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Archive for the ‘Side dish’ Category

Soft Pretzels

I’ve had this post in draft form for more than a week, waiting for inspiration to strike.  I have come up with nothing profound to say about these soft, chewy, salty knots of pleasure, except they are delicious, remarkably easy, and were a huge hit at Morgan’s class Halloween party.  That’s all I got.  Hope you’ll try them.

Soft Pretzels

Adapted from Alton Brown

Ingredients:

1½ cups warm water (110-115° F)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
22 oz. all-purpose flour (about 4½ cups)
4 Tbsp. melted butter*

—–

Cooking spray
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water*
Pretzel (or kosher) salt

Directions:
Combine 1 1/2 cups warm water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Mix on low speed (or just use a spoon) to dissolve the yeast.  Add in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough comes together. Knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly sprayed with Pam or other cooking spray, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap or a damp clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place, about 50-55 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray. Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large wide saucepan or skillet.  In the meantime, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces for large pretzels, or 16 pieces for smaller pretzels (perfect for kids).  I found that the large pretzels weighed about 4 oz. each, the small ones, half of that. Working with one piece at a time, roll a segment out into a 24-inch long rope (12 inches for the small ones).  Make a U-shape with the rope and holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and onto the bottom of the U-shape in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 or 2 at a time, for 30 seconds.  Remove from the water with a slotted skimmer, drain well before returning to the baking sheet.  Once all the pretzels have been boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash (if using) and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Bake in the preheated oven until dark golden brown, about 12-14 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

* I made these pretzels in vegan form, due to some extreme allergies among Morgan’s classmates.  I substituted Earth Balance vegan spread for butter, and omitted the egg wash.  The results were very good, and the vegan dairy-free version was nearly as delicious and beautiful as the original recipe.
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Peach Salsa

Did you know that Colorado has some of the best peaches in the country?  Farmers on the Western Slope (around Palisades) do a remarkable job of growing these sweet beauties and driving them across the Continental Divide to farmers’ markets all along the Front Range. I can’t imagine how many acres of trees must be needed just to supply the hordes of shoppers in Boulder, alone.  People line up a half hour before the farmers’ market opens on Saturday mornings, just to be sure to get a bag or a 20 lb. box (I once saw someone buy four boxes!) before they sell out. They’re that good.

We are on the tail end of peach season here, but you can still find some stragglers at the market.  After you’ve had your fill of peach pie and peach cobbler, and you’ve had diced peaches on your morning cereal every day for a month, it’s time to branch out.  This salsa has that sweet heat that I find so perfect on grilled meats, or just scooped up with copious amounts of chips.  It would be awesome on fish tacos.

Remember, you can adjust the heat or the sweet by adding more or less of the following ingredients…

Peach Salsa

Ingredients:

3  cups  diced peeled peaches (about 2 pounds)

1/4  cup  diced red onion

1/2 red bell pepper, diced fine

2-4  Tbsp  finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 seeded jalapeño pepper, minced (or less, to taste)

2  tablespoons vinegar (rice vinegar or white balsamic or white wine vinegar make good choices)

Juice of half of a lime

Honey to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients gently.  Best served the day it is made.

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I love the farmer’s market and I’m lucky to live in a town with a great one. It’s such fun to bike downtown and spend a leisurely morning browsing through all the fresh produce and wonderful specialty artisan foods offered by the vendors. All that beautiful food is a treat for the eyes as well as the palate!

white

Among other treasures, I found some beautiful english peas when I was shopping there recently. Impulsively, I bought a pound, without a plan. Once I got home, I spent the rest of the afternoon leafing through cookbooks, looking for inspiration, and, of course, shelling the peas.

Lucky for me, I had some great help. Morgan helped me release all those sweet orbs from their pods, even though it was tricky sometimes. For future reference, a pound of english peas yields about 2 cups of shelled peas.

I decided to make a fresh pea risotto, with a hint of lemon, and just a bit of salty ham (or proscuitto, if you care to upgrade). It was a good choice, as it highlighted the sweet grassy flavor of the peas without overwhelming them, and still was filling and satisfying as a main dish for supper.

If you find some of these beauties at the market, spare some for this lovely meal.

Spring Pea Risotto

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups arborial rice

4 1/2 – 5 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade, but good store-bought will do)

1/2 cup white wine

1 large shallot, diced fine

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 cup fresh peas

One lemon, zest and juice

An ounce or two of ham, or proscuitto, if you have it

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

2-3 Tbsp. fresh basil, chives and/or mint, chopped fine  (You could use any or all of these, I had all 3 in my herb garden.)

Directions:

In a saucepan, bring chicken stock to simmer and keep on the back burner while you work on the risotto.

In another saucepan, sauté the shallots in the olive oil for a minute, then add the rice.  Stir, and let the rice cook over medium high for another minute or two, being careful not to burn.  Add the white wine, and stir until it is mostly absorbed.

Ladleful by ladleful, add the stock to the rice, each time cooking and stirring gently, as it is absorbed.  Keep the risotto covered in a film of stock, so it does not dry out.  It’s not necessary to stand at the stove stirring constantly, but don’t walk away from the pot for long.  Total time from the first ladleful to the rice being done is 18-20 minutes.  At the half-way point, throw in the peas and ham or proscuitto.  When you are getting close to the end of the cooking, and you’ve used up most of your stock, add the zest and juice from the lemon. When you taste the risotto at this point, the rice should be still slightly chewy, and possess a lovely creaminess. Add the parmesan, fresh herbs, and salt and pepper to your taste.

I served this with steamed asparagus and a glass of chilled, crisp sauvignon blanc.


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I recently had really good food on an airplane.

Really.

Well, to be honest, I bought it at the airport, and ate it on the airplane.  Unless you fly first class, you don’t get real meals from the airlines anymore.  Which is just as well, when you can buy yummy things like this and eat them in flight.  I remember what they used to serve, and, believe me, this is a big, big improvement.  In fact, I liked it so much, I tried to memorize the list of ingredients to recreate the dish at home.  Here’s my best approximation…

It starts with couscous, but you could up the nutritional content and make this with quinoa or millet or even brown rice, and it would be higher in fiber and virtue.  But the original was made with couscous, so I started there.  Cook the couscous as you normally would (1 cup dry couscous to 1 1/2 cups boiling water), but add curry powder or curry paste (my favorite) to the water.  Add chopped vegetables, diced dried apricots, drained and rinsed garbanzo beans and chopped fresh herbs.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.  Toss a few cashews on top for crunch.  And sit down to a fabulous light lunch, with plenty of leg room to spare.

Curried Couscous Salad with Apricots and Garbanzo Beans

Ingredients:

3 cups dry couscous

4 1/2 cups water, brought to a boil

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp curry paste, or curry powder, to taste

2 stalks celery, diced

1/2 cup dried apricots, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 large shallot, minced

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Zest of one lemon

Juice of 1-2 lemons

Olive oil for drizzling on top

Directions:

Place dry couscous in a shallow casserole or 9 x 13 pan.  Cover with boiling water, which you have added the salt, oil and curry paste (or powder).  Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  Uncover and fluff with a fork.  While you allow this to come to room temperature, diced and chop the celery, pepper, apricots, shallots and herbs.  Add these and garbanzo beans to the cooled couscous, tossing gently to combine.  Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil.

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Hippie Potato Salad

I call this Hippie Potato Salad, because I got the original recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook, a book that was found in many an earth mama’s kitchen way back when. People don’t often want to admit it, but hippies had a lot of good ideas, and it wasn’t just putting sprouts in salad. Natural foods groceries, supporting local organic farmers, solar and wind energy, recycling, environmental awareness, saving endangered species, herbal medicines and creative uses for hemp all were advocated 40 years ago by these kind folks.

I often wish that people today would give hippies their due. Would there be Whole Foods or even natural foods aisles at Safeway without their leadership?  Would kids be drinking soy milk or organic milk from happy cows in their waste-free lunch box systems, without those pioneers? Would Boulder require curbside pick up of food waste and turn it into compost if it weren’t for these visionaries? Let’s all say “thank you” to those aging hippies who introduced us to so many good ideas, even if the world wasn’t quite ready for them.  Nominate your favorite aging hippie or revolutionary idea in the comment section below.

In the meantime, have some great potato salad.

What makes this stand out is the incorporation of lots of vegetables, and the thinning out of the mayonnaise with apple cider vinegar.  The original recipe (called Kristina’s Potato Salad in Moosewood) suggests adding alfalfa sprouts and nuts and seeds, which would probably be good, too.  The idea is that you can be creative and add all sorts of healthy fresh foods to this creamy potato base, and it’s all good.

Potato Salad

Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook

Serves 8, generously

Ingredients:

6 cups red-skinned potatoes, skins and all, cut into chunks

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 scallions, minced

1 large cucumber, seeded and diced

1 carrot, coarsely grated

2 stalks celery, diced

alfalfa sprouts (optional)

1/2 cup toasted cashews (optional)

1/4 cup toasted sunflower and sesame seeds (optional)

3/4 cup mayonnaise (I use light mayo to cut the fat)

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1 tsp. yellow mustard, dijon mustard or whatever mustard you have on hand

1 tsp. salt

fresh ground black pepper

fresh herbs:  parsley, chives, tarragon and basil are good, but use whatever strikes your fancy, as much or as little as you like

Directions:

Scrub and dice potatoes, and boil until just tender.  Drain and cool.  Put in large bowl and set aside.

Mix mayonnaise, mustard, cider vinegar, salt and pepper together until well blended.  Taste and correct seasonings. (It’s easier at this point than later.) Pour mixture over potatoes.  Add vegetables and herbs, and mix gently to coat.  Chill until ready to serve.

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Red Cabbage and Apples

I’m not Irish. All those Saint Patty’s day cabbage recipes look good, but don’t quite stir my German heart like sweet and sour red cabbage with bacon and apples.  This is the food of my people.  I thought this recipe originated in eastern Europe, but when my mother-in-law served a similar dish as a part of a Norwegian dinner, I decided it might really be more accurately called northern European.  In any case, it’s good.

This particular recipe is from my mom’s mom, and includes bacon.  But, for years, I made a vegetarian version from Anna Thomas’ classic Vegetarian Epicure, made with butter and beer (but no meat, obviously). The bacon is delicious, of course, but the real star is the way the sweet and sour play off each other. It may be peasant food, but it has the perfect balance of sweet, salty, acid and fat that often eludes the most upscale cuisine.

Traditionally a side dish, this is great served with pork and egg noodles. But I must confess I ate a big bowl of it for lunch the other day, just by itself.  It was awesome.

Margaret Wellen’s German Red Cabbage

Aunt Hilde’s note: Use an iron skillet – it flavors the cabbage and gives you a good dose of iron in the doing.  Stainless steel or Teflon will work but the cabbage won’t taste authentic.  The final product should be soft (not mushy), tart, and balanced spice.  The amounts listed below are approximate since I never exactly measure the ingredients.

Ingredients:

1 good-sized red cabbage – about 8 inches in diameter – sliced in ¼ inch strips

10 – 12 strips bacon

1 large apple – cut to bite-size

1 large onion – coarse dice

8 whole cloves

12 whole allspice

1 cinnamon stick

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

Sweet & sour mixture:

¾ cup cider vinegar

1 cup water

½ cup sugar (brown works fine)

Directions:

Fry out bacon in iron skillet and reserve bacon and drippings.

Lightly sauté onion in bacon drippings, add cabbage and turn frequently to evenly coat the cabbage with the oil.

Add apple, allspice, cloves, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, salt, pepper and sweet-sour mixture.  Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until cabbage is partially cooked (beginning to soften).

Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes or so, and then adjust the spice and sweet-sour balance to your taste.

Vent cover and continue simmer until cabbage is soft but not mushy.

Stir in crumpled bacon bits just prior to serving.

Serves 8 in some households, less in ours.

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Today, we are going to be talking about Yankee food (and I don’t mean hot dogs at the ball park). To understand Yankee food, you have to answer the question, “What is a Yankee?” To people in the Western Hemisphere, a Yankee is someone from North America (think “Yankee, go home!”). To North Americans, Yankees live in the United States. To Americans, a Yankee is someone above the Mason-Dixon line. People in those northern states would say a Yankee is someone who lives in New England.  To New Englanders, a Yankee lives in Vermont. And Vermonters would say a Yankee is someone who eats apple pie for breakfast…

… or maybe baked beans and brown bread.  This recipe was given to me by an old friend whose family had been in New England so long that they had land that had been given to them as payment for service in the war — you know, the Revolutionary War.

Food can reach back and teach us about the past.  In those early days when white folks first settled New England, they ate what they could grow. Beans were (and still are) cheap and filling, and meat was used sparingly. This bread uses modest amounts of wheat, which was less available than other grains, contains no precious oil or butter, and is steamed in the manner of old English puddings.  The result is a delicious, hearty and healthy meal and a lesson in American history.

Nancy’s Boston Baked Beans

Warning! This makes a massive amount of beans.  Feed your family.  Feed your neighbors.

Ingredients:

One onion, quartered

2 lbs. Jacob Cattle Beans, or other small white bean (I used Great Northern beans)

8 oz. salt pork (can substitute bacon if necessary)

1/4 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup molasses

2 tsp. dry mustard

4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Directions:

Soak beans overnight in a large pot with water covering the beans by two inches.  In the morning, parboil the beans for 30 minutes or until the skins start to come off when you blow on them.  Drain.

In large bean pot or dutch oven, place quartered onion, and cover with beans.  Place salt pork on top of beans. Mix the sugar, molasses, mustard, pepper and salt with 2 cups boiling water. Pour mixture over the beans.  Add more water to cover the surface of the beans.  Cover the pot with a lid and bake at 300 degrees F for 6 hours or more, adding more hot water as the beans cook.  Serve with brown bread (recipe below).

Brown Bread

This is traditionally made in old coffee cans, but coffee doesn’t come in cans so often anymore, so one has to improvise. Improvising makes real Yankees happy.  Do not go to your local kitchen supply store and buy a fancy pudding mold.  That would offend those thrifty folks, whose motto was “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Ingredients:

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup whole grain rye flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 cups buttermilk

1 cup molasses

1 cup raisins or dried currants

Directions:

Generously butter one 9×5 inch loaf pan or 2 clean 28 ounce tin cans.  Mix first 5 ingredients in large bowl.  Add buttermilk, molasses and raisins and stir well to combine.

Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan or divide between the two prepared cans.  Butter a piece of foil and use it to cover the pan well, buttered side down.  Secure with kitchen twine.  Place loaf pan in a large wide pot (I used my stock pot).  Pour enough water into pot to come halfway up sides of loaf pan or cans.  Bring water to boil, then reduce heat to low.  Cover pot and simmer until tester inserted into center of bread comes out clean, about three hours.  Add more water to pot as necessary to keep water halfway up sides of pan or cans.

Remove pan or cans from pot.  Cool bread in pan for 15 minutes before gently removing.  Slice and serve, either warm or at room temperature.  Brown bread is very good smeared with cream cheese.

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