Friday, September 26, 2008

Toward Better Baking...

If you've never checked out Marcy Goldman's baking website,, now is the time. Marcy is not only a great pastry chef, she's a great all-around chef as well and her writing is always delightful. Don't overlook the "When Bakers Write" section; Dwayne's World is hilarious!

This week Marcy is giving out several free recipes and I, for one, can't wait to try the Cranberry Sauce Sweet and Sour Meatballs. As soon as I read the recipe my mind began to "localize" the ingredients...hmmm...lean ground beef from Kathy Linn's ranch in Canyonville, fresh eggs from my friend Georgie, Bandon cranberries, maybe some local honey instead of the brown sugar...

You will notice that you don't even have to brown the meatballs before adding them to the sauce! I have made meatballs in a marinara sauce (for meatball sandwiches) this way and they come our very tender and more readily absorb the flavor of the sauce. Adapts well to the slow cooker too!


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Double Cheddar Cauliflower Soup

Autumn is in the air and the cooler weather means "Soup's on" at our house. A head of Cheddar cauliflower and extra sharp Tillamook Cheddar Cheese give this soup it's lovely golden color. I made a big pot a few days ago and I have been enjoying the leftovers for lunch.

Double Cheddar Cauliflower Soup
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (it will be pureed later)
1 medium head cheddar cauliflower, cut into florets, about 1 pound (white cauliflower works fine too)
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
4 ounces extra sharp Tillamook cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (start with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper and work up from there)

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Add the chopped onion and cook until nearly transparent. Add the chicken broth and the cauliflower. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Puree the soup. I like to use my hand blender right in the pot. You can also puree the soup in batches in a regular blender. If you use a food processor, you will need to strain out the vegetables and puree them with just a bit of the broth to get a smooth consistency and then add in the remaining liquid. Return the mixture to the pot.

Stir in the milk, cheese and nutmeg and whisk over low heat until the cheese is melted and the soup is smooth and heated through. Do not let it boil or the cheese may separate. Add some freshly ground pepper and salt to taste. Start with 1/2 teaspoon salt and work up from there. It will depend somewhat on how much sodium was in the chicken broth.

Serve in warm bowls garnished with freshly snipped chives, if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fresh Raspberry Tarts

A mini tart using a shortbread crust, raspberry freezer jam, fresh raspberries and real whipped cream from my demo at our OSU Extension/Master Food Preserver's What's for Dinner? class on Thursday. This recipe is adapted from one in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

Fresh Raspberry Tarts

Shortbread crust:
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar just until combined. Add the vanilla. Stir together the flour and salt, then add to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix until just combined. Dump into a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press firmly all over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using your thumb to make sure finished edge is flat. Chill until firm.

Butter one side of a piece of aluminum foil and place, buttered side down, on top of chilled pastry. Fill with rice or beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans, prick the tart all over with a fork and return to oven to bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool to room temperature.

1 cup raspberry preserves or raspberry freezer jam.
3 cups fresh raspberries, plus additional for garnishing

1 cup heavy whipping cream (not ultra-pasteurized!)

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Spread preserves or jam all over cooled crust. Arrange fresh berries, stem end down in concentric circles. Serve immediately or within a few hours. Top with whipped cream just before serving and garnish with a few fresh berries.

Do not refrigerate or crust will get soggy. Makes one 9 or 10-inch tart or six to twelve mini tarts, depending on pan size.

Low-Sugar Freezer Jams

This is the pectin I've been using all summer to make low-sugar freezer jams from fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. I hadn't made freezer jam in many years because it used to require so much sugar and often corn syrup too to form a good gel--more sugar than fruit! This newer pectin from Ball is not marketed as a "low-sugar" product, but it requires only 1 1/2 cups of sugar for 4 cups of crushed fruit and it sets up beautifully. It also works with Splenda, if you absolutely must avoid sugar. I used this to make the raspberry filling for my Fresh Raspberry Tarts.

The process is easy enough for a child to do. You simply stir the pectin and sugar together, add the crushed fruit, stir for three minutes, ladle into jars or plastic containers, let stand 30 minutes and then freeze for up to one year or refrigerate for up to three weeks.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Market Day

Saturday was a gloriously beautiful day at the farmers market. First off, I bought these Chinese yardlong beans and some delightfully sweet seedless green grapes from Dang at Dang's Garden and then a couple zucchini, four 49er peaches and three perfect ears of Bodacious corn from Norm Lehne.

I snagged these sunflowers and rudbeckia at Hom's Garden and then bought some yellow wax beans and fresh basil for Basil Butter with Garlic from Linnea Marie Farms. Next, I headed down to the Sweet Briar Farms canopy and picked up two inch-thick center-cut pork loin chops, which they kindly wrapped in ice for me (their pork is always sold fresh, not frozen.)
I bought another quart of honey from Terry and Dawna Kauk of Kauk's Bee's. I try to pick up a quart or two each week. This jar of wildflower honey was just pulled from the hive the night before. It is the most delicious honey I have ever tasted! It almost has a slight vanilla flavor to it.

Last of all, (and my canvas bag was pretty heavy by this point) I stocked up on organic apples and Yukon Gold potatoes at Lighthouse Center Organics.

Next week the market will be held at Stewart Park as part of the Roseburg Harvest Festival. Eating local has never been so easy!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Local Breakfast

A perfectly ripe canteloupe from Brosi's SugarTree Farms in Winston, halved and filled with homemade yogurt, wild blackberries and Garden Valley walnuts makes a wholesome and delicious early morning breakfast!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Basil Butter with Garlic

Drizzled on green and yellow wax beans, tossed with boiled new potatoes or slathered on corn-on-the-cob, this flavored butter is a quick way to dress up your veggies.
Basil Butter with Garlic
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 ounce (about 1 cup lightly packed) fresh basil leaves, rinsed and patted dry
6 to 8 cloves garlic, the fresher, the better

In a food processor: With the food processor running, drop the peeled garlic cloves in and let run until they are very finely minced. Add the basil leaves and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the softened butter and pulse until well-mixed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

By hand: Finely chop the basil leaves using a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Put the garlic through a press or mince finely by hand. Stir both into the softened butter until well-combined.

Makes a bit more than 1 cup. Store in the refrigerator up to one week. For longer storage, drop by tablespoonsful onto a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet and freeze until firm. Pack in freezer bags and store in freezer to use as needed.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Giant Dahlias

I bought five exquisite dahlias from Ayers Rainbow of Dahlias (580-5236) at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market. Unfortunately, I broke the stem of one before I got home. Ever resourceful, I simply trimmed the stem short and floated the giant flower in a crystal bowl on my dining room table. I added fresh water every day or two and it lasted all week.

The remaining four dahlias made a stunning centerpiece on their own. I was holding the fresh flowers while I was buying peppers and beans from Jim Leet and a kind, elderly woman gave me this tip: to make the dahlias last longer, trim the stems at a sharp angle and hold the ends in scalding water for about 30 seconds. Then put them in a vase of tepid water with some 7-up soda mixed in or a penny in the bottom. Repeat the procedure every two days. She said they would stay fresh for up to ten days this way. I did as instructed (using 7-up) and mine looked good for 6 or 7 days, longer than my dahlias have ever lasted before.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Caramel-Pecan Brownies

A variation of my Marionberry-Walnut Brownies, I made these for a Chautauqua presentation at the Douglas County Library tonight. Half of the caramel was baked into the batter, creating faultlines of gooey goodness; the rest was drizzled on top of the baked brownies.

Caramel-Pecan Brownies
1 pound unsalted butter
8 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
4 cups (1# 12 ounces) sugar
8 large farm-fresh local eggs
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 ounces)
1 (11.5 oz.) package Ghirardelli 60% Dark Chocolate Chips
1 cup (4 ounces) coarsely chopped pecans
1 jar (8 to 12 ounces) caramel topping or caramels melted and thinned with a bit of milk

Line a 12 x 17-inch jelly roll pan with unbleached parchment or grease and flour well. Preheat the oven to 350 degreees.

In a large, heavy saucepan melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate over very low heat just until melted. Stir in the sugar, turn off the heat and let stand for 5 or 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar is melted.

Whisk the eggs, salt and vanilla together in a very large bowl. Slowly pour in the chocolate mixture, stirring constantly until well-combined. Gently fold in the flour until no dry particles are visible. Pour into the prepared pan.

Scatter the chocolate chips evenly over the surface of the batter. Using a rubber scraper or the back of a spoon, gently smooth the top so the chips are covered with batter.

Sprinkle the chopped pecans over the top. Heat the open jar of caramel topping in the microwave for about 1 minute, until slightly softened. (Alternativley, heat the unwrapped caramels with a tablespoon or two of milk). Stir well and then drizzle half of the warm caramel all over the brownie batter. Reserve the remaining caramel.

Place pan on the center rack of the oven and turn the heat down to 325 degrees. Bake for exactly 30 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire rack. Drizzle remaining caramel over the top of baked brownies. Cool completely.

Brownies will be easier to cut if covered tightly after cooling and then refrigerated overnight. I loosen the edges, slide a large pancake turner under the parchment and then lift the entire piece out onto the counter. This makes them easy to cut into uniform squares without scratching up the sides of the pan.

Makes 48 small or 24 large brownies. These freeze very well!