Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pistachio, Dark Chocolate and Bing Cherry Biscotti

How ironic is this? I bought some pistachios from the bulk bins at the supermarket several weeks ago. I've just been waiting for a good excuse to try a new biscotti combination. I generally use local hazelnuts or walnuts in my baking, but hey, what a beautiful contrast the bright green pistachios would be in dark cocoa cookie dough!

I had a meeting scheduled this morning, so I thought, "Now's my chance. I'll bake a batch of biscotti with pistachios, dark chocolate chips and dried bing cherries to go with everyone's morning coffee and my herbal tea." So I stayed up a bit later than usual last night, snipping cherries, mixing and baking. First thing this morning, my mom calls to ask if I saw the news. "No." "Did I hear about the pistachio recall?" Are you kidding me? One million pounds of pistachios? Today?

Well, I knew instantly that my pistachios were not tainted with Salmonella; I have been snitching them out of the bag for weeks to snack on, to the point that I thought there might not be enough left for the recipe. No signs of illness. Even if the nuts had been tainted, the heat of the oven (biscotti are baked twice) would have killed any Salmonella present, so I filled my little basket and took them to my meeting anyway.

I told everyone to eat at their own risk and that I would not be offended if they chose to abstain, but that I was confident my biscotti would not make them sick. Thus assured, they dove right in, munching and dunking and pronounced them delicious.

Here's the recipe
, but feel free to substitute any other nuts you prefer.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1 cup dried bing cherries, snipped into pieces
1 cup roasted, salted pistachios (whole) or any other nuts (coarsely chopped)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Double up two large baking pans and line the top pan with a piece of parchment paper. Using a heavy-duty stand mixer, cream the butter, sugars and vanilla together. Blend in the eggs until well-combined. Place the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a colander and sift over the wet ingredients. Mix until there are no dry spots. Stir in the chocolate chips, cherries and nuts.

Dump the dough onto the baking sheet and, using wet hands, form into one very large flattened log or two narrower logs, depending on how big (long) you like your biscotti. The dough will spread a bit during baking.

Bake about 40 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean and the dough is set. Cool to room temperature, then proceed with recipe or cover tightly and chill in the refrigerator overnight or several hours. This makes is easier to cut the biscotti slices without them falling apart.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut the biscotti log into slices about 1/2-inch thick. Lay cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake 15 to 20 minutes (20 to 30 if you chilled the logs) to desired crispness. Let cool completely before storing in plastic bags or an airtight container.

These make great make-ahead gifts. You can fill cellophane bags and tie with ribbon or raffia. You can also fill a cute mugs or small buckets lined with tissue paper.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mildred's Tomato-Basil Juice

I know tomatoes aren't in season right now, but my friend, Mildred, passed away a few weeks ago, so I've had this recipe on my mind. File it away until next summer; this is a keeper.

Mildred had been a Master Gardener for years and took the Master Food Preserver course in her eighties. She was famous for bringing her home-canned tomato juice to any potluck occasion.

One of Mildred's tricks was to add a can of tomato paste to the juice. This keeps the pulp from separating out, leaving pulp at the bottom of the jar and clear juice at the top. Mildred's juice looks oh so much prettier sitting on your pantry shelf. This juice is extra-thick so I often use it in place of tomato sauce. In fact, my husband used a quart last week to make some incredibly delicious Spaghetti Bolognese.

Here's the recipe just as Mildred wrote it down (my notes are at the end):

Fill 6 qt. kettle (rounded full) with washed, trimmed and cut up tomatoes. Hand crush enough to have juice in bottom of the kettle to start cooking. Note: I use mainly Roma type tomatoes, with whatever other tomatoes I have on hand.

Cook down until about 2/3 to 3/4 full, then I add fresh washed basil, stems and leaves to fill up the kettle. (Since basil and tomatoes don't always mature at the same time, I wash the basil, fill gallon ziploc bags and freeze. The washed basil weighs about 4 oz. after bagging.) Then I take one out of the freezer to add to tomatoes. Cook for about 15
minutes more to mix the flavors and basil is soft.

Run through reamer or food ricer to remove skins, pulp and basil leaves and stems. Very little basil goes through the holes, other than the flavor.

When all juice has been extracted, I add one 12 oz. can tomato paste, stirring well. This improves the color and keeps juice from separating.

Fill pint or quart jars leaving head space to which I add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and generous tablespoon bottled lemon juice to pints and double that amount for quarts. Wipe tops of jars. Put on lids and process in water bath according to chart.

This is good with dash of lemon or lime juice, if you prefer.

Jennifer's notes: Leave 1/2-inch headspace in the jars. Use only bottled lemon juice, not fresh. Powdered citric acid may be substituted for lemon juice in the following amounts: 1/4 teaspoon per pint, 1/2 teaspoon per quart. Process pints for 35 minutes and quarts for 40 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Friday, March 27, 2009

April What's for Dinner?

If you miss our cooking classes because you work during the week, take note of the date. This class is on a Saturday.

Our next OSU Extension/Master Food Preserver What's for Dinner? class is will be held Saturday, April 11, from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm at the Sutherlin Community Building, 150 S. Willamette St. (off Central Avenue), Sutherlin, Oregon.

Our guest Chef this month is Sean Vincent of the Mark 5 Grill & Bar in Roseburg. He'll be demonstrating: Paneer, a pressed Indian cheese, Baba Ganoush, an eggplant dip, Chicken Curry with Rice--we'll learn to make our own garam masala spice mix, and Coconut Rice Pudding for dessert. A full lunch is included with the $15 registration fee.

To register stop by the Extension office at 1134 SE Douglas in Roseburg or print off a form at and mail it with your check to:

Douglas Co/OSU Extension
Attn: MFP-CLPO Box 1165
Roseburg, OR 97470

Pre-registration is required. Class is limited to 24 participants. Registration deadline is Wednesday,April 8 by 5:00 pm. Questions? Call the OSU Extension office at 672-4461.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chayote and Cherimoya

My trip to the Newhall farmers market in California last week included an introduction to two fruits I had never encountered before, chayote and cherimoya. My sister-in-law had been given a chayote by one of her ESL students, so when we spotted some for sale, we asked the vendor how to cook it. We were told it can be used in soups or stews as we would use potatoes or it can be eaten raw in salads. Apparently this white-fleshed, gourdlike fruit comes either prickly or smooth. We didn't get around to eating any while I was there, but at least I'll know what it is next time I come across one.

I did enjoy eating the cherimoya I bought. Also green-skinned with a scaly pattern, the sign said "guava, mango, papaya" on it, as if it were a cross between those three tropical fruits, though my Food Lover's Companion describes the taste as a "combination of pineapple, papaya and banana." The sweet, creamy-white flesh is studded with shiny black seeds about twice the size of watermelon seeds. The texture reminded me of very ripe honeydew melon.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fresh Tomatoes

I'm in sunny southern California this week. My sister-in-law and I stopped by the farmers market in Old Town Newhall and bought these "strawberry tomatoes" on the vine. I sampled some local strawberries, but they really need another couple weeks to sweeten up.

I was thrilled to find local avocados, though. I've been refusing to buy the supermarket avocados from Chile and Mexico and the California harvest doesn't start until sometime in April. This particular vendor said his trees start bearing in January, so I stocked up on 10 avocados--two perfectly ripe, for making guacamole this weekend and eight very hard green Haas avocados to bring home with me. They should ripen nicely over the next couple weeks and if by chance they get ahead of me, I can mash them with some lemon juice and freeze them for eating later.

I also bought a jar of local buckwheat honey, some blood oranges, fresh pita bread and garlic-chive hummus, some very small but extremely flavorful fuji apples and a cherimoya, just to try something new.

I guess I am still a California girl at heart. I just love running around in flip flops and short sleeves in March.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Bread and Yeast Experiment

I helped out with a bread and yeast experiment in my son's class at school last week. I started off by having the kids grind their own whole wheat flour by hand. Then they added the remaining ingredients to a heavy-duty one-gallon ziploc bag, sealed it and took turns kneading the dough in the bag--one regular-sized loaf per bag for each group of four students.

Next we divided the dough into four pieces and they each shaped their own mini-loaf. We placed them on parchment-lined baking sheets to rise and I wrote their names on the parchment next to each loaf so they'd be sure to get their own loaf back. While the bread was rising, they helped me make a batch of blackberry and blueberry freezer jam.

Another mom did a demonstrated mixing yeast, sugar and water in a flask and placing a balloon over the top. They took measurements at intervals as the balloon filled with carbon dioxide.

When the loaves had risen, I took them all home, baked them and brought them back for an afternoon snack of bread and jam. The students were so proud of themselves! One girl commented that it was "almost the best bread she had ever eaten!"

My son giving his bread and jam a thumbs up.

Of Course I Can!

I saw this poster on another blog, A Year of Plenty and it was the inspiration for my food page last week in the News-Review. I love the idea of Community Canning Centers and also the landshare project taking shape in the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In case you missed my letter to the editor...

In response to a February 15 letter complaining about the lack of a "fine dining" establishment in Roseburg, I agree that we certainly don't need anymore "formula food" franchises. I've eaten at excellent restaurants in this country and abroad; I enjoy a fine dining experience as much as anyone, but don't knock our local chefs!

Osso Buco at Anthony's, Chicken Serento or Pork Verde at the Mark V, Carne Asada at Gilberto's, Souvlaki at Alexander's or Chicken-Walnut Salad at D's are just a few of the dishes I enjoy regularly. Reservations are rarely needed, parking is convenient and FREE, the servers are friendly and knowledgeable and the meal doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

Recently, these chefs have been making an effort to incorporate local ingredients into their menus; another plus.

The few attempts, during the 27 years I have lived here, at more "upscale" restaurants have never succeeded. Rather than whining about what we lack, let's support our local restaurants and keep them going through these tough economic times.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Photos for Jeanetta

A friend wanted to see what I baked last week. Not the greatest photos, but here you go...

Slices of Classic Vanilla Charleston Poundcake
and Chocolate-Marble Poundcake

Clockwise from top left: Marionberry-Walnut Brownies,
Double Chocolate Brownies with Buttercream Frosting,
Pumpkin-Pecan Bread with Dried Cranberries,
and the two varieties of Charleston Poundcake.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bakeries and Bookstores

We spent the weekend in Portland, bakery-hopping and bookstore-browsing. We started off Saturday morning with brunch at the St. Honore Boulangerie off 23rd in the Nob Hill District. Friends had recommended it and we were not disappointed! It was bustling with locals, several speaking French (a good sign). The bread and pastries were beautiful to behold and you can sit right up at the counter watching one of the bakers shaping the loaves and loading and unloading the brick oven.

I ordered a smooth and creamy cup of cocoa (above) and then this savory tartiflette--puff pastry topped with potato, brie and bacon. I also bought a mini Pain au Chocolate and a mini Chausson aux Pommes for afternoon snacking.

Next we headed to Pearl Bakery at 9th and Couch in the Pearl District because I needed a new "Eat Bread." tee-shirt, as I had worn the last one out. I couldn't resist adding one of their Fig-Anise Panini to my snack stash.

We walked over to Powell's for just a quick look and I noticed that The Paley's Place Cookbook was on sale at 30% off. Chef Vitaly Paley of Portland is coming to Roseburg in April to teach a Cooking for Charity class. Of course, I had to buy the book so I can have him sign it for me if I take the class--well, I have to take the class now, my husband says!

We checked out Cameron's Books in Old Town and then stopped in at one of our favorite bakeries, Ken's Artisan Bakery on the corner of 21st and Flanders. We split a bowl of granola and then spent some time perusing the collection at Daedalus Books next door.

We had a great dinner at a new Indian Restaurant called Indish, but that's another post...