Monday, November 30, 2009

Comfort Me with Persimmons


Last Wednesday at Green City Market, Orianna of Asian pear fame convinced me to try her newest exotica: American persimmons. While they didn't make it to the Thanksgiving table, I did finally turn to them for a potluck over the weekend.

Given their obscurity, I was a little nervous as to how the dish would go over. Apparently, my concerns were misplaced as it was devoured and requests for the recipe abounded.

Persimmon Bread Pudding
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 pound persimmons
6 cups stale cubed egg bread, like challah or brioch
1 2/3 cup 1% milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Push the persimmons through a fine mesh strainer. You should get 1 cup of puree. Mix the puree, milk, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add the bread and soak for 15 minutes. Stir in the raisins and walnuts and scrape into a buttered casserole dish. Dot with butter. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Serve slightly warm dusted with confectioner's sugar.

Pollen, Not Pesticide

Photo Credit: iStock Photo

It all started with a plastic bear, one almost identical to those at which honey aficionados scoff. This bear, however, did not reside on a shelf in some American grocery store, but instead in a quintessential Parisian shop, pristine and stylish.

Until this time, honey never did much for me – I had only tried the clover varietal, which was okay, certainly nothing to go all Pooh-bear about. Nevertheless, the shop was on my to-try list because my guidebook listed it as one of the Paris food institutions one had to go. And I, a dutiful foodie, did my part and purchased one small bear to try later.

When I returned to Chicago and unloaded all of my goodies, the bear was set aside. Sea salts, vinegars and mustards were far more interesting to me. But then one morning, I opened a jar of moldy jam. Having already toasted and buttered my bread, I reached for that little bear. Squeezing it onto the bread, I immediately noticed something different. The plastic had made the liquid seem darker, but in actuality it was flaxen colored, like liquid sunshine. Its aroma was floral, redolent of stone fruits, peaches in particular. How did it taste? Suffice to say, I have since become one of those honey aficionados who would scoff at plastic bears.

Not to be indelicate, but it could be said that honey is bee barf. To produce honey, honey bees travel flower to flower gathering the sweet nectar in their mouths, which is then saved in a special stomach called the “honey sac”. After the bees have filled these honey sacs, which may take visits to hundreds of flowers, they return to hive and transfer the nectar through their mouths, changing it from nectar into honey. The honey is stored in hexagonal wax cells, i.e. honey comb. Once stored, it is ready to eat for bees, for bears and yes for humans.

The first honey eaten was foraged from wild bees. The earliest recorded evidence of beekeeping is found in ancient Egyptian paintings dating from about 2500 B.C. The oldest form of beekeeping involved baiting bees by putting a bit of honey in the bottom of a pot or into a hollow log. Once captured, the bees would remain to produce honey. In 1852, Reverend L.L. Langstroth (hero to honey lovers across the globe) revolutionized beekeeping by creating movable frames with a “bee space” that discouraged the bees from gluing the comb solidly to the walls allowing multiple racks of bees working to make honey simultaneously.

The majority of beekeepers are amateurs who manage less than 25 colonies. There are an estimated 1,600 commercial beekeepers that manage more than 300 bee colonies each. Honey is harvested in late Spring to early Fall. To remove the honey, beekeepers will anaesthetize the bees often by smoke and remove the comb. They then scrape off the wax caps and often centrifugal force is used spin the comb to remove the honey. The honey may then be filtered and transferred to jars, ready for consumption.

Back to the bear, most of the honey that fills these plastic animals is commercially produced, heat processed and blended to create a consistent product year in and year out. Varietal honey, on the other hand, is a natural product with natural variations. Good varietal honey has been handled as little as possible to preserve the flavors. On the subject of flavors, these can vary depending upon the harvest date. When a honey specifies a particular flower (lavender, rosemary, chestnut, acacia), the bees have been given access to a particular nectar source. While there is no guarantee that the honey will have been produced from only a single nectar source, the bees do tend to exhaust a single source before moving on to another. The texture of varietal honey varies with the different levels of dextrose and fructose, honey’s dominant ingredients. Dextrose crystallizes more rapidly than fructose and thus honey with more dextrose will be more granular.

When honey bees collect the nectar from the flowers, pollen sticks to their legs. When landing on new flowers to get additional nectar, they transfer this pollen. Pollination fertilizes the plants enabling them to bear fruit. The USDA estimates that at least one-third of our diets are derived from insect-pollinated plants, for which bees are responsible for at least eighty percent. So we humans need bees. As anyone who has seen Bee Movie knows what would happen if the bees stopped working. While I don’t think that we need to worry about litigious bees, we should be concerned about the phenomenon called colony collapse disorder. Since 2006, hundreds of thousands of honeybee colonies in the U.S. have died out. The value of pollination is valued at $14.6 billion dollars a year, so we clearly need to be worried about the new trend in bee-world. It’s not clear what’s causing this dire circumstance, whether new pesticides, disease or predators, but it definitely merits additional investigation as bees are not just crucial to honey lovers, but to our agricultural future. Two non-profits that are working with state and federal agencies to create agricultural policies that will protect our honeybees are Xerces Society and the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign. For a more delicious way to support the honeybees, buy some Vanilla Honey Bee ice cream from Haagen Daaz who donates a portion of the proceeds to research on how to combat colony collapse disorder.

As a honey lover, I’ve accumulated quite a collection of honeys over the years. Whenever I travel, I return with honey from that locale. I’ve also spent a small fortune over the years on Zingerman’s excellent varietal honeys. This collection was the inspiration for this post as I knew that with all of these different varietals, I should probably categorize them to determine how best they would be used. For all the other honey lovers out there, here are my tasting notes and some recipes and ideas of what to do with your honey collection.

Top 5 Honeys

Farmstead Honey, Prairie Fruits Farm, Champaign, IL: Floral, herbaceous, delicate in flavor and color, well-balanced. It crystallized within the year.

Wickham’s Honey, Wickham’s Fruit Farm, Cutchogue, NY: Well-rounded with a full mouth feel. There are hints of apple, pear and pumpkin, which would make sense given that I bought this in November as I watched the beekeepers smoke out the bees. Free flowing.

Beeline, Chicago, IL: Peach and vanilla notes. Deeply fragrant. Fairly dark in color. I really wish that Beeline would mark the date of its honey production on the jars as this honey was so different from the other that I tasted (see the mild honeys). This was less crystallized than the other Beeline honey. Beeline is such a cool company as it trains and employs people that face significant barriers to employment, often due to former incarceration.

Coffee Blossom Honey, Big Tree Farms, Java: Crystallized on top with an appearance and texture of brown sugar, which craters into liquid amber. Less sweet at the top of the mouth. This is a very interesting honey that would be better enjoyed alone, with cheese, than with cooking or on toast.

Zambezi Organic Forest Honey, Africa: This is one of the most interesting honeys that I’ve ever tried. After learning of my honey tasting, my assistant David gave me a small sample of his supply. It’s actually smoky. Granular, sweet and smoky with the color of caramel. An outstanding honey.

White Gold, Canada: Thick but slightly pourable. White and fluffy with the texture of Marshmallow Fluff. Berry-like flavor. Excellent on toast.

The Rest:


Acacia, Langalese, Germany: Clean, sweet, slightly single note – free flowing.

Acacia, Peck, Italy: Similarly clean as the Langalese, but with a greater depth. It has a bit of spiciness that lingers on the back of the tongue. Also, free flowing.

Beeline, Chicago, IL: Spice on top of the mouth with nectarine flavors with well-rounded notes of nutmeg. Highly crystallized.

Wildflower, Ellis Farms, Benton Harbor, MI: Soapy aroma, which carries through a bit to the flavor. Hints of lavender. Good for cooking. Slightly crystallized.


Lavender, Portugal: Lovely texture almost an acidic touch on the tongue. Nice flavor. Free flowing.

Burgundy honey, Fauchon, France: Cheese like aroma with a little oaky-ness. Spun gold in color. Caramel hints in flavor. Strong, masculine seeming whereas other honeys seem feminine. Slightly granular.

Blackberry, Branches, Napa Valley, CA: Amber in color, nice texture with crystallized chunks. Definite blackberry in the flavor.

Cranberry, Some Honey, New Lisbon, WI: Tartness on the tongue, good texture, amber in color. A bit of spice that tastes like Autumn. Free flowing.

White Tupelo, Gourmet Honey, Florida: Extremely well-balanced. Not too sweet. No huge flavors, but this would pair well with many things. Free flowing.

Fireweed, Gourmet Honey: Similar to the White Tupelo but with a bit of added oomph.
Chestnut, Hillside Farms, Berrien Springs, MI: Light in color, with no distinctive flavor. Very different from the Italian chestnut honey.

Finest Scottish Heather Honey with Glendronach Malt: Grainy on the tongue, mild sweetness. A little oaky.


Umbrian Chestnut, Italy. Acquired taste, barnyard aroma and flavor. This could be paired with unctuous, stinky cheese.

Provencal Forest Honey, France: Hauntingly good. Thick viscosity with the appearance of golden syrup. It gave me a sense of Christmas. Woody aroma.

Mango Blossom, Big Tree Farms, Java: Very viscous, deep dark in color, fruity, mild in flavor, but with interest.

Buckwheat, Some Honey, New Lisbon, WI: Looks like molasses, smells like dirt. Good rich caramel flavor. Slight barnyard taste on the front that yields into warmth and herbaciousness.

Tulip Poplar, Coco Rouge: Caramel in color and flavor. Grainy on the tongue. Would be a good cooking honey.

I love to cook with honey and do so in two ways and here are a few recipes that highlight the beauty of varietal honeys as well as those that complement the other flavors in a recipe.

Tartlets of Brie & Pear Drizzled with Honey
Makes 15

I like this best with a delicate honey such as Prairie Fruits Farmstead Honey, Wickham’s Honey or one of the milder honeys.

1 package filo tartlets, baked according to the manufacturer’s directions
8 ounces brie or other triple crème cheese at room temperature, sliced into bite-size pieces
½ pear, sliced ¼-inch thick, each slice cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons honey, preferably a mild yet flavorful honey such as the Prairie Fruits Farmstead Honey or Wickham Honey

METHODS: Put one piece of cheese and one piece of pear in each tart shell. Drizzle with honey.

Honey Roasted Carrots & Parsnips
For 4 servings

This recipe is best made with one of the milder honeys.

2 carrots
2 parsnips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons honey
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

METHODS: Preheat oven to 350 F. Peel and cut the carrots and parsnips into 2-inch sticks. Put the vegetables into a small ceramic or glass baking dish. Cut the butter into small pieces and drizzle with honey. Bake for 45 minutes or until tender.

DO-AHEAD NOTES: You can cut the carrots and parsnips earlier in the day, mix them in the baking dish with the remaining ingredients and refrigerate.

Honey Ice Cream
Serves 6

This is a wonderful way to highlight a varietal honey, just use your favorite. It’s a great alternative to vanilla. I’ve adapted it from a recipe from Le Cordon Bleu at Home.

1 cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
¼ cup granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons honey
Pinch kosher salt

METHODS: Combine the milk and cream bring to a simmer over medium heat. In the meantime, whisk together egg yolks and sugar and honey. Remove the milk/cream mixture from the heat and add a little to the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly to temper it. Add the tempered yolk mix to the hot milk mixture while whisking constantly. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon distinctly (approximately 5 minutes). Once thickened, immediately pour throw a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap touching it to the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Let it cool to room temperature and then chill until thoroughly cold (approximately 4 hours). Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Put the completed ice cream in a shallow container and freeze until firm.


Christopher, Tom, “Busy Bees,” Martha Stewart Living (June 2008).

Davidson, Alan, The Oxford Companion to Food (1999).

National Honey Board, “A Sweet Story: The Making of Honey” (02/07).

Weinzweig, Ari, Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating (2003).

Photo Credit

An Oldie but a Goodie

Originally posted on The Sustainable Cook.

It never ceases to amaze me how often at parties the simplest and most homely of dishes prove most popular even when presented side by side with elegant extravagances. Last night, we hosted our yearly New Year's Eve Party. Among the hors d'oeuvres, I served Red Hen baguette toasts topped with thin, well-marbled slices of Dakota Ranch grass-fed rib eye topped with horseradish creme fraiche, thin wafers of Straveccio, a salty, win-y Wisconsin parmesan, and a luscious triple creme cheese slathered with cranberry-shallot compote and baked. The most popular offering? Onion dip and potato chips. The second most popular? "Lambs in a Tuxedo," a fancy name for pigs in a blanket made with merguez sausage and puff pastry. I'm not certain whether it was the crowd or the reemerging popularity of comfort foods in the wake of this wretched year. In either event, I think these recipes would be well-received in a variety of settings. Here are my caterer's take on each simple classic.
Caramelized Onion Dip
Makes about 2 cups

1 medium yellow onion
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons good mayonnaise (I use Hellman's)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Drop of Tabasco

METHODS: Very thinly slice the onion. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the foam has subsided, add the onions and reduce the heat to low. Cook slowly, stirring often until the onions are a deep caramel color, approximately 1/2 hour. In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Finely chop the onions and add to the cream cheese. Mix until well-combined. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Serve with good, thick cut potato chips.

"Lambs in a Tuxedo"

1 package puff pastry (I use either homemade or DuFour)
1 pound mergeuz sausage.

METHODS: Lay the pastry sheet on a lightly floured cutting board. Cut the sausage into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Cut the pastry into columns just slightly larger than 1-inch. Wrap each piece of sausage with puff pastry leaving just a slight overhang. Press to seal. Place seal side down on a baking sheet lined with either silpat or parchment. The lambies can be frozen at this point for up to 3 weeks. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until puffed and golden. Serve with mustard-sherry sauce.

Mustard-Sherry Sauce

1/2 cup dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sambal olek

METHOD: Mix together all ingredients.

Puff the Magic Pastry

So call me crazy, but I make my own puff pastry. Certainly not for huge parties. No, for those, I buy DuFour's excellent commercially available product. But for small gatherings and my own family, I pull out my recipe and my rolling pin and fold and roll and roll and fold. Last night, I brought one of the more popular dishes in my appetizer rolodex, Lambs in a Tuxedo (lamb sausage wrapped in puff pastry), to a party. It was a huge hit and I promised to post the recipe to show just how easy it is to make. So here you go Christy!

Making puff pastry from scratch is not difficult AT ALL. It just takes time, mostly unattended time. It's just like barbecue - actually even easier because in that instance you have to tame a fire. In this instance, you just need to tame the dragon of fear.

There are a few secrets. First, use the best butter possible. Second, you need to balance keeping the dough as cold as possible with retaining its pliable nature. Finally, use lots of flour to prevent it from sticking.

Start with 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, ¾ cup cake flour, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 2/3-1 cup water. Combine the flours onto a clean surface in a mound and with your fingers make a well in the center. Make sure to keep that all the walls of the well are solid so that the liquid ingredients you'll put into the well won't escape, running off the counter and onto the floor. Melt 2 tablespoons butter. Put the salt, 2/3 cup water and melted butter into well. With the fingers of one hand, mix the liquid ingredients until the salt is dissolved.


Mix in the flours slowly with a plastic pastry cutter – make sure that you don’t break the walls of the well. Mix until well-blended, adding more water as necessary. The dough will be slightly sticky.


Cut an “x” ½-inch thick into the top of the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap or a floured cloth and refrigerate for 1/2 hour.


Take 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (the remainder of 2 sticks after lopping off the tablespoons used in the previous step). Tap between 2 sheets of parchment paper into a square ¾-inch thick. Wrap in the parchment until you're reading to move to the next step.


Set the dough or detrempe on a lightly floured surface and roll out four arms from the center outward. The final product should be mounded in the center. This is critical to make sure that there is enough of the flour dough to cover the butter without breaking through. Put the butter square on top of the mound. Cover with each of the arms and tap with a rolling pin to seal.


Now let's roll. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 7-inches wide and 21-inches long. Fold up the bottom third to the center and the top third to meet the bottom seam. Wrap in floured parchment and refrigerate for 30-minutes. Go watch TV, clean up the kitchen, exercise off the calories that you'll eat in the pastry.


Turn the dough a quarter turn to the left and roll out to a rectangle. Make another quarter turn and roll it out again. Refrigerate for another half hour. Take a nap.

Give the dough another quarter turn. The dough can now be frozen.

After defrosting, give the dough two more quarter turns. The pastry is now ready to be rolled out and cut. I love puff because it's easier to roll out and use than regular pie pastry and there's far less waste and mess than you get with filo dough. Plus it's delicious in both sweet and savory dishes. And now you too can impress your friends and relatives.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

French-Fried Blog Post: French Fry Stuffing

Turkey image

Thor's Turkey Recipe

"We get the turkey from whole foods. We all get it together. Stuff the turkey with French fries. We cook it in the oven at 100 degrees. We cook for an hour. Then we put mashed potatoes on the side before we serve it. We serve it on plates. We make it look like a turkey leg. It smells like a turkey. My grandma and grandpa, my mom and my dad and me eat it. We serve it with tater tots and mash potatoes. We wil have the party at my house. I will have a Sherly temple for me and martinis for grandma and grandpa."

So goes my son's story as told to a 5th grader and pasted onto a construction paper turkey's fan. While we didn't get to see the tail on the tale until the Friday before Thanksgiving, I had been given some advance warning about it when Thor began quizzing me on turkey prep.

"So we get our turkey from Whole Foods?"

"No Thor, we buy it directly from a local farmer."

"We bake it at 100 . . . "

"Well, not exactly."

"for an hour?"

"Certainly, not at 100 degrees."

[Cue frustration, curling brow] "But we'll have tater tots, right?"

"Uh, no." [Cue curled brow for me as I try to remember the last tater tot he ate with me].

[More frustration exhibited and a slightly mobile lower lip] "But, but, but, we do stuff it with french fries."

Of course, the answer was no, but unlike the other questions, there was no logical reason why this one should be answered in the negative.

And thus, the inspiration for this year's true Thanksgiving innovation in our household: French Fry Stuffing.

Obviously, you have to start with French fries. While the French may not have invented the fry, they seemed to have perfected them or at least had the best PR about their fried potato cylinders. Given that, there was no better place to turn to for a recipe than a bistro cookbook: Balthazar Cookbook being my favorite.

French Fries

3 medium russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled
1 quart canola oil
fine sea salt

Slice, by hand or on a mandoline, the potatoes into 1/4-inch strips about 4-6 inches long. As you slice the potatoes, add the strips to a container of cold water. Refrigerate for 12 hours.


Drain the potatoes on clean dish towels for about 20 minutes.


Heat the oil in a large heavy pot to 370 degrees. Add half of the potatoes. The oil will bubble up furiously and drop to about 280 degrees. Cook for 3 minutes. You don't want the potatoes to color. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on crumpled paper towels. Repeat with remaining fries. Increase the heat to 380 degrees. Add half the fries and cook for 3 more minutes until browned and crisp. Remove, drain, repeat, salt. Reserve 2/3 of the fries for stuffing.


Of course, there's no need for all this labor above (I'm just silly sometimes). Get an extra order on the side from your favorite hamburger joint, just don't tell me if they're from McDonald's.

French Fry Stuffing

1 tablespoon canola oil
2 Polish sausage links, quartered
2 medium onions, cut into small dice
¾ cup celery, cut into small dice
4 cups peasant style bread, cubed
Leftover fries, slightly smashed
2 teaspoons sage, minced
1 teaspoon celery leaves, minced
1 teaspoon thyme, minced
¼ teaspoon parsley, minced
2 cups turkey stock


Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the sausage and cook until lightly browned. Stir in the onions and celery and cook until softened and just slightly golden. Combine the onions, celery, and sausage with the bread, leftover fries, and herbs. Salt and pepper to taste. Scrape the mixture into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Ladle the stock over the stuffing. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.


The accurate parts of Thor's story? We did serve mashed potatoes (not in the shape of a turkey leg) and Grandma and Grandpa drank martinis.

Potatoes from Nichols (IL)
Polish sausage from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm (IL)
Onions and thyme from Genesis Growers (IL)
Sage from my garden
Celery from Iron Creek (IL)
Turkey stock from turkey from TJ's Poultry (IL)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Good Book

Hello, I'm Melissa and I'm a bookaholic.

Shelves of books line my home - novels, guidebooks, but most importantly cookbooks. My poor son's room even houses my overflow.

At one point, when I began writing my my own recipes, I thought I had a shot at curbing my addiction. So wrong was I. Nowadays, it isn't the books of my idols that I buy, but those of my friends. For example, one of my most recent purchases was of Monica Bhide's, Modern Spice. While I've never met Monica in person, I feel a kinship to her ever since she reached out to me on Facebook. Another of my virtual friends, Cheryl Sternman Rule, just scored a book contract. Judging from the quality of her blog, I know it will be a winner. Of course, I'll have to have it. Closer to home, my friend Terra Brockman is responsible for the beautiful prose in The Seasons on Henry's Farm and Anupy Singla will be educating us on Indian cuisine. I have the former and surely I'll buy the latter.

So tonight I'm thankful for books.

And my newest, favoritest book is the one written by someone with whom I have no connection: Pierre A LaMielle's kitchenscraps: a humourous illustrated cookbook. I discovered it after a friend linked to a blog post by the author: Wiener Schnitzel, by the hammer of Thor. A post on a food blog about Thor? How could I resist? I clicked on it and realized that the author just published a book. After exploring the site for a few minutes, I knew, just knew I needed this book. Having received it from Amazon (doing the happy dance when it arrived) and having now read it, not once, but twice. I highly recommend it. Great recipes, awesome illustrations, and laugh out loud funny headnotes, it's a great addition to any bookshelf, even my over stuffed one.


A picture of schnitzel by the hammer of the little locavore.


Thanksgiving has always been the neglected, middle child of the holiday family. Every year we seem to skip right over it and go straight from the gluttony of Halloween to the overindulgence of Christmas. Holiday decorations go up right after Halloween's came down and in some cases side by side. In this tough economic climate, some retailers seem to think that if they foist the holidays on us sooner, we’ll buy more. I was horrified to watch Wal-Mart play what I sincerely hope was its first Christmas ads during the Halloween night game of the World Series. Instead of overspending, let’s give the Jan Brady of the holidays our love this year - enjoy a sustainably-raised turkey and some locally grown veggies, spend time with loved ones and count our blessings.

But before the holiday has come and gone and we're fighting crowds on Black Friday, I'd like to share a few of things for which I'm thankful.

Today? A big freezer.

I very much sympathize with the anxiety Thursday's big meal induces. When I was an attorney working long and unpredictable hours, having company was always a challenge. Finding time to shop and prepare the type of meals that I wanted to make required extensive lists and long nights. Nowadays, things are a bit easier. I can't claim to be any less busy, but a lot of my prepation can be squeezed into my work days. I need a pie crust for a client - make two. I'm testing a recipe for an event or this blog and it turns out well, save it for later. These are the perks that can be preserved with a big freezer or two.

For our gratitude-inspired meal, I'm planning on Beet Choux Puffs with Goat Cheese Mousse and Red Kuri Squash Samosas. While I'll need to mix up the mousse and make a chutney, the major components are done, waiting to be revived, sleeping in the deep freeze. As is our first course, the family favorite - Delicata Squash Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce. Five minutes to boil the water and another 5 to finish the sauce and I've got a plateful of popularity.

Dessert is Pumpkin Pie and Apple Tart Tatin, pastry dough, puff pastry, and pumpkin puree waiting to be defrosted.

Our main course will require considerably more effort. Turkey with French Fry Stuffing (more on thihs later), White Wine Gravy, Brussels Sprouts with Salad Turnips, Pomegranate, and Pistachios, Spinach and Mushroom Gratin, Mashed Potatoes and Cranberry Sauce. But with my focus only on these dishes and an extra set of hands with my mom in town, our dinner will be both feast-worthy and stress-free. Thank you freezer!

Photo Credit,

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Love Your Veggies!

To make up for my lack of new recipes recently here are three delicious vegetarian side dishes for Thanksgiving, a day of feastial indulgence.

While my household loves its meat, we have quite a few vegetarian recipes in our rotation. Last March, during a period of high stress, my husband, Mike, had an attack of gout, a hereditary condition that is exacerbated by a diet high in protein. From then on, Meatless wasn't just for Mondays anymore.

Here are three delicious vegetarian, even possibly vegan with some simple modifications, dishes for your Thansgiving Table. For more vegetarian recipes for Thanksgiving, check out Focus Organic, which included the following recipe.


Carrot-Quinoa Cakes
6 servings

As pictured above, these little cakes are delicious paired with seared sea scallops. They complement the mollusks delicious sweetness.

3 large carrots
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for sautéing
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped onion
3/4 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked according to the package
3 tablespoons quinoa or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon dill, chopped

Peel and slice the carrot approximately 1/2 inch thick. Cover with water in a small saucepan and bring the water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender approximately 20 minutes. Drain and then puree in a food processor or mash until smooth. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Cook the onion until softened and lightly caramelized, approximately 6 minutes.. Add the cumin and cook for another minute. Mix the carrot puree, quinoa, onions and flour in a medium bowl. Form into cakes 2-inches in diameter and sauté in olive oil until golden on each side. Mix together the yogurt and dill. Top each cake with a dollop of yogurt.


Brussels Sprouts with Salad Turnips, Pomegranates and Pistachios
4-6 servings

1 tablespoon unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 stalk of Brussels Sprouts, preferably purple, sprouts removed and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pomegranate juice
1 salad turnip, thinly sliced
¼ cup pistachios, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon pomegranate seeds

Heat the butter or oil in a saute pan and cook the onions slowly until caramelized. Add the Brussels sprouts and stir to coat with the fat. Add the salt, water, and pomegranate juice and cook until the leaves are almost tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover and add the turnips, cook an additional 5 minutes. Serve garnished with pistachios and pomegranate seeds.

Broccoli and Roasted Garlic Puree
4-6 servings

Puree seen in the background (advance apologies for its meaty partner).

1 bunch of broccoli, florets separated from the stalks
1 small head of garlic, roasted
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the florets and cook for 3 minutes or until bright green and crisp tender. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and drain. Slice the stalks and add to the water. Cook for 7-10 minutes or until they're tender. Drain. Puree the stalks and half the florets in a food processor with the roasted garlic cloves. Add olive oil and salt and serve garnished with the florets.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Between a heavy event schedule, family in town, and Thanksgiving leaning up against me, life's fast and recipe development slow. So, I apologize for recycling the following recipe, but please accept this as my excuse.



Take my Spiced Pumpkin Muffin Recipe, substitute butternut squash puree, and ice with chocolate buttercream.

Yum, yum, extra-yum.



There are two types of sequels. The first, like Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter, keeps the gang together. In movies, I like that sequel. In food, not so much. No, I like to play with combinations, substituting one or two or even three ingredients within the same theme.

Last week, it was Franks, Beans and Greens. Pork, beans, and greens are a classic winter combination. Frost sweetened greens paired with rich beans simmered in stock enriched with pork. It's a warming and winning alliance of ingredients. Tonight, a variation on this.

Last weekend, I'd made a beautiful Faith's Farm Pork Roast, enormous, meaty, and bone-in. We turned the extra chops into schnitzel, soon to make its appearance here. Early this week, the bone covered with water, mixed with celery, carrot, and onion, paired with parsley, bay and thyme became broth. A few days later, I soaked and simmered beautiful black and white beans from Spring Valley Produce called Ying Yang. Tonight I partnered these two with some of the best and freshest mustard greens, I've ever tasted that we sampled earlier this morning from Growing Power.

Together this became Pork, Mustard and Bean Soup. Simmered together with a bit of salt and a shake of cider vinegar, it was a satisfying Saturday night supper. And, yes, yet again, we fished out the greens for our son who ate the decidedly non-local cucumbers.

Pork bone from Faith's Farm (IL)
Celery, carrot, and onion from Genesis Growers (IL)
Parsley and thyme from Smit's (IL)
Beans from Spring Valley Produce (WI)
Mustard greens from Growing Power (WI)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Oui Madame!


While yesterday wasn't a lazy Sunday - too much refrigerater maintenance to be done - we did find time to share a delicious brunch complete with Mike's Bloody Mary's. Among cooking down bruised apples from our trip to Seedling Orchard and transforming the bone from a Faith's Farm pork roast into stock, my son and I made our chestnut crepes. Thor enjoyed his with Burton's maple syrup, Mike with Canadian bacon and Brunkow aged cheddar, and I, Madame-style.

Crepe Madame
Serves 1

1 chestnut crepe
2 slices aged cheddar
1 piece Canadian bacon, fried a spot of butter
1/3 teaspoon butter
1 egg

Heat the butter in a small saute pan. When hot, carefully crack the egg into the pan, making sure not to break the yolk. Cook for 2 minutes while the white starts to solidify. Pour 1 tablespoon of water into the pan and cover it with a lid. Let the mixture steam the yolk until a skin forms over it, but it is still runny.

Fill the crepe with cheddar and bacon and heat slighly if necessary. Top with the sunny side up egg and enjoy.



The poor, misunderstood, and maligned beet. Being a beet lover, I’m always surprised at the number of beet-a-phobes that live among us. I can never understand how anyone can resist its velvety, sweet earthiness. But far too many can and do and I was surrounded by a roomful of them last Thursday night.

My catering company took part in a tasting event on that evening at a new hotel in Chicago, The Elysian. We were asked to prepare to two tasting portions of seasonal Green City Market inspired fare. Our first, Braised Mint Creek Lamb on Pumpkin Polenta Cakes was terrifically popular despite its russet tones (offset by some Heritage Prairie Market microgreens). The other, while brilliant in appearance, was the wallflower of our station: Beet Choux Puffs Filled with Goat Cheese Mousse. The moment the word “beet” crossed our lips, people would reach for the lamb. Such a shame. The intrepid and hidden beet lover among us were rewarded by their good taste.

Beet Choux Puffs Filled with Goat Cheese Mousse and Micro Greens
Makes 40 puffs

This would make a terrific appetizer for entertaining, say for a certain Thursday in November. The little locavore, despite his aversion to beets, loved it. He at least was willing to try it.

¾ cup beet juice
¼ cup water
1 stick unsalted butter cut into ½-inch pieces
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4-5 large eggs
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Coarse sea salt
½ cup heavy cream
8 ounces fresh goat cheese at room temperature
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375° F. Bring beet juice and water, butter and salt to a boil in the saucepan. Add flour all at once and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Put the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer or into a large bowl and let cool 2 minutes. Add 4 eggs one at a time, mixing on medium speed after the addition of each. If the egg still seems dry, break the last egg in a small bowl, stir with a fork to break and add a little bit at a time until the dough is shiny and no longer stiff. Stir in cayenne and nutmeg. Add the dough to the pastry bag fitted with a plain ½ -inch tip. Pipe ½-inch mounds on silpat or parchment-lined baking sheets, 1-inch apart. With a moistened finger, smooth the tops of each puff. Sprinkle each puff with a little coarse sea salt. Bake 2 sheets at a time on the top and bottom racks of the oven for 15 minutes. Reverse position of the sheets and bake for 15 minutes more. Serve warm.

Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Fold it into the goat cheese to lighten it. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill the mousse until ready to use.
Halve each puff. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a fancy tip with goat cheese mousse. Pipe a healthy bit of mousse into the bottom of each puff. Sprinkle the top with micro greens and recover with the top. Repeat with remaining puffs. Serve soon thereafter.

DO-AHEAD NOTES: The puffs can be baked up to a month ahead. After the puffs have cooled completely, freeze in an air-tight container. Reheat the frozen puffs in a 350º F oven for 5 minutes. The mousse can be made two days ahead.

Beets from Genesis Growers (IL)
Eggs from River Valley Ranch (WI)
Butter from Organic Valley (WI)
Goat cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm (IL)
Micro Greens from Heritage Prairie Market (IL)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Franks, Beans & Greens


Now I will not deny that my son has some peculiar tastes. Yes, his favorite dish is pizza and most green stuff still gives the willies. But then and again, he'll declare a dish yum, yum, yummy that I would never in a million years expect. This is one of those dishes.

Disclaimer: I still fish out the greens in Thor's bowl. All the rest is downed with alacrity.

Polish Sausage, Kale and Dragon's Tongue Beans
4 servings

4 Polish sausages
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 bunch young kale, hard stems removed
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup cooked Dragon's Tongue or Pinto beans
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup water

Brown the sausages in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Remove to a plate. Let the pan cool slightly and add olive oil. When hot but not smoking, add garlic and cook until fragrant approximately 30 seconds. Add kale and stir to combine. Pour in wine and water and return sausages with the beans to the pan with any juices accumulated on the plate. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and kosher salt and bring the liquid to a simmer and cook until the kale is wilted and most of the juices have evaporated. Serve in a shallow bowl.

No Waffling About These Waffles


I love a lazy Sunday morning. We don't see them very often, so when they happen, we revel in them. Because these rare moments usually involve food, I have a whole host of delicious, seasonal brunch recipes such as pancakes, stratas, benedicts, hot cereals and the occasional waffle. My husband, Mike, has just one recipe - spicy Bloody Mary's, which usually accompany our brunch options.

I still waffle on the waffle. It's a once or twice a year indulgence that requires special equipment. Like my mother did, we keep our maker in a cabinet far removed from the everyday workings of the kitchen, right next to my lion head soup bowls and wire asparagus steamer insert (used exactly once).

A cup of leftover pumpkin inspired this Sunday's waffle-making endeavor. Mixing the batter together, Thor and I co-created this recipe with a little of this and a little of that after using the Sweet Potato Waffle recipe from Bill and Cheryl Jamison's A Real American Breakfast as a rough model.

Crispy on the exterior, soft and warm on the inside with crevices to hold the spicy-sweet maple syrup, I remembered why I love waffles and wondered why we don't make them more often.

Pumpkin Waffles
4 servings

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
1 cup 2 % milk
3 large eggs, separated
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons honey

Stir together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom in a large bowl. Mix together the pumpkin, milk, egg yolks, honey, and butter in a medium bowl. Heat a waffle iron. Beat the egg whites with a mixer until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the batter. Cook the waffles according to directions of the waffle-iron’s manufacturer. Serve immediately or hold for a short while in a 200º F oven. Serve with maple syrup.

For the Bloody Mary recipe, you'd have to look up my husband.

Kids Cooking Tips
Kids love measuring and mixing the ingredients as well as watching the transformation of the egg whites from viscous goo to fluffy clouds

Whole wheat flour from Ackerman's (IL)
Pumpkin from Genesis (IL)
Milk and butter from Organic Valley (WI)
Eggs from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm (IL)
Honey from Heritage Prairie Market (IL)
Maple syrup from Burton's Maplewood Farm (IN)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In the Jailhouse Now

“I told him once or twice
quit playin' cards and shootin' dice
He's in the jailhouse now”

Soggy Bottom Boys


A few weeks ago when I told my little locavore that I was going to jail, he looked a little alarmed. A common shriek of his when angry is “you’re going to jail.” We’re not sure where he picked that one, but news of my visit seemed to induce some guilt. Seeing this, I reassured him that I would be home in time to pick him up from school. My visit was simply a field trip to see one of the most interesting projects of Chicago urban agriculture.


On a rainy Friday afternoon, I travelled down to the south side to the Cook County jail near 30th and California with my friend Nina Winston of the Downtown Farmstand. Nina had arranged for us to meet with David Devane, Executive Director of the Department of Community Supervision and Intervention and to see the garden project that he initiated at the jail.

Built on the site of the Contagious Diseases Hospital, the jail holds non-violent, non gang offenders, mostly on drug and alcohol related charges. As Devane said, these are the “crème de la crud” of the criminal justice system.

Inspired by a similar project in San Francisco, Devane began the garden project in 1993. 16 years later, the garden has blossomed to 13,000 square feet, producing about 3 thousand pounds of produce. Each year, a group of detainees are selected to participate in the garden program. After completing it, they earn a Master Gardener certificate from the University of Illinois. Devane noted that the jail has tracked recidivism and has concluded that those graduating the program have experienced it a far lower rate. According to garden manager Mike Taff, as reported by Mr. Brown Thumb on Chicago Now, the rate of recidivism for those graduating the program is 17% far below the 56% national average.

The garden grows a number of crops, including peppers, collard greens, okra, corn, giant pumpkins, and even peanuts. Currently, all the produce grown in the garden is donated to homeless shelters. The sad reality tragedy of the garden is that the only inmates who can eat from the garden are those who work in it. Due to very strict federal and state regulations about what you can feed the inmates, none of the produce grown in the garden can be used in the meals prepared for the jail’s residents.


A great pumpkin


Currently, the garden graduates one “class” a year, celebrating this achievement with a harvest celebration (this year’s was documented by Mr. Brown Thumb). The garden, however, recently acquired a brand new greenhouse so Devane hopes that the garden’s ability to extend the growing season will allow it to graduate two additional classes. He also hopes that the program can become self-sustaining, selling to restaurants, independent grocers and farmers’ markets. This season, Charlie Trotter's restaurant purchased 225 pounds of produce from the garden. Devane implied that another high profile chef had expressed an interest. Devane is actively seeking new sources to sell the garden’s bounty, which afforded Nina and me the opportunity to visit and brainstorm about new outlets and sources of funding. Devane noted that while he has not yet been asked to grow a specific product by restaurants who’ve contacted, he would be happy to consider it.


I returned north encouraged and more than a little muddy to pick up my little locavore quite happy to find his mom wasn’t still in the pokey.

Posted as part of Fight Back Fridays.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Peanut Butter and Jelly Pie: Warning - Not for the Faint of Heart


As I've mentioned before, our street has to be one of the friendliest in Chicago. From progressive dinners to impromptu cocktails and playgroups on the street, there always seems to be something going on and Halloween is no exception. After the trick-or-treaters have gone home to admire their loot, the adult treats come out in a meal contributed by multiple households, including ours.

With a benefit for Healthy Schools Campaign on Thursday night, a tour of school lunch programs on Friday, and the Evanston farmers' market Saturday morning, I needed a relatively simple dish to make (or so I thought).

I had a left over pie crust and some Concord grapes from Wednesday's farmers' market. I remembered that Martha Stewart's book Pies & Tarts had a Grape pie recipe. I've had the book for years and all of recipes I've made have been simple and delicious.

Returning home around 2:30pm, I pulled out the book. Going through the recipe, it seemed easy enough. I've got all the ingredients: grapes, sugar, cornstarch and a pie crust. I rolled out and crimped my crust, leaving extra dough for garnish. Then, I turned my attention to the filling instructions. The recipe starts out telling me to halve and pit the grapes. Now anyone who's worked with Concord grapes knows that they aren't like olives or cherries. They don't have a single pit, but several. Moreover the flesh is soft and gooey, making it difficult to extract the pits. Ugh. There's no way that I wanted to spend any afternoon pitting grapes, much less Halloween. Had I not already made the crust, I probably would have bailed on this folly and brought some cheese or something. Everyone loves cheese.

Deep breath, let's proceed. I roughly chopped the grapes in the food processor and strained the grape juice. In doing so, I got about 1/2 cup of grape juice. Heating that up, I whisked in 3/4 cup cornstarch and boiled it for about 4 minutes until thick. So far, so good.

I stuck the pot in a ice bath to cool it quickly. I then scraped it into the baked and cooled crust. The color is gorgeous, deep purple and glistening. Taste is pure grape. One itty, bitty, tiny problem, it only came up about half way up the pie crust. What to do?

Sitting down, I think about what stands up to the mighty Concord grape? Why peanut butter, of course. How about a peanut butter mousse? I recalled a recipe from another of my favorite cookbooks, The New Basics. I reviewed it, the ingredients are peanut butter, cream, cream cheese and sugar, simple enough. Mix them together. I add a touch of salt. My son tasted it and gave an enthusiastic thumbs up. Spreading it in the pan, I garnished it with the grape cluster that I've made with the extra dough, complete with pastry tendrils.

Not for the faint of heart, this was a pie meant for tiny slices. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the individual slices, but our crowd scarfed it down before I had the opportuntity.

Pie Dough
Makes 2 crusts

2 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
¼ - ½ cup very cold water

Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly, like coarse cornmeal. Pour the water through the feed tube and mix until the mixture just comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or freeze.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Fit it into a 9-inch pie tin. Crimp the sides. Reserve the scraps for garnish. Prick the pie crust with a fork. Cover with aluminum foil and set another pie tin, pie weights, or dried beans on top. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the weights and foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the crust is golden. Let cool on a rack.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Pie
For 10-12 generous servings

1 9-inch pie crust
1 quart Concord grapes
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup cornstarch
1 pinch kosher salt
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream

Chop the grapes in a food processor. Push through a strainer. Discard the seeds and skins. Strain the resulting juice through a fine mesh strainer. You should have about 1 ½ cups grape juice. Pour the juice into a large saucepan. Add sugar and cornstarch. Bring the juice to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat and set the pan in a bowl of ice water until the grape filling comes to room temperature.

Mix together cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar and heavy cream in a stand mixer until smooth.

Fill the cooled crust with the grape filling. Slather the peanut butter mousse on top. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until cold and set.

Kids' Cooking Tips
There's little that kids can't help with in this recipe. Measuring, mixing, pressing, rolling and spreading. Sticky fingers galore!

This recipe is neither for the faint of heart nor the true locavore, but delicious nonetheless.
Butter and cream from Organic Valley (WI)
Grapes from Klug (MI)
Sugar from Wholesome Sweetener
Peanut butter from Skippy
Cream Cheese from Philadelphia Brands (in honor of those going up again the Evil Empire. Go Phillies!)

Family Feast Days: Diwali


My son has a very good friend named Siddhant. As you might suspect, Siddhant is Indian (dot, not feather) and it was from Siddhant's mother, Nikita, that we first learned about Diwali.

Nikita is a talented cook and a generous friend. I still remember Thor coming home with a whole bag full of dried pappadums in a variety of flavors only days after my telling her how much we loved them. She's taught me how to make parathas and has promised a pappadum lesson this Spring. At school, she treated Thor's class two years in a row to a Diwali celebration, where they decorated the tiny clay pots associated with the holiday.

Diwali, known as the Festival of Lights, pays tribute to several Hindu legends whose central themes are the victory of good over evil. Celebrated by the illuminations of numerous lamps, candles, and clay pots filled with oil, Diwali lasts 5 days, each with its own special significance. This site is a great source of information about the meaning of Diwali and the ways that is honored around the world.

Our celebration involved a delicious autumnal Indian meal by candlelight where we talked about why Siddhant's mom was a "veterinarian" and if that made Siddhant faster and, if so, why I should then become one. I so love the complex workings of the 5 year old's mind.

Here's the menu for our non-veterinarian meal:

Red Kuri Samosas with Leek and Bacon
Cilantro Chutney
Lamb Curry with Pumpkin and Turnip Greens (I confess that I did fish out the turnip greens for Thor)
Basmati Rice

The steps can be broken down over a few days and I've noted what can be made ahead.

Red Kuri Squash Samosas

I adapted the samosa dough from Julie Sahni's book Savoring India that she wrote for Williams-Sonoma. Everything I've made from it has been absolutely delicious.

Makes 16 samosas

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water less 1 tablespoon white wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup water
½ red kuri squash, peeled and steamed until tender
2 medium boiling potatoes cooked until tender and peeled after cooking
1 bacon slice
½ teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt
½ leek, chopped
vegetable oil for deep frying


Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of wine to a measuring cup and then pour in enough water to equal 2/3 cup liquid. Add the oil to the cup and stir. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry gradually while stirring with a fork. You want the mixture to come together just enough to be kneaded so you may have some liquid left over. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it forms a soft dough. Return the dough to a clean, oiled bowl, cover with a cloth, and let rest for ½ hour. In the meantime, make the filling.

Mash together the squash and potato. Cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to drain. Add the leek and cook until softened in the bacon fat. Sprinkle on the spices and salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Scrape in mashed potatoes and squash and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Roll the dough out to an 18-inch rope between your fingers.


Cut into 8 even pieces. Working with one at a time, roll a piece into a 6-inch circle. Cut it in half. Add heaping tablespoon of filling to one side. Brush with dissolved cornstarch and form a cone. Seal the edges. When finished with a samosa, set it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, wax paper or silicone pan liner. Repeat with reamining samosas. Samosas can be frozen at this point.

Heat oil in a large, heavy pot until 325º F. Fry for about 7 minutes or until browned. If you're cooking them from the freezer, you will need to cook them a little longer. Drain and serve with cilantro chutney.

Cilantro Chutney
Makes approximately 1 cup

1 ½ cups cilantro leaves
1 ½ tablespoon chopped tropea or other red onion
½ small red chili pepper
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cumin
1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil.

Puree all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth.

Lamb Curry with Pumpkin and Turnip Greens
For 4 servings


This recipe was also adapted from Julie Sahni's book

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound lamb meat from the leg or the shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup diced yellow onion
3 green cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup tomato puree
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound piece of pumpkin cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch of very fresh turnip greens, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, heavy Dutch oven over high heat (I used my slow cooker with the removable insert). Add the lamb cubes in batches and sear. Remove to a medium bowl. Repeat with remaining pieces.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining oil to the pan. Saute the onion and the spices and salt in the oil until it is lightly browned. Add the tomato puree, tomato paste, and chicken stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Return the lamb to the pan and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook until the lamb is almost completely tender about 1 1/2 hours. Add the pumpkin cubes and turnip greens cover and cook for an additional 1/2 hour. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with garam masala and cilantro.

Makes 8 loaves

Adapted from a recipe on

1 ½ teaspoon dry yeast
½ cup warm water
1 teaspoon honey
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons clarified butter
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt

Mix the yeast and honey into the warm water in a small bowl and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Let sit for 5-10 minutes or until it is foamy, indicating that the yeast is active. Add the flours to the bowl of a stand mixture. Pour in the yeast, 3tablespoons clarified butter and yogurt. Knead with a dough hook until the dough is soft. Add salt and knead until combined.vRemove the dough from the mixer and knead by hand for a few minutes on a floured surface. Transfer to an oiled bowl and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400º F.

After the dough has risen, punch it down and knead for 5 minutes by hand on a floured surface. Divide the dough into eight even pieces. With a rolling pin or your hands, push out each ball into an oval 1/3-inch thick. Dimple with your fingers. Repeat with the remaining dough. Brush each naan with some melted clarified butter. Bake on a lightly oiled sheet of aluminum foil set onto a baking sheet. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until the naan is gently browned. Flip and bake on the other side for an additional 5-7 minutes. Serve warm.

Kids' Cooking Tips
Kids can prepare many of the ingredients for the curry, samosas and the chutney. They can mix the dough for both the samosas and the naan. They will have a ton of fun rolling out the dough for both and filling the samosas.

Samosas are so much fun for kids to make so I'm excited to announce that Nikita has agreed to teach a family samosa making class for Purple Asparagus in January 2010. Check back here for more information.

Red kuri squash, pumpkin, onions and potatoes from Genesis Growers (WI)
Bacon from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm (IL)
Lamb from Mint Creek (IL)
Garlic and turnip greens from Growing Home (IL)
Cilantro from Smit's (IL)
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