Baked Apples

bakedapple

  • 4 apples, cored with tops cut off
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter (coconut oil for dairy-free)
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place apples in a square pan with cut core up.
  3. Place 1 tablespoon brown sugar in each core hole.
  4. Top each with 1 tablespoon butter.
  5. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  6. Add apple juice to pan.
  7. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for one hour.

Pancetta Sage Stuffing

mirepoixThis can be baked in the oven, inside a bird, or even cooked in a crock pot to save oven space.

  • 2-4 loaves french and dark bread, cubed and dried on counter for 1 day.
  • 1/2 pound pancetta, chopped and sauteed (reserve fat)
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 3 tablespoons each chopped fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme
  • 1 tablespoon each dried sage, rosemary, and thyme
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1-2 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • Salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste.
  1. Place bread cubes in a large bowl.
  2. Brown pancetta. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and add pancetta to bread cubes.
  3. Saute onion, celery, and carrot in pancetta fat until browned, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add to bread cubes.
  5. Add fresh and dried herbs, butter, stock, salt and pepper and mix well. Add more moisture if necessary.
  6. Use to stuff a bird, cook for several hours in a low crock pot, stirring occasionally, or bake covered at 350 for 30 minutes and uncovered for 15.

Orange Vanilla Sweet Potatoes

  • sweettater4 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup melted butter (coconut oil for dairy-free and vegetarian)
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lenthwise
  • Zest from one orange
  • Juice from two oranges
  • Fresh grated nutmeg, salt, and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Scrape seeds from vanilla beans into melted butter and add seed pods.
  3. Toss butter/vanilla with potatoes.
  4. Roast until potatoes are soft – about 45 minutes to an hour.
  5. Remove potatoes from butter and set aside, tented with foil.
  6. Carefully pour butter from pan into a small saucepan with orange juice and zest.
  7. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by half and syruppy.
  8. Toss with potatoes.
  9. Season with fresh grated nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste.

Roasted Root Veggies

sweetpotatoesThese aren’t your traditional sweet, sticky potatoes. Instead, they are a simple roast of julienned potatoes that bring out the slightly sweet, nutty flavor of the potatoes.

  • 1-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and julienned.
  • 2-4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and julienned
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-4 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped, fresh thyme
  • 2-4 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, put through garlic press
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted (eliminate for dairy-free)
  • Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large roasting pan, toss potatoes and sweet potatoes with olive oil, shallots, thyme, and onion.
  3. Spread in a thin layer across the bottom of the pan.
  4. Roast for 20 minutes until brown.
  5. Remove from onion and toss with butter, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Braised Belgian Endive

endiveThis recipe comes out sweet and nutty. It’s a great simple vegetable side dish.

  • 2 heads Belgian endive per person, sliced lengthwise into two pieces
  • 3 tablespoons butter (or olive oil for dairy-free)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  1. Heat a small amount of butter in a skillet over medium heat until bubbly.
  2. Sprinkle sugar into butter evenly over surface of skillet.
  3. Place endive in pan, cut side down.
  4. Cook 3-4 minutes until browned and then flip.
  5. Cook 3-4 minutes until brown on other side.
  6. Turn again. Add wine, chicken stock, and lemon juice.
  7. Bring to a simmer.
  8. Reduce heat and cover.
  9. Simmer until fork tender.
  10. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce

  • cranberries1 bag fresh cranberries
  • Juice of two oranges
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1 cup sugar (or use stevia or honey for paleo)
  • Fresh grated cinnamon to taste.
  1. Place berries in a non-reactive saucepan.
  2. Add orange juice, water, sugar, ginger, and orange zest.
  3. Boil until cranberries begin to pop.
  4. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until cranberries release their pectin and sauce is desired consistency.
  5. Add cinnamon to taste.
  6. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

Tips for Perfect Mashed Potatoes

mashedHere are my tips for the perfect potatoes.

1. Select flavorful potatoes to start. I really like Yukon Gold potatoes. I also like russets, which make delicious mashed potatoes.

2. Boil the potatoes in their skins. This keeps the part of the potato you will be using from becoming water logged. Once the potatoes are boiled, remove the skins.

3. Whatever you do, don’t beat the potatoes. Using any kind of a mechanical beater will remove lumps, but it also binds the starches in potatoes and makes them gluier. Instead, I use a potato ricer. Put manageable chunks of the peeled hot potatoes through the ricer into a bowl.

4. Don’t use milk or cream. It creates gloppy potatoes. Instead, melt some unsalted butter (using unsalted allows you to control the amount of salt in your dish) and pour it over riced potatoes. Give the potatoes a quick mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. This keeps the taters fluffy because the fat from the butter coats the starches, keeping it light.

5. Before you serve, taste the potatoes for seasoning and add sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper a little at a time until you get the right seasoning. You need some salt, because salt enhances flavors, but you probably don’t need nearly as much as you think. That’s why I suggest adding a little at a time, tasting, and adjusting as you go.

Ginger Maple Applesauce

Homemade ApplesauceYesterday was the perfect fall morning at the Olympia farmers’ market. There was a crisp chill in the air, which significantly reduced crowd size. Still, given the offerings available this time of year at the market, the chill was worth it. Along with a dizzying array of organic apples from Washington’s bumper apple crops, there were large ears of corn, juicy plums, chanterelles, squash, pole beans, red and white raspberries, concord grapes, and many others. One of my favorite types of produce from fall in Washington State is pluots. A cross between a plum and an apricot, the pluot is like a juicy, sweet plum. If you come across these tasty stone fruit, give them a try. I think you’ll love them.

As far as I am concerned, however, the star of the show for fall is apples. I love apple season with a passion approaching my love for writing. In fact, as soon as the days grow shorter and the leaves start to change color, I begin cooking with apples. The dogs love it. They gather at my feet as I peel and chop, accepting tiny slices of apple they chew with great gusto. (Tip – never give your pets apple seeds, which contain traces of cyanide.) At the market yesterday, the variety was amazing. Braeburn, Fuji, Jazz, Lady Alice, Gravenstein, Pink Lady, Rose, Honeycrisp…it’s an apple lovers paradise.

I enjoy baking apple pies, crisps, cakes, and turnovers. I also like making a simple applesauce, which I will be making today from the organic Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and Jazz apples I bought yesterday.

When cooking with apples, I take a minimalist approach. I like to let the flavors of the fruit shine through. This doesn’t mean lots of sugar or heavy spices. Instead I use just enough to enhance the natural flavors of the apples instead of overpowering them.  Some of my favorite spices to use include fresh grated nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and fresh grated ginger. I also usually use just a touch of lemon zest and lemon juice to prevent the apples from turning brown and bring out the tart notes.

Another trick for baking with apples is using a few different varieties in one dish. For instance, in my pies I often mix Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples. In fact, Pink Lady apples are my favorite eating and baking apples, followed closely by Honeycrisp.

Today, I will be making a simple applesauce. Recipe below.

Ginger Maple Applesauce

  • 4 Pink Lady apples – Peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 4 Honeycrisp apples,  peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 4 Jazz apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 T. fresh ginger root, grated
  1. Place apples and water in a large pot and simmer on the stove top, covered until apples begin to break down, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and stir, mashing apples together.
  3. Stir in ginger root and maple syrup.
  4. If you prefer a smooth applesauce instead of a rustic one, cool and process in a food processor or food mill.

Chanterelles and Basil

basilI had two great culinary surprises today. The first was the discovery when I entered the farmer’s market that it was chanterelle season! These woody orange mushrooms are almost always wild gathered and have a tender bite and delicately earthy flavor. Every year, I wait throughs summer for chanterelle season. I had a hunch that I’d be seeing them soon, but I was surprised they were already there today. My second surprise was a bunch of fresh, homegrown basil from a colleague. She had a huge bag that scented the air and disappeared quickly. I grabbed a bag and brought it home.

These are two of the best of this season in the Pacific Northwest. Right now you’ll also find giant heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, apples, and the beginning of heartier winter vegetables.

Cooking Chanterelles

At first I tossed around combining my culinary treasures, but then I decided that I would cook them for two separate meals so my family could enjoy them longer. Tonight, I sauteed the chanterelles in a little butter, tossed them with some thyme and fresh garlic, and used them to top off a batch of mushroom risotto.

When cooking chanterelles, heat a pan to very hot and then add a small amount of butter. Add chanterelles in a single layer so every mushroom is in contact with the pan – do not overcrowd. Allow the chanterelles to saute until they release their liquid and the pan dries – about five minutes – before stirring. Stir and continue to cook for five minutes to brown the mushrooms. Add a dash of salt, some fresh thyme, and minced garlic. After adding the garlic, stir and immediately remove from the heat.

Chanterelles also make a great sauce. Cook as outlined above adding diced onions or shallots at the same time you add the mushrooms. After chanterelles have browned, add garlic and thyme, and then add a small bit of white wine, scraping the pan as the wine evaporates. Add 2 cups of chicken stock and allow to simmer until broth reduces by half. Stir in a swirl of heavy cream and taste to season. Use to top a protein like chicken or as a pasta sauce.

Chanterelles also bake well, so try adding them to a quiche.

Cooking with Basil

I am of the mind that basil loses a lot if you cook it. I believe that the value of basil is in its fresh flavor, so I almost always add fresh basil at the end of cooking. For example, I enjoy making a frittata and topping it with a chiffonade of fresh basil or some homemade pesto. You can also make a caprese salad, slicing heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and then drizzling them with high quality extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkling them with torn basil leaves. Season to taste with a little sea salt.

Cipollini Onions

cipolliniI scored a true bonanza in this week’s CSA box: cipollini onions. These small, flat onions have an amazing sweetness with less bite than typical onions, and they roast up to a creamy, toasted sweetness. I enjoy roasting them with potatoes or tossing them with a balsamic glaze. If you’ve never tried cipollini onions before, look for them and give them a try. You’ll see exactly why they are my very favorite onion.

Roasted Red Potatoes and Cipollini

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. baby red potatoes
  • 1 lb. peeled cipollini onions
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss onions and potatoes in olive oil and spread on a baking sheet.
  3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rosemary.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes, until potatoes are soft.

Balsamic Glazed Cipollini (Cipollini Agrodolce)

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. cipollini onions, peeled
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter (or olive oil for dairy free)
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 c. quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • Dash salt

Method

  1. In a 12″ saute pan, melt the butter until it bubbles and foams.
  2. Add the onions, browning on them on all sides, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add sugar, vinegar, and water.
  4. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until onions are el dente.
  5. Remove lid and simmer until liquid reduces to syrup.
  6. Sprinkle with rosemary and salt to taste.