Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chocolate Chili Waffles with jam

First, I hope everyone is well and Super-Storm Sandy did not cause too much damage to you and your family.  My sympathies to those who have been affected, including my own family and friends. While it's been a rough few days and lots of anxiety as everyone prepared, then suffered through the high winds, rains and water of Sandy, I am very grateful to have power and heat. How to pass away those hours with no TV and preparation in case of power outage? For me, it was cooking!

Tree felled by Super-Storm Sandy in NJ park.
Whole grains seem so difficult and time consuming to use, doesn't it? I used to think it was beyond my skill level but wished I could use more whole grains. When I discovered Kim Boyce's book Good to the Grain, I was fascinated by all the many whole grains out there and the delicious baked goods these whole grain flours can create. She wrote about flours from whole wheat, millet, quinoa, and so many other whole grains that I had never heard of! I'll write about some goodies I made from her book at a later date because I recently also found Maria Speck's Dark Chocolate Chili Waffles with Spelt Flour and just had to make that.  

Maria Speck wrote Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.  Another wonderful book - creative delicious recipes, all starring whole grains.  She makes whole grains seem so much less intimidating for everyday dinners and desserts.  She tells you how you can cook grains ahead of time and how to reheat without drying out the grains.

When I read her recipe for Dark Chocolate Chili waffles, I was intrigued.  I get to use whole grains (spelt) and chocolate. Chocolate, to me, is essential to a good day. Chocolate with high cocoa content is high in flavonoids, which is good for you and I'll take any good news about chocolate. But most importantly, I love recipes that use chocolate for savory foods too. The internet is abound with recipes for chocolate desserts so it was nice to see Maria Speck's recipe for chocolate chili waffles. It has rich chocolate flavor, barely sweet (but can add more sugar for a sweeter waffle or milk chocolate) and a slight kick from the chili flakes.  The little pep gives extra character to the waffle. 

The full recipe can be found here: dark chocolate chili waffles with spelt flour and raspberry sauce/ but this is what I did following her recipe.


I used spelt flour and Hershey's Cocoa, Special Blend - a blend of natural and dutched cocoa. For the chocolate, I had Valhrona's 71% cocoa, which I got from Trader Joe's.

Above, I am stirring the wet ingredients with the dry. You see how it still has some lumps and that's just the way it should be. It should not be super smooth. That unusual looking thing I stirred with was a dough whisk, which you can find at King Arthur Flour. Maria Speck recommends this in her post too. I first read about this essential gadget at Chocolate and Zucchini. I later purchased it at King Arthur Flour and have been happily using it since. What is so special about it? Well, it whisks without getting the batter stuck in-between the wires in a wire whisk.

Here is one batch of my waffles. I love my waffle iron with the mini-waffles. Three mini-waffles equal one regular waffle. You may be wondering how does this waffle taste. This waffle is delicious! It's a keeper.  You can also add extra chili if you like more spice to your waffles.

I served mine with a sprinkling of confectioner's sugar and the raspberry jam with chocolate that I made over the summer. It would be delicious with some freshly sliced apples and maple syrup too. This is especially gratifying and comforting on a stormy day.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Farmer Market finds: Mushrooms, apples, squashes

Since the news is all about hurricane Sandy and preparation for the impending tropical storm for us, I stopped by the Stockton Farm Market to get some food for the upcoming days stuck close to home. And yes, I also went to the regular supermarket to get water and battery. I already had other staples for a week but got to have some fun even in a storm, right? 

I found these interesting new (at least to me) mushrooms:

Cauliflower mushrooms can be found growing from the bases or roots of trees in eastern North America's hardwood forests.  Stephanie, my mushroom lady :), told me that these can be simply saute with butter.

Above is the oyster mushroom, which I have cooked before but I had never seen it all still on its stem.  It was huge!  

Above is what is called the "chicken mushroom" or sulphur shelf mushroom.  It is like portabella in that it's meaty in texture. I bought some of these to try.

 I love Fall except for the impending hurricane and the shorter days. The Market also had these crisp apples and squashes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Can It Up: 2nd Round of Apples

     Hima's post at All Four Burners about her vanilla rum Apple Butter sounded so delectable that I had to do it too.  I've had great success using my Crockpot/slow cooker for blueberry lime butter. I must thank Marisa at Food In Jars for her wonderful instructions and encouraging voice. When I read Hima's apple butter, I was intrigued.  The flavor profile just sounds so good.  

     I already participated in October's Can It Up with my Candied-pickled Apples but what the heck, I've got more apples at home.  I had to make some modifications but for the most part followed Hima's recipe so I won't rewrite the recipe here.  You can click on the link above at All Four Burners for the full recipe.  Here are my modifications in case any of this may help anyone else making it.  

     I had five pounds of apples (granny smith and Fuji, and a couple of Liberty) but a couple of them went bad. I ended up with four pounds of apples so I cut the recipe by 2/3.  I used 1 1/3 cups apple cider instead of 2 cups. Also 1 1/2 cup sugar. I had vanilla beans and put those in my coffee grinder (after cleaning it of course) and ground it up.  Unfortunately, it was not as ground up as I'd like. As for the rum, toward the last 2 hours (it's hard to predict the exact amount of time due to apples) I added 1/4 cup then at the last hour, added more for a total of about 1/3 cup rum. My yield was five 8 oz. jars.

     Just a note about canning if you are new to this.  The amount of liquid in the fruit varies so the cooking time in recipes will be an estimate.  You may have to cook your fruit for a longer period of time because your apples are juicier or vice versa, less cooking time because your apples are less juicy.  Check it often.  I originally used my little slow cooker (1 1/2 quart), which was a gift I got one year.  It was filled to the top with my four pounds of apples.  After cooking the apples in it overnight, I realized that I had to switch to my bigger slow cooker, the 4 quart.  That was just perfect.  Overall, it took almost 12 hours for me on low in the slow cooker.  It may have taken a longer time because my first pot was too small so that the liquid did not evaporate as well.  At the end of the day, I got five jars of delicious apples. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Paw Paw Sorbet

I love discovering new food. I was walking through one of my favorite farmer markets, Stockton Farm Market, when something caught my attention and I made a new food discovery.  It was green and reminded me of a tropical fruit, like a mango.  I walked closer to the table and took a good look at it. It's kidney shaped and smells kind of like a ripe banana. I asked the nice lady behind the counter and she explained that it's a native North American fruit and these were gathered from the wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania.  She gave me a spoon with a bit of the meat of the fruit to try.  It was soft and custardy.

She told me that it could be used in sorbet and gave me a recipe by Mads Refslund.  I bought two big ripe ones. They look green even when ripe but do feel soft to the touch.  Of course, I had to research this new fruit. So, it's in the same plant family as the cherimoya and custard-apple.  It's native to Eastern, Southern and Mid-Western United States. The fruit grows on trees or large shrubs.

After making the paw paw sorbet, I left it in the freezer overnight.  I tasted it the next night and it was very smooth and definitely have that ripe banana taste.  It is definitely something I would try making again, especially since it was so easy to do.

Paw Paw Sorbet

About 12 ounces of paw paw, peeled and deseeded
1 1/2 cups simple syrup (take equal parts sugar and water, heat until the sugar is just dissolved)
2 teaspoon lemon juice
pinch salt

Puree in a blender and pour into an ice cream maker.  That's it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Icing #BundtaMonth

 I love my bundt pans.  It all started with a sale at Williams Sonoma years ago.  I got this bundt pan that made pretty bundts with shapes of violets on cake.  It was so pretty when I took my very first bundt cake (lemon from a WS mix) out of the oven.  I had a bit of trouble getting it out without ruining the pretty flowers on my cake.  Unfortunately, while it was delicious, it got a bit marred.  The perfectionist me was scarred for awhile from making bundt cakes.

Last year or the year before last, I discovered the wonderful Melissa Block's All Cakes Considered.  Her very first cake was a detailed description of how to bake a bundt cake! I was excited to try again.  Thanks to her wonderful instructions, I got it right and turned out a bundt cake that was not marred but had the pretty top. Emboldened, I tried again with the banana chocolate cake posted by Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks (love her blog, her recipes and her photos).  It turned out beautifully.  I have since acquired the Anniversary bundt pan.

dry ingredients for cake
When I read that there was a #bundtamonth going on, I wanted to join. This is being hosted by Cake Duchess and Baker Street. This month's ingredient is Pumpkin.  At the same time, what am I going to do with a bundt cake that serves 16?! I tend to give away my bake goods to friends and neighbors but everyone is on some kind of diet.  Then a friend invited me to her party and my contribution is the Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Icing.  My recipe is a conglomeration of a couple of similar recipes but mainly inspired by the recipe in Janice Cole's Chicken and Eggs. I wanted to make the salted caramel sauce in her recipe but I was missing some ingredients so I went with a simple buttermilk icing.Here again I used duck eggs like in my clafoutis. The cake turned out very moist and definitely has the taste of Fall - pumpkin. Mine does not have that porcelain white of that featured on Gourmet.com. If anyone knows how to achieve that white, please let me know.
batter in bundt pan ready for the oven

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Icing

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 ts ground cinnamon
2 ts baking powder
1/2 ts baking soda
1 ts ground nutmeg
1 ts allspice
1/2 ts ground ginger
1/2 sea salt
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup sunflower oil (or canola)
4 eggs
One 15-ounce can solid-pack pumpkin

1 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tbs well-shaken buttermilk

The Cake: Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan with shortening and flour it then tap out excess.  I find the easiest way to do this is to use a oil spray with flour.  Spectrum sells it and I believe Trader Joe's has a version too. You can also use a pastry brush to fully oil the pan's inside.
Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, salt, baking powder, baking soda in a bowl.
Combine the sugar and oil in a large bowl with an electric mixer at low speed, using the paddle attachment.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after adding each egg.  Beat in the pumpkin.  Slowly beat in the flour ingredients, beating until just blended and smooth.  No need to overbeat.  Pour into the Bundt pan.  Smooth the top.

Bake for 55 minutes or until a small skewer or cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Invert the cake onto the wire rack and remove the pan.

While cake is cooking, whisk together confectioner's sugar and buttermilk until smooth.  Drizzle over warm cake.  Continue cooling cake on rack.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Can It Up: Candied-Pickled Apples with Star Anise

Canning? What's that? It was like a magical process.  Some people have that Can It touch and I was afraid that I just don't have that touch.  I used to be afraid, horrified that I may kill one of my friends or family members with botulism. My friend E has her own hens and cows, preserves her own jams, zucchini relish and all kinds of produce from her or her family's gardens. And did I mention that she is a full time doctor? One taste of her relish sent me and my other friend into that magical world. We thought maybe she was just born with that magical touch. She even gave me her grandmother's recipe and I was still hesitating because again, I had fear of that "canning" process.  

Then another friend, Hima, started telling me about her love for preserving and somehow with two of my friends doing it, I got less intimidated.  I then took a class at Whole Foods Market and learned about pectin and that it's not that scary to put the jars into the boiling water.  If you preheat the jars, they will not shatter and the heat will kill bacteria.  (We are, of course, talking about the high acid fruits and pickling of vegetables.)  I then tried it at home and my family ate the jam I made and no one got sick. Yay! In fact, I got rave reviews for the simple peach jam I made.  Last year I took a class with Marisa McClellan of the delicious Food In Jars and she was so nice and encouraging. Marisa's Honey Lemon Apple Jam looks gorgeous and tastes good, lemony and apple sweet. (Recipe found at Honey Lemon Apple Jam)  

Well, this summer I often got a little carried away at the farmer's market or even at the produce aisle of the supermarket.  So I started trying various recipes for preserving all kinds of fruits.  I practically ran out of shelves to put my jars. When Hima of All Four Burners told me that she is hosting Can It Up, I had to join!  In fact, it has a lot to do with me starting this blog.  So Hima, here's my contribution: Candied-Pickled Apples with Star Anise

I love apple picking with my friends and family but I really did not have time the last two weeks to go apple picking.  But the apples are from a local farm, already picked.  There's got to be some compromise.  I really love Liana Krissoff's Canning for a New Generation. Every recipe I've tried in this book has turned out great.  I will report back later how I and my reviewers (friends) like this Candied-Pickled Apple.  I have to post this as I am too excited after I finished my preserve, and knowing that I have a busy week ahead.

Candied-pickled Apples with Star Anise
Recipe from Liana Krissoff’s Canning for a New Generation

3 pieces star anise, broken up
2 cinnamon sticks, broken up
½ ts whole black peppercorns
2 lbs crisp red apples, cored and diced (no need to peel)
2 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
1 ¼ cup sugar

Prepare for water bath canning. Wash jars and put them into canning pot to keep warm.
Put the spices in a cheesecloth or muslin bag and tie it shut.  Put the bag and all the remaining ingredients in a wide, 6- to 8- quart preserving pan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally very gently to keep from breaking apart the apples too much, until the apples are translucent and the syrup is thick, about 45 minutes.  Discard the spices.

Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids.  Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jar from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel.  Drain the water off the jar lids.

Ladle the hot apples into the jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace at the top.  Use a chopstick to remove air bubbles around the inside of each jar.  Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight.  Return the jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch.  Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes to process.  Remove the jars to a towel and do not disturb for 12 hours.  After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed and should be refrigerated.  Label the sealed jars and store.

Note: For me, this yielded four half-pint jars plus four ounces, which is close to the yield in the recipe.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sausage,Cabbage, Leeks and Potato Soup

    I love Fall - warm during the day, cool at night. I find that it's easier to dress in the Fall.  Of course, living in the Northeast, we look forward to the changing foliage, especially the beautiful maples.  This is also a great time for cooking and baking. When the air starts getting chilly, a bowl of soup is truly a bowl of comfort.  

     I love soup so I'll have it any time of year but I know a lot of people think soup is for cold weather.  Well, it's certainly that time of year. Soup comes in many forms but the one I recently made was inspired by the beautiful purple potatoes I saw at the farmer's market and the sausage I had in my refrigerator.  I remember that I loved the recipe I found in Jacques Pepin's "Essential Pepin" for a comforting cabbage, potato and sausage soup.  This book is an encyclopedia of French and American recipes by Pepin.  What I found most useful were his discussions of techniques.
  I had leek so I added them for more flavor. I added crimini mushrooms. I wanted my soup to be a little bit more spiced this time so I added a small amount of chopped dried red chile.  The last time I made this soup, I did not add chile but added thyme and a little rosemary.  That was delicious too.  

Almost forgot to mention the kind of sausage I used this time - Griggstown Chicken Sausage with White Wine, Parsley, Lemon and Garlic.  These are moist, a little spicy, and just well worth the money. 

As you can tell this is a versatile soup - leave out mushrooms if you don't like them. Here, the mushrooms were just added flavor.  This soup is filling and warming.  It was great for dinner and lunch.  Hope you like it too.

My Sausage, Cabbage, Leek and Potato Soup

8 oz sausage meat (use either mild Italian or chicken sausage)
1 tbs olive oil
1 or 2 garlic clove(s)
1 small onion, cut into 1” thick slices 
2 medium sized leeks (see note below for cleaning)
6 cups water
10 cremini or baby bella mushrooms 
1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch thick slices or use small potatoes cut in half
8 oz cabbage, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces (4 cups)
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes or chopped dried chile
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of white wine
Pepper to taste

Put oil in pot.  Break the sausage into 1-inch pieces and place it into soup pot over high heat.  Saute, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to keep the meat from sticking, for 10 minutes, or until the sausage is well browned. Put sausage into plate for later.
Add the garlic, sliced onion and leeks to pot, and cook for 1 minute. Add white wine and deglaze by scraping about bottom with wooden spoon. Stir in the water, potatoes, mushrooms, cabbage and bring to a boil.   
Add salt and pepper. Add sausage back to pot.  Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes.
Serve the soup in bowls.
Note  If you haven't worked with leeks, it can be intimidating.  What do you do with the stalk? I like to cut out the white part (cut off the green tough leaves), then sliced the white part into rings.   Loosen each ring and put all of it in a bowl with water.  Let it loosen the dirt then carefully scoop up the leek rings. I use a colander into a bowl of water to make it easier to pick up the leeks. 

Edit I forgot in the original post to put in oil.  I needed oil since I used chicken sausage, which does not give off oil the way pork sausage does.  If you use pork sausage, you don't need to add oil.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Farmer's Market Finds

I know it's trendy now to talk about shopping local and going to farmer's markets but farmer's markets are how many immigrant communities operate, how many in the more rural areas shop and before our mega-supermarkets.  This article talks about the indoor public markets where the public used to shop:  http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/09/28/161964338/old-school-food-shopping-feels-new-as-u-s-cities-revive-public-markets I recall my trip with college friends years ago to a market in a public hall in Charleston, South Carolina.  I remember antiques, crocodile souvenirs, and food. That was fascinating. In many immigrant neighborhoods, you will find open markets along sidewalks. For example, you can find great deals in Chinatowns in cities around the country.  The Lower East Side of New York's Manhattan has the Essex Street Market - vendors in a big open hall selling fruit, vegetable, meat, bread as well as trinkets. In the Essex Market or Chinatown, it's not about fancy packaging but the food. In fact, sometimes you'll encounter rude vendors but the price will be low, the food fresh and unpackaged.

Of course, not all farmer's markets are created equal.  New York City's Union Square GreenMarket is amazing and extremely popular. It's large, located in an open space.  You may even encounter some nice packaging but not overpackaging.

A gem that a friend recommended to me is the Stockton Farm Market in NJ.  I've been there a few times and have always found unique and fresh produce.  There is an excellent, albeit expensive, fish market.  There is a very reasonably priced vendor, Mighty Quinn's, who sells oh-so-delicious barbecued meats and chicken wings with cilantro lime hot sauce.  Then there is the lovely woman who sells sunflowers. Below are some of pictures I took at the Stockton Farm Market:

maitake mushroom

sweet peppers

An artist who recreated a postcard from an old Bulgarian stamp

duck eggs
If you have suggestions of good ones for me to try in the NY/NJ/Philadelphia region, please let me know.