Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Spicy Gingepeño Basil Smash

This drink is based off one we had at one of our favorite Raleigh restaurants. When Derek had a sip of mine that night out, he said, "that is a flavor I have never tasted before."  The goal is for it to have a really "green" flavor.  The heat of the jalapeños definitely comes out, but even more than that, their flavor does.  Add hints of ginger and a squeeze of lemon for a really fresh flavor and sprigs of muddled fresh basil to up the "green" flavor, and you have an incredibly refreshing and delicious cocktail.
-10 jalapeños, stemmed and seeded
-4 inches ginger, sliced
-fresh basil sprigs
-jalapeño, sliced
-juice of 1 lemon

->  To make the simple syrup, place jalapeños and ginger in a medium pot.  Cover with water and bring to a slow, rolling boil.  Allow to boil slowly for about 40 minutes to an hour.  Strain out the peppers and ginger.  Mix the infused water with equal parts sugar and stir until completely dissolved.  At this point, the syrup will keep in a jar in the fridge for weeks, or you can use it now to make these cocktails!  

Muddle a sprig of fresh basil and one slice of jalapeño in the bottom of two glasses.  Fill with ice.  In a shaker (or an improvised shaker, aka mason jar with lid, like the one pictured below), mix 2 parts vodka, 1 part syrup, 1 part water, and juice of one lemon.  Add ice, place the lid on firmly and shake!  

Pour shaker's contents over ice in glasses.  Check that the taste is too your liking and feel free to adjust syrup, vodka, water, or lemon accordingly.  Careful, they're dangerous!  
~*TIP: The drink will get hotter and hotter as the jalepeno sits in it, so the slower you drink, the spicier your last sips will be!  *~

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Green Tomato Salsa Verde Mahi over Brothy Green Beans

This was a really fun dinner to make together and made use of some of the last few fading signs of summer...  green beans and green tomatoes.  With less than one month left before our expected first frost date, I've been pinching off the blossoms and small fruits from my tomatoes and peppers, hoping the plants will instead put the remainder of their energy into growing and ripening their last few remaining larger fruits.  With all of the smaller green tomatoes that I picked off the vines, we made this green tomato salsa verde (adapted from Simply in Season).  It was a great way to make use of even the smallest green tomatoes, that might normally go to waste.  
Salsa Verde:  
-roughly 2 c small green tomatoes, stemmed
-1 1/2 jalapeno, stemmed and seeded
-1/4 large onion, roughly chopped
-2 cloves garlic, peeled
-juice of one lime
-cilantro (optional)

->Toss everything into the blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.

-1 large filet of mahi mahi, cut in about 5-inch pieces

->Rinse filets and pat dry.  Mix spices in the proportions you prefer and rub on filets.  Heat a medium skillet over medium heat with enough oil to cover the bottom.  Place flilets in the pan skin side up.  Cook about 5 minutes or until browned  on that side and then flip skin-side down and cook until skin is also brown and crispy.  Remove from pan and use the same pan for the green beans below.

Green Beans:
-1/2 large onion, cut thinly
-1 Anaheim pepper, cut thinly
-4 large handfuls of green beans, stemmed
-2-3 c vegetable broth
-salt and pepper
-pinch of sugar (optional)

->Saute onions over medium heat in the same pan and oil used for the fish.  When onions are translucent, add pepper and saute until all are soft.  Add green beans and saute until the turn bright green.  Add enough broth to cover the beans and simmer until beans are tender.  Season with salt and pepper and add a pinch of sugar if there is any bitterness from the beans.

->Plate by ladling the green beans and broth into a large bowl, lay the fish on top and then drizzle with salsa verde.  Top with tortilla strips if desired (see TIP below).

~*TIP:  Cut soft corn tortillas in strips, drizzle them with oil, salt them, and then pop them in the toaster oven until golden and crispy.  Use them to top the dish above or any soups for a crunchy, salty addition.  *~

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Butter-Browned Trout with Fresh Fettuccine and Roasted Butternut Squash

I love cooking as we transition from summer to fall because there are so many different ingredients on hand right now.  This entire dinner was made in maybe 40 minutes...  I started with high-quality, local ingredients, which made it so easy to bring them each together into three delicious components.  Below, I have recipes for Warm Roasted Butternut Squash Salad, Butter-Browned Trout with Fresh Herbs, and Fresh Fettuccine with Lemon and Parmesan.  

Warm Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
-2 small butternut squashes, peeled, seeded, and cubed
-salt and pepper
-1 large red bell pepper, diced
-2-3 oz goat cheese
-greens, rinsed and chopped (any that will wilt well such as spinach, arugula, chard, or amaranth)
-fresh basil (or lemon basil), chopped

->Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Toss cubed butternut squash with oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast in the oven on a large pan for about 20 minutes or until fork-tender.  Remove from oven, dump into a bowl and mix with remaining ingredients.  

Butter-Browned Trout with Fresh Herbs
-4 Tbsp butter
-2, 1/2-pound trout fillets
-salt and pepper
-lemon -fresh herbs, chopped (such as chives, garlic chives, lemon basil, lemon thyme, and/or parsley)

->  Melt butter over medium heat in a large wide skillet.  Meanwhile, rinse fillets.  Pat dry.  Season both sides with salt and pepper.  (You could also dredge in flour at this stage, but I did not).  When the butter starts to foam, place fillets in pan of heated butter skin side up.  Cook for about 5 minutes until one side is browned, jiggling the pan occasionally to keep it from sticking.  Carefully flip the fish so that they are skin side down and cook another 5 minutes until the skin side is brown and crispy.  

Remove from pan and plate.  Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the fish and sprinkle generously with chopped fresh herbs.  I've also added a bloom from my garlic chives for the picture above.  

Fresh Fettuccine with Lemon and Parmesan
-1 lb fresh (or frozen fresh) fettuccine noodles
-olive oil
-zest and juice of 2 lemons
-1 c grated Parmesan cheese
-generous handfuls of fresh herbs, chopped (such as chives, garlic chives, lemon basil, lemon thyme, and/or parsley)

->  Boil fettuccine in salted water for about 3-5 minutes or until al dente.  Do not overcook!  Drain and toss with enough olive oil to coat the noodles.  Toss with lemon juice and zest, cheese, and herbs.  Serve!

~*TIP:  You can definitely do these all at once.  Start by getting the squash in the oven and then prepping all of your other chopped ingredients while your pasta water comes to a boil.  Cook your fish and pasta around the same time and then plate it all!  *~

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blended Harvest Ginger Soup

As far as harvest-time soups go, this one is a favorite of mine.  The creamy blended texture makes you feel like you are eating something very decadent...  and the strong essence of ginger warms your blood as well as your belly.  I've topped it off here with some homemade croutons, a quick thrifty way to make use of stale bread.  The recipe below calls for sweet potatoes, carrots, and apples, but butternut squash (like in a similar version from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Simply in Season) or hard green pears would also be great additions to this pot.  
-1/2 large onion, chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
-10 carrots, roughly chopped
-2 apples, cored and roughly chopped
-4-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
-4 c broth (chicken or vegetable)
-salt and pepper
-1/4 c half and half
-stale bread (optional, see TIP below)

->  Saute onion and garlic in oil over medium heat in a large stew pot until translucent.  Add potatoes, carrots, apples, and ginger as you chop them.  Add broth and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer covered for about 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are fork-tender.  

Ladle soup into a blender or food processor and blend smooth in batches.  You will want to leave the hole in the top of your blender lid open and cover with a dish rag so that steam can escape.  

Once you return the soup to the pot, adjust seasoning and add more ginger if needed.  Finish with a splash of cream or half and half if desired (but not necessary).  Top with croutons (see TIP below) or eat with crusty bread.  

~*TIP:  Cut a loaf of stale bread into cubes, toss with oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Spread on a cookie sheet and put under the broiler until browned.  *~

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sweet Dumpling Risotto with Heirloom Slaw and Toasted Seeds

The meal below was the ideal finish to one of our first few beautiful fall days so far here in Raleigh.  I think winter squashes must be the vegetable that most signifies cool-weather cooking to me.  Add to that hints of sage and thyme and a creamy comfort food consistency, and you have what may end up being one of my favorite go-to meals over the next few months.  I used a sweet dumpling squash in the recipe below.  Sweet dumplings are similar to acorn squash but speckled beautifully in greens, yellows, and orange, and about the size of one and a half acorn squashes. The texture is similar, but the flavor may be even a little more mild than an acorn squash.  This dish would be just as delicious with any winter squash, taking on a slightly different hue and flavor personality with each adaptation.  I can't wait to try them all!
-olive oil
-1/2 large onion, diced
-1 Anaheim pepper, chopped (optional)
-1 sweet dumpling squash, peeled, seeded and diced
-1 Tbsp fresh, minced thyme (1.5 tsp dried)
-2 Tbsp fresh, minced sage (1 Tbsp dried)
-1 1/2 c Arborio rice
-salt and pepper
-4-6 c broth
-3 oz plain goat cheese
-2 good handfuls of grated Parmesan (about 1/3 c)
-fresh heirloom slaw and toasted seeds for topping (see below)

->  Heat broth in a medium sauce pan until simmering and keep hot throughout the Risottto process.

Meanwhile, saute onion in oil in a large pot over medium heat until translucent.  Add pepper and stir until combined.  Add squash and about half of the fresh herbs and mix.  I like to do this as I chop, adding each ingredient to the saute pot as I finish up chopping.

Add rice and stir.  Season with salt and pepper.  Now, begin to add your hot broth to the rice and vegetable mixture about 2 ladles full at a time, stirring the the rice mixture constantly.  Bring to a low simmer and reduce to medium-low heat.  Once each round of additional broth is absorbed, add two more.  Continue in this manner until the mixture becomes creamy, and the rice is al dente.  Don't let it stick!  Then, remove from heat.

Add goat cheese, Parmesan cheese, and the remaining fresh herbs.  At this point the mixture will become unbelievably creamy and rich.  Check your seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.  Plate and top with heirloom slaw and toasted seeds (below), and enjoy.

Heirloom Slaw
-1 heirloom tomato, chopped
-fresh basil (sweet or other variety, such as lemon or Thai), minced
-fresh lemon verbena (optional), minced

->  Combine all ingredients and serve a large spoonful over a bowl of the above Risotto for a contrasting fresh flavor and juicy texture.

Toasted Seeds
-seeds from above squash
-salt and pepper
-cayenne powder (optional)

->  Remove seeds from pulp and rinse vigorously.  Drain and dry seeds by rubbing in a dishtowel.  Toss with oil, salt, pepper and cayenne.  Spread evenly on a toaster oven tray (or regular cookie sheet if you want to do this in a regular oven) and bake at 450 degrees, stirring occasionally, until they are crispy and golden and begin to pop.

Eat as is for a crunchy, salty snack and/or serve sprinkled over the above Risotto and slaw for a crunchy pop!

~*TIP:  To make it easier to peel ribbed squashes like the sweet dumpling above and acorn squashes, I like to follow the following method.  Cut squash in half and remove the seeds with a spoon.  Turn squash so that the skin side faces up.  Cut squash in "smiley face" shapes but slicing down the concave valley between each rib.  At this point, the individual slices will be easier to peel than trying to peel between the ridges when whole.  From here, chop up your squash "smileys" and proceed with your recipe.  *~

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Falling out of Summer Garden

Cooler temperatures have arrived here in Raleigh and the summer garden is quickly coming to a close as I begin to transition in my fall crops.  I am loving the fall weather but am still hoping for a few more warm weeks to ripen my remaining tomatoes and peppers and, most especially, melons.  Check out the slideshow below to see what fruits are still hanging on from this summer and what young plants are taking their place as we fall out of the summer garden...