it will not register as "hot" but will instead feel like the same temp as your body), add the sugars to the bowl and beat together until well blended, about 1 minute on medium speed. With the mixer running, add  one egg at a time until well blended, about 1 minute total, and then turn off the mixer and let the batter stand for 3 minutes.

batter

After resting, turn the mixer to high and beat for 30 seconds, then turn off the mixer and let the batter stand for 3 minutes more. Do this one more time, beating for 30 seconds and letting rest for 3 minutes. After the third time you blend, the batter should be a bit lighter in color and it will be thick enough to hold ribbons on the surface.

With mixer on low (or "Stir") fold in the flour-oat mixture and add the chips or raisins, blending until JUST combined, about 1 minute more. The batter will be more loose than traditional cookie batter. Do not refrigerate the batter! Instead, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and immediately scoop out cookies, using a large spoonful. Leave about 4 inches between each dollop of dough, and press the tops slightly, so they are slightly flat. (I fit about 4 -5 cookies on each baking sheet, leaving them plenty of room to spread.)

Place pan in oven and bake for 7 minutes. Turn pans and bake another 5 to 7 minutes, checking them occasionally, until just golden brown. I like a gooey-center, so I under-bake my cookies slightly, though they will firm up once cool.

Continue baking in batches (allowing the baking sheet to cool between batches) until all of the cookies are baked. Conversely, you can shape any leftover or unbaked dough into a log and wrap it in plastic wrap and chill or freeze for later.

[amyp note: IF YOU SAVE DOUGH FOR LATER, before baking let the dough come up to room temperature and get a little soft. Softer dough produces a thinner, flatter, more lacey cookie. Using sliced dough from the fridge results in a thicker, more cake-y cookie. Chefs choice!]

oatmeal cookie

Cabbage - Clean Eating

Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, just like broccoli, kale, collards, turnips and MORE. Cruciferous veg are high in sulfur. Eating these natural compounds help your body produce anti-oxidant and detoxification proteins, which in turn help to eliminate biohazards from your cells. Seriously! Basically, what this does is increase your bodies cellular function   and help clean out your system - like a gentle internal cleanser. For these reasons (and more which surpass my scientific understanding of digestion), many health advocates contend that you should be eating raw cruciferous vegetables daily. Because of their cellular support, cruciferous vegetables are thought to aid in the prevention of many cancers. Studies have been done to prove this, but why wait for a study? Eating more raw (or cooked) leafy greens will never prove to be a BAD idea.Cabbage Pancake Here is one of my most favorite breakfast recipes - Savory Cabbage Pancakes. I've been a little obsessed with these lately and make them several times a week. Of course, this recipe shows up in my newly released eBook - Fresh Pantry - CABBAGE. You can purchase it here for $2.99 and get it on your phone, tablet or computer for more awesome and healthful cabbage recipes. Cabbage is one of the more affordable and functional vegetables available, and so the book aims to take advantage of this virtue all winter long.

For the pancake, cabbage is briefly sautéed and added to beaten eggs for the ultimate breakfast meal. Topped with chopped cilantro, fresh green onions and a spoonful of fermented kimchi or sauerkraut, they are tremendously deliciously and seriously satisfying. (Additionally, fermented foods support proper gut health - that's where the kimchi comes in. More on fermented foods soon!) You won't be reaching for a snack for several hours, which is awesome for anyone eating clean (who can tolerate eggs, of course) or trying to cut out unnecessary calories.

Fresh Pantry, cabbage pancakeCABBAGE PANCAKES excerpted from Fresh Pantry - Cabbage, Skipstone Books 2013

2 tablespoons olive oil 1 cup shredded green cabbage ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon pepper 2 eggs 2 tablespoons water

For Garnish - chopped cilantro, chopped green onion, kimchi or sauerkraut, OR kefir

In a small sauté pan (about 5 inches in diameter), set the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil has warmed, add the green cabbage, salt, and pepper to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is wilted and soft, about 10 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and water until well combined. Pour the mixture over the cabbage and tilt the pan to distribute the eggs evenly. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the pancake edges are firm, about 6 to 8 minutes. Using a large spatula, flip the pancake over quickly and continue cooking the other side until the eggs are just cooked, another 4 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

 

Juicing at Home Without a Juicer - Clean Eating

It seems like the world is crazy for juicing just now. I had figured it for yet another American health craze for anyone hoping to drop five pounds, but recently I visited the Torvehallerne KBH in Copenhagen (essentially, a gourmet food hall) and even they had a raw juice bar. pear-ginger-collards

I love the concept of juicing - a nice clean, hit of nutrition for a mid-day pick me up or small meal seems like a smart idea. A veg-based juice or a fruit-based smoothie is a blessing for me, as I'm often on the move and don't  have time to sit for a proper meal. A hard boiled egg and some beet-kale-apple juice makes for a decent lunch when I leave my house early to get out to gardens, and they are easy to make ahead and toss in my purse. Additionally, I have never been a huge fan of breakfast - something about eating first thing in the morning never appealed to me. So, yeah……juicing has been great.

The problem is, I don't have the money or space for a home juicer. Yes, I know there are small versions and I know everyone swears by their Vitamix, but I figure that I have enough kitchen tools as it and I prefer to work with what I have. If you don't have a juicer at home, don't sweat it. Here's how to make your own with relative ease.

_MG_5318

Using a strong blender (or a mini-smoothie maker, like this one), add 1/4 cup of water, a handful of fresh fruit, 1-2 tablespoons peeled & chopped ginger & 3 whole leaf greens. The water helps the fruit and vegetables break up, and allows for easier straining. Process in the blender for 1 minute and turn off. Let mixture sit for one minute, before turning the machine on again and allow to blend for 2 to 3 minutes more. This will seem like an excessive amount of time, but the color will continue to change as the mixture is fully pulverized, promising to extract as much as possible from the fruits and vegetables.

Using a fine mesh strainer set over a deep bowl, pour in the juice and strain, pressing on the solids firmly to extract all moisture. This process takes about 2 minutes total. Use a rubber spatula to fold and press the pulp until it is paste-like and dry and stops releasing juice. Pour the strained juice from the bowl into a drinking class & enjoy!

It is good to note that this process will remove most of the fiber found in the plants skin, membranes and stalks. This fiber is very healthy for you, so you need not strain the juice, if you don't mind the pulp. I prefer a smoother drinking juice, though on occasion I'll add a small spoonful of the pulp back in for good measure. It's up to you!

home juicingThis is what I blended today -  pears offer a natural sweetness and clean flavor, collard greens are more gently flavored than kale leaves (and it's what I had in the pantry!) and I use ginger in my juices because of it's medicinal properties. Ginger is an excellent anti-inflammatory AND it tastes fantastic, adding a bit of a spicy kick to drinks.

Pear-Ginger-Collard Juice

1 whole pear, stem removed 2 tablespoons peeled & diced ginger 3 collard green leaves, cut into 2-inch wide ribbons 1/4 cup water

*You can add a small spoon of honey or maple syrup to sweeten slightly, if so inclined. Pears are still tasty this time of year, so you really shouldn't need it.

 

Holiday Nibbles - Spiced Pecans

pecansI absolutely LOVE this time of year. I crave the hustle bustle, the busy sidewalks and I don't even mind standing in line at the post office, but most importantly I love being social. Dropping in on friends or hosting small fetes is what the season is all about and I hope this post finds you all in full swing and with peace of mind. I wanted to share one of my favorite all time recipes that works beautifully for holiday noshing and is perfect for any last-minute plans or too-lazy-to-cook attitudes. These Spiced Pecans, from my first book Urban Pantry, are at once sweet and spicy. First fried in a small amount of oil, they are then coated in sugar, producing a hard crackling. From there, cooked nuts are quickly tossed with a mixture of sugar and moroccan spices that I promise you are irresistible. Many recipes are good - this one is GREAT. You must try it.

Spiced Pecans

(Makes 1 cup, and easily doubles)

I owe this recipe to my good friend Rusty Blackwood—a man who pulls together a mean flower arrangement and has a keen understanding of Moroccan food. He made these nuts at an import sale years ago, and I couldn’t pull myself away from the buffet table to shop. I emailed him in a fit to get the recipe, and he promptly responded—from poolside in Marrakech. This is the perfect recipe to pack for a camping trip or to serve alongside a cheese platter, fancying up the boring cheese-and-cracker platters that have become a near epidemic as of late. These spiced pecans are also wonderful served crumbled over any green salad.

4 tablespoons sugar for pan, plus 2 tablespoons for bowl 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground cayenne 1 teaspoon ground turmeric 1 teaspoon ground paprika 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup peanut oil 1 cup shelled pecans

Before you start, measure out your sugar and spices and have ready a large glass bowl. You’ll need to work quickly once the nuts are toasted.

Cover the bottom of a large, deep-sided sauté pan with the peanut oil; let it pool a bit. Heat over medium-high and, when the oil is beginning to ripple slightly, toss in the pecans, stirring continuously so they don’t burn. When the pecans start to smoke and brown, add 4 tablespoons of the sugar and toss, toss, toss! You don’t want to burn that sugar.

After the sugar is dissolved and the nuts are well coated, use a slotted spoon and put the nuts in the glass bowl with the remaining sugar and the measured-out spices and salt. Working quickly, stir to combine. When the mixture has cooled slightly, taste and adjust the flavors, making them more salty-spicy to your liking. Pour the spiced pecans onto a sheet pan to cool. When completely cooled, store them in a glass jar in the cupboard.

Pantry Note: You can easily multiply this recipe for bigger batches. Spices can be swapped as well. If you don’t have turmeric, for example, try curry powder or garam masala. These candied nuts keep nearly indefinitely but taste freshest when eaten within four to six weeks.

Photo Credit: Della Chen Photography

Excerpted from Urban Pantry: Tips & Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable & Seasonal Kitchen, Skipstone 2010