Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Nice Surprise

Maybe all the dire economic news is getting to me. For the last few weeks I've been cooking and canning, stocking my shelves and stuffing my freezer. It helps that a friend said I could come pick as many apples and Italian plums as I wanted. We now have applesauce, plum jam, and numerous containers of slow-cooked tomato sauce to brighten our winter meals.

After I filled the slow cooker one last time this morning I sat down and caught up on some of my favorite food blogs. 101 Cookbooks had something called Nikki's Healthy Cookies which caught my eye in that they're both wheat-free and vegan. I personally love my wheat and never turn down dairy or eggs, but I often find myself in the position of needing to feed people on more restrictive diets. I recently read Shauna James Ahern's Gluten-Free Girl and found it a real eye opener, making me both grateful for my relatively easy diet and full of compassion for those who have to turn down so many of the things I regularly enjoy. However, I am as yet unwilling to invest in a pantry full of the expensive and esoteric alternative baking supplies her baked goods call for.

I used to regularly be part of a knitting group that met weekly. I loved getting up early on Wednesday mornings to make the treat of the day be it cheese scones or babka. As time went by numbers dwindled and the steady members adopted increasingly restrictive diets. My ability to bring food to share was limited either to frankly unsatisfying packaged gluten-free "treats" or fruit. I realize that this shouldn't matter but it really affected my feelings about these gatherings.

All of this is getting back to the point that even though I don't require gluten-free vegan treats, people that I love do and I'm happy to have something to feed them which is why I went back in to the kitchen today out of sheer curiosity and I am glad I did. These cookies are a delicious combination of appealing flavors and textures with ground almonds, coconut, and mashed banana. They're even sugar-free (apart from whatever chocolate you use). Sugar free? Vegan? Wheat free? I know, I know...they sound far too earnest to be tasty but you'd be silly not to try them the next time you have some bananas going brown in the fruit bowl.

And--here's a real news flash--Mr Pickiest of All Picky Children turned up his nose at these on his first pass through the kitchen but then came back, no doubt for the chocolate, and pronounced them "better than they look"! Given that this boy has some kind of built in sensor that calculates nutritional value and then rejects anything high on that scale, the fact that he happily downed a handful of these tasty nuggets is really saying something.
Nikki's Healthy Cookies on 101 Cookbooks. Yum!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Not Exactly Tasty

Normally I only write about the tastiest things from my kitchen but cold season is rapidly approaching and I decided today was a good day to share a great (but not exactly tasty) recipe with you. I wrote about it nearly two years ago on my other blog but I know I have some new readers who might appreciate this.

The Tonic is a fearsome brew of garlic, onion, horseradish, cayenne, and turmeric steeped in apple cider vinegar and eventually sweetened with honey. It's like salad dressing for Satan, really. It's hard to choke down but this stuff works. With its powerful combination of natural germ-fighters, it will kill the bugs that try to make you sick.

This needs to sit for3 or 4 weeks before it reaches full potency so run out and find yourself some fresh horseradish root today. Then when those sniffles start up in late October you will be prepared.

The recipe is here. Good luck.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Egg Curry

Thank goodness for Colleen who is not only responsible for my first taste of egg curry (made by her Indian mother-in-law)--she also reminded me to give it a try and gave me a copy of her favorite Indian cookbook where I found the recipe. What a friend!

I've made egg curry twice now and it's been absolutely heavenly: rich, complex, and hearty. I served it over basmati rice steamed with a cinnamon stick and a few crushed cardamom pods and it made a perfect meal.

This low budget cookbook is packed with a huge variety of recipes but leaves something to be desired in terms of instructions so I tried to re-work the recipe and make it somewhat more user friendly. Nonetheless, it may look a bit daunting. Full disclosure: the first page is just ingredients. But it's really not that hard and most definitely worth every ingredient.

You'll find my adapted recipe here. After typing all that out I think it might be time for another batch.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Saving Summer

I've been on break for two weeks and cooking up a storm. I have lots of tasty things to share with you but my photos have been stinky and I haven't found the time to tend to my blogs. I know--excuses, excuses.

One of these days, I'll sit down and write out the recipes for egg curry and piroshki, I promise. But until then, I have a late summer/early fall offering to tide you over (and make you very happy) in the meantime.

Is your garden overflowing with tomatoes? Mine is. Plus I was lucky enough to get a vacationing friend's CSA delivery for two weeks--more tomatoes! Though tomato sauce is a staple food around here, the thought of gently simmering a cauldron of tomato sauce for hours on end just didn't appeal to me during these warm late summer days. I inevitably get sidetracked while simmering sauces, resulting in a not-very-lovely scorched flavor. Mmmmm....

Wouldn't you know, the newspaper's food section came to my aid with a story on preserving summer's bounty with that most dowdy of devices: the crock-pot. Maybe you have one of the snazzy new ones? Mine is an earth-toned relic of the 70's complete with line drawings of herbs on the outside. It was old when it was given to me years ago but still works perfectly well.

The crock-pot method of making tomato sauce has numerous advantages. Your sauce can cook down to perfection without stirring because it won't scorch. It won't send bubbles of thick sauce all over your stovetop and your forearms. And it won't heat up the entire house on a late summer day. Having used the crock pot for apple and pear butter in the past, I knew it had potential in helping me handle the tomato avalanche.The recipe included in the newspaper wasn't quite what I wanted so, in classic form, I fiddled a bit as I went along, adding lots of garlic and upping the onions. I would imagine that bell peppers would make a fine addition.

I filled the crock pot with large chunks of tomato and cranked it up to high. Meanwhile I browned onions, garlic, celery, and carrot in a large skillet and then tipped it all in to the crock pot along with a bunch basil and another of parsley. The original recipe suggests throwing everything in the crock pot but I wanted a deeper flavor so I opted to brown the onions, celery, garlic, and carrots in a skillet. It was no big thing to use the stove for 20 minutes.

I covered the pot, and let it simmer for a couple of hours. Then I propped the lid slightly open with a wooden spoon so moisture could escape and proceeded to cook for 10 hours or so. Once cooled, I ran everything through a food mill to remove skins and seeds. I added a bit of salt to taste and then packaged everything up for the freezer. Filling my 6 qt stockpot gave me about 8 cups of delicious sauce.

The fist batch was made of all different types of tomatoes including many juicy slicers. The sauce was very tasty but took longer to cook than my second batch which used only paste tomatoes. It hardly matters. This is about the easiest thing in the world.

If you don't have a crock pot, ask around. Someone you know is bound to have one lurking on their pantry shelves. Offer them a pint of sauce in exchange for the loan. And then hang onto it and make another batch or two. I hate to say it but winter is coming. I know I want to go into it with a bit of summer saved.