Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Beans with Sweet Potatoes in a Spicy Peanut Sauce

We eat a lot of beans around here and I have to admit I do get a little tired of them sometimes. Peanut butter and sweet potatoes make for an unusual version of them, and we enjoyed this very much. This kind of peanut stew is a traditional West African dish, and numerous versions exist. I've made it before, in fact, with chicken. It often contains some kind of astringent greens, but at this time of year they would have to be frozen. I just didn't put any in.

Normally I would serve something like this garnished with chopped peanuts but I actually haven't been able to find any local ones for sale around here lately... grumble grumble, mutter mutter. And our peanut harvest last year was pathetic... enough to save for seed but not enough to eat any. Bah!

4 to 6 servings
45 minutes prep time, not including the beans & sweet potatoes

Beans with Sweet Potatoes in a Spicy Peanut Sauce

Cook the Beans & Roast the Sweet Potatoes:
1 1/2 cups dry kidney beans
OR use 2 540 ml (19 ounce) cans of beans
500 grams (1 generous pound) sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

Rinse and pick over the beans. Put them in a pot with plenty of water to cover them. Bring them to a boil then cover them, turn them off, and let them soak for 4 to 6 hours. Change the water and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil then simmer for 1 to 2 hours, until tender.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

Wash and trim the sweet potatoes and cut them into large bite-sized chunks. Toss them in a baking dish where they can be spread out in a single layer with the oil. Roast them at 400°F until easily pierced with a fork but not mushy; about 40 to 45 minutes.

Both of these can be cooked a day in advance.

Make the Stew:
1 red or orange pepper (optional)
1 large onion
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon finely grated or minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon (to taste) hot red chile flakes or powder
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup chopped peanuts to garnish (optional)

Core, de-seed, and chop the pepper. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and grate or mince the ginger.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Cook the pepper and onion until softened over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Add the ginger and garlic, and mix in well. Grind the cumin seeds and add them to the pot with the other seasonings. Mix in well, and continue cooking for just a minute or two.

Add the crushed tomatoes and the drained, cooked beans. You can add some of the bean cooking water if you want a soupier texture. Mix enough liquid from the pot into the peanut butter to work it into a thin, pourable and lump-free state. Mix it into the stew. Add the sweet potatoes.

Simmer the stew for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir frequently - this is a stew that likes to scorch. Serve at once id you like, but remember that like most bean dishes this is better re-heated the next day.

Last year at this time I made Red Flannel Salad

Monday, 25 February 2019

Gingerbread Cake

I originally got this recipe from a "Needlecraft" magazine from the 1920s or 30s, from a molasses advertisement that claimed it was a one hundred and fifty year old recipe. Not exactly though, because it had measurements and instructions and everything, so it had at least been updated for the times. They did call for vegetable oil and I would be surprised if they hadn't been using lard a hundred and fifty years earlier. I have meddled with it since myself; I changed the flour and therefore the quantity required (if you want to use soft unbleached flour you can go back to the original 2 1/4 cups), the amount of spices (much more, thank you), and reduced the amount of molasses. So hardly anything, really. It's still a (now) 250 year old recipe for gingerbread. Or so you can tell yourself.

Gingerbread is a very old concept and it comes in every version from thick, hard slabs to the lightest and fluffiest of cakes, which is what this one is. I used to make this a lot so I was surprised to realize I have never posted it. Has it been that long since I made it?! Apparently yes. I was thinking I should start back up making it often - soon again, in fact - but then the 2 of us polished it off in less than 24 hours and now I have to reconsider. There may be a good reason I haven't made it in so long... you have been warned!

Be sure you use fancy molasses (the mild kind) and not blackstrap which is just too much.

12 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

Gingerbread Cake

Mix the Dry Ingredients:
2 1/3 cups whole spelt flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Measure these out into a small mixing bowl and blend them thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9" spring-form pan with parchment paper, and butter and flour the sides. Put some water on to boil.

Finish the Gingerbread:
3/4 cups Sucanat OR dark brown sugar
1/2 cup mild vegetable oil OR soft  unsalted butter
1 large egg
3/4 cup fancy molasses
1 cup boiling water

Measure the Sucanat and oil (or butter) into a large mixing bowl. Break in the egg. Beat them together with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the molasses and beat again, then add the boiling water and beat again for just a minute.

Begin adding the dry ingredients, about a quarter at a time, beating in well between each addition. It is a good idea to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and give it one final beat.

Scrape the batter, which will be quite thin, into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until it springs back when lightly touched in the middle, or it passes the old toothpick test.

Let cool on a rack at least 10 minutes before removing the sides of the pan, and let cool completely (or almost) before serving.

Last year at this time I made Quick Pan Chicken Gravy with Incidental Chicken Fingers.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Russian Cabbage Fritters

These are a lot like the Fried Cauliflower Mexican Style I posted back in the dawn of history. Like the cauliflower, they are a good light vegetarian main dish but would also be nice with simply cooked fish or chicken. Unlike the cauliflower, you can have it in February.

If I was serving these as a main dish, I think I would want them with a dollop of something. Sour cream seems suitably Russian, but in the spirit of cross-cultural cuisine I would not say no to a drizzle of oyster sauce or even ketchup. A little smoky paprika when you are seasoning would be tasty as well.

It's hard to give measurements for this, because it will all depend on your cabbage pieces and how full of nooks and crannies they are, and the size of eggs does vary too. Especially for me these days as I am using duck eggs. The amount made below, with one egg, will be a generous serving for 1 person and may stretch to 2 people if served as a side dish with other things.

scale-able per egg
30 minutes prep time

Russian Cabbage Fritters

2 or 3 3" x 4" wedges of cabbage
1 large egg
1 tablespoon flour
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon water 
mild vegetable oil to fry

Put a pot of salted water on to boil, sufficient to hold the cabbage wedges easily.

Use Savoy or green cabbage from a small head, and by small I mean your wedges should not be more than 4" in width or length, and not much more than an inch at the thickest. Cut it into wedges - probably 12 to the head but only cut as many as you need - making sure each wedge has some of the core in it to hold it together in one piece. Keep any leaves that fall off for some other recipe.

When the water boils gently drop in the cabbage wedges and boil for 4 or 5 minutes until bright green and just tender. Remove them carefully with blunt tongs to a strainer and drain well.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the flour until smooth, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Thin the batter with the water.

Heat enough oil in a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan generously. Dip the cabbage wedges into the batter and lay them in the oil when it is hot enough to sizzle. Cook over medium heat until lightly browned on each side. Do them in batches if necessary, and pour any leftover batter onto them as they cook. You can keep them warm in a 200°F oven, but unless you are doing more than 2 batches they cook so quickly I wouldn't bother.

Last year at this time I made Endive & Carrot Salad with Hazelnuts & Cranberries.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Greek Lima Beans

You go to dinner with the beans you have, and not the beans you wish you had. Some famous military strategist said that, or something like it. In order to make the traditional Greek fasolia, you need the right Greek beans. Traditionally, I believe these would be gigantes, which are a variety of phaseolus coccineus, also known as (scarlet) runner beans. I can't tell if these are often referred to erroneously as Lima beans, or if the use of large white Lima beans is simply a very common substitution. However, I've seen all sorts of the more commonly available - in North America anyway - large white (phaseolus vulgaris) beans called for. A big fluffy bean like Deseronto Potato bean would certainly work well here.

What I actually used was Alabama butter bean, also known as Alabama Lima bean. We've been growing Lima beans (phaseolus lunatus) for a couple of years now as they stand up to the bean anthracnose that infests our garden better than almost any phaseolus vulgaris variety. You can see from the little bowl of dried beans in the lower left corner that they start off, if not a white bean, at least a pale buff one. That black eye must contain a lot of anthocyanins, though, because by the time they are cooked they are a definite brown. 

None of this has much to do with the finished dish. Big, light coloured beans are recommended, but this will be delicious with whatever beans you have. Serve it steaming hot with plenty of crusty bread, or serve it just warm as part of collection of salads.

6 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time
NOT including cooking the beans

Greek Lima Beans

Cook the Beans:
2 cups dried white gigantes, Lima, or other beans
1 teaspoon salt

Put the beans in a large pot with plenty of water to cover them. Bring them to a boil, then cover them and turn off the heat. Let them soak overnight. Drain and replace the water, add the salt, and bring to a simmer. Simmer the beans until just tender. 

Mix the Seasonings:
2 teaspoons rubbed oregano
1 teaspoon rubbed mint
1 teaspoon dry dill weed
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 or 2 bay leaves

Mix all the seasonings in a small bowl and set them aside.

Finish the Beans:
2 large carrots
2 medium onions
1 cup peeled and diced celeriac OR 2 stalks of celery
2 to 4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cups crushed tomatoes
the juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)

Peel and dice the carrots. Peel and chop the onions. Peel and dice the celeriac, or trim and finely chop the celery. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, onions, and celeriac and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened and slightly browned. Sprinkle the seasonings and the garlic over them, stir in well, and cook for another minute or so.

Add the tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. Add the cooked, drained beans. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until everything is well amalgamated and the sauce is slightly thickened. Stir regularly to avoid scorching.

Squeeze the lemon juice and add it as the beans are done. Serve the beans hot or warm, with a little more olive oil drizzled over them if you like.

Last year at this time I made Turkey or Chicken Cutlets Cordon Bleu.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Spaetzle - Quick Austrian Egg Noodles (Dumplings)

General experience in the kitchen does help. I can recall trying to make these many years ago and ending up with a big inedible mess. Now I gave them another go, and thought, "Wow! These are really quite easy! And faster than I expected!"

Tasty, too; although I think I need to try them with several different flours. The one I used was a whole spelt flour, and I think I would prefer something that gives firmer, chewier results. It was fine though. Most recipes seem to call for all-purpose flour, but this a form of pasta and I would think a durum semolina would be ideal. Some people do call for a mixture of all-purpose flour and semolina. Some recipes call for beating the dough for quite a long time, which suggests that they expect you to use a fairly high protein flour like the durum semolina, although they rarely say so.

The two of us ate this over two meals, but they were meals where I dressed the spaetzle with a little cheese, sauce, and some vegetables and that was the meal. If you are serving them as a side dish with meat, they will go quite a bit further. It is traditional to serve them with meat dishes, but they can also go into soup as well as being served the way we had them.

Is anybody out there an experienced spaetzle maker? Do you have tips or tricks to suggest, and what kind of flour do you use? (And if you are wondering, I did use 3 eggs even though the recipe calls for 4. That's because I have been getting some lovely duck eggs and they are definitely larger than chicken eggs.)

makes 4 to 8 servings
45 minutes prep time

Materials for making Spaetzle

I used a large-holed strainer and a silicone spatula to form the spaetzle. It took some effort to press the batter though the holes, but readily done enough. I did divide the batter in half and worked with one half at a time. For smaller households, half a recipe may be all you wish to make.

Spaetzle - Quick Austrian Egg Noodles or Dumplings

2 cups flour, see notes above
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper OR nutmeg to taste, optional
4 large eggs
1/3 cup water or milk

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

Measure the flour and salt, and put them in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Season with a little pepper or nutmeg if it seems appropriate.

Break the eggs onto the flour. Whisk them together, trying not to get much flour into them until blended. Pour in the water or milk and now whisk everything to a smooth batter. It should be soft enough to change shape as it sits, neither too liquid nor too firm. You can adjust the liquid or flour quantities slightly if necessary. Whisk it briskly for several minutes, then let the batter rest for about 15 minutes.

When the water boils transfer the batter to a large-holed strainer. Use a broad, flexible spatula or similar to press the batter through the strainer in strands over the boiling water. Don't worry about cutting them off; as they get heavy enough they will break off and fall into the water. You may need to scrape the last bits off and flick them into the water.

Once all the batter is in, boil for 3 to 8 minutes, until the spaetzle float to the top and are firm and chewy in texture. Test several; because they go in over a few minutes you want to make sure that all of them are done. I'm suggesting a big range of time because I suspect it will depend on the thickness of your batter, the size of the holes it gets pressed through, and which flour you use.

Last year at this time I made Za'atar Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

Friday, 15 February 2019

"Tandoori" Tofu

Not actually cooked in a tandoor oven; it was broiled. But it's tofu marinated the same way as tandoori chicken. I would certainly use this same marinade on chicken, in fact, then bake it in a quite hot oven.

We really enjoyed this simple dish. It needs to be marinated in advance, but once you are ready to cook it, it is ready in a snap. It could sit in the fridge for several days, with you broiling up slices as wanted.

Serve it with rice and a vegetable dish, or do what we did: we just rolled it up with lettuce, tomato, onion, and a bit of mayonnaise in wraps and enjoyed it very much that way. 

3 or 4 servings
12 hours 45 minutes - 45 minutes prep time

Tandoori Tofu

375 grams (12 ounces) extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons mayonnaise OR yogurt
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon (2 or 3 cloves) finely grated garlic
1 tablespoon mild Madras curry powder
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot red chile powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
the juice of 1/2 lemon

Cut the tofu into 12 to 16 slices, and lay it out in a single layer on a plate covered with a layer of paper towel. Cover with more paper towel and another plate and weight it. Let it sit for about half an hour.

Meanwhile, mix the oil and yogurt in a container in which the tofu can be marinated and covered. Peel and grate the ginger and garlic, and add them. Add the seasonings and lemon juice. Mix well.

Pat the tofu dry and press it into the marinade paste, making sure all the pieces are well-coated on both sides. Cover the dish and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.

To cook the tofu, heat the broiler. Lay the tofu, with as much of the marinade as possible spread out on all sides of it, on a lightly oiled or parchment covered baking sheet. Broil for 5 to 6 minutes per side.

Serve on rice with an accompanying vegetable, or in a wrap with salad stuff.

Last year at this time I made Spring Roll Salad with Chicken.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019


Well, yes, it sounds exotic, but it's the usual winter trinity of cabbage, carrots, and onions mixed with noodles and pork products. So not very exotic, really, but extremely tasty. Quick, too, as pasta dishes generally are. Fry up your what-nots, boil your noodles, mix'em together; you are done. Like dinner.

I say it in the recipe but I want to emphasize it some more: watch the salt. I've had bacon, sausage, and sauerkraut that didn't have that much salt in them. On the other hand it is quite common to get versions of all of those that are absolutely loaded with it. The odds are good that you will not need to add any salt, and if you are unfortunate in your buying decisions this could in fact end up too salty. In short, this is a recipe where you need to be mindful of the salt even as you do the shopping. Leftover braised (pulled) pork would make a good substitute for the sausage, and if you cooked it yourself it would hopefully not be too salty.

4 servings
40 minutes prep time

Haluski - Egg Noodles with Cabbage and Pork

Prepare the Vegetables:
1 medium onion
1 medium carrot
4 cups chopped green or Savoy cabbage
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, optional. 
2 cups sauerkraut OR 2 more cups chopped cabbage

Peel the onion and cut it into slivers. Peel and grate the carrot. Wash, trim, and chop the cabbage - it doesn't have to be too fine. Peel and mince the garlic if you would like it; also keep in mind whether the sausage already has some or not. Drain the sauerkraut.

Put a pot of salted water on to boil to cook the noodles.

Cook the Noodles, Meat, & Vegetables:
125 grams (1/4 pound) bacon
375 grams (13 ounces) pork sausage
1 to 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
freshly ground black pepper to taste
salt, with caution
375 grams (13 ounces) egg noodles

Cut the bacon into bite-sized pieces, ditto the sausage. Begin frying the bacon in a large skilletover medium-high heat, and add the sausage once the bacon has rendered a little fat. Cook them together for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until they have changed colour all over and are sizzling well even when stirred.

Start putting the vegetables into the pan by handfuls, starting with the onions, then the carrots and cabbage. Stir well between each addition. Season with the caraway seeds and pepper. You can add some salt but keep in mind that bacon, sausage, and sauerkraut may all be quite high is salt - you should have some idea of their state before you add any more.

Once the vegetables are all in, cook for another 10 minutes or so stirring regularly to ensure everything cooks evenly. Add the sauerkraut towards the end of the cooking time, mixing it in to ensure it gets good and hot, although it doesn't really need to cook as such. This is about the time for garlic to go in as well, if it is to be used. Turn the heat down if it looks like things are getting too far ahead of the noodles.

When the water boils cook the egg noodles according to package instructions. Drain well. Mix into the pan of meat and vegetables until well distributed. Transfer to a serving dish and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Rye & Potato Bread.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Barley Dressing Pilaf

Yet another item on the theme of things flavoured like stuffing or dressing, but not stuffing. Except, of course, you totally could use this as stuffing. In that case I would cook the barley plain, mix it with the vegetables as they come out of the skillet, and stuff it all into my chicken/turkey/duck while it was still as hot as possible, and put it in the oven to roast at once.

Anyway, that was not what I did. I baked some chicken thighs and served it with them and some peas from the freezer. Gravediggers, if I may digress for a moment, and my! Don't they freeze well! They look - they are - a bit pale and wrinkly but they are such delicious peas. They made Mr. Ferdzy and Mom much happier about eating this dish, which is barley and they don't like barley. Too bad. I don't make them suffer often given how much I love the stuff myself, and they had to concede that this was pretty damn tasty, for barley. 

My other stuffing-inspired recipes are Stuffing or Dressing Bread and Dressing (or Stuffing) Flavoured Baked Beans.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Dressing Style Barley Pilaf

1 medium carrot
125 grams (1/4 pound) peeled celeriac
OR 2 large stalks of celery
2 medium onions
2 tablespoons chicken fat, bacon fat, OR mild vegetable oil
1 recipe Classic Poultry Seasoning
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup pot barley
2 1/4 cups unsalted chicken OR unsalted vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon salt

Peel and grate the carrot. Peel and grate the celeriac. Peel and chop the onions finely. (If using celery, trim and chop finely.)

Heat the fat or oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the prepared vegetables and cook, stirring regularly, until softened and reduced in volume. They should not get more than a very little browned. Add the poultry seasoning and pepper, and mix in well - they should go in when the vegetables still have a few minutes to cook.

Transfer the vegetables to the pot of a rice-cooker. Add the barley, stock, and salt. Turn on the rice-cooker and cook until done. Let the finished dish sit in the rice-cooker for 10 minutes or so after it turns off. Transfer to a serving dish, fluffing it up, and serve.

Last year at this time I made Skillet Chicken Döner.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Butternut Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice & Mushrooms

We still have a laundry room full of squash, although they will be getting harder to find in the stores. Hopefully, there are still some out there, farmers markets probably being the best bet. Butternut - any moschata squash really - are the best squash, both for eating and for keeping.

This requires a little advance planning, but it's an excellent - festive, even - vegetarian main dish needing only a salad or green vegetable to make it a complete meal. If you still have cranberries in the freezer some cranberry sauce would go well with it too.

4 to 6 servings
2 hours including advance cooking -  45 minutes prep time

Butternut Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice & Mushrooms

Roast the Squash & Cook the Wild Rice:
a 1.5 kilo (3 pound) butternut squash
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2/3 cup wild rice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds and strings from the cavity. Rub the cut edges with oil and place on a baking tray. Bake the squash halves for about 1 hour, until tender.

Put the wild rice and salt into a rice cooker with 2 cups of filtered water. Turn on and cook. It should be done in about 45 minutes; remove the pot from the rice cooker until ready to proceed. You can finish the dish at once, or do this preparation up to a day in advance. If so, you should be prepared to allow the squash a little longer to bake in the next step; about an hour.

Stuff & Bake the Squash:
1 cup mashed cooked squash
3 or 4 shallots
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1 cup grated peeled celeriac OR 1 stalk of celery
250 grams (1/2 pound) shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons ground ginger
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup gluten flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts or seeds of your choice
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

Scoop out the flesh from the squash halves, leaving about a half inch to an inch of squash all around in the shells. Arrange the shells in an oiled baking dish. Mash the squash and measure 1 cup into a mixing bowl; the rest is excess to requirements and can be saved for some other purpose.

Peel and chop the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and grate the celeriac or wash, trim, and finely chop the celery. Trim off the stems from the shiitakes and discard them. Chop the shiitakes finely.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the shallots and celeri(ac) and mix well. Cook for a minute or two until beginning to soften then add the shiitakes and continue cooking, stirring regularly, until everything is softened and cooked down. Mix in the garlic, then add the seasonings. Cook until mixed in well and the garlic is fragrant. Transfer to the bowl with the squash. Mix well.

Mix in the wild rice until well blended. Mix in the nuts or seeds until well blended. Divide the filling between the 2 prepared squash shells. Drizzle them carefully with a little oil until the top of the filling is shiny all over. Bake for 45 minutes at 375°F. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Sesame-Ginger Red Cabbage.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Coconut Oat Blondies

I generally make some desserty thing in early February with an eye to having a treat for Valentine's day. In this case it was also with an eye to clearing out some baking supplies that were cluttering up the freezer since Christmas. I won't say which Christmas, ahem. Oh, but now I have to go out and buy more coconut because these are awfully good. The preparation gets done in a flash, too, and most of the really sticky action takes place in a single pot which makes cleaning up very easy.

I recommend cutting them into the smaller squares. They will seem quite small but they are surprisingly filling. No doubt the influence of those healthy rolled oats. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. *licks fingers*

16 to 24
45 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Coconut Oat Blondies

Mix the Dry Ingredients:
1 cup quick-cook rolled oats
1/2 cup soft unbleached OR soft whole wheat flour
1/4 cup Sucanat OR coconut sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt

Measure, mix, and set aside the dry ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9" x 9" square pan with parchment paper. 

Prepare the Wet Ingredients & Bake the Blondies:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup honey
2 cups unsweetened coarse desiccated coconut
2 tablespoons rum OR 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Put the butter and honey into a heavy-bottomed pot and turn on the heat to medium. The pot needs to be big enough to hold all the ingredients, so about 2 quarts (litres) is required. Melt the honey and butter together. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Mix in the desiccated coconut. Mix in the rum or vanilla. Break in the eggs and mix in well, one at a time. Mix in the oat and flour combination.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it out evenly, being sure to get the corners well-filled in particular. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350°F until just set.

Allow to cool 10 minutes then remove the blondies from the pan. Allow to cool completely, then cut into 16 or 24 bars. Keep for up to several days in a well-sealed tin.

Last year at this time I made Polish Chocolate Babka. Yes, it is pre-Valentine's day baking time. 

Monday, 4 February 2019

Turkish Walnut & Red Pepper Paté

This cevizli biber ezmesi is a standard dish for Turkish breakfasts with bread, cheese, and olives. It also gets served as a meze dish; one of an array of little salads, dips, spreads and other tidbits.

It seems to me to be one of those funny twists of fate that hummus is now a well-known staple in North America, along with such things as pico de gallo (a.k.a. salsa),  guacamole, and ketchup; and this dish is almost unknown. It is just as good as any of them and better than some (*cough* ketchup *cough*).

I don't really make new year's resolutions, but I find myself attempting to clear out some stuff from the cupboards and freezers that have been there for some ridiculous length of time, and several jars of dried peppers and tomatoes caught my eye. If you don't have a food dryer and didn't dry your own peppers and tomatoes, I'm afraid the ingredients for this will be hard to come by. Still, if you do have them, maybe you are wondering what to do with them all. Wonder no more - this is really delicious.

I mellowed mine out with a small spoonful of apple butter; in Turkey pomegranate molasses would be used. You may or may not wish to add either.

16 servings
30 minutes prep time

Turkish Walnut & Red Pepper Paté

50 grams (2 ounces) dried mild peppers
OR dry pepper/dry tomato combo
125 grams (1/4 pound) broken walnut bits
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 to 1+ teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper, optional
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon apple butter, optional
a little soaking water, if needed

Put the kettle on to boil and measure out the dry peppers and tomatoes into a dish in which they can be soaked. Use all dry mild peppers, or up to 25% dry tomatoes. Pour boiling water on them to cover, put a lid on them, and soak for 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly toast the walnut pieces in a dry skillet. Tip them into the bowl of a food processor as soon as they are done.

Grind the cumin seeds, and add them to the food processor with the salt, pepper, and Aleppo pepper. Peel and slice the garlic, and add it. Add the breadcrumbs and olive oil.

When the dry peppers and tomatoes have soaked for 10 or 15 minutes, drain them well but retain the soaking liquid. Add them to the food processor and process until the paté is close to having the texture you like, whether slightly chunky or smooth. Add a little of the soaking liquid if it is too thick - I added about 1/4 of a cup. Taste it, and if you think it is a little on the bitter side add the apple butter and process it in. Adjust any other seasonings as needed. In particular, I suggest you start on the low side with your hot (Aleppo) pepper and add a bit more after tasting it. I suspect it will also get a bit hotter as it sets and everything melds, so keep that in mind too.

Transfer the paté to a serving dish and spread it out into a neat shape using a spatula or wide spoon dipped in cold water to keep it from sticking. Garnish as you like and drizzle a little more oil over it if you feel like it. 

Serve as a spread with bread, cheese, cold cuts, etc. Thin it with a little more of the soaking water and olive oil if you would like to use it as a dip. Keeps, well covered in the fridge, for up to 4 days. Best made several hours in advance to allow the flavours to come together.

Last year at this time I made Russian Mushroom Cutlets

Friday, 1 February 2019

Greek Lemon Roasted Potatoes

How many times do I introduce a recipe saying I had a version recently in a restaurant and it was awful? Here's another. Yeah, I had a version at a restaurant and it was awful. Really, people; these are not hard! You have to invest in a little very good olive oil and an entire lemon to make these, it's true, but given what we were charged by the restaurant in question, they really could and should have been able to do it.

I used to live on the Danforth in Toronto during the brief golden age of the Greek-town restaurants there. That has nothing to do with anything, but perhaps explains why I was so offended by the soggy and tasteless "Greek" potatoes served to me. These on the other hand will be crisp yet fluffy, rich yet zingy. Delicious, in other words.

3 to 4 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Greek Lemon Roasted Potatoes

1 kilo (2.5 pounds) medium oval potatoes
1 bay leaf
1 cup unsalted vegetable or chicken stock
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
the juice of 1 large lemon
1/4 cup olive oil

Peel the potatoes and cut them into wedges; put them in a bowl of cold water as you work. When they are all done, drain them and put them in a pot with the bay leaf and stock. Cover them and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Peel and mince the garlic.

Transfer the potatoes with the bay leaf and broth to a shallow baking dish (9" x 13"), spreading them out evenly in a mostly single layer. Sprinkle the garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper over them. Drizzle the lemon juice (seeds removed) over them, then the olive oil.

Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes, then give them a gentle stir, spreading them out again. Continue roasting until the liquid has evaporated and the potatoes have browned a bit; about another 30 to 45 minutes. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Candied Ginger & Coconut Beets