Friday, September 30, 2011

Roasted red pepper and eggplant dip


Earlier this week, Elina hosted a fun get-together for some of her blogger friends. She asked everyone to bring an appetizer to share, and since it was a midweek event, I knew that I wanted to make something that wasn't too complicated, would be easy to transport, and didn't need to be cooked or heated immediately before serving. I also wanted to make something vegetarian, preferably vegan, and gluten-free, so that everyone would be able to try it. And finally, I wanted to make something featuring seasonal vegetables because I thought it would be nice for my dish to really reflect the theme of my blog. Well, that long list of requirements pretty much ruled out the apps I've made for my own parties in the past, so I started looking at new recipes. When I found this roasted red pepper and eggplant dip recipe in The Gourmet Cookbook, I knew it was perfect. The best part was that it is supposed to sit in the fridge for at least a day before serving so that the flavors can blend, which meant that I could make it over the weekend!

I loved the balanced blend of flavors in this dip - it has sweetness from the roasted veggies, tanginess from the lemon, and a bit of a kick from the garlic and chile pepper. It's great with pitas or crackers, but it also makes a nice addition to pasta sauce and pairs really well with eggs. Although I was initially nervous about what dish to bring for a group of foodies, I think I chose wisely and I was glad to see that everyone else seemed to enjoy the dip as much as I did. I'm definitely going to think of this one next time I need a simple but interesting appetizer for a party!

Do you have a favorite dish to bring to potluck gatherings? 


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gorgonzola-apple quiche


I love apples. When I was a kid, my dad would let me pick out 5 or so items (anything I wanted) from the supermarket as incentive for keeping him company while he did the grocery shopping, and a bag of apples was always in my top 5. I realize now that I was a really weird good kid - I can only hope that my future children will be just as good at choosing healthy food over junk! Anyway, fresh apples is one of the things I love most about fall in New England. So many varieties to try, each with unique flavors. Last weekend, after I picked up several pounds of apples from the farmers' market, I realized that I'd never get through them all unless I started cooking with them in addition to just eating them plain. This Gorgonzola-apple quiche from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table was the first recipe that caught my eye. I love the combination of Gorgonzola cheese and apples in salads and now I can report that it works just as well in quiche. The quiche really was lovely - very tasty, though not quite traditional, with chunks of sweet-tart apple, salty cheese, and sweet onions. It only used up one apple though...I might have to make it a few more times to get through the rest of the ones I bought!

Do you have any savory apple recipes to share?


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Broccoli-almond soup


I was feeling mildly sick yesterday, and that combined with the rainy weather made me feel like having soup for dinner. I wasn't sure what type of soup I wanted so I turned to my cookbooks for inspiration. I came across this recipe in Soup For Every Body, a cute little cookbook that I had picked up at a yard sale a year or two ago but had never actually cooked from. Joanne's recent post on cashew-tomato soup got me interested in soups using nuts, and this broccoli-almond soup seemed like the perfect way to use the broccoli I had bought at the market that morning. You may remember that I tend to think of broccoli as a boring vegetable, so I'm always happy to find interesting new ways to use it. This soup was very good - the toasted almonds thickened the soup and gave it a nice nutty flavor, and ground coriander added a warm spiced note that I really enjoyed. It made a perfect healthy but filling meal - give it a try if you're looking for a lighter alternative to cream-of-broccoli or broccoli-cheddar soup.

What is your favorite fall soup?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Honeyed tomato butter


This is the second batch of preserves that I made with summer fruits, along with the peach butter that I blogged about not long ago. This tomato butter is a very unique spread that makes you remember that tomatoes are indeed fruits. Fresh, juicy tomatoes are combined with spices and honey into a spread that is somehow both sweet and savory at once. I'm very curious to see if a taster who wasn't aware of the ingredients could figure out that this is made with tomatoes - for me the taste is rather mysterious. It's definitely fruity, but our tastes buds aren't used to associating tomatoes with this kind of jammy sweetness, and I think the tomato flavor is hard to pinpoint. It's very tasty though, and a nice way to preserve summer tomatoes. This spread is absolutely delicious with bread and cheese, especially blue cheese. I think it would also be great with pork, chicken, or fish. Tomato season is almost done, so hurry up and make this now! You'll thank yourself in the winter.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lentils with roasted tomatoes and Gorgonzola cheese


As a person who eats a lot of vegetarian meals, I tend to keep a few varieties of lentils in the pantry. The problem is, outside of Indian food, I don't have a lot of good ideas for how to use them. Especially when it comes to main dishes featuring lentils, I'm usually at a loss. One of the reasons that I am so obsessed with Plenty is that it has such great, creative ideas for ingredients like lentils that get me thinking in new ways when I hit a mental block. This recipe is a perfect example - I never would have thought to pair lentils with Gorgonzola cheese and ample amounts of parsley, chives, and dill, but it works. And it tastes really good (well, assuming you like moldy cheeses). It's earthy and rich, with sweetness from the tomatoes, crunch from the onions, and lots of fresh flavor from the herbs. It's also very filling and makes a great main course.

Do you have any favorite vegetarian main courses featuring lentils?


Saturday, September 17, 2011

New domain

Hi everyone,
Just a bit of housekeeping - I got my own domain at All traffic to the old blogspot address will be automatically redirected. Please update your bookmarks and feed readers (the new feed URL is ), and do let me know if you experience any problems with the website or the feed. Thanks!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Peach butter


Last week I was reminded that one of my goals for my second year of blogging is to make preserves, and that the time to preserve summer fruit is quickly running out. I've made preserves in the past but I never got around to it last summer, and I didn't want to miss my chance again this year. Luckily, I had a pretty free weekend with plenty of time for a couple canning projects. I decided to focus on peaches first and ended up choosing a peach butter recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (in case you are wondering, this does not contain any actual butter - the "butter" in the name comes from the soft, smooth texture of the finished spread). It's a delicious spread with pure, summery peach flavor. Perfect stirred into yogurt or spread onto English muffins. I know these jars are going to be a real treat in the middle of winter!


I know canning can be intimidating if you've never done it before, so I'm going to include fairly detailed information and instructions here. It is time consuming, but it's not difficult, and I encourage you to give it a try! I highly recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving if you are interesting in canning - it has detailed information about how canning works, and hundreds of really great recipes for jams, salsas, sauces, relishes, pickles, fruit in syrup, condiments, and more.

The basic idea behind canning is that in order to keep food from spoiling, you need to make sure that it is free of microorganisms (bacteria, molds, yeasts), and that no microorganisms can get in. To do this, the filled jars are put in a boiling water bath long enough to kill any microorganisms that might be present. Then, when the jars are removed from the bath and cool down, gases are released from the jar, which creates a vacuum seal.

The boiling water sterilization method is only valid for high-acid foods (pH of 4.6 or lower). For low-acid foods, a pressure canner must be used to ensure safety. Because of this, be very, very careful if you want to alter a canning recipe. You need to make sure that the alterations do not change the acidity of the food.

One last note: make sure you use fresh, good-quality fruit. Cut out any bruised areas and do not use overripe fruit. 

Canning equipment:
1. Jars with flat lids and screw bands - I always buy regular mouth Ball Mason jars.
2. Canner - I don't have a real canner and just use a large stockpot.
3. Rack to keep the jars off of the bottom of the canner, allowing water to flow underneath the jars - I use the steamer rack from my rice cooker. Another idea is to tie a bunch of extra jar screw bands together until they cover the bottom of the pot.
4. Jar lifter - this is one thing that I recommend buying. A real jar lifter makes it much easier to get the hot jars out of the boiling water. You could try using tongs, but it's tricky (I speak from experience. A broken jar experience, to be specific).

That's all you need! Any other equipment (funnels, magnetic lid lifter, etc.) is strictly optional. Let me know if you have any questions!

Have you ever tried canning? What are your favorite things to preserve?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fresh corn polenta with eggplant sauce


A few weeks ago I found myself in the Harvard Coop bookstore with some time to kill. Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbook Plenty was featured on the display table in the cookbook section, so I picked up a copy to flip through. I'd heard of the Ottolenghi restaurants and had seen this book mentioned on a couple other blogs, so I figured I'd take a few minutes to check it out. Well, I probably spent 45 minutes sitting in the Coop with that book - I couldn't put it down until I had looked at every single recipe. Every dish was so creative, with mouthwatering combinations of ingredients that I never would have thought of. It really got my brain was buzzing with inspiration and new ideas. It was the most exciting cookbook I had seen in a long time, and for me, that is saying a lot. I knew I had to have it.'s the thing. I buy too many cookbooks. And after the last round of cookbook buying, I promised myself that I would not buy any more cookbooks this year unless the price was drastically reduced (as in less than $5). I knew I could ask for Plenty for my birthday, if I could just hang on till October. So, with great force of will, I convinced myself not to buy it.

So for a few weeks, I contented myself with looking at Ottolenghi's The New Vegetarian column in The Guardian. And then...I found out that I was selected for a pretty sweet graduate fellowship that comes with a monetary reward. So I figured that I deserved to treat myself to a little something...and I bought Plenty. And also another cookbook. Oh, and some new baking pans. Um, so resolve doesn't last too long when I prohibit myself from buying food-related things!

Anyway, that is the long story of how I came to own Plenty, my new obsession. This book is genius. I've made two recipes from it this week and I can't wait to try more. The first thing I made was the corn polenta with eggplant sauce, made with fresh corn kernels. Fresh corn - my other obsession! I loooove soft polenta and was really curious to try this version. Well, it was fantastic. Like Ottolenghi says in the intro, it's kind of like baby food, but in the best possible way. So comforting. And the eggplant sauce is quick and easy to put together and adds rich flavor.

What cookbooks are on your wishlist right now?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Roasted peppers and tomatoes baked with capers and olives


I am desperately holding on to summer in my kitchen. This weekend it really hit me that summer produce will be gone from the markets soon, and I had a minor panic attack about all the recipes I haven't made yet and won't be able to make until next summer - an eternity away! (yeah, yeah I know, #firstworldproblems). But then I remembered that even though Labor Day has come and gone, summer growing season hasn't actually ended yet. I calmed down and made an epic cooking plan for the week, making the most of the summeriest of fruits and vegetables. I even made some preserves, which I'll tell you about later. For now, I'm going to focus on this tomato and pepper dish, from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors. Big strips of roasted peppers and tomatoes are baked together with herbs, garlic, capers, and olives. The final product is a colorful, incredibly fragrant and flavorful dish that makes you feel like you are in some sunny Mediterranean country. It's very versatile - we ate it plain, on top of toasted bread, and stuffed into pitas with a spread of goat cheese. It would also pair well with hummus and would make a delicious sandwich with some mozzarella cheese. This recipe is definitely making it onto my Favorites page!

What are your favorite end of summer recipes?


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Roasted tomato sauce


As much as I hate to admit it, I can't deny the fact that summer is starting to transition into fall, as evidenced by the fact that socks, boots, and sweaters all came out of my closet this week. Now, fall is actually my favorite season, but I don't like seeing the end of summer veggies and fruits, especially tomatoes. This time of year is when I eat as many tomatoes as possible, before it's too late and they're gone from the markets! Plum tomatoes are overflowing at the farmers' market now and they're pretty cheap, so now is the time to make big batches of tomato sauce to eat immediately freeze for the cooler months ahead.

This is my go-to tomato sauce recipe, which I first saw on an episode of Good Eats. The tomatoes are roasted at medium heat for a couple hours, then at high heat for a bit so that they caramelize, to deepen the flavor. Then they are put through a food mill, and the resulting peel-free puree is simmered with some white wine, to draw out alcohol-soluble flavor compounds, according to Alton Brown.

The first time I made this was a complete disaster. First, I used out-of-season tomatoes, which barely had any flavor (*shaking my head at the cluelessness of my former self*). I didn't have a food mill, so I threw the roasted tomatoes in the blender, which meant all the burned caramelized bits and skins got mixed into the sauce. And I didn't have any white wine around, so I used vermouth, which did not work well. I ended up with a very boozy, bitter, burned sauce that didn't even taste like tomatoes. Oh boy. Seriously, it was bad.

Once I got a food mill, I tried the recipe again with much more success and have since made some modifications. I don't bother with onions, garlic, or herbs during the roasting, and I cut down on the amount of wine by quite a lot. The result is a sauce with pure, sweet tomato flavor, with some extra depth from the wine. It's really pretty great.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Grain salad with roasted corn and poblano chiles


I bought poblano chiles for the first time on Saturday at the market and wasn't quite sure what to do with them. One look through the trusty Gourmet Cookbook and I found the perfect recipe. The original recipe was for a pasta salad, but I had some kamut (a type of wheat) in the pantry, so I decided to use that instead. I'm glad I did - this recipe is fantastic as a grain salad. I'm sure wheat berries, farro, barley, or brown rice would work beautifully as well. If you are like me and have several hippie whole grains in your pantry, now is the time to use them! This dish is packed with late summer produce - tomatoes, peppers, and corn. It's a bit of a pain to roast each vegetable separately, but it really doesn't take that long. I had fun roasting the chiles over an open flame on the stovetop - I was a tad nervous that they would catch on fire and fill the air with chile smoke, but I didn't have a problem. I also really enjoyed the dry-roasted onions - I've never cooked onions this way before. I was very very happy with how this dish turned out - it is sooo good! Healthy and colorful and just packed with flavor. Oh, and the leftovers make perfect lunches.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Whole grain blueberry buckle


My lab group recently went on a crazyawesome retreat to New Hampshire, and one of the things we did there was blueberry picking at Berry Knoll farm. The blueberries at the farm were some of the best I have ever tasted, and I came home with about a quart of them. I saved half to eat with yogurt and granola for my breakfasts this week, and started looking for a recipe to make with the other half. I decided to make something from Good to the Grain and ended up choosing the blueberry buckle. It's a nice thick cake with two layers of blueberries, and a crumb layer on top. The cake and crumbs are made with whole wheat pastry flour and spelt flour. The cake has great flavor and texture - Kim Boyce's recipes are awesome! We ate some of it for dessert tonight but it is really more of a breakfast cake...mmmm, I can't wait to eat some tomorrow morning =)