Friday, February 25, 2011

Risotto Style Barley with Winter Citrus and Arugula

My sister just received a beautiful cookbook Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson,
and we wanted to try out a recipe. Since it was a super stormy night we decided this hearty risotto might just do the trick and boy were we right (and it worked perfectly with my recent super citrus kick!). What’s great about this recipe is you can substitute with a variety of citrus, greens, and nuts and all the versions come out delicious.

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
 (we used equal amount of red onion instead)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 cups lightly pearled barley 
1 cup good quality dry white wine
6 cups water (heated) 
1 Orange
Grated zest 1 lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2 big handfuls of Arugula, chopped
Handful of toasted walnuts for garnish

Begin by heating the six cups of water in a tea kettle on the stove. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add the onions, shallots, garlic, and salt and saute, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften. Add the barley to the pot and stir until coated with a nice sheen, then add the white wine and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, until the barley has absorbed the liquid a bit. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle, active simmer. In increments, add about 6 cups of water, 1 cup at a time, letting the barley absorb most of the liquid between additions; this should take around 40 minutes altogether. Stir regularly so the grains on the bottom of the pan don't scorch. You will know when the barley is cooked because it won't offer up much resistance when chewing (it will, however, be chewier than Arborio rice).
Meanwhile grate cheese, zest the lemon and orange. Chop the inside segments of the orange, catching any juice that might come out as well. Coarsely chop the arugula.

When the barley is tender remove the pot from heat.

Stir in the lemon zest, orange zest and segments, parmesan, and sour cream. Taste and adjust - add more salt if needed, more lemon zest.

Then stir in the greens. Garnish with toasted walnuts and a dusting of extra Parmesan before serving.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Orange Zest Cake

It seems lately that I can’t leave the market without an 8-10lb bag of oranges. I think it’s just knowing that for so many years I lived away from here and citrus just didn’t taste like what I remembered it to be. Long story short, not a day goes by with out a piece of citrus in my house this winter. So I thought I would try some recipes with citrus instead of just snacking on it. This cake was a delicious fresh home reconstruction of a yellow cake mix I have grown up with (minus food coloring and artificial flavoring). I tried a mini loaf pan and cupcakes – but a bunt pan or square baking pan would work just as nice.

½ cup butter, room temperature
1cup sugar
3 lrg. Eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2 tbsp (about 1 orange worth) orange zest
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour desired pan. Juice and zest one large orange, combine and set aside.

In a mixer, cream butter and sugar until lightly whipped. Beat in eggs one at a time and mix in vanilla.
In another bowl mix dry ingredients together. With the mixer on low add dry ingredients alternating with sour cream and orange juice slowly. Mix until well blended. Bake depending on pan size (45 min for bunt cake – 15/20 for cup cakes). It's ready when a toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No food in the fridge

I was faced with what seems to be recurring problem for me this week. After being away for a couple days- my refrigerator was nearly empty, this time it was special because my pantry was also sparse and my early morning attempt to make it to the Westchester Wednesday market appeared to be rained out. All in all, not a great start.

So after a little ingenuity and crossed fingers this is what I came up with:

Roasted red pepper chickpea pasta surprise (I always add the word surprise on any dish that is a little different, just because it’s fun). I found an onion, potato, pasta, dried chickpeas, and the surprise – roasted red pepper tapenade left from last weeks market. I ate it last week with crackers and this was my attempt to restructure the dip.


1 brown or sweet onion, chopped

1 ½ cup dried chickpeas or 2 cans

1 small potato (optional)

1 bay leaf

1 package of pasta

1 pinch of salt

1 pinch of cayenne ppepper

1 tbsp olive oil

4 tbsp roasted red pepper tapenade

Soak chickpeas (overnight is preferable but I went for two hours- just to soften a bit). Rinse chickpeas and cover with water in a small pot, add half of the potato and the bay leaf. Bring water to a boil and let simmer for about an hour and a half or until beans have softened. (You can always bypass these steps by using canned beans- I find them much faster, but dried beans are cheaper and don’t have any preservatives or added sodium to them).

Begin to boil salted water in large pot for cooking pasta. Finely dice onion into small pieces

Sauté onions in oil in a pan until they become browned and translucent.

Add chickpeas, cayenne pepper, salt, tapenade, and a ladle of pasta water. Simmer until pasta is ready.
Drain pasta and mix together. Surprise, it’s dinner!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sheila’s Tasty Apple Cake

I remember when we were kids and the two kinds of available apples were red or green. I am amazed at how much fresher they taste in the winter and now seem to come in every variety possible. I think we used 4 different kinds of apples because I was like a kid in a candy store and wanted to taste every kind. While I like to bake I wouldn’t call myself a “baker” since I sometimes find myself being very liberal with quantities in my cooking – this recipe was just right, simple ingredients and very few steps.

4 cups apples, peeled and cored ~ 4-5 apples
2 cups flour
2 eggs
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 cup walnuts (toast these in the oven first)
½ cup oil *

* we substituted for apple sauce- for a low fat version as well. It was quite tasty but the cake came out much denser and sweeter. It felt more like a breakfast treat than dessert.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and slice apples.

Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately (besides apples and nuts). Combine wet and dry ingredients together then mix in walnuts and apples.

Pour batter into a 9x12 greased baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for ~ 45min or until top is crisp and knife comes out clean. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Year of the Rabbit Potstickers

In honor of the Chinese new year last week I thought I would be really adventurous and try and make my own vegetable potstickers. I thought it would be super cute- being that they look like little bunnies and they are made mostly of what rabbits eat. They turned out delicious, but took much longer than I anticipated so here is the belated recipe for “Year of the Rabbit Porstickers”. Lesson learned: give yourself plenty of time for this dish. I went ahead and made a ton and froze a bunch, so I could pull them out of the freezer for dinner parties and impromptu appetizers.

Ingredients (makes ~ 50 potstickers):
1 package of gyoza wrappers
2 cups chopped shitake mushrooms
3 chopped green onions
2 small leeks
2 tbsp. grated ginger
1 can water chestnuts
½ a nappa cabbage
¼ package baked savory tofu (optional)
1 tbsp sesame oil
cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste

Finely dice and chop all ingredients

Sauté leeks and ginger in a wok with some oil until soft

Add the mushrooms, green onions, and cabbage and sauté until reduced (you may want to cover the vegetables to reduce them faster)

Drain ingredients in a colander and mix in water chestnuts, tofu, sesame oil, and salt and pepper to taste
Fill potsticker wrappers with about 1 tbsp filling (don’t do too many at a time or the other wrappers will dry out). With your finger moisten the entire edge of the wrapper with water
Fold in half and pinch to overlap the dough, place on baking sheet until you are ready to cook. You can see the technique takes a while to learn, my first ones look a bit crazy
To cook: heat a bit of oil in a frying pan and place potstickers pinched side up and heat for about a minute on med-high. Then pour in 3 tablespoons of water and cover with lid and reduce heat to low for 8-10 minutes
Potstickers should be crisp and browned on the bottom and steamed on top. If there is still a sizable amount of liquid in the pan, or they haven’t browned you can turn up the heat uncovered for a minute to get the desired texture
Serve with dipping sauce

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl Snacks- Farmer's Market Style

Famous "conscious food" pioneer Michael Pollan says that you can eat as much junk food as you want, as long as you make it yourself. So we decided to take that idea and run with it to create some yummy and slightly healthier versions of classic Super Bowl snacks.

We planned to make French onion dip, potato skins, and guacamole (this didn't happen because the avocados at the market were hard as rocks and we should have planned ahead, but of course we didn't, so we just scrapped that idea).

French Onion Dip

This salty delicious dip was a favorite of ours in high school when we could eat anything we wanted (and did) and gain no weight. We decided to make it from scratch. At first we were both stumped. Without the packet of Lipton's soup mix, how the hell could we pull this off. We thought and thought, and then the brilliant Sheesh figured it out!

2 medium onions, thinly sliced, then chopped
1-2 tblsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup stock
2 cups sour cream
salt to taste

Thinly slice and then chop the onions (we used the mandolin, but you don't have to) into approx. one inch pieces.
Saute the onions over medium heat with 1-2 tblsp of oil, add a pinch of salt to help them break down faster.

Let them continue to cook for a long time, stirring occasionally and adding the stock to deglaze the pan, until they look like this:

Let them cool, then mix onions with 2 cups of sour cream and salt to taste
serve and enjoy!

The dip was wonderful! It tasted almost exactly like the original favorite, but with a little sweetness and without the sting-your-tongue saltiness. I don't think I'm ever going back to Lipton's soup mix!

Fingerling Potato Skins
Who doesn't love potato skins? These are somewhat healthier because they're not deep fried, but they are still crispy and delicious!

some fingerling potatoes (2-3 per person)
2 tblsp vegetable oil
sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheese
green onions or chives, diced
salt and pepper

Boil potatoes for 10-12 minutes, until fork tender.

Drain potatoes, slice in half lengthwise, and scoop out a little from each potato.

Heat 2 tblsp oil in a pan on medium heat, place potatoes (cut side down) and fry for 5-6 minutes, until cripsy and golden brown.
Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel.
Sprinkle potatoes with a little bit of salt and or pepper.

Sprinkle with cheese and place in the oven for about 5 minutes, until cheese is good and bubbly.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.
Top with sour cream, green onions, and anything else you want to put on them (bacon is great, if you're into that sort of thing).


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What's In Season- February


Onions, Dry
Onions, Green
Green Peas
Winter squash

Arugula Pesto

Pesto is really a delicious way to enjoy many herbs and greens. The traditional basil is always a show stoper, but I recently had a delicious spinach pesto pasta salad that was a knockout and gave me the idea to try it with arugula. Arugula seems to be at every stand at the markets right now- and sometimes I am at my wits end trying to find different ways to prepare it. The first go-around I treated it like a regular pesto and added lots of garlic, which in combination with the naturally peppery flavor of arugula made it an overkill of that sharp spicy flavor. Second time around it had just the right kick for me.

1- 2 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of arugula
¼ cup walnuts
extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of salt
a handful of grated good parmesan cheese

This recipe could not be simpler. Add all ingredients into a food processor and chop. Add oil along the way until you get the desired smooth texture of pesto. You may need extra salt to taste depending on how bitter the arugula you are using is.

We ate this pesto with pasta but also used it to spice up brunch by serving it on toast topped with an egg.
Tip: you can always make pesto when herbs are fresh and freeze it in individual serving sizes in ice cube trays in the freezer. It works great added to soups to give them a fresh taste, or as a marinade for meats and