Friday, September 25, 2015

RECIPE: Cocoa Pear Crisps

Difficulty Level: EASY

• 3 very firm pears
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 3/4 teaspoon powdered galangal, optional
• 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (if not using galangal, increase this to 1 teaspoon)
• 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• 2 tablespoons cocoa

1. Preheat oven to 275°F. Halve each pear and use a melon baller to scoop out the core (including the stem).

2. Set a mandoline to the 1/8-inch setting, and slice each pear half into about 10 very thin slices. Occasionally, the 1/8-inch setting will cause the pears to mush or crumble. In this case, the 1/4-inch setting will work, though the crisps will need an extra 15 minutes or so in the oven.

3. Mix sugar and spices in small bowl. Place pear slices on rack set over baking sheet. Alternatively, place slices on silpat-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with spiced sugar. Bake until almost dry, about 1 hour, turning the slices over and the sheets around half way through to ensure even baking. Cool on rack or sheet. Store airtight up to 2 days.

RECIPE: Pear Maple Tarte Tatin

Difficulty Level: EASY

Makes one 9-inch tart

•160 ounces (1/2 cup) grade B maple syrup (or what you have on hand)
•2 tablespoons unsalted butter
•3/4 pound store bought puff pastry
•5 or 6 medium Bosc pears, peeled, halved, and cored
• Crème fraîche or unsweetened whipped cream, for garnish

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 25 minutes, or until thickened, dark, and reduced to about 1/4 cup (60 milliliters). (It foams up in the pan, so be sure to use a large enough pan so it doesn’t boil over. Once it foams, turn down the heat so it simply simmers—if it keeps foaming it will start to burn. Watch it carefully! It will look like it’s boiling away, so keep decreasing the heat to keep it at a low simmer.)

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Pour the maple butter into a 9-inch (23-centimeter) round cake pan. It may harden into a firm mass—do your best to spread it evenly on the bottom of the pan, but don’t stress about it.

3. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350° F (175°C).

4. Place the pears, rounded side down, in the caramel in the cake pan, as close together as possible and overlapping them a bit to cover the entire bottom of the pan. You want every single possible bottom surface of the pan to be covered with pears; the fruit cooks down and reduces somewhat in the oven, so don’t be shy about packing the fruit in tightly. When you have covered the bottom layer as best you can, cut any remaining pear halves in quarters or eighths so you can better layer the pears on top of each other, arranging the fruit so that it is fairly level on top.

5. Remove the dough circle from the refrigerator and trim it so that it is an even circle, keeping it about 10 inches (25 centimeters) in diameter. Drape the dough directly on top of the pears and tuck the edges of the dough around the fruit into the sides of the pan. Bake for 70 to 80 minutes, or until the puff pastry is deep golden brown and the juices from the pears are bubbling up along the sides of the pan.

6. Place a large serving platter on top of the tart and quickly and carefully invert the pan so the puff pastry circle is on the bottom and the fruit is on top. Rearrange the fruit, if necessary, as sometimes it gets jostled loose and falls off the pastry. Serve warm or at room temperature with crème fraîche or unsweetened whipped cream. The tart can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

RECIPE: Pear Salad

Difficulty Level: EASY

•1 large shallot, halved and thinly sliced
•1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
•2 tablespoons sherry or apple cider vinegar
•1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
•1/4 teaspoon black pepepr
•1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:
•4 cups arugula, lightly packed (or other lettuces)
•4 cups romaine, torn into bite-sized pieces (or other lettuces)
•2 ripe pears, cored and cut into 1/2" cubes
•1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
•3 ounces fresh goat cheese or feta, crumbled (or other CSA cheese)
•1/4 cup pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped

1. In a small bowl combine the shallot, pomegranate molasses, vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk until the salt is dissolved.

2. Whisk in the olive oil and let vinaigrette stand at room temperature until salad is assembled.

3. Combine the arugula, romaine, pears and half of the pomegranate seeds in a large bowl.

4. Crumble half of the goat cheese over the ingredients in the bowl (this works best if the cheese is very cold).

5. Whisk the vinaigrette until uniform and add all but 2 tablespoons of it to the bowl.

6. Gently toss the salad with your hands or salad tongs, coating the ingredients well with the vinaigrette. If the salad seems dry, add the vinaigrette in small increments until it is dressed to your liking.

7. Crumble the remaining cheese over the salad and sprinkle the remaining pomegranate seeds and the pistachios over the top. Serve immediately.

RECIPE: Pear and Potato Gratin

Difficulty Level: Easy

1 large onion, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, very thinly sliced and simmered in water for 5 minutes, drained and patted dry
2 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup half and half or light cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
5 or 6 gratings nutmeg
1 1/2 cups finely grated Swiss cheese (I used Gruyere) divided

1. In a large saute pan, saute the sliced onion in the 2 tablespoons butter until lightly caramelized ( about 10 minutes over medium heat). Set aside.

2. In a small sauce pan, heat the half and half to simmering and reduce by about 1/3. Add the salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese.

3. In a well buttered baking dish ( I used a 9 x11 x2 inch oval), layer 1/3 of the potatoes, slightly overlapping. Layer 1/2 of the pears over the potatoes.

4. Sprinkle the caramelized onions over the pear layer and then layer the second third of the potatoes followed by the rest of the pears. Layer the remaining potatoes over the top.

5. Pour the cream and cheese mixture over the casserole followed by the remaining one cup of cheese.

6. Bake, covered, at 350F for 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and continue to bake 15 to 20 minutes more.

TIPS: Pears

What you may not know about pears...

A little known fact about the pear is that it is one of the few fruits that does not ripen on the tree.  The pear is harvested when it is mature, but not yet ripe, and, if left at room temperature, it slowly reaches a sweet and succulent maturity as it ripens from the inside out.  Therefore, a little bit of patience and know-how will ensure the pear reaches its peak flavor.

Here’s what you need to do to ripen your pears:

• Leave firm, unripe pears at room temperature so that they can ripen.
• Check the neck for ripeness daily, by applying gentle pressure to the neck, or stem end, of the pear with your thumb. If it yields to pressure, then it’s ripe and ready to eat!
• Once the pear is ripe, it can be refrigerated to slow the ripening process and saved for use up to five days later.  But remember: don't refrigerate an unripe pear!

To Prevent Browning:

Like many fruits, the flesh of cut or peeled pears will eventually brown. This natural oxidation process won’t affect the taste or quality. However, to keep your pears looking appetizing and to prevent browning, dip them in a mild solution of 50% water and 50% lemon juice.

How To Freeze Pears:

Freezing helps you enjoy your favorite pear varieties all year long. Here are two ways to freeze pears:
• First, wash, peel, and core each pear. Make sure the pears you use are ripe, but not overripe.
• Next, cut the pear into even, thin slices. The number of slices will vary depending on the size of the fruit.
• Brush the slices with a lemon juice and water mixture. This prevents the fruit from browning.
• Then, choose your freezing method: syrup pack, dry pack, or your own method.
• Syrup Pack: Mix 2 cups of sugar in 3 cups of cold water in pot and bring to a boil. Once the sugar dissolves, place pear slices in the boiling syrup for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and cool. Pack the pears into freezer safe bags. Remove excess air. Freeze. These slices will remain good for 6 or more months.
• Dry Pack: Place the pear slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze until solid. Remove and pack into freezer safe bags. 

RECIPE: Chocolate Beet Cake

Difficulty Level: Easy

1 1/3 cup self rising flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups sugar
9 oz beets, cooked (roasted or boiled) and pureed in a food processor or blender (keep the puree in the machine as you will be adding the ingredients below to it)
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup vegetable oil, and more for greasing the pan
icing: 1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly oil a 9 inch springform pan with a bit of greased paper towel.  Line bottom of pan with circle of parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and sugar. Stir.

In the food processor or blender you used to puree the beets, add the eggs, vanilla, and oil.  Blend all together with the beets.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the beet mixture.  With a large spatula, gently fold together.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes until a wooden toothpick or tester comes out clean.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to remove parchment and cool completely.

For icing, sift confectioners' sugar into a bowl and stir in a few tablespoons of water to create a glaze: dip the back of a spoon in the icing.  It should be thick enough to coat it without just running off.  Spread icing evenly over, letting a bit drizzle off the sides.

Friday, September 18, 2015

RECIPE: Beet and Tomato Soup

Difficulty Level: EASY

1 pound medium beets
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium shallots, thinly sliced
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus more for garnish
1 quart vegetable stock or chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. In a large saucepan, cover the beets with water. Bring to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until tender, about 1 hour; if necessary, add more water to keep the beets covered. Drain the beets and let cool slightly, then peel and coarsely chop.

2. Wipe out the saucepan and heat the olive oil in it. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chopped beets, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes release their juices, about 5 minutes. Add the 1 teaspoon of cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the vegetable stock and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

3. Puree the soup in batches in a food processor. Rewarm the soup in the saucepan and season with salt and pepper.

4. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with dollops of crème fraîche. Sprinkle with a little cumin and the parsley and serve.

TIPS: Beets

Beet Storage:

To store beets, trim the leaves 2 inches from the root as soon as you get them home. The leaves will sap the moisture from the beet root. Do not trim the tail. Store the leaves in a separate plastic or paper bag and use within 2-3 days. The beets themselves should also be bagged and can be stored in the refrigerator crisper drawer 7 - 10 days.

Cooked or canned beets may be refrigerated up to one week.

Fresh cooked beets may also be frozen up to 10 months. Be sure to peel before freezing in airtight containers or baggies, leaving no air in the container. They may be frozen whole or in cut pieces.

Beet Tips:

Although beets can be eaten raw, they are generally boiled, baked, steamed, fried, grilled or otherwise cooked before eating. To retain nutrients and color, boil, bake or steam without peeling first. The skin will easily rub off under cold running water after they are cooked. To remove beet juice from fingers, rub with wet salt and lemon juice and then wash with soap and water. For cutting boards and plastic containers, use a bleach solution

Small, young beets are particularly tasty grated raw in salads. All types are delicious steamed or boiled. You can roast them at 400º F for 45 minutes; slice and top with goat cheese, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar for a quick and delicious side dish.

Or, you can toss grated beets with grated carrots, apples, oil and vinegar dressing.  A touch of plain yogurt makes for a wonderful color transformation.

The greens can be steamed, sautéd, and mixed with pasta with cheese.

Friday, September 4, 2015

RECIPE: Summer Squash Gratin

Note: great tip for removing excess fluid in summer squash!

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 4 tablespoons melted
2 onions, halved and sliced thin
Salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped fine
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 1/2 pounds yellow summer squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)


1. Melt 1 tablespoon softened butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onions, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in wine and cook until evaporated, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in olives and 2 tablespoons basil; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, toss zucchini and yellow squash with 2 teaspoons salt in large bowl. Microwave, covered, stirring halfway through microwaving, until slightly softened and some liquid is released, about 8 minutes. Drain in colander and let cool slightly. Arrange zucchini and yellow squash on triple layer of paper towels, then cover with another triple layer of paper towels. Press slices firmly to remove as much liquid as possible.

3. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 13 by 9-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon softened butter. Combine panko, Parmesan, and 1 teaspoon pepper in bowl. Evenly coat baking dish with 6 tablespoons panko mixture. Stir melted butter into remaining panko mixture until well combined; set aside.

4. Arrange half of squash in prepared dish and season with pepper to taste. Sprinkle ¼ cup panko mixture evenly over squash. Spread onion mixture in even layer over crumbs. Arrange remaining half of squash over onion mixture and season with pepper to taste. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until just tender, about 15 minutes.

5. Remove dish from oven; discard foil. Sprinkle remaining panko mixture evenly over top. Bake, uncovered, until bubbling around edges and crumbs are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons basil. Serve.

RECIPE: Fresh Fruit Roll-ups

Tip: You can use all different types of fruit. Try peach roll-ups with 6 peaches (about 1 pound) or blueberry roll-ups using 4 cups fresh

3 cups fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1.Preheat the oven to 200° F (100° C). Line a baking sheet with lightly greased parchment paper or a Silicone baking mat.

2.In a blender or food processor, combine raspberries, honey, and lemon juice. Purée until smooth.

3.You could pour this purée straight onto your baking sheet and pop it into the oven, but the cooking time would take about 8 hours. For a quicker cook time, it helps to reduce the purée on the stovetop.

4.Pour purée through a sieve and into a medium-sized saucepan. Use a ladle to push the purée through the sieve if necessary. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until the mixture has thickened, about 20 to 30 minutes.

5.Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Use an off-set spatula to spread the mixture into a thin even layer. It is important to have an even layer as thicker spots will take longer to cook.

6.Place in the oven and bake until the Fruit Roll-Up is no longer sticky to the touch—this will take anywhere between 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The mixture will still be slightly tacky to the touch but no longer wet. Turn the oven off and leave the sheet in the oven to cool completely.

7.Remove the baking sheet from the oven and invert the roll-up onto a piece of parchment paper. Peel the fruit layer from the baking mat and cut it